Photos: Twelve best Denver sports stars, teams and coaches
This year's Best of Denver celebrates lots of great things about the Mile High City, including the top sports stars, teams and coaches.
Below, we've gathered together a photo-illustrated list of the winners who had us cheering the loudest, complete with the original Best of Denver items and your picks from our annual survey.
Some years, there are a lot of disagreements. But this year, we were often on the same page. Check out all twelve below.
We know, we know: Praising Peyton Manning after the team's most recent Super Bowl humiliation feels wrong somehow. But remember the season that preceded that blowout. Not only did Number 18 set a whole slew of Broncos records, but he shattered marks for touchdown passes and yardage through the air for the league as a whole en route to his unprecedented fifth Most Valuable Player award. And even though that loss to the Seahawks was agonizing, it provides some mighty big incentive for Peyton to get the Men in Orange back to the Promised Land -- and win this time.
Reader's choice: Peyton Manning
Michael Cuddyer is hardly the most charismatic member of the Rockies; he seems more like he should be selling insurance than playing Major League Baseball at the highest level. But quietly and without fanfare, he led the squad in a slew of key offensive statistics during 2013, including batting average (an impressive .331), RBIs (84) and hits (162). Moreover, he slugged twenty home runs -- just six off the pace set by the much more high-profile Carlos Gonzalez -- and played in the second-highest number of games of anyone on the roster. He may not look like a star, but he sure plays like one.
Reader's choice: Todd Helton
A good way to measure a player's importance is to track how his team performs without him. And by that measure, Ty Lawson is far and away the Nugs' main man. The Denver ballers have had a dispiriting season, but when Lawson is on the court doing what he does best -- pushing the pace, passing the rock, and scoring buckets when everyone else has gone cold -- they've been competitive, and sometimes better than that. And when he's been on the shelf with rib injuries and other issues? They could suck the cold off the North Pole. If any Nugget is indispensable, it's Ty.
Reader's choice: Ty Lawson
Matt Duchene is the most highly touted addition to the Colorado Avalanche in recent years, and while he's hardly been a disappointment, he hasn't always hit the heights predicted for him. This year, however, has been his coming-out party. He's led the team in points for the majority of the season, but more than that, he's turned heads with his incredible speed on the ice -- is he actually getting faster? -- and growing knowledge of the game. No wonder he was added to the absolutely loaded Canadian Olympic hockey squad; that gold medal he brought back will no doubt whet his appetite for achieving similar glory in the NHL.
Reader's choice: Matt Duchene
You can be forgiven for thinking that Deshorn Brown is a longtimer for the Rapids, because he certainly plays like a veteran. But he didn't come aboard until January 2013, when Colorado selected him in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft. Since then, all he's done is score...and score...and score. He led the Rapids in goals for 2013, notching twice as many as his next closest teammate (Dillon Powers), and he kept up his incredible pace throughout this pre-season. With the regular season just under way, we expect that Brown, a native of Jamaica, will continue to get fans naturally high -- on game-winners.
Reader's choice: Davy Armstrong
John Grant Jr.
John Grant Jr.
We hand this prize to John Grant year after year, for a very good reason: Not only is he the best player on his team, but he's among the top performers in the entire sport. During the 2013 season, he led the Mammoth in goals, assists, points and shots on goal, was twice named the National Lacrosse League's offensive player of the week, and currently stands as the NLL's all-time leader in career points per game. As a bonus, his one-handed, behind-the-back goal during a game in January is already the stuff of lacrosse legend.
Reader's choice: Sean Pollock
No need to remind Chris Bocklet that he's a little brother. One of his older siblings, Matt Bocklet, is a member of the Outlaws, too. But Chris didn't just best big bro in points scored; he led the entire team in that category. Thanks to his performances, he's gone from being a steady contributor to an absolute key to the lacrosse team's success. And last year, as a bonus, he served as offensive coordinator for Wheat Ridge High School's squad, which won the state's 4A championship. Clearly, winning breeds winning.
Reader's choice: Landon Carr
Best team -- professional
We're still trying to forget the way the Broncos' season ended: No matter how many times we blink, we still can't un-see Seattle scoring 43 points to Denver's 8 in the most widely viewed Super Bowl ever. But the season as a whole was spectacular, with Peyton Manning and a slew of pass-catchers, including Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Eric Decker, turning the scoreboard into a light display and the defense giving points back at a pace that managed to keep the games suspenseful while still preserving victories. The result was exciting in all the ways the Super Bowl wasn't.
Reader's choice: Denver Broncos
CU Buffs men's basketball
Not long ago, CU was regarded as a football school. Now that tradition lies not just broken, but shattered. So thank goodness for the men's basketball team. In the past few years, the hardwood Buffs have grown from surprising upstarts into a consistent squad whose members absolutely expect to be playing at tournament time. This season likely would have been even more impressive had top prospect Spencer Dinwiddie avoided a season-ending knee injury. Yet promising youngsters such as Xavier Johnson and Wesley Gordon suggest that the future will be even brighter than the present.
Reader's choice: University of Denver hockey
Best Roller Derby team
Mile High Club The Denver Roller Dolls' traveling all-star team, the Mile High Club, spent all of 2013 near the top of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association rankings, won the Division 1 playoffs, and finished fourth at the WFTDA Championships. Now, five skaters -- Julie "Angela Death" Adams, Jes "Bea Ware" Rivas, Shaina "Eeklips" Serelson, Tracy "Disco" Akers and Jerica "Urrk'n Jerk'n As Booty Block Ya" Martin -- are joining Team USA for the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup. This season marks some big changes for the squad: After closing out a contract with the 1STBANK Center last year, the Dolls will be hosting all home bouts at their Glitterdome practice facility, taking their sport back to its warehouse roots.
It's only been three years since Tad Boyle became head coach of CU's men's basketball squad. But in that time, he's managed to remake the team in his image, infusing the program with the winning spirit he learned from the legendary Larry Brown while a player at Kansas. The back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013 were the first double dip for CU in half a century, and we expect more records to fall the longer Boyle sticks around Boulder.
Reader's choice: Tad Boyle
Best coach -- professional
Fans can debate whether Patrick Roy was the best Avalanche player ever, but there's no denying that he was the most fiery and charismatic -- and these qualities happen to be just what was needed to inspire the current generation of Avs. Prior to Roy's second coming, the talents of individual players didn't seem to translate into wins. But since his return to Colorado, announced via a glass-shaking freakout that made sportscasts nationwide, the team has started to reach its potential. A Stanley Cup is still a ways off, but at last the Avs are headed in the right direction. And Roy's a big reason why.
Reader's choice: John Fox
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Best of Denver archive: "Photos: Best Hair female Denver TV personalities -- the 2014 top ten."