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Top Five Local Sports Figures Of The Year

It's been quite an exciting year for South Florida sports fans. There hasn't been a large number of successes (no teams got out of the first round of the playoffs), but we have had veterans looking young again, one unbelievably talented basketball player, a few sex scandals, at least one death threat, and millions of dollars in cold, hard cash.

We took a break from our holiday mimosas to sit and ponder the most notable local sports figures of the year. These aren't necessarily the role models or the champions. (Good luck getting to five with that list.) These are the men (and woman) who we feel best defined this turbulent year in sports.

Serena Williams
This Palm Beach Gardens product has had one hell of a year. She won the Australian Open (both singles and doubles), won Wimbledon (both singles and doubles), made the semi-finals of the U.S. Open, and regained her number one world ranking. What got more attention than anything else, however, was Serena's mid-match tirade against a line judge in her loss in New York. After being called for a foot fault, Williams shook her racket, gripped a ball tightly, and pointed at the official, screaming: "I swear to God I'm [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God." She subsequently apologized and was fined a tour record $82,000.

Kevin Schaffel
You've probably never heard of this man. And if you have, you probably like to play a game of cards now and then. Schaffel, the 52-year-old former print business owner from Coral Springs, was one of the lucky skilled extremely lucky and skilled players to make the final table at the World Series of Poker this year, where he competed against eight other men (including poker legend Phil Ivey) for the $8.5 million first prize. He reportedly inked a $1.2 million endorsement deal before the final table even started. Schaffel ended up finishing eigth, and winning another $1.3 million. Not bad for a guy who was crashing on friends' couches when the year began.

Dwyane Wade
He may well skip town at the end of this season, but man it's been an incredible run. You could argue that no player in the NBA has done more with less over the last two years. Sure, there are stats (Wade is the first player under 6'5 to record 100 blocks in a season and the first player in league history to tally 2,000 points, 500 assists, 100 steals, and 100 blocks in one year), but the true value of MV3 is not measured with numbers. It's measured by the unbelievable, gravity-defying game-winning plays he seems to make any time the team needs a victory.

Ricky Williams
Along with Ronnie Brown, Williams comprises the key cogs in the explosive Wildcat offense, the newfangled approach that took the Dolphins from last in the league to division champs in a single year. This year, however, when Brown went down with another leg injury, Williams, at age 32, became the featured back. And he didn't disappoint. He's rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, including a stretch of four out of five games with at least 100 yards on the ground. He's also caught more than 30 passes for another 260 yards and two TDs. Also, situated snuggly upon the shoulders of Williams (and virtually nobody else on that side of the ball), the Dolphins have been alive in the playoff hunt.

Tiger Woods
He had a pretty big year on the golf course, but the true Tiger excitement began on Thanksgiving night, in what seemed like a bizarre one-car accident. The rest of the story is well-trodded, includes more than a dozen alleged mistresses, some text messages, a few confessions, no public appearances, and an indefinite break from golf. The latest: apparently Tiger has checked into rehab for a sex addiction. All things considered, this is probably the biggest South Florida sports story of the rear year. 

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Michael J. Mooney

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