Jose Altuve, J.J. Watt share SI’s Sportsperson of the Year

HOUSTON — J.J. Watt raised more than $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts and Jose Altuve led the Houston Astros to their first World Series title, both giving hope to the city as it picked up the pieces from the devastating storm.

On Monday night the two were honored by Sports Illustrated when they were given the magazine’s prestigious Sportsperson of the Year award. Sports Illustrated executive editor Steve Cannella said they chose the pair because Watt and Altuve perfectly embodied the Houston Strong slogan the city adopted in the wake of the August hurricane and its catastrophic flooding.

To celebrate the award, given annually since 1954 to honor a player, coach or team who has best exhibited athletic achievement and sportsmanship on and off the field, the players share this month’s Sports Illustrated cover. Looking dapper in matching dark-colored suits and white dress shirts, they are pictured smiling broadly, with their arms slung over other’s shoulders and a headline that declares: ‘Houston Strong.’

“I grew up in Wisconsin and I remember when I was in school I saw Brett Favre as the SI Sportsperson of the Year and I thought that was awesome,” Watt told The Associated Press. “So now to be able to be on one myself and share it with Jose and have it represent the city of Houston and everything we’ve been through I think it obviously holds a little bit of extra meaning.”

Altuve, the American League’s Most Valuable Player, said the Astros felt a responsibility to bring the championship to Houston to give the city a boost as it recovered.

“I think the World Series gave the people a big smile and hope during the tough time they were getting through,” he said. “And I feel really happy that we did it because they really deserved it.”

Watt, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year with the Houston Texans, became the face of Harvey’s relief efforts with his fundraiser. He began the campaign in the days after the storm with the goal of raising $200,000. But he kept upping the target as donations poured in from more than 200,000 people.

He deflected credit for the huge sum he raised, saying that the real acclaim should go to those who pledged money.

“It was incredible to see how people from all over the country, people from all over the world, people from all different backgrounds, all different communities came together to support a city and a people that were having the toughest time of their life,”…

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