The first 20 years of the century are coming to a close and we have seen some incredible athletic performances and achievements in that time. So the boys at Blue Collar Media Group decided to make a list of the top male and female athletes of the last 20 years. This list is an amalgamation of six lists submitted by BCMG's writers and contributors from the US, Canada, and Great Britain. People-based their list off of their own criteria of what an athlete is with the top spot earning an athlete 20 points all the way down to the 20th spot earning them one point. You can find part one here and part two here! And here are numbers 10 through six of our list.
10. Danika Patrick, NASCAR (36 points)
The greatest female race car driver in history comes in at number 10. There was a debate among contributors about whether a driver deserved to make our list, but in the end, there is no debate about her impact on the sport. Let's talk about Danika's firsts in the sport of racing. This includes: the first woman to win an IndyCar Series, the first to clinch a pole position in the NASCAR Cup Series and the highest finish by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500. She is also one of only 14 people to have led both of those races as well. While Patrick has never won a NASCAR Cup Series event or a NASCAR Xfinity Series, she still deserves so much credit for paving the way for women in NASCAR. Patrick did win the 2008 Indy Japan 300, so that alone should put her this high on our list. Aaron Rodgers may not have appreciated her, but we here at BCMG do, so congratulations on all your success, Danika.
9. Tamika Catchings, Basketball (38 points)
One of the greatest female basketball players of all time, Tamika Catchings dominated the game in a variety of ways. At six-foot-one, Catchings was an absolute terror at the small forward position. She made the WNBA all-defensive first team 10 times, led the league in steals seven times and is the all-time steal leader in WNBA history. Catchings was a 10-time all-star and was the defensive player of the year five times as well. To dominate that much at the defensive end was what truly made her great, and defense is often not appreciated enough in basketball. She was a WNBA champion and Finals MVP in 2012 and was league MVP in 2011. She put the Indiana Fever on the map and helped grow the sport of women's basketball in the process. Tamika is truly one of the most under-appreciated female athletes of all-time and she comes in at number nine on our list.
8. Abby Wambach, Soccer (42 points)
The highest-ranking female soccer player on our list also happens to be the highest goal scorer in USWNT history. Abby Wambach ate, breathed and slept thinking about scoring goals and it showed in her numbers. Her 75 goals in 119 senior career appearances is impressive, but what she did on the national stage far surpasses that. In 255 appearances for the United States, Wambach scored a staggering 184 goals, including some in the biggest games. She was the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year six times and was named the FIFA World Player of the Year in 2012 as well. Whether it was scoring the 122nd-minute equalizing goal against Brazil in the 2011 Women's World Cup or scoring in the gold medal match at the 2012 Olympic tournament, Wambach helped the USWNT find success consistently. Hats off to you Abby for a phenomenal soccer career.
7. Maria Sharapova, Tennis (50 points)
Maria Sharapova is one of the most well-known female athletes in the world, bar none. People look at Sharapova's career and might say "well she only won five grand slams," but her talent and impact on the sport is still massive. Sharapova holds a career 79 percent win record and ranks third all-time in prize money at over $38 million. Sharapova burst onto the scene winning Wimbledon in 2004 and never looked back. She played throughout almost the entirety of the 2000s and 2010s and was a giant in the endorsement world. She was the highest-paid female athlete in 2006 with sponsors such as Nike, Gatorade and Motorola backing her. People may point to the fact that she was "attractive" as the reason she was so highly paid, but to say she was not incredibly talented would be a disservice to her and an outright lie. PED issues aside, Maria Sharapova absolutely deserves to be on this list for her contributions to the game of tennis.
6. Annika Sorenstam, Golf (52 points)
When I think of women's golf, the first player that comes to my mind is Annika Sorenstam. Annika won 72 LPGA tour events in her career, 54 of which came in the 2000s. The Swedish sensation tore it up in women's golf during her career, winning 10 major championships in the process which ranks her fourth on the all-time list. Annika was also the LPGA player of the year eight times, including five years in a row from 2001 to 2005. Sorenstam was also the money winner in all eight of those years, so she was making bank during her time on tour. Sweden is not typically a country known for its golfers, especially in the women's game, so to see her thrive was a true pleasure to watch. As a fellow golf enthusiast, there was no greater female golfer in my lifetime than Annika and number six on our list just proves how great she was.
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