What makes a great athlete? It’s more than on-field performance. It’s how they interact with the community, how the fan base feels about their presence. It’s about charisma and talent and passion. It’s about loving what you do, and doing it well.

These rankings take all of this into account. So, without further ado, Next Year, D.C. presents the first annual top-10 ranking of athletes in Washington, D.C.

1. Bryce Harper

Importance to team: 5

Performance last full season: 5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4

Importance to the community and fan base: 5

Total: 19/20

Well, this is easy. No D.C. athlete approaches Harper right now, a 23-year old machine who will undoubtedly earn his first MVP award this year in a race so lopsided that the media clamored for Yoenis Cespedes, just to stir up some drama. One year after posting a .273 batting average with 13 home runs in 100 games, Harper finally fulfilled his promise in 2015 in a way that truly took baseball by storm. He led the National League in runs (118), home runs (42), on-base percentage (.460), slugging (.649), and OPS (1.109, are you kidding me), his OPS+ was 195 which, for those uninitiated in sabermetrics, is mind blowing, and he raised his career batting average almost 30 points in just a single year.

He also had a season that, by almost every measure, trumped Mike Trout. That’s no small accomplishment, friends.

In three years prior to his breakout campaign, he never set the league on fire but was constantly compared with the likes of Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. He was a rookie of the year and a two-time All-Star before turning 21. And in a season when the Nationals were expected to contend for a World Series, he singlehandedly kept an underachieving team afloat with an effort that can only be called legendary. His 9.9 WAR led baseball. He was nominated for a Gold Glove. And he had one of the best statistical seasons in recent baseball history. Without Harper’s performance in 2015, the Nationals may have finished far below .500.

In addition, he is a joy in the community and is the face of a franchise that has existed for only a decade. And he’s 23.

People may complain with this ranking, citing his age, but there’s really no question. Harper just put together the single best regular season performance in the last 20 years out of any athlete in this entire city. And he’s only going to get better.

2. Alexander Ovechkin

Importance to team: 4.5

Performance last full season: 4

Career statistics/accomplishments: 5

Importance to the community and fan base: 5

Total: 18.5/20

Of all the players on the list, only Ryan Zimmerman even comes close to approaching the impact Ovechkin has had on D.C. In an era of free agency, with stars switching teams left and right, Ovie has stuck with the Capitals through thick and thin, displaying skill and passion at a level that is unmatched over the course of his decade-long reign.

It doesn’t matter that he hasn’t delivered a championship. So many factors go into winning that laying it at the feet of a single player is irresponsible. In his career, the Great Eight has netted 481 goals (the most in the NHL over that time, and a team record), including six seasons with 50 or more, he’s scored the most points in franchise history (908), he has three MVP awards and five Rocket Richard trophies, and plays with a joy and passion on a nightly basis that endears him to a loyal fan base. He captained the single most dominant team Washington has seen in any sport in two decades, the 2009 President’s Trophy-winning team that finished with 121 points before falling in the first round of the playoffs.

He’s been maligned, he’s been decorated, but most of all he’s been admired both locally and nationally. His work with special needs children and his charitable tendencies show how close he’s grown to the community, and he singlehandedly resurrected a moribund franchise with his play. All that’s missing now is that elusive Stanley Cup.

3. John Wall

Importance to team: 5

Performance last full season: 4.5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4

Importance to the community and fan base: 5

Total: 18.5/20

You can’t hate John Wall (unless, of course, you’re Colin Cowherd). He’s a superstar player, an amazing human being, and a passionate athlete who genuinely cares about his craft. And he’s really freaking good.

Wall came into his own last year, displaying leadership and a passing touch that can only be described as silky smooth. He still needs to learn how to shoot a damn basketball but that’s pretty much his only flaw. He’s the fastest player in the NBA and plays tenacious, animalistic defense, the type that gets you on your feet. He’s the unquestioned leader of a budding, talented basketball team, a leader to indispensable that to have him on the bench grinds all proceedings to a halt. Without John Wall, the Wizards are an average team. With him, they can challenge for an Eastern Conference championship.

Mark my words, folks. This man will one day soon be considered the premier point guard in the NBA (if he isn’t already) and will come close to winning an MVP award before he’s done.

4. Braden Holtby

Importance to team: 5

Performance last full season: 4.5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 3.5

Importance to the community and fan base: 4

Total: 17/20

For years, the Washington Capitals had every advantage on the ice, except in net. That’s no longer the case thanks to Braden Holtby, the savior that this team has been searching for since the long-passed days of Olaf Kolzig. With a career record of 107-54-8 and an MVP-caliber season last year, Holtby has firmly entrenched himself as the goalie now and in the future.

Semyon Varlamov be damned, we want Holtby! He was incredible in 2014, setting a team record with 72 starts and posting an impressive 2.22 goals against average. His consistency was stunning and his play was admirable, and he finally settled the debate about whether or not he could actually develop into a franchise netminder. And yes, his importance to the fan base is large because the Capitals have the most rabid fan base in this city and have been clamoring for a successful goalie for years. They finally have it.

Holtby still has a long way to go to ensure his status as one of the best D.C. athletes in recent memory, but he’s on the right track. A Cup will solidify him as one of the very best.

5. Max Scherzer

Importance to team: 4

Performance last full season: 5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4.5

Importance to the community and fan base: 3

Total: 16.5/20

Max Scherzer may not have the long-term connection to D.C. like the stars above him do, but his one season in Washington proved to be quite spectacular and landed him in the top five. The $210 million man had some rough spots in the second half of 2015 but he still had a memorable year. He tossed two no-hitters, the second and third in the history of the team, and very realistically could have thrown three perfect games if not for some horrid luck. His passion and body language on the mound are infectious and his spirit in the dugout is exemplary.

He’s won a Cy Young in the American League and was the second-best player on the roster in 2015. And best of all, he worked as hard as a man can to live up to his massive contract. He didn’t cut a paycheck and run. He played his ass off, and did a phenomenal job.

6. Nicklas Backstrom

Importance to team: 5

Performance last full season: 4

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4

Importance to the community and fan base: 3

Total: 16/20

Backstrom was recently voted by his NHL peers as the most underrated player in the league. I’d agree. Not only is he a supremely talented athlete, he also happens to be the most important player on the team (even more important, I’d argue, than Ovechkin). When healthy, he’s as good a player as the NHL has to offer. He passes with deft touch and scores efficiently. He and Ovechkin have been the best 1-2 punch this city has seen in a long, long time.

7. Stephen Strasburg

Importance to team: 4

Performance last full season: 3

Career statistics/accomplishments: 3.5

Importance to the community and fan base: 5

Total: 15.5/20

Without his various frustrating ailments, there’s little doubt Strasburg would have appeared in the top five. And for my money, he’s the most talented player in D.C. not named Bryce Harper. But sometimes, luck doesn’t work out. Strasburg’s debut was electric and his stuff is better than most, but he’s face injury and consistency issues his entire career. But a corner could be turned: in his last 13 starts of 2015, he pitched out of his mind, going 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA while striking out 110 batters. That, my friends, is the Strasburg we know and love. He hasn’t lived up to his No. 1 overall billing, but he’s lived up to pretty much any other metric that falls below that nearly unattainable expectation.

8. Trent Williams

Importance to team: 4

Performance last full season: 4

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4

Importance to the community and fan base: 3

Total: 15/20

Hey, look! Our first Redskin! Yes, Trent Williams finally helps the Redskins clock in at No. 8. Williams is a dominant force and has been for several years now, playing well at a plus position that teams often pray will produce. He’s not the best with the media so people don’t really seem to know much about him, but he lets his play do the talking. He won’t win any awards for best lineman in the league, but you can be assured that the Redskins are a different team without him. And when names are being added to the Ring of Honor 20 years from now, Williams will be at midfield looking at the curtain drop.

9. Ryan Zimmerman

Importance to team: 4

Performance last full season: 2.5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 4

Importance to the community and fan base: 5

Total: 15/20

Oh, what can you say about Ryan Zimmerman? He’s the Ultimate National, the first player ever drafted by the fledgling team, and he has had a career that does not disappoint. If not for injuries, I’m quite certain he would have won an MVP award at some point. He hits for power and average, plays sterling defense no matter where you put him on the field, and he has ingratiated himself into the community in ways that most players only dream of doing. His best days are behind him and he’s still more fragile than papier mache, but the history of the Washington Nationals will begin and end with his name, and people will look upon those words and smile.

10. Bradley Beal

Importance to team: 5

Performance last full season: 2.5

Career statistics/accomplishments: 2.5

Importance to the community and fan base: 4

Total: 13.5/20

But Bradley Beal hit a game winner the other day! And he’s averaging 25 points per game! How is he only No. 10? Calm down, people. Beal is a phenomenal player – and he’s only 22 – but he still has a long way to go. His career stats are rather underwhelming and he hasn’t yet established himself…

…yet here we are. Beal is thisclose to becoming the best scorer the Wizards have had since Gilbert Arenas and he will stay in the city for a long time, Durant or not. He and Wall make up the best combo D.C. has going right now and his continued improvement will result in multiple All-Star appearances. He’s incredibly well-spoken on the mic and is passionate about his play. There is little doubt Beal will find himself climbing this ladder soon enough.


Just missed the cut

Anthony Rendon

5, 2, 3, 3 = 13/20

DeSean Jackson

4, 4, 4, 1 = 13/20

John Carlson

3.5, 3.5, 3, 3 = 13/20

Jordan Reed

5, 2.5, 1.5, 3 = 12/20

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