New York’s breakout sports stars of 2013
New York never has a dearth of young stars just waiting to break out — and immediately be churned up and spit out by the ever-hungry media machine.
But for those few stars that manage to rise above the fray, they get a chance to leave a mark on the greatest city in the nation.
With nine major sport teams — we know, the Red Bulls should be considered a major sport as well — and two seasons for NBA and NHL, there were plenty of opportunities to reach a new level of stardom.
Metro takes a look at a few of those stars who captured our attention in 2013 — and players we think will still be getting talked about for years to come.
Matt Harvey is so 2012.
New Mets phenom Zack Wheeler made his major league debut June 18 — in the second half of a Harvey-Wheeler doubleheader — and pitched well, if not dominating (six innings, zero runs, five walks).
But the quiet, 6-foot-4 righty quickly established himself as worth the fuss everyone made over him when he was acquired from San Francisco for Carlos Beltran.
Unlike Harvey, who sailed through his first season, Wheeler suffered some bumps in the road almost immediately.
But that’s one reason we like him so much. He bounced back and finished strong. He lowered his ERA from 4.29 after four starts to 3.48 at the end of the season. He allowed just 90 hits in exactly 100 innings in his first season.
Now all he has to do is step up to replace the injured Harvey, who’s out all of 2014.
It seems like forever go, but the Islanders made the playoffs back in the spring and a big reason why was the breakout play of forward John Tavares.
You could make a good argument the best player in any sport in the tri-state area is Tavares. He made the final three of the voting for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) along with bright-lights names Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
He still has to turn around an ugly season in 2013-14, but for now Islanders fans can at least revel in his 38 points in 37 games this season. Did we mention he’s still just 23 years old?
A lot more ink was spilled on first-round pick Dee Milliner heading into this Jets season, but it’s clearly been defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson who has taken the cake.
Probably literally. The man is 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.
The man who goes by the Twitter handle @Godforshort certainly put the fear of God in opposing linemen during the season.
He has 3 1/2 sacks and 76 tackles, but neither escapsulates just how good he’s been. He’s Defensive Rookie of the Year good.
There was plenty of dark in the Giants’ 2013 season, but if you managed to notice one bright spot, it was Rueben Randle.
There’s a good chance Hakeem Nicks will be gone this offseason, leaving Randle as the second receiver to the already-signed Victor Cruz. And Randle has shown he can do it.
He’s put up 611 yards on just 41 catches and leads Giants receivers with six touchdowns.
This here’s a tough one.
Brook Lopez was a pretty solid player already, but the Nets center took the next step in 2013, emerging as the best center in the NBA (yes, better than Dwight Howard) and an All Star for the first time.
So why’s it tough? Because a foot injury now has him on the shelf for the rest of the year.
Sure, this will be a controversial choice, but there’s no question Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith was talked about as much as any player in New York City over the past six months.
It’s yet to be seen whether Smith will stick as the starting quarterback in 2014, but he’ll probably get an opportunity, since he was handpicked by new general manager John Idzik.
And you can’t deny that Smith has looked good at times, especially in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Remember, Eli Manning looked bad in his first season and he’s won two Super Bowls.
There’s a chance Smith ends up being a bust, but you know Jets fans will be talking about the selection for years to come — good or bad.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.