2005 | He quit cycling the instant he'd won his seventh straight Tour (page 90), dramatically bringing down the curtain on a career in which he cheated death and put an American stamp on a hidebound Euro obsession. 2006 | He'll immerse himself in his Lance Armstrong Foundation, which has raised $120 million for cancer-related causes. Watch him make the LAF a global force and be to cancer what his buddy Bono is to Third World debt.
FROM LEFT: MANNY RAMIREZ, MELVIN MORA, ALBERT PUJOLS, CARLOS BELTRAN, DAVID ORTIZ, MIGUEL CABRERA, MIGUEL TEJADA, VLADIMIR GUERRERO
2005 | The Dominican Republic produced its third MVP in four seasons (Tejada, Guerrero and, this season, Pujols), while in Boston, Ramirez and Ortiz anchored the game's most dangerous offense. Cabrera and Mora showed that power crosses the Caribbean, to Venezuela. 2006 | The D.R. brings a latter-day Murderers' Row to the World Baseball Classic; picking a cleanup hitter from that lineup is like having to pick your favorite Shakespeare sonnet.
LAIRD HAMILTON, BRUCE AND ANDY IRONS
2005 | Surfing's a global phenom, but its greatest ambassadors--and practitioners--still hail from the sport's birthplace: Hawaii. Hamilton's big-wave adventures made him a modern Marlboro Man, while the Ironses rode roughshod on the pro tour. 2006 | Hamilton's still looking for a 100-foot drop-in; Andy, who won three consecutive world titles (2002-04), could get another one this year ... if his brother doesn't beat him to it.
SLASH AND BURN
2005 | Yeah, yeah--he doesn't always set his feet, he sprays some throws, and he's killing your fantasy team. You've got to let it go because 1) he wins games that his team would never win without him, and 2) when he's on the field, you can't take your eyes off him. 2006 | As Vick, like John Elway and Steve Young before him, learns to harness his prodigious talents and becomes a complete QB, he will be a force to behold.
2005 | The sweet-swinging Sweet 16 finished second at one major, led another on Saturday and had Hootie sweating with a thrilling run at the Publinx, where a win snags a Masters tee time. 2006 | Now that she's a pro, she'll light a fire on the LPGA and PGA tours with cameos while maintaining her spot on the honor roll at her prep school, where she's studying, among other things, Japanese and Chinese, because there are no boundaries for this crossover star.
2005 | In a sport in which creative facial hair and body art make the man, this San Clemente teen still managed to make his mark, and he saved his best for last with a first place in October that pushed his '05 winnings into six figures. He also won a new truck ... which he won't be able to drive until he turns 16, on Dec. 30. 2006 | He'll kick off the year with new kicks--one of his sponsors, Etnies, will debut a Sheckler shoe.
HOOP SPRINGS ETERNAL
2005 | Shockingly, he lived up to the outlandish expectations by averaging 27, 7 and 7, turning sacrificial Cavs into contenders, becoming an All-Star and--perhaps just as important--avoiding arrest and refraining from coldcocking an opponent while radiating an old-school (circa '89) cool that makes the commish's glasses fog up. 2006 | Now all he has to do is sell a gazillion sneakers, win a championship and change the way American kids ball.
EXECUTIONER'S SWAN SONG
2005 | He's done his time--prison in the '80s and now more than 10 years as middleweight champ, a historic run that ended with two close losses this year to Jermain Taylor. At age 40 Hopkins could still do everything the 27-year-old Taylor did, but he just couldn't do quite enough of it. 2006 | The boxer famous for his independence, and fighting promoters, is now a promoter. He sometimes entered the ring to My Way and is leaving it singing the same tune.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE AND LOVE
2005 | She served notice (at 110 mph) that she has the game to match her gams by winning 53 matches and briefly holding the No. 1 ranking. In her off-hours she earned $20 million in endorsements, making her the most lavishly compensated female athlete on this planet. 2006 | Given her youth (19 in April), her focus and her concussive ball striking, look for both her haul of WTA titles and her Q rating to continue swelling.
2005 | Hard to believe that it's been 10 seasons since he was the top rookie and seemed to be a part of every key rally for the '96 champs. He played his 1,500th game in '05 and had more hits and runs at that milepost than anyone since Joltin' Joe. 2006 | He'll get hit 2,000 in '06, but the man who won four rings in his first five years--and none since--won't rest until he wins another one for those long-suffering Yankees fans.
GLAM SLAM CHAMPION
2005 | She starred in a reality series, cowrote a children's book, had a cameo on E.R. and still found the time to win the Australian Open, the seventh major of her gilded career, despite battling injuries most of the year. 2006 | She vows to return to full health and reclaim her starring role above the WTA's vast cast of supporting players, but if her body fails to cooperate or tennis simply fails to hold her attention, rest assured that she has other options: "Makeup!"
To see more SPORTS ILLUSTRATED photo galleries go to SI.com/photos.
Walter Iooss Jr.