A popular yearly roundup on AskMen.com, the Top 49 Most Influential Men of 2008 represents an amalgamation of guys, all from different walks of life, deemed to have had the biggest influence on the ways other men buy, think and behave. More than 200,000 votes helped to determine this year’s honorees as voters were asked to look beyond surface traits such as notoriety and focus instead on 2008’s key influencers across a broad range of industries.
Here’s a look at some of the athletes to have made the cut in 2008:
Alex Rodriguez – #46
The American League’s reigning MVP helped pave his way into Cooperstown in 2008 by becoming the first player in Major League history to hit 35 home runs in 11 consecutive seasons. This talented 12-time All-Star should continue to rack up eye-popping stats for years to come after signing a lucrative 10-year contract to stay with the Yankees.
2008’s Claim to Fame: When he scored his 537th home run, Alex Rodriguez passed Mickey Mantle on the all-time list.
Sidney Crosby – #45
Sidney Crosby was drafted first overall into the NHL by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 and led the league in scoring in just his second season; That year, he was also awarded the Hart Trophy as league MVP, as well as the Lester B. Pearson Award as most valuable player as voted on by his peers.
2008’s Claim to Fame: Sidney Crosby finished the 2008 playoffs with the Eastern Conference championship.
Brett Favre – #40
They don’t make ’em like Brett Favre anymore. This tough-as-nails quarterback is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time league MVP who earned sainthood status in Wisconsin after leading the Green Bay Packers to a resounding victory in Super Bowl XXXI. A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Brett Favre currently ranks first overall in a number of key offensive categories, including most career pass attempts, most career completions, most career passing yards, most career passing touchdowns, most wins by a starting quarterback, and most consecutive starts by a quarterback.
2008’s Claim to Fame: Brett Favre’s sticky on-again, off-again retirement saw him end 2008 as quarterback of the New York Jets.
Rafael Nadal – #30
One of the world’s most charismatic athletes, Rafael Nadal or “The King of Clay” became the undisputed king of tennis in 2008 by capturing an extraordinary seven singles titles and an Olympic championship for his native Spain. He also achieved the world’s No. 1 ranking for the first time in his illustrious career after downing longtime rival Roger Federer in an epic Wimbledon final. Rafa, as he’s known to his legions of adoring fans, currently has a 328-75 record with 31 career singles titles.
2008’s Claim to Fame: Rafael Nadal had an incredible year in tennis, dethroning his rival Roger Federer at Wimbledon.
David Beckham – #25
David Beckham is the most recognizable soccer player on the planet. Since his debut at 17 years old with Manchester United, he’s twice been Google’s most searched athlete, finished 2nd for FIFA’s World Player of the Year twice more and spent nearly six years as England’s national soccer captain.
2008’s Claim to Fame: David Beckham continues to garner attention and fans, playing for the L.A. Galaxy while posing for some impressive brands.
Usain Bolt – #21
Hailed as the greatest track and field athlete since Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt burst onto the international scene in May 2008 by setting a world record in the 100-meter dash with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it time of 9.72 seconds. The best, however, was still yet to come as this blazingly fast sprinter literally ran away from the field at the Beijing Games en route to establishing Olympic and world records for the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the 4×100-meter relay. Usain Bolt’s phenomenal display of speed transformed him into a household name and, just as importantly, made him a national treasure in his native Jamaica.
2008’s Claim to Fame: Usain Bolt smashed record after record at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, and his confidence made him an athlete to watch.
LeBron James – #20
LeBron James is living proof that age is just a state of mind. During his first five years in the league, this 23-year-old man-child has virtually rewritten the NBA’s record books by becoming the youngest player to average 30 points per game in a season, the youngest player to score 50 points in a game and the youngest player to score 10,000 points in his career. As impressive as his achievements may be, the best is still yet to come for this fresh-faced phenom as he attempts to guide his Cleveland Cavaliers back to the Finals for the second time in three years.
2008’s Claim to Fame: LeBron James was on the 2008 Olympic gold-winning basketball team and helped bring the Cavaliers to their third-consecutive playoffs.
Kobe Bryant – #19
With each passing year, Kobe Bryant manages to slough off a little bit more of the less-than-savory reputation he’s been associated with following the sexual-assault allegations of 2003. His boundless professionalism and undeniable talent have surely played a significant role in his slow-but-steady ascent to the top of his field, with his 2008 accomplishments only cementing his status as one of the key figures in modern basketball. In addition to his gold-medal-winning stint on the United States Men’s Basketball Team, Kobe Bryant proved an instrumental force in the Los Angeles Lakers’ stellar 2007-2008 season that culminated with a nail-biting six-game series against the Boston Celtics.
2008’s Claim to Fame: The NBA’s MVP, Kobe Bryant’s dedicated effort on the courts during Olympics made him a true role model.
Christiano Ronaldo – #9
Cristiano Ronaldo was an upstart Portugese soccer player who caught the eye of Britain’s Manchester United brass and was promptly signed by them in 2003. The first Portuguese player on the team, he would win back-to-back FIFPro Special Young Player of the Year awards and crack the top 20 of FIFA player rankings in 2005.
2008’s Claim to Fame: Soccer’s biggest sensation, Cristiano Ronaldo is Manchester United’s golden boy.
Michael Phelps – #3
2008 marked the third Olympic odyssey for Michael Phelps and he owned the pool, setting a record with eight gold medal victories, with seven of them coming in world-record time. Known for his generosity, Michael Phelps spent some of his endorsement money to create a children’s swimming foundation.
2008’s Claim to Fame: A record-breaking swimmer, Michael Phelps made history at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.