We’re ringing in the new year by looking back on a big 2014 for Asian/Pacific Islander Americans in the sports world. Whether she was a snowboarding phenom, an NBA YouTube star, or a major league journeyman turned playoff hero, there was plenty to cheer for in the past year. Think there’s someone sorely missing from this list? Let us know in the comments.
CHLOE KIM – The Phenom
Kim became the youngest medalist in X Games winter history by winning a silver in the Snowboard SuperPipe at 13. Heralded as one of the country’s best snowboarders, Kim was actually too young to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
JEREMY LIN – The Social Media Guru
This year hasn’t been Lin’s best in the NBA, but he continued to be a fan favorite in 2014 with a robust social media presence that included an ongoing series of YouTube videos spoofing his experiences as an NBA player, and an viral Instagram video of Lin “dunking” on his unsuspecting mother.
Linked below are Lin’s 2014 YouTube video spoofs. He currently has 418,218 subscribers on his channel JLin7, easily the most of any NBA player (or team) with a YouTube channel.
MARCUS MARIOTA – The Next Big Thing
The junior quarterback from the University of Oregon became the first player of Samoan descent to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award, college football’s highest individual honor. Mariota also won the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s best quarterback, and the Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards, both awarded to the nation’s top football player.
As of now, CBSSports.com has Mariota projected as the number one overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He was also no. 1 overall on Sports Illustrated’s NFL draft Big Board 2.0. Oregon will play Florida State on January 1, 2015 in the Rose Bowl in the semifinals of the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship.
MICHELLE WIE – The Champion
It’s been a long time coming, but mama she made it. Wie first made the cut at the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open at just 13 years old. She went pro before her 16th birthday. This early promise along with numerous endorsement deals made her golf’s most visible female athlete despite never having won a major. That all changed when she won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open. Wie later found no reason to turn down during post-tournament celebrations. The win was her fourth on the LPGA Tour.
TRAVIS ISHIKAWA – The Journeyman
If you had never heard of Travis Ishikawa before this fall, no one would have held it against you. At 30, Ishikawa almost retired after being assigned to the minors in April, but the San Francisco Giants promoted him after an injury to Michael Morse in July.
Despite being a career first baseman, Ishikawa played outfield for the Giants late in the season and into the playoffs. In the National League Championship Series, Ishikawa broke out onto the national stage, batting .385 with 7 RBIs. Bigger than that, he hit the walk-off home run in Game 5 in the bottom of the ninth that sent the Giants to the World Series. Ishikawa went on to earn his second ring with the Giants after they defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-3.
- Jason Brickman – After the Filipino-American point guard led the NCAA in assists for LIU-Brooklyn for the second straight year in 2014, Brickman signed a two-year deal earlier to play for Dynamo Moscow the top professional team in Russia’s PBL.
- Natalie Nakase – The former starting point guard for UCLA became the first woman to sit on the bench as an NBA assistant during the LA Clippers NBA summer league.
- Lee Nguyen – Nguyen led the New England Revolution with 18 goals, good for 4th in the MLS. He was named team MVP and became a finalist for the MLS Most Valuable Player award.
- Pablo Torre – In 2014, Torre became guest host of ESPN’s Around the Horn, filling in for Tony Reali. Along with regular appearances as a panelist on ATH and The Sports Reporters, as well as a co-host spot on Highly Questionable, Torre may be the most visible Asian American journalist in sports media today.
- Kolten Wong: In 2014, Wong erased the memory of being the last out of the 2013 World Series by laying the wood in the National League playoffs, hitting 3 home runs, 3 doubles in 8 games, including a walk-off homer in Game 2 of the NLCS.