If I told you that a person in 2009 became the first in the history of a MAJOR United States sport to win a sport’s championship for a fourth CONSECUTIVE year, would you call that an impressive feat? I would!
Before we discuss the athlete that managed the feat in 2009, allow me to put into context for you the magnitude of that accomplishment, to win four consecutive championships. In professional sports, only the New York Yankees have managed the feat in Major League Baseball (once in the 1930’s and again in the 1950’s). In the NBA, the great Boston Celtics of the 1960’s were the only team to pull off the feat, and no team in the history of the NFL has ever accomplished it. In college athletics, only the great UCLA basketball dynasty of the 1970’s pulled off a run of at least four consecutive national championships in basketball. We have to go all the way back to the 1800’s (you read correctly, I said 1800’s) to find a college football team that accomplished the feat, when Yale pulled it off in the 1880’s.
With a history like that, it cannot be denied that winning four consecutive championships propels someone to the ranks of ‘legend,’ joining one of sports’ most prestigious and elite fraternities.
It should also be noted that this accomplishment does not come from an obscure sport where competition is minimal and public interest is almost non-existent. Instead, the athlete who accomplished this task did so in a sport that has been rated as the fourth most popular sport in the United States, placing it AHEAD of the NBA, the NHL, NCAA basketball, Golf, Boxing, and Soccer. In fact, only the NFL, MLB, and NCAA football (the undisputed kings of American sports) rank higher in popularity.
To recap, in 2009, there was an athlete who earned an unprecedented fourth consecutive championship in one of America’s most popular sports, putting him in the same class as the 1960’s Boston Celtics, 1970’s UCLA Bruins, and New York Yankees teams (which included guys like Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig in the 1930’s), and Mickey Mantle in the 1950’s.
With credentials like that, who could dispute this athlete’s claim to being the best of 2009? Kobe Bryant won only the fourth championship of his CAREER, where as this athlete won his fourth IN A ROW! Tiger Woods may have won the Fed Ex Cup, but he finished sixth at the Masters and U.S. Open, he failed to make the cut at The Open Championship, then he finished second after choking at the Tour Championship (not to mention this nasty little rumor I had heard about him not too long ago). Roger Federer may have set a new record for career grand slam victories, but he also lost in three different final matches, and failed to reach the finals in eight more tournaments.
Woods, Bryant, and Federer may have had impressive years, but none can match the accomplishment of Jimmie Johnson, Bleacher Fan’s 2009 Athlete of the Year.
Johnson has done something in NASCAR that no one else has EVER managed, winning his fourth consecutive Sprint Cup Championship. In 36 races this year, Johnson dominated the rest of the field with 24 top ten finishes, including SEVEN victories (no other driver in the series won more than five races all year).
Since the Jimmie Johnson Dynasty began in 2006, Johnson has won 29 different races, and had a total of 94 top ten finishes out of only 144 total races. He has been one of the most dominant drivers in the sport, having finished no worse than fourth in Sprint Cup standings since 2002, and he cemented his status as one of the greatest drivers of all time with his unprecedented performance in 2009.
No other athlete can match Jimmie Johnson’s claim, or accomplishments, this year. In fact, few athletes in HISTORY have done what Johnson did in 2009, making him the undisputed Athlete of the Year!