More than half a million of our readers voted, along with our staff, to determine the Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2011.
The men who made the list come from different walks of life, but they’re all visionaries who completely own their respective fields. They not only challenge themselves to become Better Men every day, but they’re dedicated to furthering the future of mankind (even Charlie Sheen, in his own strange way).
These are the men history will remember as having defined 2011. So who made the list?
Why is Simon Cowell #49?
Despite all the accolades Steven Tyler received during his inaugural run as a judge on American Idol, it was clear from the get-go that the Aerosmith front man would be unable to match the incisive and insightful commentary that Simon Cowell, his predecessor, became famous for. Yes, American Idol still achieved massive ratings, but that was pre-X Factor. This fall, the acid-tongued Brit debuted his massively anticipated talent show. While there was no shortage of buzz thanks to its overseas success and the long-awaited reunion of Cowell and his former better half, Paula Abdul, ratings on this side of the pond have been less than stellar. Cowell's reported $80-million net worth speaks volumes, but we're not sure his new show can usurp Idol as America's No. 1 talent competition. Still, Cowell's performance portfolio says we shouldn't bet against him just yet.
Three Highlights of Simon Cowell's 2011
- Although American Idol is still America's No. 1 TV show, Cowell left the show that made him famous stateside in 2011.
- Reportedly had a falling-out with former X Factor costar Cheryl Cole after a conversation about politics.
- Revealed in a recent interview with Howard Stern that he's had a threesome and once went on a blind date with Denise Richards
Why is Oscar Pistorius #48?
Never has an athlete made eighth place look so good. When Oscar Pistorius of South Africa came in first in his heat of the men's 400m semifinal at this summer's IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, it was his biggest win in a career full of them. You see, as a child, Pistorius had both legs amputated (due to congenital absence of the fibula) and replaced with bladelike carbon-fibre prostheses, which some say gives him an unfair advantage when running against two-footed humans. We say hogwash! Pistorius' achievements should not be relegated to a byproduct of his disability, but instead as a result of his rigorous training and limitless heart. Now Pistorius turns his attentions to
Three Highlights of Oscar Pistorius' 2011
- With his 400m time of 45.07 seconds on July 19, 2011, he achieved the 'A' qualifying standard the 2012 Olympics (Runners have to beat the Olympic 'A' standard time of 45.55 seconds to be eligible to run the 400 in the Olympics).
- Won three IPC Athletics World titles in New Zealand in January.
- Helped the South African 4 x 100m relay team reach the finals at the World Championships.
Why is Bradley Cooper #47?
Bradley Cooper's not really a cocksure jerk; he just plays one in the movies. In fact, no one is more surprised by his late-in-life success than Cooper himself. Once destined for middle-of-the-closing-credits irrelevance, Cooper has parlayed the success of 2009's The Hangover into an unlikely spot atop Hollywood's A-list. 2011 saw the permanently scruffy star carry a film on his own for the first time, as a genius who juices in Limitless. And that was just the calm before the storm: This past summer, Cooper got smashed, and so did box-office records, as The Hangover Part II became the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever. Bradley Cooper -- proving that the 30s are the new 20s, one blockbuster at a time.
Three Highlights of Bradley Cooper's 2011
- The Hangover Part II grossed $581,042,976 worldwide, making it the highest-grossing R-rated comedy of all time.
- Limitless opened at No. 1 at the box office.
- Was in a relationship with Renée Zellweger from July 2009 to March 2011.
Why is Justin Timberlake #46?
Justin Timberlake sure loves proving people wrong. When critics griped that the former N'syncer couldn't make the transition from tween idol to respected artist, he went out and won a bunch of Grammys. When the same critics said he wasn't a good enough actor to go from stage to screen, he gave one of the best performances of 2010 in The Social Network. This year saw Timberlake emerge as a full-blown leading man, thanks to winning performances in Friends with Benefits and Bad Teacher. The transformation might finally be complete after his next film. The sci-fi thriller In Time, introduces us to Justin Timberlake, action star. We may not know exactly what to make of a gun-toting Timberlake, but by now we know better than to bet against him.
Three Highlights of Justin Timberlake's 2011
- Hosted the season finale of Saturday Night Live.
- rumoured to have dated Mila Kunis and Olivia Wilde this year.
- Became part-owner of MySpace this summer, along with the online advertising company Specific Media.
Why is Rory McIlroy #45?
As Rory McIlroy walked down the final fairway to close out his miracle performance at this year's U.S. Open, you could see the two words forming on everyone's lips at the Congressional Country Club: Tiger who? It was a display unlike any other, as the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland became the youngest player to win the U.S. Open in 88 years and set 12 Open records along the way. The win came 11 years after Woods won his first Open and became the most recognisable athlete on the planet. But he has since faded, and golf was in need of a saviour . Maybe Woods was never meant to break Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major titles. Maybe it was always meant to be Rory -- we just didn't know it yet.
Three Highlights of Rory McIlroy's 2011
- Is dating tennis superstar Caroline Wozniacki.
- His U.S. Open win raised his position in the Official World Golf Ranking to a career high of No. 4, which is now at No. 3.
- Was named Sports Personality of the Year at the GQ Men of the Year Awards.
Why is Larry David #44?
Larry David is grumpy, selfish, pessimistic, and neurotic. He's also the most likable man on television. David's metasitcom completed its eighth season on a high note, thanks to a sly move from L.A. to New York and a fresh marital status that has injected new life into the acclaimed series. David's legions of fans watched with glee as he navigated his way through a cartoonish world filled with petty irritations. Remember, David created Seinfeld and has more money than he knows what to do with, so things like unemployment and medical bills aren't of real concern. Instead David spent his time competing with Rosie O'Donnell for the affections of the same woman and chasing a one-armed man through the streets of New York. A miserable life, but someone's got to live it, and we're glad it's him.
Three Highlights of Larry David's 2011
- Season 8 of Curb Your Enthusiasm featured many famous guest stars, including Ricky Gervais, Michael J. Fox and Michael Bloomberg.
- Will star in the Farrelly Brothers' The Three Stooges next year.
- Is dating actress Amy Landecker, who also appeared as his girlfriend on Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Why is Christopher Nolan #43?
Christopher Nolan had two of the biggest movies this summer -- without actually releasing a movie. With The Dark Knight Rises (the highly anticipated conclusion to his Batman trilogy, filming in Pittsburgh all summer) and production of the Superman reboot Man of Steel (on which he is executive producer) also underway, the Inception director is currently overseeing the two most anticipated movies of next year -- at the same time. The almost daily release of unauthorised set photos and videos from both films became bigger news than the release of some of the summer's biggest blockbusters. Come next year, none of us will remember Green Lantern. But that first image of Tom Hardy as Bane, standing on top of Batman's Tumbler? Coolest thing we've seen all year.
Three Highlights of Christopher Nolan's 2011
- Nolan has said that after The Dark Knight Rises, he wants to make a Howard Hughes biopic.
- Handpicked director Zack Snyder is to helm Man of Steel.
- Refuses to commit the ending of The Dark Knight Rises to paper or computer, for fear of it slipping out.
Why is Tom Brady #42?
It's scary to think how close we came to missing out on watching another season of Tom Brady in his prime. The Patriots are once again Superbowl contenders, marching to the beat of Brady's drum -- the current league leader in passing yards. When Brady's not on the field carving up defenses with his trademark precision passing, the three-time Superbowl champion is busy being married to the most famous supermodel in the world, Gisele Bundchen. But even Brady gave Bundchen a run for her money in the modelling department, with his latest ad for the Australian footwear company UGGS going viral online. Brady -- a proven winner on the field and off, if ever there was one.
Three Highlights of Tom Brady's 2011
- Was the unanimous choice for the NFL MVP last season.
- Signed a four-year, $72 million contract extension with the Pats.
- He and Gisele were ranked the world's highest paid celebrity couple by Forbes magazine, with combined earnings of $76 million.
Why is Julian Assange #41?
Was Julian Assange the victim of a smear campaign? That was the question being asked around the world after news broke earlier this year that the eccentric journalist was being extradited to Sweden to face accusations of sexual abuse. Assange, who has enemies in some very high places after his whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks, released thousands of sensitive documents online. Some hailed him as a revolutionary, others a terrorist, especially since many of his group's actions were viewed as anti-American. For much of the year, Assange was mired in a costly legal battle and a pending investigation by the U.S. State Department, and he drifted from public thought until, out of the blue, WikiLeaks published nearly 134,000 leaked diplomatic cables that could put thousands of people at risk. Suddenly the abuse charges are the least of his worries. Recently his memoir, Julian Assange -- the Unauthorised Autobiography, was published in the U.K.
Three Highlights of Julian Assange's 2011
- Was awarded the Sydney Peace Foundation gold medal by the Sydney Peace Foundation of the University of Sydney for his 'exceptional courage and initiative in pursuit of human rights.'
- Alan Dershowitz said, 'Without a doubt. He is a journalist, a new kind of journalist.'
- Sold the rights to a ghost-written autobiography this year, in order to make enough money to keep WikiLeaks running while also paying his legal fees.
Why is Matt Damon #40?
Matt Damon was one of Barack Obama's biggest supporters throughout his 2008 presidential campaign, but he has since jumped off the president's bandwagon, becoming one of his most vocal celebrity critics. Does Damon think he can do a better job than the embattled leader? Michael Moore sure does. The lefty filmmaker has publicly urged the actor to run for office, and based on Damon's recent caught-on-film criticisms of education in America, the Iraq war and taxes -- all as articulate as anything Obama has said all year -- the Oscar-winning actor might be up to the task. If not, he always has that whole movie star thing to fall back on.
Three Highlights of Matt Damon's 2011
- Can be seen in Contagion, Margaret and We Bought a Zoo in 2011.
- Is set to play Liberace's love interest, opposite Michael Douglas, in Steven Soderbergh's biopic about the legendary singer.
- Defended teachers during an interview with a Reason.tv reporter at the Save Our Schools rally.
Why is Dirk Nowitzki #39?
A strange thing happened during the 2011 NBA finals: Basketball fans all across America got behind a quiet and mysterious German star with a history of choking in big games as he took on three of the most quintessentially U.S. superstars -- loud, arrogant and downright explosive. In the end, Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks triumphed over Miami Heat's big three -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh -- to the delight of everyone outside of South Beach. In what will go down as one of the greatest performances in NBA playoff history, Nowitzki, the valiant German, used a combination of lethal clutch-as-can-be shooting and sheer determination to defeat the evil Americans. How's that for a role reversal?
Three Highlights of Dirk Nowitzki's 2011
- Named NBA Finals MVP after averaging 27.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 21 games.
- Won Best Male Athlete and Best NBA Player at the 2011 ESPY Awards.
- Played in the EuroBasket 2011 to help Germany qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Why is Dana White #38?
Just when we thought the UFC couldn't get any bigger, Dana White had to go ahead and prove us all wrong -- again. In what White himself deemed the biggest moment of his career, the charismatic president helped to legalise MMA in Toronto, which helped set the stage for UFC 129 at Toronto's Rogers Centre, an event that drew 55,000 fans and broke ratings records in what White insists is the UFC's No. 1 television market on the planet. As if that wasn't enough, White also inked a major broadcasting deal with FOX, which will help ensure that the UFC gets plenty of airtime on the network's various subsidiary channels for years to come. Dana White might never actually step into the ring himself, but boy, does he know how to win.
Dana White on making the Top 49 for the third straight year:
'I'm honored for even being thought of for a 3rd time, especially for the fact that readers have voted for this. I am just completely honored.'
Why is Michael Bloomberg #37?
There's no question that New Yorkers love Michael Bloomberg. He's only the fourth mayor this century to be elected for three consecutive terms. He helped the city regain its footing post-9/11 and almost single-handedly revamped New York's sagging school system. But after botching the response to last year's paralyzing blizzard and the increasing anxieties about the city's economic prospects, Mayor Bloomberg encountered his lowest approval ratings in six years. But like any good New Yorker, Bloomberg bounced back. He showed great care and sincerity in his handling of Hurricane Irene, and his fellow New Yorkers responded: His polls are up again. Twelve more years! Twelve more years!
Three Highlights of Michael Bloomberg's 2011
- Appeared on the season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm's eighth season.
- His total wealth increased to $18.1 billion, which ranks him 10th in the Forbes 400 and 30th in the world.
- Created the Mayor's Council on Technology and Innovation, made up of successful entrepreneurs who will address issues particular to the industry and identify points of action for the City Council.
Why is Jack Dorsey #36?
As if it weren't enough to change the very way in which we exchange and receive information, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey is intent on changing the way we exchange goods too. After developing one of the most transformative ideas of the past 30 years, Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter in 2008 and started Square, a company that allows people to make debit and credit payments using their phones, thanks to a portable card reader that attaches to the headphone jack. And with Square's valuation soaring to $1 billion this year, Dorsey also resumed a more active role at Twitter -- as executive chairman -- making him one of the most powerful (and busiest) men in Silicon Valley.
Three Highlights of Jack Dorsey's 2011
- Square currently processes over $3 million worth of mobile transactions per day.
- Twitter has opened its new East Coast headquarters on Manhattan's Madison Avenue.
- When he began Square in 2009, it was originally named Squirrel.
Why is Jimmy Fallon #35?
Remember when Jimmy Fallon was a controversial choice to replace Conan O'Brien as the host of Late Night in 2008? Neither do we. Now in its third season, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has officially made after-hours cool again, with its deft combination of finger-on-the-pulse sketches, viral-video-worthy musical performances, and then there's that host. Fallon uses an infectious combination of hipster dorkiness and fanboy glee to convince us that even Channing Tatum playing Wii for 10 minutes is like, the coolest thing ever. And for Jimmy Fallon, it probably is.
Three Highlights of Jimmy Fallon's 2011
- Set to return to his roots to host one of the biggest episodes of SNL on December 17th.
- Playing pop culture for all it's worth, Fallon had a mole removed from his left hand on The Dr. Oz Show in February of 2011.
- Like many of his celebrated musical sketches, Fallon and Justin Timberlake's 'History of Rap Part 2' performance went viral.
Why is Elon Musk #34?
Jon Favreau famously proclaimed that Tesla CEO Elon Musk was a major source of inspiration for Tony Stark. But perhaps we're in need of a more apt comparison: Steve Jobs. The man who invented PayPal has been compared to the former Apple CEO on more than one occasion, thanks to his desire to not just succeed in the auto industry, but to revolutionise it with his focus on electric cars. Some think that Musk's new Model S, which is said get 300 miles per full charge, at a base price of just $49,500, will change the auto industry in 10 years more than the industry has changed in the last hundred. That sounds pretty Steve Jobsian to us.
Three Highlights of Elon Musk's 2011
- Began a multimillion-dollar program through his foundation to donate solar power systems for critical needs in disaster areas.
- Musk was awarded the $500,000 Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, thanks to his work as the CEO of SpaceX.
- Forbes named Musk one of 'America's 20 Most Powerful CEOs 40 And Under.'
Why is Soleio Cuervo #33?
If Mark Zuckerberg is the face of Facebook, then Soleio Cuervo is its hands. Cuervo, who works as a product designer for the social networking giant, was instrumental in implementing the thumbs-up 'Like' button, which was introduced in February of 2009 and has since become a global icon, used on over 2.5 million other websites. The task was simple: Come up with a universal way for Facebook's users to express their approval of something. Cuervo, who studied composition at Duke University and learned how to program websites by creating one for his band at the time, settled on the less aggressive thumbs-up symbol to replace the more suggestive heart, which was more common at the time. So the next time a really pretty girl likes one of your profile pictures, you have Soleio Cuervo to thank for it.
Three Highlights of Soleio Cuervo's 2011
- T-Pain has the 'Like' button tattooed on his arm.
- In some nations, a raised, pointed thumb is a rude gesture, so Facebook considered localizing the image with a different icon, but Cuervo insisted it needed to be universal.
- Insists that Facebook's look was inspired by the look of video games from the 1980s.
Why is Mark Cuban #32?
Call it a coincidence, but the moment Mark Cuban stopped talking the talk, his team finally walked the walk. After years of bitter disappointment at the hands of lesser opponents, Cuban's Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship, defeating the heavily favoured but universally despised Miami Heat. Cuban, one of professional sports' most charismatic and outspoken owners, has usually let his theatrical antics and disparaging comments about league officials overshadow his actual team. This year, however, the billionaire remained curiously silent until the final buzzer sounded. This time, we all screamed along with him.
A Memorable Quote From Mark Cuban
Thank you to my new best friends at AskMen. I hope to do them proud!
Why is Louis C.K. #31?
Normally overweight and balding divorced men in their mid-40s don't get second chances. Just don't tell that to Louis C.K. When Lucky Louie -- the veteran comedian's first stab at being Jerry Seinfeld with an enema -- was cancelled by HBO after just one season, the stand-up specialist took his guttural brand of observational comedy to FX, where Louie has quietly become one of the most critically acclaimed comedies on television. The show has now been picked up for its third season, and C.K. has complete control over the heavily autobiographical series, which he writes, directs, edits, and, of course, stars in. If being a lonely, grumpy, single dad is consistently this hilarious, where do we sign up?
Three Highlights of Louis C.K.'s 2011
- Received his first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Performance in a Comedy Series.
- After word spread that C.K. had tested out new material this summer on Conan, YouTube videos went viral.
- Proof that taking the reigns has been a complete success: FX ordered another 13 episodes of Louie.
Why is Peter Dinklage #30?
HBO's smash series Game of Thrones is filled with breakout stars, but none bigger than Peter Dinklage. Ironic as it may be that the show's biggest star measures in at a mere 4' 5', Dinklage was born to play Tyrion Lannister, the conniving dwarf who is a central piece of writer George R. R. Martin's complex puzzle. After breaking out in the 2003 Sundance darling The Station Agent, Dinklage has maintained a steady career marked with displays of talent that give weight to the old adage 'Good things come in small packages.' We can't wait for Season 2.
Three Highlights of Peter Dinklage's 2011
- Received an Emmy for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work in Game of Thrones.
- Captain America writer Christopher Markus wants to cast Dinklage as the villain MODOK in the film's inevitable sequel.
- He and his wife, Erica Schmidt, are expecting their first child.
Why is Chris Hemsworth #28?
Much has been made of the rise of the nerd in Hollywood. You know, Jesse Eisenberg, Anton Yelchin and the like. But that doesn't mean there's no room for the classic Hollywood hunk, and none has a brighter future than the blond-haired, blue-eyed Chris Hemsworth, whose breakout role in this summer's superhero-from-space epic Thor solidified his spot as one of Hollywood's hottest young actors. With The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsman on the way, it seemed Hemsworth was shaping up to be another Jason Statham. Then he signed on to star in Oscar-winner Ron Howard's Formula 1 movie, Rush, in 2013. Hemsworth might just be the next Brad Pitt after all.
Three Highlights of Chris Hemsworth's 2011
- Will play James Hunt in Ron Howard's F1 movie, Rush.
- Currently shooting the superhero mash-up The Avengers alongside Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo.
- Married to Spanish stunner Elsa Pataky.
Why is Mark Zuckerberg #27?
One of the defining moments of Mark Zuckerberg's time as Facebook's CEO and founder came this year when he appeared alongside his on-screen alter ego, Jesse Eisenberg, on a January episode of SNL. Though he still seemed somewhat uncomfortable, the winking appearance helped soften the blow of The Social Network, David Fincher's modern masterpiece that portrayed Zuckerberg as a sociopath, an egomaniac and, above all, a really horrible friend. But it didn't stop Zucks from growing Facebook into the greatest unifier the world has ever seen (just look at the revolts in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya). The past few months have also seen the birth of new Facebook features, such as the Timeline, the real-time ticker and the ability to watch TV and movies, listen to music and read news with your friends.
Three Highlights of Mark Zuckerberg's 2011
- President Obama praised Facebook as an example of American innovation in his January State of the Union address.
- Zuckerberg's fortune has grown 238% to $13.5 billion, while Facebook's valuation has soared to $50 billion.
- Bought a five-bedroom house in Palo Alto for $7 million as well as a puppy named Beast with girlfriend Priscilla Chan.
Why is Jean-Claude Trichet #26?
This year it was Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was the most talked about French financial policy-maker, but for all the wrong reasons. Though less known 'round these parts, his counterpart Jean-Claude Trichet has been significantly influential. When his term as president of the European Central Bank ends this month, Trichet will be remembered as a thoughtful leader who helped usher the bank to major prominence after the global financial collapse in 2008. Still, Europe is facing another potentially damaging sovereign debt crisis, this time with both Italy and Spain under threat. Like any legacy, Trichet's will be conflicted. But one thing's for certain: His successor, Italian Mario Draghi, certainly has his hands full.
Three Highlights of Jean-Claude Trichet's 2011
- Used his influence to insist that Portugal and Ireland accept bailout loans.
- Helped implement stricter financial discipline in the face of Greece's economic crisis.
- Ranks fifth on Newsweek's list of the world's most powerful people.
Why is Anderson Cooper #24?
Anderson Cooper has never been one to shy away from covering a dangerous story, so it was no surprise to see the CNN anchor in the heart of Tahrir Square in Cairo, covering the chaos of the spring revolution that would eventually topple Hosni Mubarak. Cooper was punched in the head 10 times by protesters but made it out of the country avoiding serious injury. It's a good thing too, because the host of Anderson Cooper 360 (which just took over CNN's coveted 8 p.m. time slot) recently launched his new syndicated daytime talk show, Anderson. Despite mixed reviews on its first day, the show has since picked up speed -- and viewers. During a year in which the media's lack of ethics was at the forefront of the news, it's more clear than ever that Cooper is one of the most important voices of the 21st century.
A Memorable Quote From Anderson Cooper
I think it's a good thing that there are bloggers out there watching very closely and holding people accountable. Everyone in the news should be able to hold up to that kind of scrutiny. I'm for as much transparency in the news-gathering process as possible.
Why is Ashton Kutcher #23?
Regardless of his current personal life, Ashton Kutcher pioneered celebs' involvement in all things online, starting with his obsession with Twitter and leading to his financial investments in the likes of Airbnb, Foursquare, Path, Flipboard, and Fashism. His investment decisions aren't obvious plays, and that's half the reason to take your hat off to the guy. Ditto for his acting career. When it was announced that Kutcher would replace Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men, many wondered why the movie star -- who was just starting to find his bearings as a leading man in No Strings Attached -- would ever go back to scripted television, a medium he hadn't revisited since playing the spacy heartthrob Kelso in That 70's Show. Then the news broke that Kutcher's one-year deal was worth an eye-opening $20 million, instantly making him the highest paid actor on TV. So would Kutcher have been a fool not to take the deal? Duh! Winning!
Three Highlights of Ashton Kutcher's 2011
- Became a major investor in Airbnb.
- Replaced Charlie Sheen on Two and a Half Men.
- Allegedly cheated on wife Demi Moore with a 23-year-old California girl.
Why is Rene Redzepi #22?
With Ferran Adria's recent decision to shutter El Bulli's hallowed doors, the time is ripe for Rene Redzepi to assume the mantle of the world's greatest chef. Noma, the 33-year-old Dane's Copenhagen outpost dedicated to soil and sea, has already been named the best restaurant in the world for two consecutive years, and his latest cookbook -- a comprehensive tome of nouvelle Nordic cuisine -- has been described as one of the most important cookbooks of the decade. So what is it about this new culinary superstar's food (besides ingredients like bulrushes, sea buckthorn and lingonberries) that makes it so unique? You'll have to visit Noma to find out. Just don't save your appetite: The restaurant is usually booked three months in advance.
Three Highlights of Rene Redzepi's 2011
- His restaurant, Noma, was named the best restaurant in the world for the second consecutive year on the S. Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants.
- Has two Michelin stars.
- Helped organise the MAD Food Camp Symposium, an event dedicated to food education.
Why is Novak Djokovic #9?
While the whole world was weighing in on the Nadal vs. Federer debate, Novak Djokovic was quietly (OK, maybe not so quietly) putting together one of the most impressive seasons in the history of men's tennis. Before the 2011 French Open semifinals -- which he lost to Roger Federer -- the wily Serb won 41 straight matches, including the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Just when it looked liked Rafael Nadal was set to begin his long reign atop the men's ATP rankings, the notoriously hotheaded Djokovic quieted all the outside noise, put all his tools together and reminded us why, right now, men's tennis is the most exciting sport on the planet, after defeating Nadal at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships and the 2011 US Open.
Three Highlights of Novak Djokovic's 2011
- Became the first player to win five ATP Masters titles in a single season.
- Was awarded the Order of St. Sava First Class, the highest decoration of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
- Entered the 2011 U.S. Open as the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
Why is Pep Guardiola #18?
Everyone knows that during their never-ending dominance of European club football, FC Barcelona has consistently rolled out an arsenal of some of the deadliest and most skilled players in the world. How could a team that has the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta at its disposal ever lose? Just ask the Miami Heat. The fact is, it takes a great coach to make sure that all the pieces, no matter how talented, fall into line and play like a cohesive unit, especially when it's stacked with superstars that can influence the game's outcome with a single play. One look at Barcelona's fearsome and fluid attack, and it's clear that Pep Guardiola has done just that.
Three Highlights of Pep Guardiola's 2011
- Got revenge on Jose Mourinho -- who outsmarted the young Spaniard in 2009-10 when Barcelona was defeated in the Champion's League semifinal by Inter Milan -- when Barcelona defeated Mourinho's club, Real Madrid, in this year's Champion's League semifinal.
- Was awarded the Catalan Parliament's Gold Medal, its highest honour.
- Became the all-time record holder for most titles won by an FC Barcelona coach by beating Porto in this year's UEFA Super Cup final with a score of 2-0. He now has 12 trophies in three years, silencing critics who thought he had been promoted too early.
Why is Alexander Skarsgard #17?
Television hasn't produced a sex symbol like Alexander Skarsgard since George Clooney outgrew his ER scrubs in the '90s. But thanks to his role as a bicurious bloodsucker in HBO's True Blood, Skarsgard has become an object of desire for women everywhere. And luckily for them, the strapping Swede is newly single, since he and Kate Bosworth called it quits after nearly two years together. At least that gives Skarsgard plenty of time to focus on his burgeoning film career, which kicked off with the remake of the ultraviolent cult classic Straw Dogs, in which Skarsgard plays a psychopathic townie out for blood. What a stretch.
Three Highlights of Alexander Skarsgard's 2011
- Will up his A-game in 2012, appearing in What Maisie Knew, opposite Julianne Moore.
- Set to appear alongside Taylor Kitsch and Rihanna in next summer's blockbuster, Battleship.
- Appeared in the new Lars von Trier film, Melancholia.
Why is Cadel Evans #11?
Cadel Evans is exactly what cycling needed. With the once invincible Lance Armstrong's reputation in a continuous free fall thanks to doping allegations, Evans emerged as the new face of the sport by becoming the first Australian and, at 34, the oldest man in 88 years to win the Tour de France. Most important, he did it clean. But almost as remarkable as Evans' rise to the top of his sport is the personal transformation that many believe has finally come full circle. Once considered one of the coldest, most ill-tempered cyclists around, the new Evans is warm, approachable and even sympathetic. Winning tends to have that effect on people.
Three Highlights of Cadel Evans' 2011
- Before the Tour de France, finished runner-up in the Criterium du Dauphine.
- His Tour de France win spawned massive celebration in Australia, with many calling for a national holiday.
- A homecoming parade was held upon his return to Australia. Over 10,000 people showed up.
Why is Lionel Messi #10?
It's hard to believe that Lionel Messi is only 24. He has floppy hair like a boy and is shy and slight of build. He also makes a reported $43 million a year and is considered one of the best soccer players ever to lace up a pair of cleats. This past season, the Argentine forward scored a jaw-dropping 53 goals in 55 appearances and led FC Barcelona to the Champions League title, the La Liga crown and, in many people's minds, secured their spot as the greatest team ever assembled in soccer or otherwise. The only thing missing from Messi's already illustrious career is major success on the international stage. Once that happens, he may go down as the greatest of all time.
Three Highlights of Lionel Messi's 2011
- Has begun the 2011-12 on a tear, collecting 6 goals and 4 assists in his first 4 games.
- Was named one of TIME magazine's most influential people in the world.
- His Facebook page had 6 million followers after just a few hours in operation.
Why is Prince William #7?
Every girl dreams of one day finding and marrying her Prince Charming. But isn't that just a silly make-believe notion of the perfect man, one who exists only in fairy tales? It sure didn't look that way on April 29th, when the eyes of the world watched a just-married Prince William and Kate Middleton kiss not once, but twice from Buckingham Palace's historic balcony as the crowd below roared with approval. It was a lasting image in a life filled with them; from a baby held in his mother's arms to a teenager watching her casket go by, Prince William has continued to handle life in the public eye with the grace and dignity befitting of a king. Catherine, you're one lucky girl.
Three Highlights of Prince William's 2011
- Had his title changed to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
- Toured North America in July with wife Kate Middleton.
- Granted his first interview to an author for a book about his late grandmother.
Why is Mohamed Bouazizi #6?
It was the slap in the face that was heard around the world -- or the slap that changed the world, rather. When Faida Hamdy, a 45-year-old municipal inspector in Sidi Bouzid, a Tunisian city, approached the cart of Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old fruit vendor, she could not have known that what was about to transpire would be the catalyst for some of the biggest revolutions since the fall of Communism. After claiming that he was disrespected, slapped across the face and embarrassed by Ms. Hamdy, he set himself on fire in protest, igniting the youth of a country long stifled by an oppressive regime. After two weeks of protests, Tunisia's President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali stepped down. The spirit of revolution moved beyond the Tunisian border, and sparked what has since been dubbed Arab Spring.
Three Highlights of Mohamed Bouazizi's 2011
- After the self-immolation, 90% of his body was covered in burns, and he was visited in the hospital by then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
- The main avenue in Sidi Bouzid bears the name Mohamed Bouazizi written in spray paint.
- Inspired a wave of copycats, including Noureddine Adnane, a 27-year-old Moroccan street vendor who set himself on fire in Palermo, Sicily.
Why is Kanye West #5?
The night that Kanye West almost destroyed his career by grabbing the mic from a 19-year-old girl on one of the world's grandest stages seems like ages ago, doesn't it? Or more specifically, two albums ago. First, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, West's magnum opus, revealed the artist in all his blowhard splendor and was hailed an instant genre classic (but what genre?). Then the self-proclaimed douchebag holed up in some mansion with his kinda famous, kinda talented friend and mentor, Jay-Z to drop Watch the Throne, one of the most secretive, epic, grandiose rap albums of 2011 -- maybe ever. After the year he's had, it's never been clearer: Kanye West is king, and we are his loyal subjects.
Three Highlights of Kanye West's 2011
- Dropped Watch the Throne with Jay-Z one of the most secretive rap albums of all time.
- Debuted his fashion line, Dw by Kanye West, during Paris Fashion Week.
- Planned one of the most highly anticipated North American tours of all-time with Jay-Z in support of Watch the Throne with 24 dates across the continent.
Why is Warren Buffett #4?
The U.S. economy is in turmoil. Just don't tell that to Warren Buffett. The world's most famous investor just keeps making money despite the weak global market. But what separates Buffett from most of his fellow billionaires is his overflowing philanthropic nature. We say 'most' because Buffett -- who is the world's third richest man -- has teamed up with its second richest, Bill Gates, to form the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic initiative that sees the world's wealthiest individuals give away at least half their fortunes. And yes, he talks the talk -- like in his New York Times article 'Stop Coddling the Super-Rich' -- but Buffett walks the walk too. He took his argument to Congress, and his son, Howard Buffett, went on the record defending the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Three Highlights of Warren Buffett's 2011
- Was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
- Has a current net worth of $50 billion.
- Berkshire Hathaway did not exercise its $5 billion of warrants in Goldman Sachs, which would have resulted in a profit of nearly $2 billion.
Why is Larry Page #3?
Now that Steve Jobs has vacated the Silicon Valley throne, the tech world is in search of a fellow visionary to replace Jobs as the figurehead of innovation -- someone who can reach the same rarefied heights as the former Apple CEO. Our vote is for Larry Page, the 38-year-old cofounder and newly appointed CEO of Google. Though his first year as Google's chief has been a rocky one -- the company was forced to pay $500 million for allowing ads from illegal online pharmacies -- Google is still the 11th biggest U.S. company in terms of stock market value. And with Google TV on the way and a monumental purchase of Motorola, Google's future is as bright as ever. And if Page ever gets lost along the way, there's always Google Maps.
Three Highlights of Larry Page's 2011
- Ranked 24th on the Forbes' annual list of the world's billionaires.
- Introduced Google+, a social networking site set to take on Facebook.
- Spearheaded the purchase of Motorola for $12.5 billion.
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