Many of the biggest names in sports in the 2010s first made their marks in the previous decade, so give them credit for staying power in an era of short attention spans and flashes in the pan.
Here is our list of the top 10 North American sports stars of the decade. (No offense intended, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, et al. You were good, too.)
No.1: LeBron James
Starting with “The Decision” in the summer of 2010, no athlete dominated the conversation this decade quite like James, a three-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP. His finest moment, by far: Leading the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 Finals deficit against the Warriors to win it all in 2016.
No. 2: Tom Brady
Winning three Super Bowls in the 2000s was so much fun Brady and the Patriots did it again in the 2010s, and lost two others, one to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. Most NFL coaches and quarterbacks come and go, but for the Patriots, Bill Belichick and Brady endure.
No. 3: Serena Williams
Williams won her first U.S. Open championship in 1999 and still was at it in the 2010s, winning three Opens and 12 major titles overall in the decade. She took a break from tennis after the birth of her daughter in 2017 and returned to reach two Wimbledon and two Open finals.
No. 4: Tigers Woods
Even though he won only one major championship in the 2010s, it was a doozy: The 2019 Masters, breaking a 10-year drought during which he endured personal and physical setbacks that tarnished his legacy from the 1990s and 2000s. But he regularly was in contention, and always in the spotlight.
No. 5: Peyton Manning
The best regular-season quarterback of the 2000s appeared to be through after missing all of 2011 following neck surgery. But in 2013, he threw a record 55 touchdown passes for the Broncos. His was a shell of his former self by 2015 but went out a Super Bowl champion nonetheless.
No. 6: Stephen Curry
Not a shabby decade for Curry, a sharpshooter who won two NBA MVPs and three championships, and reached the Finals five years in a row to close the 2010s. But his appeal went beyond accomplishments. His slight build and everyman demeanor provided a gentle public face for the powerful Warriors.
No. 7: Simone Biles
Casual fans know Biles for her four Olympic gold medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but her dominance of the sport goes well beyond that. She has won five world all-around championships and six national all-arounds. Biles’ performance and personality also have made her a popular figure for corporate endorsements.
No. 8: Mike Trout
Although his low-key personality and the Angels’ lack of team success has muted his national visibility, Trout established himself as by far the best baseball player of the decade, winning three American League MVP awards — and finishing second four times — while making eight All-Star teams. And he’s still only 28!
No. 9: Lindsey Vonn
Vonn won a gold medal in downhill skiing at the 2010 Olympics and overcame injuries to win bronze in 2018, furthering a historic career. She won two of her four World Cup overall titles in the 2010s and has won a total of 82 World Cup events, a women’s record.
No. 10: Sidney Crosby
“Sid the Kid” was one of the world’s best players in the late 2000s and kept it up this decade, starting with scoring the winning goal for Canada against the U.S. to win Olympic gold in 2010. Crosby won Conn Smythe Trophies in captaining the Penguins to Stanley Cups in 2016 and ’17.