Sports photography is fundamentally improvisational—informed by intense anticipation. It's all about getting the picture. To paraphrase the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, to make a brilliant image is to capture, in a fraction of a second, the significance of an event. There is no more difficult challenge in photojournalism. And this is the joy of SI's 2007 Pictures of the Year. However the details are organized within the composition, the shooter got the picture.
Swimmers soared off their blocks in the men's 50-meter breaststroke at the seventh Arena Sprint Meeting in Rouen, France, where the nation's top swimmers competed at short distances.
The Spurs' Tim Duncan (left) tried to wrest the ball from the Cavaliers' Sasha Pavlovic in Game 3 of the championship series, which was swept by San Antonio.
A Moment's Peace
Children in Mogadishu played pickup soccer in a field not far from streets wracked by Somalia's sectarian violence.
Cal at Oregon
Bears senior tailback Justin Forsett (20) charged into the Ducks defense before a yellow-clad crowd in Eugene. In a battle of unbeaten teams, Cal defeated Oregon 31--24.
World Track Championships
Bernard Lagat indicated his position at the end of the 1,500-meter final in Osaka, Japan. Lagat, a Kenya-born U.S. citizen, won the gold medal with a time of 3:34.77.
Pan Am Games
Venezuela's Mariana Gonàlez (right) and Canada's Monica Kwan were a blur of motion in the team foil final in Rio de Janeiro. Gonàlez won the match and Venezuela the gold medal.
A pair of goggles was all Red Sox slugger David (Big Papi) Ortiz needed to enjoy a champagne shower in the visitors' clubhouse after Boston's sweep of the Rockies.
BCS Championship Game
Florida defensive tackle Steven Harris hoisted the national title trophy after the Gators defeated Ohio State 41--14 in Glendale, Ariz.
After a wild come-from-behind victory, Kevin Harvick celebrated in a blizzard of confetti atop his number 29 Chevrolet.
Jeff Ulbrich (53) and Derek Smith (50) of the 49ers peered through an inflatable face mask before a home game against the Ravens. Baltimore won 9--7.
Roger Federer was uncharacteristically emotional after beating Fernando Gonàlez to take the first of the three Grand Slam singles titles he won in 2007.
Unseeded Serena Williams let out a scream of vindication upon defeating 11th seed Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round. Six days later Williams raised the women's singles trophy.
All that these children in northern China's Shanxi Province needed to play table tennis was a ball and their love of the game. The rest was improvisation: bricks, a concrete slab and, for paddles, cardboard.
Brazil's Anselmo Alves powered through the 150-meter individual medley at the Para Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro. He finished fourth in the final in 4:46.14.
Hooked on Cycling
Strap-hanging residents of Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, watched the peloton speed by in the sixth of 10 stages of the 21st Tour du Faso, the most popular bicycle race in Africa.
Manny of Steel
Like a low-flying Superman, Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez flung his body toward second base for a double against the Yankees in Fenway Park. Boston lost 6--5.
Photos of the Year
See a gallery of other exclusive SI pictures from 2007.
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Photograph by Nicolas Gouhier/Abacausa.com
Photograph by Greg Nelson
Photograph by Jose Cendon/AFP/Getty Images
Photograph by Peter Read Miller
Photograph by Bill Frakes
Photograph by Carlos Barria/Reuters
Photograph by Al Tielemans
Photograph by Robert Beck
Photograph by Simon Bruty
Photograph by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Photograph by David Callow
Photograph by David Callow
Photograph by Bai Gang/Reuters
Photograph by Ricardo Moraes/AP
Photograph by Christophe Ena/AP
Photograph by Damian Strohmeyer