Stephen Curry -- who just captained the Golden State Warriors to the greatest season in NBA history -- is one of those athletes, according to Time's 100 Most Influential People list.
Curry's moves on the court feature a blend of slippery crossovers, stutter-step dribbles and ball fakes that confound even the best defenders in the league.
The 28-year-old's footwork is so pleasing to watch, in fact, that some would call it artistry -- just like watching a dancer pirouette on stage.
It is no wonder, then, that Time magazine chose professional ballerina Misty Copeland to write Curry's dedication.
"I'm in awe every time I see Stephen Curry play," writes the star of the American Ballet Theater. "He combines a never-before-seen skill set with the panache and flair of a great performance artist."
She adds: "Many people wouldn't naturally think of the similarities between a ballerina and an NBA player. Yet the lifetime of training and the discipline it takes mentally, emotionally and physically are certainly shared attributes."
It is Curry's "humility and grace", combined with this world-class physical presence, that makes the All-Star so special, says Copeland.
"He is showing us all how through belief in yourself, hard work and dedication, it's possible to achieve your dreams, prove your doubters wrong and go from an underdog to a warrior," she writes.
Curry, who will run away with his second consecutive MVP award, is having a dazzling year, capped by shattering the season mark for three-pointers with 402. (The previous record of 286 was set by him last season.)
"What he's doing right now is more entertainment than basketball," says former NBA All-Star Steve Smith. "He plays the game with a smile, and a lot of unorthodox shots. He's taking shots at half court and making it look easy."
Smith, a former champion with the 2003 San Antonio Spurs, credits Curry's work ethic for his stellar play over the past two seasons.
"He came into the game as a great shooter, now he's an elite shooter," says Smith. "He came into the league as a great ball handler, now he's elite. You start to look at the work ethic; he's making everything to perfection, almost."
Watching Curry play is one thing, marveling at his stats is another. Curry led the NBA in scoring this season with 30.1 per game, while shooting a blistering 45% from three-point land. He's also been a terrific defender, leading the league in steals with 2.1 per game.
"Half his shots from an unbelievable distance are basically going in," Smith marvels. "We've had guys put up astronomical numbers, but their teams weren't winning. He's doing both right now."
Athletes make the cut
The Time list features five other active athletes, along with retired stars Dwayne Johnson and Caitlyn Jenner.
Listed under the "Icon" section of the 100 Most Influential People are:
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