Future and now of the leagues: Best players under 30 

These young stars are coming into their own as the new faces of their leagues



Julio Rodríguez has been nothing short of a superstar for the Seattle Mariners and singed what could be the most lucrative deal in American sports history in August.

BRANDON WILLMAN, Editor-in-chief

When thinking of the big three leagues, several young players are the first names to pop up in conversations about the best the league has to offer. That shows the growth and interest of these leagues remain high and the talent is fun to watch. 

What makes the talent pool more interesting is the fact that many of the star athletes of today’s game are international players, specifically in professional basketball and baseball. Things such as the ongoing World Baseball Classic show impressive talent across the regions. 

The NBA, MLB and NFL have a diverse set of talent pools spread across the league and spread across positions. However, each league has five distinct players that look to lead the league in both the present and the future. 


Luka Dončić (23)

The 6-foot-7 Slovenian is at the forefront of positionless basketball at the NBA level. Dončić is in the midst of his fifth NBA season and is already a four-time All-Star and three-time member of an All-NBA team. 

In the current season, he is second in the league in points-per-game with 33.0 while still averaging a near triple-double with 8.6 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game. Most importantly, his turnovers per game are down nearly an entire turnover, and he looks to lead the Mavericks deep into the postseason with the recent addition of Kyrie Irving. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo (28) 

Another international player, Antetokounmpo, is fondly known as the Greek Freak. He is a seven-time All-Star, 2021 NBA Champion, two-time MVP and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year. His accomplishments speak for themselves. 

On the fast track to the Hall of Fame, there is at least a full half-decade left of athletic excellence in the cards for the seven-footer whose game has adapted so much since his rookie year, becoming the player that the Buck’s offense runs through. On top of that, his shooting is more dynamic, coming from all across the floor while still being mostly contained within the 3-point arc. 

Nikola Jokić (28)

A third-straight international star, the Serbian center is the twice reigning MVP and is on track to win his third consecutive in the 2023 season. The biggest knock on his game is his tendency to fall short in the playoffs. But the Nuggets sit atop the Western Conference and look healthy to end the regular season. 

Jayson Tatum (25) 

The only member from the NBA on this list from America, Tatum led his Celtics to an Eastern Conference Championship in 2022 before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Finals. He and his teammates are hungry to get back and get over the hump, but being just 25, he has a decade-plus of his peak basketball to do so. 

Joel Embiid (29) 

Despite missing the first two seasons of his career with foot injuries, Embiid has finished as the runner-up of the MVP Award in the previous two seasons. He is also one Kawhi Leonard shot away from potentially being an NBA Champion. 


Shohei Ohtani (28)

There is no single player in the MLB more impactful than Ohtani. Entering a contract season, he is looking to make over half a billion dollars on the open market in 2024, a contract that would shatter the previous record. In five seasons, he has accrued 24.8 WAR and won the American League MVP in 2021. 

Juan Soto (24) 

Soto debuted at 19 alongside Ohtani in 2018, and in his time in the MLB, he has shown elite bat skills and awareness of the zone. In his best year in the shortened 2020 season, Soto had a 1.185 OPS and ended fifth in MVP voting. 

Julio Rodríguez (22) 

Despite debuting in 2022, Rodríguez already looks to be the face of the league. He had a 6.2 WAR rookie season, one of the best in league history. He is already an All-Star and Rookie of the Year, and 2023 will show why he is one of the best of the best. 

Yordan Alvarez (25) 

In 368 career games, Alvarez has 98 career home runs and a .973 OPS. He is the pure modern-day power designated hitter and his come-up coincides with the Houston Astros dynasty-clinching 2022 World Series Championship.

Sandy Alcantara (27) 

The only pure pitcher in this five, 2022 proved him to be one of the best in the game. The National League Cy Young Award winner had an 8.0 WAR over 228.2 innings, as well as being consistently healthy with 65 starts over the last two seasons.


Justin Jefferson (23) 

In three years, Jefferson is a three-time member of an All-Pro Team. His 4,825 yards and 25 touchdowns are close to pacing the competition over the past three years. He is still entering his prime and will dominate for years to come. 

T.J. Watt (28) 

This spot was either going to Watt or 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. Watt gets the edge by winning the award himself in 2021 and finishing top three the two years before. He has had 77.5 sacks already since his 2017 debut and he is just now in the midst of his prime. 

Patrick Mahomes (27) 

The six-year pro is a two-time MVP and two-time Super Bowl Champ. His career 64-16 record is the best since 2017. His talent is generationally good. Mahomes and the Chiefs are set up for greatness for years to come. 

Josh Allen (26) 

Competing against Mahomes is a major factor as to why Allen and the bills have yet to win a Super Bowl. The dual-threat QB has put up 18,397 passing yards and 3,087 rushing yards in his five-year career.

Micah Parsons (23) 

Parsons has played just two seasons in the NFL but already has two second-place finishes in the Defensive Player of the Year voting. He has 26.5 career sacks and 149 total tackles. He is the leader of the Cowboys’ defense at just 23 years old with his prime still ahead of him.