A pair of swimmers have finished in the top 5 of the Associate Press Athlete of the Decade voting.
Top 5, Male AP Athlete of the Decade
- Lebron James, basketball
- Tom Brady, football
- Usain Bolt, track & field
- Lionel Messi, soccer
- Michael Phelps, swimming
Top 5, Female AP Athlete of the Decade
- Serena Williams, tennis
- Simone Biles, gymnastics
- Katie Ledecky, swimming
- Lindsey Vonn, skiing
- Mikaela Shiffrin, skiing
Phelps won 12 of his record 28 Olympic medals in the 2010s, so he earned enough votes to finish 5th in spite of the peak of his career coming in the prior decade. Phelps retired after the 2012 Olympic Games, returned in 2014, was subsequently suspended after a DUI arrest, and bounced back to win 5 more gold medals in Rio at the 2016 Olympics. Phelps also won 4 World Championships in the decade, though because of retirement and suspension, his last World Championship meet was in 2011.
He was named the Associated Press Male Athelete of the Year in 2008 and 2012.
Ledecky, meanwhile, has had her entire elite swimming career in the 2010s, which includes 5 Olympic gold medals and 15 World Championship gold medals. She is the current World Record holder in the 400, 800, and 1500 meter freestyles in long course. Ledecky was named the 2017 Associated Press Athlete of the Year.
The male award winner, 35-year old Lebron James, won 3 NBA Championships in the 2010s (2012, 2013, 2016). He played in 8 of the 10 NBA Finals on offer in the decade, consecutively from 2011 through 2018. He won All-NBA First Team honors every year from 2008-2018, was an NBA All-Star in every year of the decade, and won 3 of his 4 MVP awards in the 2010s (2010, 2012, 2013).
He’s also a 3-time Olympic medalist, including gold medals in 2008 and 2012.
Serena Williams is the most decorated female tennis player of all-time. Her 23 Grand Slam singles titles are the most in the open era, and she has also won 14 Grand Slam titles in doubles playing with her sister Venus Williams. 12 of her Grand Slam singles titles came in the 2010s Serena won the Olympic gold medal in singles in 2012 and in doubles in 2000, 2008, and 2012.
In the 2010s, Williams reached the finals at 52.7% of tournaments in which she played; the next-best on that list is Maria Sharapova at 29.2%. Williams reached finals at an even higher rate – 19 of 33 (57.6%) – at Grand Slam tournaments in the 2010s. She was the world’s #1 ranked player for 196 weeks, which is more than the next two best players in the decade combined. In total, she won 89.3% of her matches (377-45). She even won the Australian Open title while pregnant without losing a single set.
The awards are voted on by sports writers and sports editors of the Associated Press, which is an American-based enterprise.