Whether they led your favorite team to a championship or helped a rival team eliminate yours from the playoffs, the best athletes of 2011 provided us with hours of cheers (and a few tears) throughout the year in sports.
These fine athletes accomplished feats never before completed, like when Tom Brady passed for a ridiculous 517 yards in a single game, but also showed that they were human, like when Peyton Manning was ruled out at the beginning of the 2011 NFL season.
Other athletes were in the news for the wrong reasons, like tennis star Serena Williams who was criticized for her on-court profanity or Cam Newton, the number-one NFL Draft pick who dealt with a pay-for-play scandal that shortened his college football career.
Even entire teams were in the news, many for overcoming big obstacles to win a championship, like the Boston Bruins in the NHL, or for huge collapses right before a playoff run, like the Boston Red Sox in the MLB. Others were laughed at when high expectations ended in disappointment, such as the dramatic year for LeBron James and the Miami Heat, who lost in the NBA Finals.
In the end, only one sports team from each league or sport could be named the best, the champions of the year and from each league comes an MVP, one person that stood above the rest in accomplishing great things. Those most valued players, and a few who may not be sporting a new championship ring, but still played quite well, make up the best athletes of 2011.Check out more lists like Best Athletes of 2012, Ugliest Athletes of All Time, Sexiest Male Athletes