"Fue el mejor jugador de la liga."
Translation:He was the best player of the league.
"De la/of the" implies ownership, as in "el perro de la chica"="the girl's dog". While DL's literal translation "the best player of the league" is awkward, "the league's best player" is natural English and accurate.
Some more cheats: el ama de casa (the housewife) el asma (asthma) el arca (the ark) el hambre (hunger) el hampa (the underworld) el arpa (the harp) el águila (the eagle) http://spanish.about.com/od/adjectives/a/el_for_la.htm Your point about "el" when referring to people is a good one though. Escpecially when several occupations such as "artista", "dentista", or "modelo" do not change endings for gender, so gender is instead defined by the article.
My opinion is that it would mostly likely be said, "He was the league's best player".
(I will note that I am not confident this is one of DL's accepted answers, because I was not willing to risk it.)
Agreed. Spanish often uses de to indicate the possessive case, where in English we would use 's (apostrophe-s).
Este es el mejor deporte de Juan. = This is John's best sport.
I think this works in response to a question like "Who took that half court shot at the buzzer?" You could say "It was John", or "It was the the best player of the league" if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
I put "she was the best player in the league" but was marked wrong because I didn't use the work "he." I thought fue was gender neutral unless el or ella preceded it.