New York City has long been the home to some of the greatest sports franchises in the world. The Yankees are in a class of their own, while the Giants are right up there in the NFL hierarchy. The Mets, Jets, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Nets have all been bottom feeders recently, but they all have some type of history that is well known throughout the sports world.
Every single one of those teams sees plenty of attention from the media, whether it’s good or bad. With that being the case, everyone knows who the best athletes are in the city of New York. It takes a different breed to succeed under the bright lights of the Big Apple and not everyone can do it, and even more people are not up to the challenge at all.
These 10 guys were not only up to the challenge, but welcomed it. These athletes thrived under the pressure set upon their shoulders and for that reason, they will always be remembered. Winning in New York is different and the greatness thrust upon the winners in New York shows exactly that.
*Please keep in mind, these rankings are only based on what the athlete has done from the years 2010-2019*
Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order)
Obviously this was an almost impossible list to complete with the number of teams that play in this city. Difficult decisions had to be made, but in the end, I think we got it right.
Jamal Adams, NY Jets: Jamal is new to New York, but he has certainly not shied away from the spotlight. He has very quickly become one of the best defensive backs in football and he is not afraid to let you know.
Matt Harvey, NY Mets: Like him or not, Harvey was appointment television for almost 3 seasons as the Dark Knight. He was a huge part in the Mets run to the 2015 World Series and he was without a doubt one of the best athletes in New York this decade.
CC Sabathia, NY Yankees: The 2010s were kind of the downhill of CC’s career, but he put together some really solid years and he was always at the top of the Yanks rotation. You could always count on him to eat innings and keep you in a ballgame.
Osi Umenyiora, NY Giants: Osi was one piece of one of the better defensive lines we have ever seen in the NFL. He, along with another guy on this list, dominated the NFC East for a while bringing 2 Super Bowls to New York.
Deron Williams, NJ/Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams came to the Nets from Utah for a HUGE return that included Derrick Favors and two first-round draft picks. Williams never brought the Nets to the promised land, but he was one of the best PGs in the league for his first couple of years there.
Justin Tuck, New York Giants
Justin Tuck was the other half of that scary defensive line the Giants used to win Super Bowl XLVI. He recorded the only two sacks by the Giants in that game and set the tone for what would be another huge upset. In reality, it should have been Tuck who took home the Super Bowl MVP, but naturally, it went to another NY athlete on this list.
If you don’t remember, Justin Tuck is an absolute HOUSE! He is six feet five inches tall and weighs 265 pounds. He was a nightmare for opposing offensive linemen and totaled 31.5 sacks in his four seasons with the Giants this decade.
Tuck eventually left New York for a nice payday with Oakland, but the impact that he had on New York will not be forgotten any time soon.
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets
Darrelle Revis may go down as the best cover cornerback in football history. During the playoffs in 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Manhattan Island would unofficially be re-named “Revis Island”. This was obviously a nod to how Revis kept any receiver he covered on an island during that game. Imagine being so dominant that the biggest city in the country is re-named for you. That is how good Revis was.
Revis may have had his best stretch as a pro during the 2010 season. In November of 2010, the Jets faced the Texans, the Lions, and the Bengals. In those games, Revis, of course, shadowed Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, and Chad Ochocinco (Johnson). At the time these were three of the top ten wide receivers in all of football and Darrelle Revis held them to three catches for 31 yards… COMBINED. That is insanity when you consider what those guys did on a week to week basis.
Darrelle would regularly shut down half of the field and was the biggest attribute to the Jets having the best defense in football in 2010. He was named to the All-Pro first team in back to back years in 2010 and 2011. His stats do not capture how dominant he was because quarterbacks would do anything to throw away from his side of the field. His dominance cannot be seen in a box score, but it will forever be remembered by Jet fans.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Judge has only been playing in New York City for three years, but boy has he made an impact. In his rookie season, Judge took the baseball world by storm breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record with 52. In that same season, he led the American League in walks and runs on top of home runs. He also led the majors in Wins Above Replacement for position players. He finished in the top 10 in all kinds of offensive statistical categories and overall had one of the more dominant offensive seasons we have ever seen, especially from a rookie.
The Yankees were supposed to be rebuilding when Judge came and changed the entire outlook of the franchise. He made sure there were no rebuilding years and the Yankees were immediately in the middle of the pennant race.
He has had some injuries over the last two seasons, but he still finished 12th in MVP voting in 2018 and has a combined 54 homers and 122 runs batted in over the two seasons. Judge is a star and I fully expect him and Mets star, Pete Alonso to be at the top of this conversation at the end of the 2020s.
John Tavares, New York Islanders
John Tavares came into New York as a 19-year-old rookie and showed why all the hype was surrounding him. He was almost immediately a star finishing fifth in the Calder Memorial voting with 24 goals and 30 assists. Tavares, however, never got the attention he actually deserved. That can mostly be attributed to playing for the “little brother” hockey team in New York. Nobody pays attention to the Islanders and because of that, Tavares continued to go almost completely unnoticed as a top 20 hockey player for a span of seven years.
Tavares led the Islanders to the playoffs three separate times, but only out of the first round once. In 24 career playoff games, Tavares has 11 goals and 11 assists and did everything he could to bring a mostly mediocre franchise back to relevance.
Overall Tavares finished his Islanders career after nine seasons with 272 goals, 349 assists, and four top 20 Hart Trophy finishes. His lack of noticeability disappeared as he became a free agent, but it was already too late. On the first day of free agency in 2018, Tavares left the Isles for a huge payday with Toronto. Tavares was probably the best Islanders player since the 80s and almost undoubtedly the best skill position player in New York during this decade.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
I may catch a lot of flack for this one, but remember this is only during the 2010s. Jeter had a couple of good years during this decade, but the majority of his production came during the 90s and 2000s. Either way, Jeter still found a way to be on this list which is an accomplishment in itself.
Jeter played half of this decade for the Yankees and there was some greatness there, but there was also some stuff that was not so great. For the purpose of these rankings, we will focus on the good.
During the decade, Jeter accumulated 718 hits for a really solid .283 batting average. He led the league in hits in 2012 with 216 and he was an All-Star in every season except for the 2013 season in which he was hurt for most of the season. He also added a Gold Glove in 2010 and a Silver Slugger in 2012 along with a top seven MVP finish that same year.
The Yankees did not win a World Series during this decade which ultimately led to Jeter being the highest Yankee on the list, but Jeter is an icon nonetheless. He gave this city everything he had for 20 years all the up until the end. He will undoubtedly be inducted in the Hall of Fame this year and he will ultimately go down as one of the greatest athletes to ever play in New York.
David Wright, New York Mets
David Wright was the dream for Mets fans. He was a homegrown prospect, a great baseball player, and just an overall likable guy. Injuries plagued what could have been an outstanding career.
Wright’s glory days were in the mid-2000s, but he had some really good years in this decade as well. In five full seasons and two injury-shortened seasons, Wright came up with 794 hits for a respectable .282 batting average. He was an all-star in 2010, 2012, and 2013, finishing 24th in MVP voting in 2010 and sixth in 2012.
Most importantly, Wright was the center of the 2015 World Series run for the Mets. He was great in the NLCS sweep of the Cubs and he was just an enormous part of why the Mets were in the World Series. Whether it was his bat or his leadership, Wright played a huge role in that 2015 postseason run.
David Wright spent his entire career with the Mets and his play along with what he has done for this franchise will keep in Mets (and New York) lore for a long time.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Say what you want about Carmelo Anthony, but there is no denying that he made basketball exciting in the Garden again. For the first time since the late 90s, the Knicks were actually worth watching. Madison Square Garden was packed on a nightly basis and the Knicks were back!
Over seven seasons with the Knicks Melo averaged almost 25 points per game and he won the scoring title in 2013. In that season he averaged 28.7 points per game and became the first Knick to win the scoring title since Bernard King in 1985.
Melo led the Knicks to the playoffs three different times including the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 2013. He made every All-Star Game as a Knick and he finished in the top 15 in MVP voting twice including a third-place finish in 2013. Melo made two All-NBA teams during his tenure including a second-team selection in that 2013 season.
Carmelo not only made a huge impact on the court for the Knicks, but more importantly he brought life back to the Garden. He made it exciting to watch the Knicks and he did what he could to help build a future for the franchise. His Knicks legacy will not soon be forgotten as his Hall of Fame career slowly comes to an end.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
If you’ll notice above, I said John Tavares was the best skill position hockey player in New York during the 2010s. The reason for that specification is because the best hockey player in New York was between the pipes for the Rangers. King Henrik was not only one of the best athletes in New York during this decade, but one of the better athletes New York has ever had.
Henrik was about as dominant as a goalie can be for most of this decade. He won the Vezina Trophy for the best goalie in 2012 while also finishing second, fourth, fifth, and sixth twice across the first 6 seasons of the decade. He also finished third in the Hart Trophy voting in his great 2012 season. Hank was a four-time all-star during this decade and is in the top five of too many goalie stat categories to count.
His decline over the last few years, although obvious, cannot take away what he did during the first 6-7 years of the 2010s. He has widely been considered a top-five goalie in all of hockey for the majority of his career. He was the backbone of a few long playoff runs that included a trip to the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. Henrik Lundqvist will forever be remembered as one of the best goalies to ever lace them up, even without winning a Stanley Cup Final. LONG LIVE KING HENRIK!
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Deciding between these top two was a nightmare. Even after running a Twitter poll that Eli won, I could not move him up to the top spot. During the 2010s Eli has won a Super Bowl MVP and been to three Pro Bowls. During the decade he came into the season ranked fifth in passing yards and seventh in passing touchdowns. He has since dropped in those rankings due to his Week Three benching this season, but he has had a great decade nonetheless.
Bringing New York its only championship of the decade will definitely get you in the top two. Leading the NFL in interceptions thrown is what will keep you out of the top spot. Eli led the league in this category twice! In 2010 he threw 29 interceptions and in 2013 he threw 32 interceptions. He did all of this without ever leading the NFL in yards or touchdowns. Eli was never able to sniff a regular-season MVP award, but he got the only one that matters. A Super Bowl MVP trophy.
New York is all about winning and Eli will forever be a winner in the hearts of Giants fans. Eli winning that Super Bowl though does not outweigh the years of mediocrity he put up. Eli could be great at times, and he could make you pull your hair out at times. He will though, forever be a legend in New York sports.
Eli Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and an undisputed Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, he has only been the second-best New York athlete of the 2010s.
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
Jacob deGrom came up pretty slowly in the Mets organization. He didn’t make his major league debut at 26 years old in 2014. That did not matter though because he came up and immediately made it known that he was here to stay.
In his rookie season, deGrom went 9-6 with a 2.69 earned run average. He wound up running away with the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award. deGrom immediately became a fan favorite because of his long hair. Mets fans loved him and he always gave them a reason to.
He didn’t really completely take over until the 2018 season. That is when he had one of the best pitching seasons that baseball has ever seen. He led the majors in ERA, ERA+, and FIP and waltzed his way to his first Cy Young Award. During the 2018 season, deGrom was almost unhittable. He finished the season on a run of 29 straight starts allowing three runs or fewer. There are plenty of stats to show you just how dominant this guy was in 2018.
Well in 2019 he decided to do a little bit of an encore winning his second straight Cy Young Award. This season, although not as dominant, was still great by any standard. His 2.43 ERA was good for second in the majors. Jake’s 255 strikeouts were good for fourth in the majors, and his WHIP was good for fourth in the majors as well.
Not only did he dominate the regular season, but he also dominated in his only playoff appearance. During 2015 deGrom went 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA and helped get the Mets to their first World Series since 2000.
Greatest NYC Athlete of the 2010s
All in all, Jacob deGrom has a Rookie of the Year award, two CyYoung awards, three all-star appearances, two other top-10 Cy Young finishes, and two top-10 MVP finishes. In only six years, deGrom established himself as one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. In my eyes, he also established himself as the best New York Athlete of the 2010s.