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Top 10 D.C. athletes of the decade

This was supposed to roll out last Thursday. Then Bruce Allen happened. That puts his name near the top of my list of "Top 10 D.C. Sports Executives Whose Hiring Delayed Scheduled Blog Posts."

Anyway, after nearly two weeks of your voting on the local athlete of the decade, here's my list. You can still vote on the the top local sports story and biggest sports bust of the decade; my choices in those categories will come Tuesday and Wednesday.

10. Sean Taylor (Reader rank: 4*) I mean no disrespect by putting him this low; he only played three and a half seasons in D.C., and we'll never know exactly what he would have become on the field. He clearly became a forever Washington sports icon, and he had way more than his share of highlights for such a short career. It's also easy to forget, but he scored the game-winning touchdown during Washington's last playoff win, and he was leading the NFL in interceptions when he died.

9. Ryan Zimmerman (7) The team has been awful for almost all of Zimmerman's tenure, but his numbers have been outstanding, especially in 2009, when he was judged both the best offensive and best defensive third baseman in the National League. It's hard to be the Face of the Franchise when the franchise loses 100 games, and Zimmerman's far more reserved than just about every other star in D.C. If he continues to improve and the Nats rise out of the muck, he could do far better on this list 10 years from now.

8. Jeff Green (19) While John Thompson III is the symbol of Georgetown's resurgence, Green was its biggest star. During his career, he earned Big East rookie of the year, Big East player of the year and Big East tourney most outstanding player honors. His last-second shot against Vanderbilt during the 2007 NCAA tournament helped spark the Hoyas to their first Final Four since the Ewing Era. And he was chosen fifth in the NBA draft.

7. Antawn Jamison (12) As I type, Jamison is 12th in scoring among active NBA players, and 14th in rebounding among active players. The other names who join him in the top 14 of both lists? Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and, um, Juwan Howard. Heady company, with one exception. And while Howard's time in D.C. was marked by futility, Jamison's has been marked by the four straight playoff appearances, the first time the franchise had done such a thing in well over a decade. Jamison also made two All-Star appearances this decade.

6. Olie Kolzig (2) His true glory years came in the last decade, but Kolzig was the Caps' internal leader and public face well into this decade. While the Redskins and Wizards floundered in the early part of this decade, Kolzig's Caps were still a postseason regular, losing in the first round three of the first four years of the decade. He'll likely end up with his jersey in the rafters at the Verizon Center, which is reason enough for him to be on this list.

5. Jaime Moreno (10) I know. You don't know who this is. You don't care about soccer. And even if you do, you might note that in a decade when two of Moreno's D.C. United teammates won MLS MVP awards (Luciano Emilio and Christian Gomez), Moreno never did. And yet he's the all-time leading scorer in his league history, and his play during the 2004 MLS Cup was crucial in D.C. United's title. He has individual and team accomplishments that virtually no one else in D.C. can match, and he spent virtually this entire decade as one of the club's stalwarts.

4. Clinton Portis (8) Here are the names above Portis's in the all-time list of rushing yards per game: Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Eric Dickerson. That's it. The names behind him on that list include LaDainian Tomlinson, Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson. My friends at Mister Irrelevant have howled Portis's praises louder than anyone, and the man has the paperwork to back them up: the ninth-most rushing yards in NFL history through seven seasons, the fifth-most rushing yards of any active running back. Portis also carried the Redskins into the playoffs twice.

3. Gilbert Arenas (3) Very few D.C. athletes this decade have even been mentioned as possible league MVP candidates. Before the knee injury, Gilbert's name was in that conversation. But more than that, he made the Wizards matter, both locally and nationally. Before his arrival, the franchise had one playoff appearance since the '80s and hadn't won a playoff series since 1982, an almost unfathomable streak. In his second season in D.C., the Wizards made the playoffs and won a series, with Arenas's game-winner in Game 5 against the Bulls the defining moment. Only one other D.C. athlete has had such a transformative affect on his franchise this decade.

2. Juan Dixon (9) At some point, great athletes are defined by their teams' results. During a decade of local mediocrity, Juan Dixon won a national championship. He was the most outstanding player of the Final Four, became Maryland's all-time leading scorer, was the player of the year in what was then the nation's best conference, was a first-team all-American, and won more games than anyone in Terps history. Sure, not every D.C. sports fan is a Maryland fan, and sure, Dixon's pro career has been spotty, but in my opinion, he left a larger mark on this region than any of the names listed above.

1. Alex Ovechkin (1) He's D.C's first major pro athlete you could plausibly argue was the best in the world at his sport in at least 25 years. And to be honest, comparing NFL MVP Joe Theismann or Super Bowl MVP John Riggins to Ovechkin is a severe reach. It's hard to imagine Ovechkin not being on the short list of top D.C. athletes of the 21st century. He won two MVPs, brought life back to a moribund franchise, created unforgettable highlights, and became one of the faces of his league. There's no debate that he was D.C's best of this decade.

* - Reader rankings based on these poll results, as of 1 pm on Dec. 21

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 21, 2009; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Decade's Best  
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Good list and well-argued, but if you're going to call it top DC "athletes" rather than just stars of major team sports, you've got to include Alan Webb, American record-holder in the mile.

Posted by: dhaaga | December 21, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Dhaaga, the main problem with something like that is that Webb wasn't included in the original rankings. Regardless, his career has been up and down and most of his prominence in the region came when he was in high school(mostly his senior year) and not afterward when he was running around Burke Lake. There are several local high school standouts that have achieved a lot since then. They may not have records in archaic events, but some are more Internationally respected. Inconsistencies have dulled his professional career while American distance running has taken great strides forward. Originally he was seen as a disappointment by some, but many still knew was suffering from illnesses and injuries and knew he would be back. When he came back, he set the track on fire, but then he became a choke artist and never mastered the mental aspect of running. What happened last year? Now he is all over the place.

Posted by: sitruc | December 21, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

did anyone else notice that other than Ovechkin and maybe Zimmerman, none of these guys are even average pros? Jamison plays no D and is a liability at the end of a close game.

Posted by: smc635 | December 21, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

This list needs a hug

Posted by: Notorious_LMG | December 21, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Juan Dixon should be above Ovechkin. He won a national championship, is MD's all-time leading scorer, and overcame family tragedy to boot. Just the opinion- admittedly biased- of a Terp fan.

Posted by: Notorious_LMG | December 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

did anyone else notice that other than Ovechkin and maybe Zimmerman, none of these guys are even average pros? Jamison plays no D and is a liability at the end of a close game.

Posted by: smc635 | December 21, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse
You need to be euthenized. Antwan hasn't been an allstar before, he hasn't dropped back to back 50 point games in his career, he isn't carrying this team right now?

Posted by: AnthonyMix | December 21, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

There is little argument about OV, but the interface to tally votes was horrible.

Posted by: petebondra12 | December 21, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree wholeheartedly with the list. However, Chris Samuels deserves an honorable mention. Had he played any other position, and had the same success (6 pro-bowls, and arguably the best left-tackle in the NFC for the decade) he would be near the top of the list. None of the athletes on this list had the sustained success of Samuels.

Posted by: coxen00 | December 21, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

For one thing....WHO CARES ABOUT ALAN WEBB....if you wanna go watch track and field go ahead and join the other handful of parents in the stands....I agree with Juan Dixon being #2, that guy left it all out on the floor every night at both the college and pro level....he was a big overachiever and was a fan favorite even when he came off the bench for the Wizards!!!!

Posted by: moss1122 | December 21, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Dear Dan,

The only justification you list for not having Sean Taylor higher is that he only played 3 1/2 years in D.C. Well, why wasn't that a factor in the rankings for Zimmerman, Green, Dixon, etc? I mean, you can't honestly tell me Sean Taylor was not a bigger and better DC athlete over the last decade than Jeff Green (3 seasons) and Ryan Zimmerman (4 seasons). Hell, even Arenas has only 4 full seasons in this town (and small fractions of 3 other seasons).

Please re-rank with Sean Taylor appropriately in the top 5.



Posted by: Barno1 | December 21, 2009 5:03 PM | Report abuse

anyone who thinks antawn jamison is an all star caliber player deserves yet another 19-63 season. H e was the sixth man in Dallas and would not start for any elite team.

Posted by: smc635 | December 21, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

You forgot someone, a winner of a cajillion golf models: Michael Phelps. He'd be on any top-10 list for athlete of the decade GLOBALLY. Is this DC area native not deserving because he doesn't play for a team that has Washington on its jersey?

Posted by: kennedys | December 21, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

kennedys, I don't think either Baltimore or DC would appreciate being lumped together. Phelps certainly belongs -- perhaps at the top -- on a list of the greatest Baltimore athletes of the last ten years, but he's not a "DC area" athlete.

My other observation about this list is that I think Dixon is placed too high and Zimmerman is placed too low on it.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 21, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Barno1, you asked me to so I will honestly tell you that Sean Taylor's place on the list is about right. By the way, you got the number of seasons Ryan Zimmerman has played here wrong. Zimmerman only played briefly in the minor leagues before he was called up by the Nationals during the 2005 season, their first in Washington. That means Zimmerman has played five seasons in DC, not four. Include his three seasons playing for the sorta-local U.Va. baseball team and Zimmerman has been here for most of the decade.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 21, 2009 8:01 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to imagine Ovechkin not being on the short list of top D.C. athletes of the 21st century."

You don't think that in the remaining 90 years of the 21st century there might not be a lot more top D.C. athletes? Even among hockey players?

Posted by: Dungarees | December 21, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Steinz when it comes to Ovechkin possibly being on the short list of top D.C. athletes of the 21st Century.

Would you put Babe Ruth on a list of top athletes of the 20th Century? How about Jim Thorpe? Even though both of them played their games in the first third of the 20th Century? Ovechkin has the potential to be that great a player.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 21, 2009 8:09 PM | Report abuse

"You don't think that in the remaining 90 years of the 21st century there might not be a lot more top D.C. athletes? Even among hockey players?"

Wasn't Walter Johnson among the tops for the 20th century? It can happen...OV is the best in the world at this time, he will not be forgotten.

Posted by: hoopsdcb | December 21, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

ovechkin #1 - at least you got that right. smack that.....

Posted by: CF11555 | December 22, 2009 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Juan Dixon should be above Ovechkin. He won a national championship, is MD's all-time leading scorer, and overcame family tragedy to boot. Just the opinion- admittedly biased- of a Terp fan.

Posted by: Notorious_LMG | December 21, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Notorious, I am both a MD fan and a Caps fan and I love both players. However, to suggest that Juan belongs above Alex is beyond absurd. This list deservedly starts with Ovechkin as he has no competition. The real debate is for #2. Personally, I believe Jaime Moreno should be #2 and Juan Dixon #3.

Posted by: Gambrills4 | December 22, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Personally I believe Jaime Moreno should be #2, Ryan Zimmerman should be #3, Gilbert Arenas should be #4 and Juan Dixon #5.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 22, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The list of athelets that were the best in their sport that played in Washington is a short one....Walter Johnson, Sammy Baugh and Ovie...not a MVP season, but the best at what they did....Anyway think of anyone else

Posted by: RichC3 | December 22, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Zimmerman won the gold glove AND silver slugger, so he was the best all around 3rd baseman in the NL. His amazing plays were highlighted all year long on Sportscenter on Web Gems. The guys deserves more than #9...

Posted by: futbolclif | December 22, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

since you used the words 'top athlete,' it is unequivocally Ovie & Sean, then everybody else.

Posted by: JohnnyBlades | December 22, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

No Peter Bondra ... but Jamie Moreno from a sub-world soccer league and some Georgetown basketball player. Over Bondra? That's nuts.

Posted by: caps1974 | December 23, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

That's a good analogy, RichC3; unless you're willing to put Juan Dixon (or ) on a list with such athletes as Walter Johnson or Sammy Baugh, then neither Dixon nor should be ranked ahead of Ovechkin. Because, unlike any other sports figure in D.C. from the past ten years, Ovechkin may someday belong on the very short list with Johnson and Baugh.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 23, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

There was supposed to be "insert name here" inside brackets twice in my last post, after the word "or" in the parentheses and after "neither Dixon nor". I guess I forgot they'd get mistaken for HTML code.

Posted by: greggwiggins | December 23, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

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