Best Male Athlete 2018 | Errol Spence Jr. | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer
Porfirio C. Barron, Jr.
Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence Jr. has been a bright, shining light in what's been a dismal year for Dallas sports. The Dallas-raised welterweight champion of the world is affable, self-effacing and preternaturally talented, as charming outside of the ring as he is unforgiving inside of it. Spence sold out the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco for his first hometown title defense in June and didn't disappoint. Nearing the first-round bell, he knocked out undefeated challenger Carlos Ocampo with a vicious body shot, sending a jolt of joyous hometown pride through the 12,000-plus on hand. Spence is Dallas' best athlete right now. International superstardom is next.

Brian Maschino
Tim Cato

The Athletic's Tim Cato lives, sleeps and breathes the NBA, and it shows in his coverage. While he's focused on the Mavs now, his experience as a national NBA reporter for "SB Nation" shows through in the context and depth that highlight his work. Cato can tell you what the Mavs are going to do not just because he knows what they're thinking, but because he's plugged into what the rest of the league is thinking as well. It doesn't hurt that, as a UNT graduate, he's a local kid made good too.

2018 was a bad, bad year for the Mavericks, but rookie Dennis Smith Jr.'s high-flying heroics won't be easily forgotten. On April 3 at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, Smith found himself in the open court following a turnover. With his last dribble, the point guard slammed the ball into the floor, bouncing it to rim level, where he caught it and slammed it home. Smith's dunk was of the type usually reserved for the slam dunk contest, but he executed it easily during an otherwise mundane regular-season game.

The Dallas Morning News is no longer the city's best sports page. The subscription-only, online-only The Athletic made its Dallas debut during Super Bowl week, publishing the smartest sports writing in Dallas on a daily basis. Bob Sturm and his venerable Cowboys analysis set up shop, as did Rangers blogging dean Jamey Newberg and NBA savant Tim Cato. While it's yet to be seen whether The Athletic's financial model will hold up long-term, the company has used its resources wisely so far. It's an essential subscription for local sports fans.

This summer, the United States' joint bid with Canada and Mexico won official FIFA approval, guaranteeing that the three countries will host the 2026 World Cup. The United States will host the lion's share of the big games in the tournament, including all games from the quarterfinals onward. Gleaming palace that it is, Arlington's AT&T Stadium will likely get to host at least a couple of the 60 tournament games expected to be played in the United States. With Jerryworld missing out again on a second Super Bowl or Final Four in recent bidding, it's nice to have something to look forward to, at least.

Wiki Commons
Luka Doncic

Whether Luka Doncic ends up being, as some scouts have optimistically suggested, a 6-foot-8 Steve Nash or just another lottery flameout, the Mavericks did the right thing when they acquired him on draft night. The front office viewed Doncic potentially as the best player in a deep draft, one who could combine with Dennis Smith Jr. to make the team a contender again. That's still a couple of years off, but the Slovenian's silky offensive game should at least make the Mavs more attractive on TV in the meantime.

After being drafted by the Cowboys in the first round, Boise State linebacker and Idaho native Leighton Vander Esch fielded an inevitable question about Tex-Mex at his introductory press conference. The small-town kid was unfamiliar, apparently. "Text messages?" he responded, before saying that he wasn't familiar with Texas' major contribution to U.S. cuisine. While the Dallas Observer is sure Vander Esch has been acclimated, we'd be happy to take him to Avila's if he wants to come by the office.

Danny Fulgencio
Jordan Spieth

Spieth, Dallas' world champion golfer next door, entered the final round at The Masters in April nine shots behind leader Patrick Reed. It was a seemingly insurmountable deficit until, all of a sudden, it wasn't. Spieth, the 2015 Masters champ, scorched a path through Augusta National's hallowed grounds, playing his first 17 holes in 9 under par. As things turned out, Spieth needed a birdie at 18 to force Reed into a playoff. Instead, Spieth clipped a tree with his tee shot and made bogey, finishing two shots back after a 64. While Spieth didn't quite get there, it was a valiant effort, one that reminded you, with sports especially, that anything is possible.

Ngozi Onwumere via Instagram
Ngozi Onwumere (center)

Dallas' Winter Olympic history is next to non-existent, but it got a little bump this year. Mesquite native Onwumere starred on Nigeria's first-ever women's bobsled team. She and her teammates, who Onwumere met at the University of Houston, didn't come close to a medal, but they had a blast in South Korea, becoming social media darlings in the process.

Maybe the most unexpected part of the Cowboys' star turn on Amazon's All or Nothing documentary series was head coach Jason Garrett looking like an actual human being. Garrett, star of the most rote press conferences known to man, swears like a sailor and appears to actually care about the team he can't seem to lead past the first round of the playoffs. Garrett is still a point of frustration for many fans, but he became a little more likable this year.

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