NEW YORK, February 24. SWIMMING superstar Michael Phelps and NBA sensation LeBron James are among five finalists named yesterday for the Sullivan Award as the top American amateur athlete.
Other finalists include short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno, women's basketball star Diana Taurasi and masters track athlete Philippa Raschker.
The honor for achievements in 2003 will be presented April 13 in New York.
Phelps, 18, became the first swimmer to set five world records at one meet at the 2003 World Championships, taking four gold medals and two silver.
A one million-dollar bonus awaits Phelps if he can match Mark Spitz's record by capturing seven gold medals at the Athens Olympics. He owns world records in the 200m butterfly and 200m and 400m individual medley.
James, who signed an endorsement deal Sunday that brings his sponsorship payouts to more than 135 million dollars, was the top selection in last year's NBA draft after a phenomenal high school career at Ohio's St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.
Ohno, a finalist for the second year in a row, was the 2003 World Cup overall champion, capturing 10 gold medals, six silver and two bronze in races.
The 21-year-old racer won 1,500m gold and 1,000m silver at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, although a tangle with a South Korean skater brought controversy as well.
Taurasi led the University of Connecticut to a second consecutive national collegiate championship last year, averaging 17.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Raschker, who was vaulted into the finalist group by a well-organized PR campaign, broke seven Masters track and field world records and nine American marks.
The Sullivan Award was won the past two years by figure skaters, going to Michelle Kwan for 2001 accomplishments and Olympic women's champion Sarah Hughes for her golden 2002 effort. Hughes was selected over Natalie Coughlin, who had one of the most spectacular years in athletic history in 2002.