The first Athlete of the Year award in the United States was initiated by the Associated Press (AP) in 1931. At a time when women in sports were not given the same recognition as men, the AP offered a male and a female athlete of the year award to either a professional or amateur athlete. The awards are voted on annually by a panel of AP sports editors from across the United States, covering mainly American sports. As a result, a large majority of the winners have been Americans. However, non-Americans are also eligible for the honor, and have won on a few occasions.
|1931||Pepper Martin||Major League Baseball||Helene Madison||Swimming|
|1932||Gene Sarazen||Golf||Babe Didrikson||Track and field|
|1933||Carl Hubbell||Major League Baseball||Helen Jacobs||Tennis|
|1934||Dizzy Dean||Major League Baseball||Virginia Van Wie||Golf|
|1935||Joe Louis||Boxing||Helen Wills Moody||Tennis|
|1936||Jesse Owens||Track and field||Helen Stephens||Track and field|
|1937||Don Budge||Tennis||Katherine Rawls||Swimming|
|1938||Don Budge||Tennis||Patty Berg||Golf|
|1939||Nile Kinnick||College football||Alice Marble||Tennis|
|1940||Tom Harmon||College football||Alice Marble||Tennis|
|1941||Joe DiMaggio||Major League Baseball||Betty Hicks Newell||Golf|
|1942||Frank Sinkwich||College football||Gloria Callen||Swimming|
|1943||Gunder Hägg||Track and field||Patty Berg||Golf|
|1944||Byron Nelson||Golf||Ann Curtis||Swimming|
|1945||Byron Nelson||Golf||Babe Didrikson Zaharias||Golf|
|1946||Glenn Davis||College football||Babe Didrikson Zaharias||Golf|
|1947||Johnny Lujack||College football||Babe Didrikson Zaharias||Golf|
|1948||Lou Boudreau||Major League Baseball||Fanny Blankers-Koen||Track and field|
|1949||Leon Hart||College football||Marlene Bauer||Golf|
|1950||Jim Konstanty||Major League Baseball||Babe Didrikson Zaharias||Golf|
|1951||Dick Kazmaier||College football||Maureen Connolly||Tennis|
|1952||Bob Mathias||Track and field||Maureen Connolly||Tennis|
|1953||Ben Hogan||Golf||Maureen Connolly||Tennis|
|1954||Willie Mays||Major League Baseball||Babe Didrikson Zaharias||Golf|
|1955||Howard "Hopalong" Cassady||College football||Patty Berg||Golf|
|1956||Mickey Mantle||Major League Baseball||Pat McCormick||Diving|
|1957||Ted Williams||Major League Baseball||Althea Gibson||Tennis|
|1958||Herb Elliott||Track and field||Althea Gibson||Tennis|
|1959||Ingemar Johansson||Boxing||Maria Bueno||Tennis|
|1960||Rafer Johnson||Track and field||Wilma Rudolph||Track and field|
|1961||Roger Maris||Major League Baseball||Wilma Rudolph||Track and field|
|1962||Maury Wills||Major League Baseball||Dawn Fraser||Swimming|
|1963||Sandy Koufax||Major League Baseball||Mickey Wright||Golf|
|1964||Don Schollander||Swimming||Mickey Wright||Golf|
|1965||Sandy Koufax||Major League Baseball||Kathy Whitworth||Golf|
|1966||Frank Robinson||Major League Baseball||Kathy Whitworth||Golf|
|1967||Carl Yastrzemski||Major League Baseball||Billie Jean King||Tennis|
|1968||Denny McLain||Major League Baseball||Peggy Fleming||Figure skating|
|1969||Tom Seaver||Major League Baseball||Debbie Meyer||Swimming|
|1970||George Blanda||National Football League||Chi Cheng||Track and field|
|1971||Lee Trevino||Golf||Evonne Goolagong||Tennis|
|1972||Mark Spitz||Swimming||Olga Korbut||Gymnastics|
|1973||O.J. Simpson||National Football League||Billie Jean King||Tennis|
|1974||Muhammad Ali||Boxing||Chris Evert||Tennis|
|1975||Fred Lynn||Major League Baseball||Chris Evert||Tennis|
|1976||Bruce Jenner||Track and field||Nadia Comăneci||Gymnastics|
|1977||Steve Cauthen||Horse racing||Chris Evert||Tennis|
|1978||Ron Guidry||Major League Baseball||Nancy Lopez||Golf|
|1979||Willie Stargell||Major League Baseball||Tracy Austin||Tennis|
|1980||U.S. Olympic hockey team||Ice hockey||Chris Evert Lloyd||Tennis|
|1981||John McEnroe||Tennis||Tracy Austin||Tennis|
|1982||Wayne Gretzky||National Hockey League||Mary Tabb||Track and field|
|1983||Carl Lewis||Track and field||Martina Navratilova||Tennis|
|1984||Carl Lewis||Track and field||Mary Lou Retton||Gymnastics|
|1985||Dwight Gooden||Major League Baseball||Nancy Lopez||Golf|
|1986||Larry Bird||National Basketball Association||Martina Navratilova||Tennis|
|1987||Ben Johnson||Track and field||Jackie Joyner-Kersee||Track and field|
|1988||Orel Hershiser||Major League Baseball||Florence Griffith Joyner||Track and field|
|1989||Joe Montana||National Football League||Steffi Graf||Tennis|
|1990||Joe Montana||National Football League||Beth Daniel||Golf|
|1991||Michael Jordan||National Basketball Association||Monica Seles||Tennis|
|1992||Michael Jordan||National Basketball Association||Monica Seles||Tennis|
|1993||Michael Jordan||National Basketball Association||Sheryl Swoopes||College basketball|
|1994||George Foreman||Boxing||Bonnie Blair||Speed skating|
|1995||Cal Ripken, Jr.||Major League Baseball||Rebecca Lobo||College basketball|
|1996||Michael Johnson||Track and field||Amy Van Dyken||Swimming|
|1997||Tiger Woods||Golf||Martina Hingis||Tennis|
|1998||Mark McGwire||Major League Baseball||Se Ri Pak||Golf|
|1999||Tiger Woods||Golf||U.S. women's soccer team||Soccer|
|2000||Tiger Woods||Golf||Marion Jones||Track and field|
|2001||Barry Bonds||Major League Baseball||Jennifer Capriati||Tennis|
|2002||Lance Armstrong||Cycling||Serena Williams||Tennis|
|2003||Lance Armstrong||Cycling||Annika Sörenstam||Golf|
|2004||Lance Armstrong||Cycling||Annika Sörenstam||Golf|
|2005||Lance Armstrong||Cycling||Annika Sörenstam||Golf|
|2006||Tiger Woods||Golf||Lorena Ochoa||Golf|
|2007||Tom Brady||National Football League||Lorena Ochoa||Golf|
|2008||Michael Phelps||Swimming||Candace Parker||Women's National Basketball Association|
|2009||Jimmie Johnson||NASCAR||Serena Williams||Tennis|
|2010||Drew Brees||National Football League||Lindsey Vonn||Skiing|
|2011||Aaron Rodgers||National Football League||Abby Wambach||Soccer|
|2012||Michael Phelps||Swimming||Gabby Douglas||Gymnastics|
|2013||LeBron James||National Basketball Association||Serena Williams||Tennis|
|2014||Madison Bumgarner||Major League Baseball||Mo'ne Davis||Little League baseball|
|2015||Stephen Curry||National Basketball Association||Serena Williams||Tennis|
|2016||LeBron James||National Basketball Association||Simone Biles||Gymnastics|
|2017||José Altuve||Major League Baseball||Katie Ledecky||Swimming|
|2018||LeBron James||National Basketball Association||Serena Williams||Tennis|
|2019||Kawhi Leonard||National Basketball Association||Simone Biles||Gymnastics|
- Became a U.S. citizen in 1994.
- "Tiger AP's Male Athlete Of Year". CBS News. Associated Press. December 27, 1999. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Ferguson, Doug (December 27, 2000). "Year of the Tiger". Missoulian. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Barry Bonds Voted The Associated Press Male of the Year". Jet. 101 (4): 52. January 12, 2002. Retrieved March 15, 2019 – via Google Books.
- Vertuino, Jim (December 27, 2002). "Armstrong named AP Athlete of the Year Perseverance: Four-time Tour de France champion tops Bonds". The Brownsville Herald. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "NAMES & GAMES Lance Armstrong: AP Male Athlete of the Year". New Haven Register. December 29, 2003. Archived from the original on March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Vertuno, Jim (December 29, 2004). "Armstrong, Sorenstam honored as athletes of year". Deseret News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on September 24, 2018. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Lance Armstrong wins AP male athlete honours". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. December 28, 2005. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Woods wins AP male athlete award for 2006". Orlando Sentinel. December 26, 2006. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Flannery, Paul (December 21, 2007). "Tom Brady's Charmed Year Continues". Boston. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Michael Phelps Named The Associated Press Top Sports Story, AP Male Athlete of 2008". Swimming World. December 24, 2008. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Johnson is AP's top male athlete of '09". Associated Press (ESPN.com). December 21, 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
- Triplett, Mike (December 18, 2010). "New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees fourth QB to be named AP Athlete of the Year". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Markovich, Tony (December 21, 2011). "Associated Press Votes Aaron Rodgers 2011 Male Athlete of the Year". Complex. Archived from the original on January 16, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Michael Phelps Named Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year". Swimming World. December 20, 2012. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Schilken, Chuck (December 26, 2013). "LeBron James named Associated Press' male athlete of the year". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 2, 2014. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- "Madison Bumgarner gets AP honor". Associated Press (via ESPN.com). December 30, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2015-12-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Herbert, James (December 26, 2015). "Warriors' Stephen Curry named AP Male Athlete of the Year". CBS Sports. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
- Withers, Tom (December 27, 2016). "Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James named AP Male Athlete of Year". The News-Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
- "Astros star Jose Altuve named AP Male Athlete of the Year". ESPN.com. Associated Press. December 27, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
- Beth Harris (2017-12-26). "Katie Ledecky Swims to AP Female Athlete of the Year Honors". The Washington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
- Holleran, Andrew (December 27, 2018). "Associated Press Names Its 2018 Male Athlete Of The Year". thespun.com. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- Mahoney, Brian (December 26, 2018). "Serena voted AP Female Athlete of the Year for 5th time". The Associated Press. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
- "Kawhi Leonard and Simone Biles Are AP's Athletes of the Year". complex.com. December 28, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2019.