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The year is almost over, and in the eyes of Sports Illustrated, Tom Brady stands alone.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback has been named SI's 2021 Sportsperson of the Year, the magazine announced on Tuesday. It is the second time Brady has won the award, having also taken it in 2005 after winning his first three Super Bowls in four years.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 8, 2021
Whatever you think of Brady, it seems certain that 2021 will go down as one of the greatest years in his lengthy and decorated career. After leaving behind a two-decade career with the New England Patriots under Bill Belichick, Brady cemented his legacy with his record seventh career Super Bowl title, which gives him more than any single team in the NFL.
At the age of 44, Brady looks well on his way to another great year, leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdowns and sitting as the betting favorite for a fourth MVP award.
It was a big year for Brady, but there were other big years in sports. Here are a few that may have had an argument.
Who else could have won Sportsperson of the Year?
Giannis Antetokounmpo: After years of regular-season dominance and playoff frustration, the Greek Freak finally broke through and led the Milwaukee Bucks to their first NBA title in 50 years. He entered the year having just committed to Milwaukee long-term, and will exit it as a champion and one of the most beloved athletes in Wisconsin history.
Suni Lee/Simone Biles: No moment was more dramatic in the Olympics this year than when Biles, quite possibly the greatest gymnast in the sport's history, dropped out of the all-around competition due to the "twisties," the gymnastics equivalent of the yips. Lee stepped up like few athletes ever have and won gold to continue Team USA's dominance in the event, while Biles worked through her issues and later delivered one of the most inspiring bronze medals you will ever see on the balance beam.
Shohei Ohtani: Even Babe Ruth couldn't top what the Los Angeles Angels two-way star did this year. Ohtani hit like a star, pitched like a star and created combinations of numbers that baseball had never seen before, leading to a well-deserved AL MVP award.
Candace Parker: Brady wasn't the only aging star to change teams and win a title in 2021. What's more, Candace Parker did it with her hometown team, leading the Chicago Sky to their first-ever WNBA title.
Nikita Kucherov: Winning a championship is hard. Winning back-to-back championships is even harder. Winning two championships in the span of 10 months? Come on. Kucherov led all scorers in the NHL playoffs for the second straight year, and may have the Lightning on track for dynasty consideration.
Allyson Felix: The United States has had some very good track and field athletes. And now none of them have as many Olympic medals as Felix. With one more gold and bronze in Tokyo, the 36-year-old Felix now owns 11 medals across five different Games and will go down as a generation-defining athlete in Team USA.
College athletes: We're getting a little outside the box here (like SI did last year), but try to find a bigger winner in 2021 than elite college athletes, who can now directly profit from their labor thanks to the NCAA finally giving up on its amateurism defense.
The fans: If we want to get 2006 Time Magazine about this, the sports industry saw fans finally return in full force while still dealing with a pandemic.
Should any of these names beaten out Brady for the Sports Illustrated honor? It probably depends on your taste, though all of this goes to show that 2021 did not lack for stories in the sports world.