Photo: Getty Images/Ronald Martinez
Several athletes reached the pinnacle of their respective sports this year with their stellar accomplishments over a short period of time.For many of these athletes, their shocking success came before anyone even knew their name.
Well now they’ve all become household names.
These are the athletes that surprisingly took the sports world by storm this year.
Anthony Davis accomplished the most of any 19-year-old basketball player in history in 2012. As a freshman at Kentucky, he was the player of the year and won a national championship. After the season, Davis declared for the NBA Draft, was taken first overall, and then filled in on the Olympic team and won a gold medal.
Mike Trout took the majors by storm in his first full season. He hit 30 home runs, stole 49 bases, batted .329 and consistently made amazing plays on the field. He almost stole the Most Valuable Player Award from Miguel Cabrera, who had the Triple Crown!
Rousey entered the picture this year when she helped influence the UFC's creation of a women's division. She's 6-0 in her fighting career and will be one contender in the main event against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 on Feb. 23.
In his second season out of Wisconsin, Watt is on his way to winning the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award with his unique defensive skill set. Through 14 games, J.J. 'Swatt' has 19.5 sacks and 15 pass deflections.
Johnny Football dominated college football this season with his unique combination of elusiveness and a terrific arm.
He became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 3,418 yards and running for more than 1,000 yards. The Aggies win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala. was the game and performance of the season.
Jeremy Lin energized the New York Knicks franchise and caught everyone's attention in February when the seldom-used guard poured in 20 points or more in nine out of 10 straight games. The unlikely success helped coin the term 'Linsanity' and earned the guard a $25 million contract from Houston.
As Michael Phelps competed for his final time in the Olympics, Missy Franklin emerged as America's next swimming phenom. She won four gold medals, one bronze, and shattered a world record in the 200-meter backstroke all before graduating high school.
No one was sure how Robert Griffin III would perform in the NFL, a year removed from winning the Heisman. He's exceeded expectations, becoming the most exciting player in the league and bringing the Redskins to the brink of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Jonathan Quick took his play up another notch in the NHL Playoffs, stopping 94.6 per cent of shots faced and posting three shutouts during the eight-seeded Kings dream run. His dominant play led the Kings to their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Russell Westbrook got incrementally better last season, posting a career high in points (23.6), and playing a substantial role in the Thunder's run to the NBA Finals. He also logged significant minutes for the Olympic gold medal U.S. national team. This year with James Harden gone, he's averaging more assists (8.8) than ever, and has helped the Thunder earn the league's best record.
In her first Olympic Games at age 16, Gabby Douglas won two gold medals in the individual all-around and team competitions. She became the first African-American to win the gold in the individual event and will likely compete in 2016 at the Rio Games.
The 28-year-old captured the Sprint Cup Series Championship in his third full season in the series. Keselowski proved that you don't need to be a household name or Jimmie Johnson to win the Sprint Cup. He was caught celebrating just about everywhere following his win.
Bubba Watson won the biggest tournament in golf when he secured his green jacket at The Masters early this year. The world will never forget his incredible hook shot out of the woods on the 10th hole during the tournament. He was also a fixture on the U.S. Ryder Cup team and was among the top golfers at the Open and PGA Championship.
In October, R.A. Dickey became the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young at 37 years old, with a torn abdominal muscle and with only 41 wins to his name entering the season.
Lolo Jones became a star this Olympics through her combination of good looks, athleticism and witty sense of humour. She failed to medal in the 100-meter hurdles in 2008 as the favourite and fell short in 2012 as well. Now she's in the process of trying to make the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as a member of the U.S. Bobsled team, and she's not half bad.
Manti Te'o was a driving force in helping the Irish secure a trip to the national championship. He racked up 103 tackles to go along with seven interceptions and was a threat to win the Heisman Trophy.
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