Athletes Who Will Forever See 2015 as Their Best Year

By Jacob Kornhauser

This was a great year in sports, but there are some athletes who will never be better than they were this year. Whether an average player put together a great year or a great player put together a historic year, these 20 athletes will never have a better single year than they did in 2015.

Athletes Who Will Forever See 2015 as Their Best Year
← Tip: Use keyboard arrows to navigate →

20. C Tomas Tatar - Detroit Red Wings

C Tomas Tatar - Detroit Red Wings Credit: Getty Images
With 29 goals and 27 assists last season, Tatar broke out and became one of the top players in the NHL. He seems to have reached his peak, though, even if he comes close to that sort of production in the future. Detroit should be adding talent in the next couple years, which will reduce his role in the offensive attack.

20. C Tomas Tatar - Detroit Red Wings

With 29 goals and 27 assists last season, Tatar broke out and became one of the top players in the NHL. He seems to have reached his peak, though, even if he comes close to that sort of production in the future. Detroit should be adding talent in the next couple years, which will reduce his role in the offensive attack.

19. OF Nelson Cruz - Seattle Mariners

OF Nelson Cruz - Seattle Mariners Credit: Getty Images
Statistically, 2015 wasn't Nelson Cruz's best season, but it was close. However, it was his most impressive season because he was able to put together great power numbers despite playing all of his home games at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. As he gets closer and closer to 40 years old, there's no way he's going to reach this type of production again. Seattle should be happy if he gives them 20-25 home runs a year over the next couple seasons.

19. OF Nelson Cruz - Seattle Mariners

Statistically, 2015 wasn't Nelson Cruz's best season, but it was close. However, it was his most impressive season because he was able to put together great power numbers despite playing all of his home games at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. As he gets closer and closer to 40 years old, there's no way he's going to reach this type of production again. Seattle should be happy if he gives them 20-25 home runs a year over the next couple seasons.

18. C Jaden Schwartz - St. Louis Blues

C Jaden Schwartz - St. Louis Blues Credit: Getty Images
Schwartz is a very good role player on a very good Blues team, but he played like a star last season, scoring 28 goals and assisting on 35 more. While he has shown the ability to be a top-line player, he doesn't project as a star player long term. That doesn't mean Blues fans shouldn't be excited, though. If he can come close to that sort of production playing on the second line, it will add to their depth, which could greatly help them in the playoffs.

18. C Jaden Schwartz - St. Louis Blues

Schwartz is a very good role player on a very good Blues team, but he played like a star last season, scoring 28 goals and assisting on 35 more. While he has shown the ability to be a top-line player, he doesn't project as a star player long term. That doesn't mean Blues fans shouldn't be excited, though. If he can come close to that sort of production playing on the second line, it will add to their depth, which could greatly help them in the playoffs.

17. LW Jamie Benn - Dallas Stars

LW Jamie Benn - Dallas Stars Credit: Getty Images
Jamie Benn does look like a star in the making and his 35 goals and 52 assists last season did nothing to take away from that. As the Stars continue to bolster their roster, though, he's not going to be able to be a one-man show anymore. That's good news for Dallas because they should have more balanced scoring, but it means Benn's personal stats might take a dip in the future, even if he's playing a more complete brand of hockey going forward.

17. LW Jamie Benn - Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn does look like a star in the making and his 35 goals and 52 assists last season did nothing to take away from that. As the Stars continue to bolster their roster, though, he's not going to be able to be a one-man show anymore. That's good news for Dallas because they should have more balanced scoring, but it means Benn's personal stats might take a dip in the future, even if he's playing a more complete brand of hockey going forward.

16. QB Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals

QB Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals Credit: Getty Images
At 36 years old, Carson Palmer is doing some very impressive things this season. He's thrown for 32 touchdowns and 4,277 yards with one week left to go in the year and the Cardinals are going to get a first-round playoff bye. With all of the weapons surrounding him, 2015 has been a perfect storm in Arizona. He's not getting any younger and there's no guarantee this perfect mix of talent is going to mesh this way again. That means Palmer and the Cardinals better hope they win it all this season.

16. QB Carson Palmer - Arizona Cardinals

At 36 years old, Carson Palmer is doing some very impressive things this season. He's thrown for 32 touchdowns and 4,277 yards with one week left to go in the year and the Cardinals are going to get a first-round playoff bye. With all of the weapons surrounding him, 2015 has been a perfect storm in Arizona. He's not getting any younger and there's no guarantee this perfect mix of talent is going to mesh this way again. That means Palmer and the Cardinals better hope they win it all this season.

15. 3B Josh Donaldson - Toronto Blue Jays

3B Josh Donaldson - Toronto Blue Jays Credit: Getty Images
Donaldson still has plenty of great seasons ahead of him, but the chances he puts together a year like 2015 again are almost zero. He's not going to be hitting in a lineup like he had this year consistently again for the rest of his career. After all, the 2015 Blue Jays were the best offensive team since the Yankees' latest dynasty in the late 1990s. Still look for Donaldson to compete for the MVP award for at least the next five years.

15. 3B Josh Donaldson - Toronto Blue Jays

Donaldson still has plenty of great seasons ahead of him, but the chances he puts together a year like 2015 again are almost zero. He's not going to be hitting in a lineup like he had this year consistently again for the rest of his career. After all, the 2015 Blue Jays were the best offensive team since the Yankees' latest dynasty in the late 1990s. Still look for Donaldson to compete for the MVP award for at least the next five years.

14. LB Kurt Coleman - Carolina Panthers

LB Kurt Coleman - Carolina Panthers Credit: Getty Images
Somehow, Coleman has managed to intercept opposing passers seven times this season, which is something he's never going to be able to do again. With the team potentially losing star cornerback Josh Norman this offseason, opposing teams are going to take deeper shots downfield in the future. That means far fewer chances to make plays in the passing game for Coleman, even if he's developing into a very solid player for Carolina.

14. LB Kurt Coleman - Carolina Panthers

Somehow, Coleman has managed to intercept opposing passers seven times this season, which is something he's never going to be able to do again. With the team potentially losing star cornerback Josh Norman this offseason, opposing teams are going to take deeper shots downfield in the future. That means far fewer chances to make plays in the passing game for Coleman, even if he's developing into a very solid player for Carolina.

13. C Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic

C Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic Credit: Getty Images
Vucevic was a double-double machine last season and looked like a star at times. In Orlando, he's able to do his thing for now, but the team certainly hopes to surround him with more scorers in the future. As the team becomes more complete, he will have less chances to take over games by himself, even if the team is more successful.

13. C Nikola Vucevic - Orlando Magic

Vucevic was a double-double machine last season and looked like a star at times. In Orlando, he's able to do his thing for now, but the team certainly hopes to surround him with more scorers in the future. As the team becomes more complete, he will have less chances to take over games by himself, even if the team is more successful.

12. WR DeAndre Hopkins - Houston Texans

WR DeAndre Hopkins - Houston Texans Credit: Getty Images
Hopkins is a star receiver and has many more great seasons in front of him, but playing without a set quarterback this season set him up for his best year ever. When quarterbacks who don't have the same talent as a traditional starter are in trouble, they will generally go to their star receiver. That has led to Hopkins getting targeted consistently all year long. Once the Texans figure out their quarterback situation, the ball will get spread around more and Hopkins' numbers will see a slight drop.

12. WR DeAndre Hopkins - Houston Texans

Hopkins is a star receiver and has many more great seasons in front of him, but playing without a set quarterback this season set him up for his best year ever. When quarterbacks who don't have the same talent as a traditional starter are in trouble, they will generally go to their star receiver. That has led to Hopkins getting targeted consistently all year long. Once the Texans figure out their quarterback situation, the ball will get spread around more and Hopkins' numbers will see a slight drop.

11. PF LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers/San Antonio Spurs

PF LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers/San Antonio Spurs Credit: Getty Images
Playing in Portland, Aldridge could be the guy, even playing alongside Damian Lillard. In San Antonio, that's not the case. Of course, as the older nucleus leaves the league, Aldridge's role will inflate once again, but the Spurs have never been a team that centers on one star. While his future in the league is bright in terms of winning championships, his days of dominating the stat sheet might be over.

11. PF LaMarcus Aldridge - Portland Trail Blazers/San Antonio Spurs

Playing in Portland, Aldridge could be the guy, even playing alongside Damian Lillard. In San Antonio, that's not the case. Of course, as the older nucleus leaves the league, Aldridge's role will inflate once again, but the Spurs have never been a team that centers on one star. While his future in the league is bright in terms of winning championships, his days of dominating the stat sheet might be over.

10. C Jiri Hudler - Calgary Flames

C Jiri Hudler - Calgary Flames Credit: Getty Images
Generally when a player breaks out at age 31, it doesn't last a very long time. That's what happened to Hudler last season, who scored 31 goals and assisted on 45. He still has plenty of years left, but it's not going to all come together for him like it did last season. Flames fans would just be happy if he keeps getting them to the playoffs.

10. C Jiri Hudler - Calgary Flames

Generally when a player breaks out at age 31, it doesn't last a very long time. That's what happened to Hudler last season, who scored 31 goals and assisted on 45. He still has plenty of years left, but it's not going to all come together for him like it did last season. Flames fans would just be happy if he keeps getting them to the playoffs.

9. CB Reggie Nelson - Cincinnati Bengals

CB Reggie Nelson - Cincinnati Bengals Credit: Getty Images
Nelson leads the NFL with eight interceptions this season, but the chances of him duplicating that performance are slim. The pass rush of Cincinnati is great, which forces opposing quarterbacks into forcing passes into coverage, which has helped Nelson rack up all those picks. This isn't to take away from his own talent, but 3-4 interceptions a season seems like a more realistic figure for a player of Nelson's talent.

9. CB Reggie Nelson - Cincinnati Bengals

Nelson leads the NFL with eight interceptions this season, but the chances of him duplicating that performance are slim. The pass rush of Cincinnati is great, which forces opposing quarterbacks into forcing passes into coverage, which has helped Nelson rack up all those picks. This isn't to take away from his own talent, but 3-4 interceptions a season seems like a more realistic figure for a player of Nelson's talent.

8. 2B Dee Gordon - Miami Marlins

2B Dee Gordon - Miami Marlins Credit: Getty Images
Everyone knew Dee Gordon could steal bases, but nobody knew he could hit for a high average as well. In his first season in Miami, Gordon managed to hit .333 while also stealing 58 bases. He clearly figured something out in 2015, but opposing pitchers are going to be able to break down film of his adjustments and make adjustments of their own. If Gordon can't come back with more adjustments in 2016 and into the future, 2015 will go down as the best season of his career.

8. 2B Dee Gordon - Miami Marlins

Everyone knew Dee Gordon could steal bases, but nobody knew he could hit for a high average as well. In his first season in Miami, Gordon managed to hit .333 while also stealing 58 bases. He clearly figured something out in 2015, but opposing pitchers are going to be able to break down film of his adjustments and make adjustments of their own. If Gordon can't come back with more adjustments in 2016 and into the future, 2015 will go down as the best season of his career.

7. QB Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers Credit: Getty Images
Newton is probably going to win the MVP this season and for good reason; take him away from the Panthers and they're not even a playoff team. He's one of the best pocket passers in the league and one of the best scramblers in the league. The reason he will never have a better season is because the defense looks like it might take a step back in the future, which will give him less time on the offensive side of the ball. Additionally, he's not always going to have running backs to complement the passing game. Of course, he's getting top target Kelvin Benjamin back next season, so he could prove people wrong once again.

7. QB Cam Newton - Carolina Panthers

Newton is probably going to win the MVP this season and for good reason; take him away from the Panthers and they're not even a playoff team. He's one of the best pocket passers in the league and one of the best scramblers in the league. The reason he will never have a better season is because the defense looks like it might take a step back in the future, which will give him less time on the offensive side of the ball. Additionally, he's not always going to have running backs to complement the passing game. Of course, he's getting top target Kelvin Benjamin back next season, so he could prove people wrong once again.

6. 2B Daniel Murphy - New York Mets

2B Daniel Murphy - New York Mets Credit: Jerry Lai, USA Today Sports
Nobody has ever had the type of postseason Murphy did in 2015 and the chances of him or anyone else doing it again are almost zero. He got a big three-year contract with the Nationals because of it, but there's almost no way he's going to produce at the same level he did late in 2015. Of course, if the Nationals get good production out of him in the playoffs, he will still be worth every penny they invested in him.

6. 2B Daniel Murphy - New York Mets

Nobody has ever had the type of postseason Murphy did in 2015 and the chances of him or anyone else doing it again are almost zero. He got a big three-year contract with the Nationals because of it, but there's almost no way he's going to produce at the same level he did late in 2015. Of course, if the Nationals get good production out of him in the playoffs, he will still be worth every penny they invested in him.

5. PG Steph Curry - Golden State Warriors

PG Steph Curry - Golden State Warriors Credit: Getty Images
Steph Curry will never have a better year than 2015 for the pure reason that he's making history. It seems like he can't miss a three-pointer and his ball handling skills are some of the best in the league. He's going to be a star for at least another decade, but the way the Warriors dominated last year and have continued their domination into this year, it's going to be hard for Curry to top this year athletically.

5. PG Steph Curry - Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry will never have a better year than 2015 for the pure reason that he's making history. It seems like he can't miss a three-pointer and his ball handling skills are some of the best in the league. He's going to be a star for at least another decade, but the way the Warriors dominated last year and have continued their domination into this year, it's going to be hard for Curry to top this year athletically.

4. SP Zack Greinke - Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks

SP Zack Greinke - Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks Credit: Getty Images
First, Greinke went out and had one of the best pitching seasons in MLB history and then he got paid this offseason. His 1.66 ERA almost seems like a typo when you look at it and his six-year, $206.5 million deal with the D'Backs also looks like one. Fortunately for him, both figures are accurate and 2015 will always be the year he dominated the league and was set up for the rest of his life financially.

4. SP Zack Greinke - Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks

First, Greinke went out and had one of the best pitching seasons in MLB history and then he got paid this offseason. His 1.66 ERA almost seems like a typo when you look at it and his six-year, $206.5 million deal with the D'Backs also looks like one. Fortunately for him, both figures are accurate and 2015 will always be the year he dominated the league and was set up for the rest of his life financially.

3. SG James Harden - Houston Rockets

SG James Harden - Houston Rockets Credit: Troy Taormina, USA Today Sports
Things are beginning to fall apart in Houston with prima donna Dwight Howard once again complaining about his role in the offense. While his teammates normally aren't his biggest concern, losing Howard would be a giant blow to Harden, who would then attract even more double teams. With his tendency to just chuck up shots, that doesn't bode well for the future and 2015 may forever be his best statistical season.

3. SG James Harden - Houston Rockets

Things are beginning to fall apart in Houston with prima donna Dwight Howard once again complaining about his role in the offense. While his teammates normally aren't his biggest concern, losing Howard would be a giant blow to Harden, who would then attract even more double teams. With his tendency to just chuck up shots, that doesn't bode well for the future and 2015 may forever be his best statistical season.

2. RB Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons

RB Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons Credit: Getty Images
Freeman broke out this season and still has plenty of good years ahead, but even as this season wore on, he broke down. If he can't stay on the field in the future, he's not going to be able to duplicate what he did earlier in the season. There's a very good chance he could look back on the beginning of this season and call it the highlight of his career.

2. RB Devonta Freeman - Atlanta Falcons

Freeman broke out this season and still has plenty of good years ahead, but even as this season wore on, he broke down. If he can't stay on the field in the future, he's not going to be able to duplicate what he did earlier in the season. There's a very good chance he could look back on the beginning of this season and call it the highlight of his career.

1. SP Jake Arrieta - Chicago Cubs

SP Jake Arrieta - Chicago Cubs Credit: Getty Images
Jake Arrieta will never have a better season than he did in 2015 for the simple fact that nobody in baseball history has ever done what he did in the second half of the season. His historic second half included going 16-1 with a 0.86 ERA and his only loss came in a game where the Cubs were no-hit by Cole Hamels. Arrieta then willed the Cubs into the NLDS with a masterful 10-strikeout, complete game shutout in the wild card playoff against the Pirates. If the Cubs can get even 80 percent of the production they got from him this season in 2016, they would be thrilled.

1. SP Jake Arrieta - Chicago Cubs

Jake Arrieta will never have a better season than he did in 2015 for the simple fact that nobody in baseball history has ever done what he did in the second half of the season. His historic second half included going 16-1 with a 0.86 ERA and his only loss came in a game where the Cubs were no-hit by Cole Hamels. Arrieta then willed the Cubs into the NLDS with a masterful 10-strikeout, complete game shutout in the wild card playoff against the Pirates. If the Cubs can get even 80 percent of the production they got from him this season in 2016, they would be thrilled.

You May Also Like