You know those people who say “the future is now?” They’re wrong: the future is…wait for it…in the future! It will be here soon though, and out of all the good young athletes in the world, here are six that will own the 2020s. Note: this order is more approximate than exact, and as always, subjective (depending on which sport you like best).
6. Mikaela Shiffrin
Already the best Slalom racer in the world at 21, Shiffrin is the defending Olympic and world champion. Because of her massive early success, she seems older than she is, but she will still only be 24 when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve 2019. That should set her up nicely to dominate the 2020s in Slalom, as well as other disciplines if she so chooses. Whatever she chooses to pursue, we wouldn’t bet against her. Best skier ever is certainly in the cards.
5. Markelle Fultz
It’s no secret that the 2017 NBA draft is going to be loaded. Dennis Smith Jr., Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Josh Jackson all have a legitimate chance to be THE guy from this draft, but the smart money is on Fultz. 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, Fultz is a natural point guard with great playmaking skills who is as comfortable driving the lane for a tomahawk dunk as he is launching a pull-up jumper. In short, the perfect offensive skill set for the modern NBA. His athleticism and length also pretty much guarantee he will be an above average defender in the league. Born in 1998, Fultz will only be 21 when 2020 rolls around. Look for him at Washington next year.
4. Auston Matthews
The NHL’s new golden boy and an American no less. Plus he is playing in the #1 hockey city in the world. Matthews casually scored 4 goals in his first NHL game and hasn’t looked back since, starring for the Maple Leafs. The only question here is whether another young NHL phenom will steal his thunder. Connor McDavid, Patrik Laine, and Jack Eichel all have significant buzz of their own. One of them will certainly emerge as the next superstar poised to dominate the 2020s and our money is on Matthews. He will only be 22 on 1/1/2020.
3. Christian Pulisic
You have heard all about supposed American soccer phenoms before, only to watch them flame out before doing anything worth jack shit (Paging Freddy Adu). Christian Pulisic is NOT in that category. For one thing, he is already getting lots of playing time for Borussia Dortmund, a top 10 club in the world. That is better than Freddy Adu, or really any American player no matter their age, has ever accomplished. The question is whether he continues to get better. Considering he is only 18 (will be 21 on 1/1/2020) and plays on a team famous for developing young attacking players, the safe money says that he will. Bet on Pulisic becoming the first American ever to become a star in Europe.
2. Mookie Betts
Offensive talent? Check (he batted .318 with 31 homers and a .897 OPS in 2016). Defensive talent? Check (he just won his first Gold Glove). Huge smile? Check. Infectious personality? Check. Plays in a huge market where baseball actually matters? Check. You get the point: this kid literally checks all the boxes and seems more than comfortable with his developing superstardom. He is the perfect face of baseball for the 2020s, especially as participation rates among black kids keep slipping. MLB knows that and will market him accordingly. He will be 27 on 1/1/2017 which is a little older than the other people on this list, but baseball offers a longer shelf life for elite athletes. He will be just fine.
1. Karl Anthony Towns
There isn’t a lot to be said. He is a Tim Duncan/Anthony Davis hybrid who also happens to be a good kid, and he will only be 24 on 1/1/2020. He’s long, athletic, big (7’0, 240), and competitive. He has great low post moves, but also has range out to the three point line. Towns also excels at defense, both individual and team. A center who can effectively defend the pick-n-roll is usually an afterthought on offense. Towns is elite at both ends of the floor. If you drew up the perfect center in a lab for the modern NBA it would be him. Expect at least three MVPs, and if they can keep the nucleus together in Minnesota, a couple titles as well.