Our list of the 50 most dominant athletes alive features men and women from different sports, age groups, and parts of the world.
As different as these athletes are, all of them share something special: a skill level and talent that’s well above that of their competitors.
Compiled by Tony Manfred, Scott Davis, and Cork Gaines.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward
After winning MVP in 2014 with averages of 32 points, seven rebounds, and five assists per game, Durant missed most of the 2014-15 season with injuries. In the 27 games he did play, the Thunder went 18-9 and he averaged 26 points a game. When he's healthy, Durant is one of the top two players in the NBA.
Los Angeles Sparks forward
Parker made the All-WNBA First Team in 2014 after posting averages of 19 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, nearly 2 steals, and 1 block per game.
Detroit Tigers first baseman
In a 'down year' in 2014, Cabrera still had 25 home runs and 109 RBIs while battling .313-.371-.524. In 12 games in 2015, Cabrera already had two home runs and 10 RBIs and is hitting .426.
The pole-vault world record of 6.14 meters stood for 20 years, until Lavillenie broke it in 2014. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist is the only track-and-field athlete in any sport to win five Diamond League titles.
Formula One driver
Hamilton ended Sebastian Vettel's dominance in 2014 by winning his second Formula One season title. With three first-place finishes and a second-place finish in four races in 2015, he's set up nicely to defend his title.
Paris Saint-Germain striker
Wherever Zlatan goes, even the notoriously defensive-minded Zlatan of Ligue 1 scores. He has 26 goals in 33 games this season, after scoring 50 in 54 games last year. At 33, he's the best pure striker in soccer.
Houston Rockets guard
Harden stole the title of 'best scorer' over the course of the 2014-15 season, averaging 27 points to go with seven assists per game. His arsenal of dribble moves, shooting ability, and skill in drawing contact for foul shots -- 10.2 per game -- makes him nearly impossible to defend.
UConn women's basketball forward
The Kevin Durant of women's basketball is a unique player. She has the height of a forward and the skill set of a guard. She has won two straight player-of-the-year awards and three straight national titles. Coach Geno Auriemma said she's the most naturally talented player to ever come through UConn.
Seattle Seahawks running back
The running-back position has been marginalized in the NFL, with only a handful of runners making a significant impact. Lynch is one of the few at his position who can take over a game by himself. With his tough, bulldozing running style, it seems like he can score from anywhere on the field.
Washington Capitols forward
In a massive bounce-back year, Ovechkin led the NHL in goals and goals created. It's his best season since he won the Hart Trophy -- hockey's MVP award -- in 2013.
Sáblíková took gold in the 3000m and silver in the 5000m speedskating events at the 2014 Olympics. At the 2015 world championships, she won gold in both events, besting rival Ireen Wust, the Dutch skater who won five gold medals in Sochi.
Miami Marlins outfielder
Stanton rode a season in which he hit an MLB-best 37 home runs to go with 105 RBIs, a .395 OBP, and a 6.5 WAR to a 13-year, $US325 million contract over the off-season. Though living up to that contract is nearly impossible, Stanton has been so good that the Marlins willingly gave him the biggest contract in North American sports.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle
Suh is six-four and 300 pounds and runs like a linebacker. He single-handedly blew up opposing offence lines in 2014, leading Detroit to the No. 1-ranked rushing defence in the NFL and recording 8.5 sacks from the defensive-tackle position.
US women's national team forward
The 2015 women's World Cup will likely be the American legend's last opportunity to win a World Cup. She's still one of the most lethal scorers in the world. She scored seven goals in the 2014 CONCACAF Championships and was nominated for FIFA's women's player-of-the-year award.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard
Westbrook was a wrecking crew in 2014-15, single-handedly keeping the Thunder in playoff contention without Kevin Durant. After the All-Star break, he averaged 31 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 10 assists per game, posting nine triple-doubles in that stretch. Only Westbrook, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James have had seasons averaging 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists per game. Ever.
Ferrand-Prévot is very young but has already won some of the greatest bike races. The Frenchwoman is a versatile rider, having snagged titles in road cycling, mountain biking, and cyclocross. In October she upset Dutch legend Marianne Vos to win the world championship road race; months later she won the world cyclocross title too.
Maze took home two gold medals in the 2014 Olympics and won two golds and a silver in the 2015 world championships in Colorado. She is one of three women to ever win events in all five skiing disciplines in a single season.
Bayern Munich goalkeeper
No other goalie in the world would dare do the things Neuer does. Not only is he a skilled shot stopper with Bayern and the German national soccer team but he also ventures outside his box more frequently than anyone else, serving as an 11th outfield player for two of the best teams on earth.
Golden State Warriors guard
The NBA has never seen a shooter like Stephen Curry, who broke his record for three-pointers made this season. Curry shot 44% on three-pointers this season, posting the second-best True Shooting percentage. Curry's MVP season took the Warriors from good to dominant in 2014-15 season.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder
Trout won American League MVP in 2014, leading MLB in runs scored (115) and WAR (7.9); finishing second in RBIs (111); and fourth in home runs (36). Amazingly, Trout did it in a down year -- his batting average, OBP, and total hits were down from 2013. Trout's only in his fourth full season and stands to get even better.
German women's national team midfielder
Kessler is the best player on a German team that's ranked No. 1 in the world and a favourite to win the 2015 World Cup in Canada. In 2014, she won FIFA's women's player of the year and captained Wolfsburg to the Champions League title.
David is the No. 1-ranked women's squash player in the world, and has been for eight years running. In February she set the record for most consecutive weeks at No. 1 with her 106th straight month on top of the rankings.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender
Price has an opportunity to be the first goalie to win the Hart Trophy in more than a decade. He leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against, leading the team that's ranked No. 18 in goals scored to the second-highest point total in the league.
Hanyu won gold in men's figure skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics and broke his world record for the men's short program. He followed up his 2014 Olympic gold medal with a win in the men's free skate at the 2015 world championships.
Phoenix Mercury center
Griner was the best basketball player on what is the best WNBA team ever. After breaking the single-season record for blocks (including 11 in a one game), she won defensive player of the year and her team won the WNBA title.
Not only was Adams undefeated in 2014 but she has also gone 56 straight competitions without losing. She has owned women's shot put for the past decade, winning the gold medal at the last two Olympics and the past four world championships.
The only thing that can stop Jon Jones is himself. He hasn't lost a fight in more than five years, having defended his UFC title eight times. But before his latest win, a unanimous decision over Daniel Cormier, he tested positive for cocaine and generated a firestorm. He was later stripped of his title after getting arrested on charges of allegedly leaving the scene of a car crash.
Hirscher became the first men's skier to ever win four straight World Cup overall titles in 2015. If he wins two more, he'll have the most overall titles in history.
Before the age at which most kids graduate from high school, Ko rose to No. 1 in the world and won the LPGA's $US1 million season-long Race to CME Globe. She won three LPGA events in 2014, and finished in the top 10 of the first six events she played in 2015.
Minnesota Lynx guard
Moore is the reigning MVP of the WNBA after posting averages of 24 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game during the 2014 season. She also led the USA women's basketball team to a gold medal while winning tournament MVP in the 2014 FIBA Women's World Cup.
Mayweather had just two fights in 2014, beating Marcos Maidana twice in unanimous decisions. Mayweather doesn't fight as often or against high competition as much as he did in his prime, but he remains undefeated since the 1996 Olympics. After beating Manny Pacquiao in convincing fashion, his legacy is complete.
McIlroy won the Open Championship in July 2014, joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the three players to win three majors by age 25. He finished -12, fourth place in the 2015 Masters, the best Masters finish of his career. He just needs a Masters win to become the sixth career grand-slam winner.
Though J.J. Watt missed out on MVP in 2014, he was as close as any defensive football player has been to winning it since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Watt was his typically dominant self on defence, posting 78 tackles, 20.5 sacks, and returning an interception for a touchdown. He showed his versatility, catching three offensive touchdowns, and leading some to wonder how he'd fare as a tight end.
Ledecky is the best American swimmer at the moment and the top women's swimmer in the world. In 2014 she broke five world records (some of which were her own) and had eight first-place finishes, including five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships.
With tennis' Big Four slowly breaking up, Djokovic is best poised to dominate the sport. Djokovic went 61-8 in 2014, including a win at Wimbledon, and he's 30-2 in 2015. He recently moved into sixth all time for consecutive weeks at No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher
Kershaw had one of the most dominant pitching seasons in MLB history on his way to winning the Cy Young in 2014. He went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, a 7.54 WAR, and he produced a 15-strike no-hitter and didn't pitch with bases loaded until late August, according to Ted Berg of USA Today. Kershaw has now led MLB in ERA for four straight seasons, cementing his place as the best pitcher in baseball today.
FC Barcelona forward
While Messi may have let Cristiano Ronaldo pass him in trophies and production in 2014, the soccer forward is on fire in 2015. He has 30 goals in all competitions since January 1, vaulting Barca to the top of La Liga and title contention in the Champions League.
While she has yet to compete at the Olympics, she has taken over the sport of gymnastics since 2013. She won four gold medals at the last world championships, including the individual all-around title and two of the four individual event golds. She's going to be a star in Brazil.
What do we do with Bolt? When it's an Olympic year -- or even a year before an Olympic year -- he's the fastest man who has ever lived. But when he's not in the Olympics or gearing up for the Olympics, which has been the case for the past year, he doesn't bother competing at a high level. In our estimation, all that matters is that when it counts, Bolt blows everyone away.
Real Madrid forward
The 2014 Ballon d'Or winner dragged Portugal to the World Cup single-handedly and won the Champions League with his club. While he got bounced in the first round in Brazil, he's still scoring at an absurd rate. The soccer star has 53 goals in 47 games in all competitions in 2014-15 for Real Madrid, including 42 in La Liga.
Serena 'only' went 52-8 and won seven titles (including the US Open) in 2014. She responded by going 20-0 to start 2015 with her only blemish coming when she withdrew from Indian Wells. When she's healthy, she's unbeatable.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward
Even in a down year, LeBron single-handedly shifted the NBA landscape. The Cavs won 20 more games than they did without him last year. The Heat won 18 fewer games than they did without him this year. Wherever he goes, he takes 50-win seasons with him. You can't say that about anyone else in the league.
No athlete is the best in their sport by a wider margin than Rousey. Her two wins in the past year have lasted an average of 15 seconds. The UFC made her its first female fighter ever. In her five UFC fights, only one opponent has made it out of the first round without getting knocked out of submission. She's not just undefeated; she's effectively untouched.
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