Why he’s famous: You have heard of basketball, right?
Why he deserves to win: Naismith is widely credited as the inventor of basketball, which he reportedly developed while working as a phys-ed instructor at his local YMCA in Massachusetts. Naismith needed a sport to keep his otherwise unruly charges happy, but didn’t want to indulge their more boisterous tendencies. Soon enough, inspired by a childhood game bearing the unfortunate name of “duck-on-a-rock,” Naismith had them tossing a soccer ball at a peach basket placed at the top of a 10-foot pole. So we have Naismith to thank not just for giving non-hockey players something to do in the winter, but also for the social relevance of Shaq’s Twitter feed.
Why he’s famous: Putting e-mail on people’s cell phones via the BlackBerry.
Why he deserves to win: Along with co-CEO Jim Balsillie, Lazaridis has built Research in Motion into a tech powerhouse, putting Canada on the map in the wireless device business. Lazaridis has registered more than 30 patents and won dozens of awards for his innovations in software and wireless communications technology, including a 1999 Academy Award for RIM’s role in inventing a digital-barcode reader for film editing.