The annual release of Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 lists—which track thirty of the most important people with less than three decades under their belt in a variety of fields—are a great way to find out which important young people have been overachieving lately. And though there are separate lists that span a variety of industries, the most striking thing for Texans in the 2016 batch was the sports list: Three Texas athletes made the list of the 30 relatively young sports figures most worthy of our attention in the coming year, and two of them were hockey players.
We don’t mean to cast shade on hockey or Forbes when we note that the fact that of all of the athletes in all of the world who are younger than 30, the idea that two of the ones singled out by Forbes play for the Dallas Stars seems, er, kinda unlikely. (Jordan Spieth, the third Texan on the list, would be hard to argue with.) There’s nothing wrong with Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin, who are both gifted players—even if they did both get benched last night as the Stars were blown out 6-2 by the New York Rangers—but given the sheer number of talented hockey players, Texas athletes, and sports figures to draw from, it’s hard to get how a pair of Stars made the list, unless somebody at Forbes really loves hockey a lot.
The absence of some of the predictable names who failed to appear—say, J.J. Watt, James Harden, Kevin Durant, or Britney Griner—make sense, as they’ve all appeared on the Forbes list in 2014 or 2015. But regardless, there are still plenty of Texas athletes under the age of 30 who aren’t Dallas Stars worth recognizing, so we thought we’d volunteer some names.
Simone Biles: If you don’t know Simone Biles’s name yet, just you wait. The 18-year-old Houston gymnast is poised to be 2016’s breakout Olympian. She hasn’t finished in less than first place in all-around competition since the P&G Championships in August 2013, including three consecutive World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. That’s ten first-place all-around finishes in a row, and heading into the Olympics, Biles is likely to be one of the true stars in Rio.
Kawhi Leonard: The Spurs are the best dynasty in sports, and Leonard is a big part of why there’s no reason to expect that they won’t remain so even after the era of Duncan/Parker/Ginobli ends. At 24-years-old, Leonard is only the third player in NBA history to have both a Finals MVP trophy and a Defensive Player of the Year trophy (Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon are the others, and they would have belonged on an “under 30” list in their youth, too.)
Marlen Esparza: The 24-year-old Houston fighter was the first female American boxer to ever qualify for the Olympics in 2012, where she took home a bronze medal. She later took the gold at the 2014 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in the flyweight division, and though an upset in October means that she won’t be competing in the Olympics, she’ll be defending her World Championship title in May. Outside the ring (which the Forbes list certainly takes into account), Esparza recently partnered with Nike to design a better women’s boxing boot.
DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins leveled up in a big way this year. Despite catching passes from a four-headed Brian Hoyer-Ryan Mallett-T.J. Yates-Brandon Weeden hydra, the Houston Texan posted his first 100 plus catch season and proved that if you have a receiver who can catch basically everything thrown at him, you can make the playoffs even without a proper NFL quarterback.
Jake Arietta: The Plano native and Austin resident damn near took the Chicago Cubs—the sports world’s most beleaguered team—all the way to the World Series. Although the Cubs didn’t make history in 2015, the Cy Young Award winner and wins champion posted one of the best second halves to a season that any pitcher in the past fifty years has, tossing a no-hitter and consistently performing in a clutch.