This image provided by Sports Illustrated shows the cover for the December issue of the magazine, featuring Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, and Houston Texans' J.J. Watt. On Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, the two were honored by Sports Illustrated when they were given the magazine's prestigious Sportsperson of the Year award. (Sports Illustrated via AP)
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt and the Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve nabbed the honors from the vaunted sports publication thanks to Watt’s massive collection efforts on the part of Hurricane Harvey relief, and Altuve’s ability to bring home a World Series title to a city still reeling in the aftermath of the storm.
By the third week of September, less than a month after Hurricane Harvey had devastated Houston and its surrounding region, Watt had raised more than $37 million in relief aid. The SOTY candidacy of the Texans’ defensive end was unaffected by the gruesome, season-ending leg injury he suffered in Week 5. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year—the best defensive player of his generation, really—could have had the best season of his career, or the worst. His place as a Sportsperson of the Year had already been engraved.
“Nothing J.J. Watt has achieved in his career, or might still achieve, will measure up to what he did for Houston,” Peter King, The MMQB’s editor-in-chief, said.
For Altuve’s part, the American League MVP was lauded for his inspirational impact on the city:
The 5′ 6″ Altuve had his own contribution to Houston’s post-storm recovery. The personal journey of the Astros second baseman is an inspirational one, a classic tale of an underestimated athlete overcoming the longest of odds. And this fall, Altuve was the joyous catalyst for one of the most unlikely World Series runs in recent memory. Championships don’t save communities, and we should be careful to assign too much weight to their powers of healing. But what other event can bring a million-plus people together and provide a platform, however ephemeral, to cast aside the differences that drive so many of us to sports in the first place?
“The city of Houston has treated me really good,” Altuve told S.I.’s Tom Verducci. “I felt at that time that I owed them something. So when they were having a hard time, I wanted to give something back to them.”