Top 50 Sports Plays of 2015
For what looks like will be my last list I'll be able to post in the actual year 2015, I thought I'd save the biggest post for last. My ultimate creation- the top 50 sports plays from 2015. There are some really talented athletes out there. Humans are just awesome in general. This is the best of what they had to offer in the world of sport this year. Let's get to it.
November 1: World Series Game 5- Royals baserunning in ninth leads to a tie game, later a series win over Mets- Kansas City vs. N.Y. Mets
Less of a top play and more of just good baseball, the Royals rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth to tie game 5 using effective baserunning by Eric Hosmer. They would score 5 runs in the 12th inning to win their first World Series since 1985.
September 12: Deshone Kizer finds Will Fuller late to put away Virginia- Notre Dame vs. Virginia
Notre Dame's starting QB Malik Zaire goes down and out for the season after breaking his ankle in this game against Virginia. Redshirt freshman Deshone Kizer comes in and holds of the Cavaliers, and ends the game with this. Talk about making an entrance.
November 8: Lance Stephenson's alley-oop to DeAndre Jordan- Houston vs. LA Clippers
More from DeAndre in a little bit. But give credit where credit is due. That pass by Lance Stephenson, though....
February 24: Karri Ramo robs JT Miller with spectacular save- Calgary vs. NY Rangers
You had an open net, JT. Aaaaaaaand, it's gone. Go-go-Gadget Glove Save!
August 27: Carlos Torres kicks comebacker, David Murphy completes putout- NY Mets vs. Philadelphia
This one seriously requires all the luck in the world. To be able to kick a screaming low line drive like Torres does, then to be in the perfect position the way David Murphy was, then to complete the throw to first base... just watch this.
The Top 50:
50. September 12: David Ortiz hits career home run #500- Boston vs. Tampa Bay
A legendary exclamation point on the end of a brilliant career. Keep on swingin', Big Papi.
49. May 9: Albany lacrosse goalie Blaze Riordan runs the field, splits the D, scores- UAlbany vs. Cornell
There are a number of factors that make this play amazing. The first is that Riordan's a big boy, and look at the guy move! The second is that he's a goaltender, so stuff like this never happens in lacrosse. Third, the splitting of the two Cornell players. It's just funny the way he leaves them in his dust. Finally, the shot that beats the buzzer. Like, come on. Lax is ridiculous like that, as is this play.
48. January 9: Travis Booker beats the shot clock with a circus-style tip in- Utah vs. Oklahoma City
Another shot that requires 39 different kinds of luck. This one just makes you laugh, it's so silly.
47. May 23: Ducks score 3 times in 37 seconds to take lead over Hawks- Western Conference Finals, Game 4, Chicago vs. Anaheim
Can't tell if lazy defense by the Blackhawks... or just impressive offense by the Ducks... the Blackhawks won this game, by the way.
46. September 26: Aaron Green lifts TCU over Texas Tech with touchdown catch off deflection- TCU vs. Texas Tech
If Green doesn't make this catch on 4th down, Texas Tech wins, and TCU's #3 ranking is done for. Things this video doesn't show: Texas Tech's crazy lateral play that almost went the distance to win the game. A fine game-winning TD from one of the best college football games this season.
45. September 20: Bartolo Colon flips ball behind the back, isn't really 42- NY Mets vs. Miami
The best part of this video is at about 0:08, when the announcers realized that they just saw a 42-year old man who is still pitching at a major league level defy the laws of aging. Bartolo Colon is literally timeless.
44. October 10: Alex Ovechkin dekes John Moore out of his skates, scores- Washington vs. New Jersey
Let's be honest here. This is Alex Ovechkin doing Alex Ovechkin-type things, which is nothing new whenever one views a Washington Capitals game. Poor John Moore, he never saw it coming.
43. November 7: St. Thomas College's no-look pass for 2-point conversion- St. Thomas vs. Carleton
I wonder how many times these guys practiced this before they got it right. Carleton was actually leading this game, 3-0, before St. Thomas scored this touchdown/conversion. They wound up losing, however, 80-3.
42. May 16: Garry Hill's gravity-defying grab- Brookland vs. Star City (Arkansas)
This here is high school baseball, the Arkansas Class 4A semifinal. Star City centerfielder Garry Hill goes back after a long fly ball- what he does next is instant awesome.
41. January 9: Michal Neuvirth reaches across the crease to rob Brett Connolly- Nashville vs. Tampa Bay
When you can fake out even the guy who sounds the goal horn, you know you've done something right. Michal Neuvirth's save of the year candidate on Brett Connolly, everyone.
40. May 14: Tristan Thompson makes circus style layup while falling- Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 6, Cleveland vs. Chicago
The landing looks like it might have hurt a little bit- watch Tristan Thompson get the dish from Matthew Dellavedova, go up, maintain his focus and concentration, and fall to the floor as his layup rolls in.
39. September 26: Mike Trout takes a home run away from Jesus Monteiro, makes it look easy- LA Angels vs. Seattle
I mean, the guy's an American League MVP and a four-time All-Star, so what else do you expect from Mike Trout? But this? This is just rude. Although, to the fielder's credit, the wall at Angel Stadium isn't that high...
38. January 13: Julian Kislin's crazy passing skills lead to goal- Freehold Township vs. Middletown North (N.J.)
If you took Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Sydney Crosby, and Pavel Datsyuk on a good day, and rolled them all up into one, you might just get what Julian Kislin does to his opponents in this high school hockey game. Have a day, kid.
37. April 26: Alex Gordon flies into stands to make catch, takes fan with him- Kansas City vs. Chicago White Sox
The dive and catch into the stands is impressive, yes. But what really steals the show for me here is the contact made between Gordon and the White Sox fan in the black jacket. It's like a running back meeting a linebacker on a goal-line stand. Advantage on this one goes to the running back.
36. December 9: Kevin Garnett still has game, dunks on Blake Griffin, draws technical- Minnesota vs. LA Clippers
The guy's 39 and still making posters, and he's making posters over other guys who love to dunk. This might be a young man's game, but sometimes the youngin's need to respect their elders, especially when they can still do this.
35. August 19: Juan Perez makes basket catch over the wall to rob a home run- San Francisco vs. St. Louis
This one is just plain old disrespectful. To go up on the wall and rob a home run is one thing, but to make a basket catch? Please. Juan Perez makes this look easy.
34. August 11: Neymar scores beautiful spinning goal- Barcelona vs. Villareal
This goal by Neymar is just pure artistry, pure genius. And it's kinda funny, really. Pop. Spin. Shoot. GOOOOOOL.
33. September 7: Braxton Miller's spin move leaves Virginia Tech in the dust- Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech
This right here is some video game stuff... like, Braxton Miller pressed the B button on Virginia Tech. Without any effort at all, Miller was absolutely gone. With a spin like that, he deserved to score.
32. April 21: Tom Wilson steamrolls Lubomir Visnovsky- Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 4, Washington vs. NY Islanders
It was at this point that Lubomir Visnovsky knew... something was definitely wrong here. Given, there was a charging penalty on Wilson for this hit, it was still really pretty to watch anyways.
31. July 6- Ryan Smith makes spectacular flipping catch- Saskatchewan vs. Toronto
Canada has football too, you guys. That's right, we're talking the CFL here. That's Ryan Smith of the Saskatchewan Roughriders going up high and basically flipping in the air to bring down the ball against that defensive back for the Toronto Argonauts. Great country, great catch, great reactions from the kids, great football.
30. May 9: Paul Pierce calls "game," hits buzzer-beater over three defenders- Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 3, Washington vs. Atlanta
The Atlanta Hawks couldn't handle "the truth." With time winding down, and the Wizards with the ball, Paul Pierce single-handedly won the game for Washington, holding onto the ball for at least seven seconds, then going up over three Atlanta defenders to bury the jumper at the buzzer. When asked in a post game interview if he "called bank," Pierce responded calmly, "I called game."
29. September 4: Mac Bignell crushes a Fort Lewis receiver- Montana State vs. Fort Lewis
Jadeveon Clowney, anyone? Even with all the padding, this one had to hurt. The plays seems innocent at first; a simple swing pass out to the right side... and then Bignell makes it all go south for the poor guy.
28. January 3: Jerian Grant climbs the ladder, defies gravity on huge dunk- Notre Dame vs. Georgia Tech
"Where was the defense?" "Where was the gravity?" Jerian Grant's monster dunk over a Georgia Tech defender was the first big play of 2015. The All-American point guard gets so much air on this dunk, it literally looks like there's an actual ladder underneath him. Like... how?
27. September 5: Tanner Mangum's hail mary finds Mitch Matthews to beat Nebraska- BYU vs. Nebraska
This play is one of a few hail mary's on this list, and for all of them, I wonder what went wrong for Nebraska here. At least have one guy in front, and have at least one guy behind the receiver. That way, you can, I don't know, deflect the ball somehow. It's still a great play- and what's even more amazing is that Mangum threw another hail mary the very next week to beat Boise State.
26. July 28: Omar Infante and Alcides Escobar combine for incredible put out- Kansas City vs. Cleveland
This is some grade-A defense right here, based on just pure skill alone. I personally love the fact that it's all this effort just to nab the runner headed to first place- no double play or anything. It's a testament to how much of a team that Royals squad was on their World Series quest.
25. March 19: RJ Hunter hits deep 3 to sink Baylor, dad falls off stool- NCAA Tournament Second Round, Baylor vs. Georgia State
Baylor was in my Final Four, and this was the second game of the first day... so I was a little angry when RJ Hunter hit this shot. In hindsight, it's pretty awesome. The shot is from 35 feet, and it's for a 14-seed to knock out a 3-seed in the first round. And the icing on the cake is Hunter's father, Ron, falling off his stool (he tore his achilles celebrating the team's tournament birth) as the shot fell. This play is everything that March Madness is about.
24. April 10: Andrelton Simmons breaks sound barrier with throw to nab runner- Atlanta vs. NY Mets
This is one of those Derek Jeter-esque plays. To grab a grounder from short left field, jump, and still get the guy is ridiculous. Additional props go to Freddie Freeman, the first baseman, for that split. This is the second time in as many seasons that Simmons has made a play like this to get the same hitter, Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
23. March 21: Steph Curry breaks Chris Paul's ankles, part 1- Golden State vs. LA Clippers
So, technically, this play is actually second chronologically in the pantheon of Steph Curry-Chris Paul interactions (the second is coming up on this list). Two things about this play stood out as amazing to me (definitely a non-basketball person): the first being Curry dribbling behind his back to get Paul to bite and then bite the floor, and the second being reaction of the Warrior bench.
22. August 15: Three Nationals combine for wild defensive out, Washington vs. San Francisco
Plain and simple- this play should not have happened. Nats 1B Clint Robinson has to be in just the right position to deflect the ball up in the air, where 2B Anthony Rendon has to time his jump perfectly and be in perfect position to snag the ball with a bare hand, who fires it to basically nowhere, where P Felipe Rivero just happened to be in just the right spot where he is completely outstretched to make the out. If any of these elements are off, even by an inch, Brandon Crawford is safe at first.
21. January 10: Julian Edelman throws touchdown pass to Danny Amendola- AFC Divisional Round, New England vs. Baltimore
For context, Julian Edelman was a former quarterback when he played in college at Kent State. The Pats have even used this double-pass play before, where it worked on the Indianapolis Colts. This one brought the Patriots back to tie the game, as they had come back for the second time from down 14.
20. June 24: Josh Donaldson dives into the stands to make the catch- Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay
The announcer makes a comparison between Donaldson and Derek Jeter, who also famously ended up in the stands in a game against the Red Sox. The difference between Donaldson and Jeter is this: Jeter didn't catch the ball in the stands- he caught it about 10 feet from the stands and his momentum carried him (and perhaps a bit of embellishment did as well) into the crowd. Donaldson dove into the stands and caught the damn ball in the stands. Also, this was to keep Marco Estrada's perfect game alive in the 8th inning. The edge between the AL MVP and the Captain goes to Donaldson here. And yes, there are 19 plays left that are more amazing than this one.
19. December 3: "The Miracle in Motown:" Aaron Rodgers ends game with walk-off hail mary- Green Bay vs. Detroit
I didn't watch this game, and I'm mad at myself for it. I saw a Facebook post that read "A live look in at the Green Bay Packers" with a picture of the Titanic sinking- it was 20-0 at halftime. All of a sudden, about an hour later, I get a notification from ESPN saying Aaron Rodgers had won the game with a 60+ yard hail mary. And sure enough, that was the case. The Packers had come from 20 points down to beat their division rivals with this gem. As for the Lions- put someone in FRONT of the receiver.
18. November 28: Mike Thomas does his best Odell Beckham, Jr. impression- Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana Tech
You have to get at least one foot down in college, so flying body parts on this play make it all the more fun to watch. The one handed grab by Thomas here put Southern Miss up 21-3; they'd go on to win, 58-24. Thomas's hands might not be as sticky as OBJ's, but it sure is one hell of an athletic grab.
17. September 25: Mookie Betts goes over the wall to rob Chris Davis, ends game- Boston vs. Baltmore
Earlier in the season, Mookie Betts caught a ball that took him over the wall, but was called a home run as the ball popped out of his glove (#MookieCaughtIt), giving the White Sox a bizarre homer. This time around, Betts (and the ball) stayed in the park, as he robs Chris Davis of a home run, and sealed Rich Hill's 7-0 shut out win over the Orioles. (Also spotted: Steve the bullpen cop.)
16. February 1: Jermaine Kearse makes crazy bobble catch to put the Seahawks in position to win- Super Bowl XLIX, New England vs. Seattle
Had it not been for another play, this would have been the storybook ending the Seahawks needed to put away Super Bowl XLIX. Malcolm Butler tips the ball in the air, but Kearse is able to maintain a focus on it and bring it down at the 5. It's another "He did what??" moment. I guarantee you, every Patriots fan that night had horrible flashbacks at this very moment (see Tyree, David). Regardless, one of the best plays from one of the most intense Super Bowls ever.
15. August 31: Kevin Kiermeier robs Manny Machado of a home run- Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore
Full extension right here. That would have taken my arm out of its socket. How do you feel about this, Chris Archer?
14. June 3: Alex Killorn makes no-look, tip in goal to open the series- Stanley Cup Final, Game 1, Tampa Bay vs. Chicago
I think it's safe to say Alex Killorn has some really good hand-eye coordination. The Bolts' center redirects a deflected shot by Anton Stralman, and bats it out of mid-air past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford. Doc Emrick's reaction is vintage, too.
13. November 30: Ravens block Browns' potential game-winning FG, return it for game-winning touchdown- Baltimore vs. Cleveland
Ah, the Kick-Six. After Ravens QB Matt Schaub had thrown his third interception of the night, the Browns only needed to go something like 15 yards to give their kicker Travis Coons a chance at a game-winning field goal. Coons kick was blocked, and Ravens DB Will Hill returned it the rest of the way, giving Baltimore a stunning 33-27 win on Monday Night Football. This is, far and away, one of the most Browns things to ever happen.
12. December 9: DeAndre Jordan posterizes Greg Monroe
This will be your NBA 2015-16 dunk of the year, I'm calling it. DeAndre shows no mercy when he's up that high. I can't come up with too many words to describe this- I'm just in awe.
11. July 5: Carli Lloyd scores third goal of a hat trick- from midfield- FIFA Women's World Cup Final, United States vs. Japan
The first two were great, but now you're just toying with the Japanese team now, Carli Lloyd. This was the fastest hat trick ever scored in a World Cup match- at only the 16th minute. This game was better off being USA 1776, Japan 0.
10. October 16: Michigan mishandles punt, Michigan State returns it for touchdown to win- #12 Michigan vs. #7 Michigan State
I felt so bad for Michigan and its fans on this play. This is one of those "You had ONE job" moments. All Michigan has to do is hang onto the ball, or punt it away if they really wanted. They fumble. MSU picks it up and returns it for the game-winning touchdown. Poor Blake O'Neill. And to boot, Michigan State's got a chance to play for a National Championship on New Year's Eve.
9. February 3: Carter Hutton spins around and makes incredible paddle save- Nashville vs. Toronto
Kick saves and glove saves are nice, but paddle saves are the absolute best. Having to swing around a piece of wood that is easily detachable from your body (especially when it's a bigger piece of wood than other players have) and swat a puck out of mid-air without even looking at it is an achievement, to say the least. You'll need to watch this a few times to fathom what you see.
8. August 6: Kevin Pillar is Superman, robs Miguel Sano of extra bases- Toronto vs. Minnesota
Somewhere, Jim Edmonds is smiling. Sano drives one to deep right center, but Pillar lays out for a spectacular catch. The best camera angle of this play is from far away, where Pillar looks so small compared to the huge walls at the Rogers Centre. More from Pillar in a second.
7. September 21: Chad Kelly finds Quincy Adeboyjo (somehow) for touchdown- #15 Ole Miss vs. #2 Alabama
Another play that should not have happened. The botched snap, the desperation throw, the tip and the catch are all absurd. Alabama would get the last laugh, though, getting the 43-37 win.
6. February 1: Malcolm Butler picks off Russell Wilson to seal Super Bowl victory- Super Bowl XLIX, New England vs. Seattle
This never gets old. Butler was the cornerback who tipped the ball up in the air when covering Jermaine Kearse, only to have Kearse catch it on the rebound, a great play in its own right, which should have sealed victory for the Seahawks. Down 28-24, instead of running the ball from the 1 yard line, Seattle coach Pete Carroll decided to call a Russell Wilson pass play, which was subsequently intercepted by Butler with only 20 seconds remaining. It will be remembered long after Patriots and football fans alike die. By the same token, the Kearse catch should have been the movie ending for the Seahawks. The Butler interception is the harsh reality that your heart can be ripped out of your chest, just seconds after it was ready to explode with happiness.
5. March 8: Steph Curry breaks Chris Paul's (and the Clippers) collective ankles, part 2- Golden State vs. LA Clippers
Crossing over one guy is one thing. But four?? Steph Curry makes it happen, and makes it look so easy. The fall away jumper at the end is the icing on the cake. Also, check out Steve Kerr's reaction to this piece of artistry. It's amazing how far this guy has come along, and how much more exciting he's making the game of basketball.
4. April 16: Kevin Pillar enjoys parkour, robs Tim Beckham of a home run- Toronto vs. Tampa Bay
Jumping at the wall is one thing. Being able to get a foothold on it and climb it is another. Kevin Pillar does just that, as he just barely reaches over and snags Tim Beckham's sure home run on Jackie Robinson day. Lots of good things happened for the Toronto Blue Jays this year, that's for sure.
3. November 29: Odell Beckham Jr, "The One-Handed Catch, Part 2"- NY Giants vs. Washington
Another year, another spectacular catch by the sensation out of LSU. Odell Beckham Jr. somehow makes a ridiculous one-handed grab, almost a year to the day he made his first one that propelled him to super-stardom. The first one involved Beckham diving backwards to make the grab, this time he's diving forwards to make the grab. Somehow, this one seems almost more impossible than the first one.
2. November 1: Miami uses 8-lateral kick return to score touchdown to beat Duke- Miami vs. #22 Duke
Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Lateral. Easy as 1-2-3. After Duke scored on a 1-yard rush from Thomas Sirk (and a two-point conversion) with 6 seconds to play, all the Blue Devils needed to do was squib the ball on the kickoff and tackle whichever Miami Hurricane was holding it. Easier said than done, as Miami returned the ball up to their own 40, then lateraled their way back to their own goal line, and then ran it down the field to score the game-winning touchdown. Miami was actually up by 12 with 5 minutes to go before Duke scored 15 unanswered points.
1. October 16: Francis Owusu makes catch pinned to defender's back- #15 Stanford vs. #18 UCLA
Taking the top spot on this list is something that, as far as we know, originated in Alabama in 2005, when Tyrone Prothro made a catch pinned against a Southern Miss defender's back. Stanford's version involves a little more razzle-dazzle... like, say, a double reverse pass from Kevin Hogan. A tad underthrown, I might admit, but Francis Owusu makes this play possible by wrapping up the player covering him and catching the ball, pinned to the defender's back. To make a catch like this, having another guy in your face, while not being able to see the ball and maintain possession of it is utterly incredible. A big tip of the hat to you, Francis Owusu.
What did I miss? What do you think should be included on this list? Leave a comment if you so desire. Have a happy and peaceful New Year, everyone!
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.