Hands down. Figures he'd be a popular selection, but I couldn't think of anyone to top him! Itachi sacrificed everything for his village, with the exception of his dear little brother. Then, he lived out the rest of his life, playing the villain in order to push Sasuke to become stronger and direct his anger and hate at himself. He always planned to die fighting Sasuke, so, even though he was dying of some disease, he kept going on sheer willpower so that he could give his brother closure. In that battle, he pushed Sasuke to his limits so that he could draw Orochimaru out of him and rid Sasuke of him, before transferring his power to Sasuke in his final moments, dying a hero's death with a smile on his face. We never knew how much of a hero he was until he was gone; he sacrificed himself, living in the darkness in order to protect his village and his brother, never faltering, and never sought recognition or asked for anything in return for his deeds. I have infinite respect for Itachi's strength and resolve; it makes me so sad to think of the life he and Sasuke could have had together had things been different. (YAY I MADE IT THROUGH WRITING AN ITACHI FEATURE WITHOUT GOING OFF ON SASUKE! I feel accomplished now)
If you know me, you know I can't just pick one!
Jiraiya was one of the legendary Sannin. Throughout his life, he had 5 disciples, Yahiko, Nagato, Konan, Minato, and, last but certainly not least, Naruto, all of whom he guided to becoming amazing shinobi (even if some of them may have lost their way a little, but they found their way back!). I firmly believe that Naruto would not have become the great ninja we all know and love without him! I'm gonna stop before I catch the feels!
Gaara warms my heart! Shukaku's junchuriki, Gaara lived consumed by hate, as he was feared by the villagers of Suna as a monster. However, when he was defeated by Naruto, he turned over a new leaf (no pun intended, seriously), becoming the inspirational fifth Kazekage at a rather young age.
Shikamaru was always a favorite of mine! Though he tends to lack motivation, he's a genius strategist who can manipulate almost any situation to his favor. He was the first of his class to reach Chunin rank, the only candidate in his first exam to do so, and even defeated a member of the Akatsuki on his own, but he's pretty hard on himself when things go awry.
Original Day 1 prompt card HERE