Best athlete on 'Dancing:' Driver or Ward?

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
12:00
PM ET
This week, Playbook looked at the greatest athletes and pseudo-athletes who have appeared on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," from Kenny Mayne to Jason Taylor to our No. 1 selection.

Today, it's the final seven, and "Dancing" judge Carrie Ann Inaba comments on the rankings.

No. 7 EMMITT SMITH
Emmitt SmithAdam Larkey/ABC/Getty ImagesEmmitt Smith and professional partner Cheryl Burke.
SEASON: 3
THE SKINNY: Emmitt Smith wore a star on the side of his helmet for most of his career and his “star” shined throughout the competition. Emmitt was the benefactor of that Cheryl Burke magic (she’s danced with previous winners) and his celebrity. He narrowly edged out Mario Lopez to win season three.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "Emmitt was the original 'Twinkle Toes.' He was light on his feet and had incredible musicality. When he danced, it was like someone was running down the football field for a touchdown. He excited us on the dance floor and was able to beat out Mario Lopez in the final round."

No. 6 KRISTI YAMAGUCHI
Kristi YamaguchiKelsey McNeal/ABC/Getty ImagesKristi Yamaguchi and professional partner Mark Ballas.
SEASON: 6
THE SKINNY: Kristi Yamaguchi brought the women back to the winner's circle by blowing away the competition in the finale. She was perfect, literally. She became the first person to score perfect scores on all three of her dances in the finale.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "She was so detail-oriented in her dancing and was tremendously light on her feet while having incredible balance and razor-sharp precision. She started out ahead of the pack and stayed there with ease and grace."

No. 5 HELIO CASTRONEVES
CastronevesCarol Kaelson/Getty ImagesHelio Castroneves and professional partner Julianne Hough.
SEASON: 5
THE SKINNY: Helio Castroneves got props for pulling magic out his hat and upsetting Melanie “Mel B” Brown in the finale. Simply put, a race car driver beat a Spice Girl to win.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "Helio was a crowd-pleaser. His megawatt personality shone through in every dance. He lit up the ballroom every time he and Julianne [Hough] stepped on the dance floor."

No. 4 SHAWN JOHNSON
Shawn JohnsonKelsey McNeal/ABC/Getty ImagesShawn Johnson and professional partner Mark Ballas.
SEASON: 8
THE SKINNY: Shawn Johnson has performed in clutch situations before, and her time on “Dancing With The Stars” was no different. She was the youngest competitor ever and won by one of the narrowest margins in show history.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "To me, she will always be the underdog who won. In her season, Gilles Marini seemed like he was going to win it, but she came out with an incredible determination to attain perfection on the dance floor, and she did. It was like she willed herself to have perfection in the end. I have found that athletes can do this. They can do the impossible and win by sheer determination."

No. 3 APOLO ANTON OHNO
Apolo OhnoKelsey McNeal/ABC/Getty ImagesApolo Ohno and professional partner Karina Smirnoff.
SEASON: 4
THE SKINNY: Ohno was “Oh Yes” on the show, winning season four, proving once again that former Olympians are tough to beat on the show. Ohno was great all around. He was good on the paso doble and even looked like he could have been an extra in the movie “You Got Served” with his hip-hop freestyle.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "He was the master of the footwork. He had incredible footwork and was smooth as ice on the dance floor. The partnership between Apolo and Julianne [Hough] was incredible. They had wonderful chemistry and passion when they danced, but they were also able to have fun, like too kids playing together. Apolo is a great technician and really had the best footwork of any male competitor in all seasons."

No. 2 DONALD DRIVER
Donald DriverAdam Taylor/ABC via Getty imagesDonald Driver and professional partner Peta Murgatroyd.
SEASON: 14
THE SKINNY: It was a pretty good 18 months for Donald Driver. He won a Super Bowl title and season 14 of “Dancing." Driver beat out a few favorites and solidified his title with his freestyle competition. It also didn’t hurt that Driver plays for one of America’s most popular teams, and clearly fans came out to vote for the wide receiver when it counted.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "Donald was a fierce competitor. He had a primal energy to him and wowed us with his freestyle. I don't think the ballroom has been as turned upside down with excitement as they were for Donald since Drew Lachey's 'Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy' freestyle performance. He won the freestyle round hands down and he really made a mark in 'DWTS' freestyle history. It was an exciting and unforgettable number."

No. 1 HINES WARD
Hines WardABCHines Ward and professional partner Kym Johnson.
SEASON: 12
THE SKINNY: Hines Ward got progressively better throughout the competition, and he can thank partner Kym Johnson for that. Ward told host Tom Bergeron during the finals, “She is an amazing teacher, and I want to thank the judges for giving us the constructive criticism to help me get better each week. Also, I want to thank all the fans." Ward’s personality, charm and passion about competitive nature pushed him through the competition. He also had the strong backing of Steeler Nation to push him over the top.
INABA'S THOUGHTS: "Hine was a very focused competitor, and he really worked hard to win that trophy. Kym Johnson and he reminded me a lot of the previous champion Emmitt Smith. They had very similar qualities, but Hines Ward had a quality where he controlled the room with his energy. Not to mention his megawatt smile. He was one of my all-time favorites on the show. He was focused and was so well-rounded. He had good form, and he had the 'X' factor. He was sexy and classy all at once."

Look back at the rest of the list: 35-29, 28-22, 21-15 and 14-8.

Coming Monday is "Dancing with the Stars: All Stars," with Castroneves, Johnson, Smith and Ohno trying to win the title once again.

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