Slideshow: 2014 espnW Impact 25
After record-breaking ratings and attendance, the league inched toward break-even status for the first time. Richie also oversaw the WNBA's decision to formally embrace the LGBT community and ushered in stabilizing new ownership for one of its marquee franchises, the Los Angeles Sparks. <br> <b>More on Richie:</b> <ul> <li>• <a href='http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/11107161/wnba-qa-wnba-president-laurel-richie-league-pride-campaign'>Richie: 'We're Very Proud Of WNBA Pride' »</a> </li> <li>• <a href='http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/10963103/wnba-launches-marketing-campaign-directed-lgbt-community'>WNBA To Market To LGBT Community »</a> </li> <li>• <a href='http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/10565327/wnba-players-union-agree-8-year-collective-bargaining-agreement'>WNBA, Players Agree On CBA »</a> </li> <li>• <a href='http://espn.go.com/wnba/story/_/id/10405573/wnba-los-angeles-sparks-wnba-benefit-new-ownership-group'>WNBA President Laurel Richie Says Sparks Are 'In Very Good Hands' »</a> </li><ul>
Mo'ne Davis, 13, Little League Baseball Pitcher
She captured the nation's attention with a 70 mph fastball and crushing performances that propelled her Philadelphia Taney Dragons deep into the Little League World Series. She went on to make her high school's varsity basketball team -- as an eighth grader. Read more »
More on Davis:
- • Sport Science: How Mo'ne Davis' Fastball Can Reach 70 MPH »
- • Mo'ne Davis Makes Her High School Varsity Basketball Team »
- • Buzz: Reliving The Summer Of Mo'ne Davis »
- • Davis Donates Little League World Series Jersey To MLB Hall Of Fame »
- • Isaacson: Mo'ne Davis' Impact Reverberates Far Past Williamsport »
- • Mike & Mike: Girl Power »
Brittney Griner, 24, Phoenix Mercury Center & WNBA All-Star
The second-year star has become a dominant post player, and became a WNBA champion when her Mercury won the title in a three-game sweep. A passionate spokesperson in the LGBT community, she has also grown her game while playing in China.
More on Griner:
Ronda Rousey, 27, UFC Bantamweight Champion
She had two more impressive wins in 2014 to boost her career record to 10-0, each successive victory paving the way for women fighters to get more exposure, pay and respect. She also increased her exposure as an actress in "The Expendables 3" and inked a deal for a memoir to be released in 2015.
More on Rousey:
Serena Williams, 33, No. 1-Ranked Tennis Player
Despite an inconsistent year to follow up her stellar 2013, the superstar earned her 18th Grand Slam title with a win at the US Open, joining Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in fourth place on the all-time list. Read more »
More on Williams:
Maya Moore, 25, Minnesota Lynx Forward & 2014 WNBA Regular-Season MVP
She followed up her 2013 Finals MVP with the 2014 regular-season MVP. Moore was the WNBA's leading scorer with 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 22 against Atlanta, making a compelling case that she's the best women's player on Earth.
More on Moore:
Amy Purdy, 35, Paralympic Snowboardcross Bronze Medalist & 'Dancing With The Stars' Runner-Up
You may know her mostly from her second-place finish on "Dancing with the Stars," but don't forget the other half of her inspiring 2014: winning bronze in the snowboardcross in Sochi. Read more »
More on Purdy:
Michelle Wie, 25, 2014 U.S. Women's Open Golf Champion
At 24, Wie finally broke through for her first major victory, followed by a run at another victory the next weekend. Her rise during the first part of the year ignited interest in the LPGA Tour.
More on Wie:
Mikaela Shiffrin, 19, Olympic & World Slalom Ski Champion
The reigning Olympic and world champion in slalom captivated the nation as one of the biggest American breakout stars from Sochi -- and she's still only 19!
More on Shiffrin:
- • Mikaela Shiffrin Shares Victory In Season-Opening World Cup Giant Slalom »
- • Buzz: Mikaela Shiffrin Cries Tears Of Joy After Message From Cancer Patient »
- • Shiffrin Wins Giant Slalom At U.S. Alpine Championships »
- • Sochi Champion Shiffrin Wins World Cup Slalom »
- • Olympics: Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, Is The Youngest To Win Slalom Gold »
- • Mikaela Shiffrin Handles Olympic Debut With Unflappable Ease »
Lydia Ko, 17, 2014 LPGA Rookie Of The Year
Ko earned a $1 million bonus in the Race for the CME Globe and won the season-ending Tour Championship for $500,000, making it the richest payday in women's golf. She ended the season with three victories and 15 other top 10 finishes, and has not missed a cut in 42 LPGA starts.
More on Ko:
Li Na, 32, 2014 Australian Open Champion & Retired Tennis Star
After a two-year lull, Li came back in 2013-14 with three big wins; she also used her successful campaign to garner the needed support that would allow Chinese athletes to keep their athletic earnings. When Li retired in September with chronic knee injuries, she received messages of love and support from players and fans alike.
More on Li:
Lauren Hill, 19, Mount St. Joseph Forward & Cancer Awareness Advocate
The Mount St. Joseph freshman's dream to play college basketball despite her terminal illness has been an inspiration. She also has worked to bring attention to the rare form of brain cancer that is cutting short her life. Read more »
More on Hill:
- • Roenigk: An Unforgettable Sunday Afternoon For Lauren Hill »
- • Lauren Hill Fulfills Her Hoops Dream »
- • Buzz: The Best Part Of Our Day: Leah Still And Lauren Hill Together »
- • Lauren Hill Plays In Her Second Game »
- • V Foundation Gives $10,000 To Pediatric Brain Cancer Research In Honor Of Lauren Hill »
- • Geno Auriemma Impressed By Lauren Hill's Courage »
Simone Biles, 17, 2014 World All-Around Gymnastics Champion
The two-time world gymnastics all-around champion has her eyes on Rio in 2016, and all signs point to success. She became the first woman in 40 years to win four gold medals at a single world meet, winning the team, all-around, balance beam and floor exercise titles. Read more »
More on Biles:
- • Simone Biles Wins Women's All-Around Title At Gymnastics Worlds »
- • Simone Biles Easily Defends U.S. Women's Gymnastics Title »
- • Why Simone Biles Is The Most Talented -- And Hilarious -- Gymnast In The World »
- • Buzz: Simone Biles Is Giddy A Day After Women's Sports Foundation Salute »
- • Simone Biles to attend UCLA »
Becky Hammon, 37, Spurs Assistant Coach & WNBA Legend
The longtime WNBA star retired from playing this year, then broke through a huge barrier by becoming the first full-time female assistant coach in any of the four major men's sports when San Antonio named her to its staff. Read more »
More on Hammon:
- • Fagan: Spurs Assistant Becky Hammon Was Born To Coach »
- • How The Stars' Becky Hammon Became A Spur »
- • Becky Hammon Made The Most Of Her Opportunites To Become A Star »
- • In The Game: Becky Hammon »
- • Slideshow: Becky Hammon Through The Years »
- • Her Playing Career Ends, But Becky Hammon's Career Is Hardly Finished »
Michele Roberts, 57, NBA Players Association Executive Director
The fearless attorney was named the first female leader of a major North American professional sports union, despite no background in labor relations and no experience in sports. Read more »
More on Roberts:
- • Meet The Woman Who Will Change Sports »
- • NBA Owners Are Expendable, Players Union Chief Michele Roberts Says »
- • Michele Roberts Announces Union Management Changes »
- • Fagan: The Right Woman For the Job »
- • How Michele Roberts Got The NBPA Gig »
- • National Basketball Players Association Elects Michele Roberts Executive Director »
Robin Roberts, 54, "Good Morning America" Host
After battling a rare blood and bone marrow disease, she won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in 2013, then came out publically in a year-end Facebook post thanking her longtime girlfriend for her support. Roberts continued to serve as a role model and inspiration in 2014 through her storytelling and support for others, including ESPN colleague Shelley Smith, who announced her own breast cancer fight.
More on Roberts:
Michelle Obama, 50, First Lady, Let's Move Founder
The active First Lady continues her campaign for healthier kids. She vowed this summer to fight "to the bitter end" to keep higher nutrition standards for school lunches, a hot topic of debate as Congress works to pass a year-end spending bill.
More on Obama:
Claudia Wilken, 65, Federal Judge, United States District Court, Northern District Of California
Her groundbreaking decision in the Ed O'Bannon case ruled the NCAA violated antitrust laws by restricting schools from providing money beyond scholarship limits to athletes.
More on Wilken:
Billie Jean King, 71, 2014 U.S. Olympic Delegate To Sochi
This pioneer was part of the presidential delegation at Sochi's closing ceremony, sparking further conversation around treatment of LGBT community members in Russia.
More on King:
Condoleezza Rice, 60, Former Secretary of State, College Football Playoff Selection Committee Member
Rice became the only female member of the inaugural College Football Playoff committee, sparking an important conversation around the tired notion of, "She can't vote, she never played football."
More on Rice:
Laurel Richie, 55, WNBA President
After record-breaking ratings and attendance, the league inched toward break-even status for the first time. Richie also oversaw the WNBA's decision to formally embrace the LGBT community and ushered in stabilizing new ownership for one of its marquee franchises, the Los Angeles Sparks.
More on Richie:
Geno Auriemma, 60, Connecticut Women's Basketball Head Coach
Another NCAA title, another unbeaten season for UConn's legendary leader. His team's success was pivotal in the 2013-14 season in the first year of the American Athletic Conference, and the Huskies don't show signs of slowing down as they aim to defend their title in 2015.
More on Auriemma:
Magic Johnson, 55, Los Angeles Sparks Co-Owner
The NBA Hall of Famer played a critical role in an investment group that bought the Sparks. He's made his presence felt, encouraging a coaching change for the struggling team and working to bring stability to the franchise.
More on Johnson:
Mobolaji Akiode, 32, Hope 4 Girls Africa Founder
The former Fordham basketball player, who has helped African girls find success on the court through the nonprofit she founded, took a leading role after news broke that 300 Nigerian school girls had been kidnapped by a terrorist organization.
More on Akiode:
Mia Hamm, 42, First Woman Co-Owner Of An MLS Team
The former U.S. national team star had a big year in the boardroom, becoming part of an ownership group for a to-be-named MLS team in Southern California. She was also named to Italian club AS Roma's board of directors.
More on Hamm:
Gillian Zucker, 45, Los Angeles Clippers President Of Business Operations
One of the few female chief executives or presidents in major U.S. pro sports, Zucker impressed the new owner of the talented franchise with the acumen she sharpened as the president of the West Coast's largest race track.
More on Zucker: