Top 50 Sports Plays of 2016
These are the best of the best from the year in sports. The split seconds where the hair stood up on the back of our necks. The moments that will live forever in sports history.
All in all, this list was incredibly hard to put together. There are probably 100 or more plays that were considered for this list, and narrowing them down to 50 really great ones, and putting them in order was extremely daunting.
With a new sports year ahead of us, let's take a look back at 50 of the best plays in sports in 2016.
September 11: Aaron Rodgers somehow finds Davante Adams while being tacked
Green Bay Packers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
If you look up the definition of “Incredible” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Aaron Rodgers completing a touchdown pass to Devante Adams despite both of them being tackled while making said play.
July 9: Tyler Bertuzzi makes kid look silly, scores goal at Red Wings D-League
Ha. Hahaha. Ha. Silly rabbit. Tricks are for kids.
October 16: Kenny Britt makes one-handed circus grab falling to the turf
Los Angeles Rams vs. Detroit Lions
Disclaimer: NFL doesn't allow their YouTube videos on exterior sites... which is why I have to find clips like this one.
Kenny Britt could be a circus star, as he makes this impossible catch against the Lions.
October 15: Brandon Reilly makes catch on his back
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Brandon Reilly somehow finds a football in his lap after it goes in and out of the hands of two Nebraska defenders.
July 24: Yankees turn spectacular play to double up runners at first and third
New York Yankees vs. San Francisco Giants
Just your typical 4-1-5 double play.
November 28: Malik Monk and Wenyen Gabrial make nice assist and finish
2016 Atlantis Showcase: Kentucky Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils
There’s no “I” in “team.” The Wildcats' Malik Monk makes an awesome assist to keep the ball from going out of bounds, and Wenyen Gabrial slams it home.
November 16: Russell Westbrook seals victory with lefty slam
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
Russell Westbrook should win the MVP Award this season. Just saying.
The Top 50:
50. November 14: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope gets no-look granny shot to fall
Detroit Pistons vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
I feel like this is some kind of play I might miraculously make while playing one-on-one with someone taller and more athletic than me. Even Caldwell-Pope is like, “well, damn,” after he gets the basket to fall.
49. July 27: Denis Shapovalov's tweener
This one’s just stupid unfair. Show off. Look at that swag. Could have been better had he finished off the point with that shot, a la Roger Federer.
48. October 5: Curtis Granderson makes game-saving catch, eats wall
National League Wild Card Game: New York Mets vs. San Francisco Giants
A feat of athleticism? Not so much. An important catch? Absolutely. This one saved the game for the Mets, as the Giants were threatening to break the scoreless tie deep into the NL Wild Card Game. The Giants ended up winning, but Noah Syndergaard and the Mets showed they wouldn’t go down without a fight.
47. July 8: Daniel Nava takes away home run from Manny Machado
Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles
Nava does have experience playing the walls at Camden Yards. He used to do it when he played in Boston. It’s a shame the Sox never got to see him make plays like this. Full extension, Nava robs Machado of a sure game-tying homer. Sweetness.
46. April 9: Connor Clifton levels a North Dakota defender
NCAA Frozen Four, National Championship: Quinnipiac vs. North Dakota
Ouch. Connor Clifton also has a twin brother who plays for Quinnipiac. Note to self: stay away from the Clifton brothers.
July 23: A.J. Andrews makes a diving grab in deep right center
USSSA Florida Pride vs. Akron Racers
This play, from the National Pro Fastpitch softball league, features one A.J. Andrews sacrificing her body to make a spectacular catch in deep right field. There are some baseball players who can’t do this.
44. May 7: Stephen Piscotty lays out to make diving snag in foul ground
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Piscotty travels so far to make this catch in foul ground. And then there’s the full extension on the catch, on the dirt. Had this one been fair, and had Piscotty not been there to catch it, it might have scored a few runs and cut the Cardinals’ lead in half.
43. October 15: Cameron Hughes dekes through his own legs and scores
NCAA Hockey: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Boston College Eagles
This is sheer confidence right here. It’s one thing to do it when you’re alone on a breakaway, but it’s quite another to make the play in traffic in such a short amount of time for the goal. The Eagles turn the puck over in their own zone, allowing the Badgers to recover it. It’s less than two seconds before Hughes puts the puck through his legs and in the back of the net.
42. November 11: Lonzo Ball's alley-oop
NCAA Basketball: UCLA Bruins vs. Pacific Tigers
Lonzo Ball can ball.
41. May 15: Didi Gregorious puts great tag in the air on Tyler Saladino
New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox
This play is initially ruined by the safe call from the umpire at second base, because it’s a crazy feat of athleticism from Gregorious here. On the replay though, it’s evident that he does tag Saladino on the foot before he reaches the bag. Derek Jeter who?
40. August 16: Stephen Alemais throws across his body for the double play
Minor League Baseball (AA): West Virginia Black Bears vs. Auburn Doubledays
Gotta love those kids in Double-A ball. This is your typical 1-6-3 double play, except for the fact that Stephen Alemais (that’s STEFF-in AL-uh-maze) nearly falls down while trying to make the transfer to first base. Miraculously, he’s able to whip the ball across his body, and fire on to first with the out.
39: September 25: Patrick Peterson reels in interception with one hand
Arizona Cardinals vs. Buffalo Bills
Have we come to expect anything less from Patrick Peterson? He’s one of the best corners in the game, and the Bills suck something else. He plays this ball like a wide receiver, reeling it in with one hand. What’s even more incredible is how he maintains body position to keep both feet in bounds as he’s running.
38. May 8: Bartolo Colon crushes first career home run
New York Mets vs. San Diego Padres
Pitcher home runs are like fat guy touchdowns in football or big guy threes in basketball. They just don’t happen all that often. It’s kind of incredible that Bartolo is 43 years old, can still throw as if he’s 23, and just now hit his first home run ever. But Colon crushes this thing to the deepest part of left field at Petco Park in San Diego. Listen to the announcers’ delight as he trots around the bases.
37. February 23: Garland Owens' put-back dunk to beat the buzzer
NCAA Basketball: Boston College Eagles vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
Oooh, baby. Garland Owens is known for high-flying dunks at BC, but this one tops them. This one is a full-out, no marking, full extension put-back slam to beat the buzzer on the first half.
36. January 9: Martavis Bryant makes touchdown grab between his legs
AFC Wild Card, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
In the AFC Wild Card game, Ben Roethlisberger beats the Cincinnati defense to find Martavis Bryant in the back corner for a touchdown. I’m not really sure how Bryant hangs onto this ball after that, as he brings two feet in bounds, does a flip, and maintains possession as the ball passes between his legs. He finally catches it behind him. This is one of the plays of the NFL calendar year.
35. January 2: Drake Caggiula dangles and scores
NCAA Hockey: North Dakota Fighting Hawks vs. Alabama-Huntsville Chargers
Dangle. Dangle. Deke. Score. Caggiula makes the Alabama Huntsville player look silly, essentially undressing him on his way to a shorthanded goal the proved to be the game winner in this one. Also, I didn’t know that a school from Alabama had a hockey team. I didn’t know that was a thing that was possible.
34. November 3: Mike Evans makes one-handed grab, gets lit up and hangs on
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
This one is special for two reasons. The first is Mike Evans, who has become a huge receiver threat in the NFL, paired with Jameis Winston, who’s a formidable quarterback, it seems. Evans goes up with one hand to make this grab. The second reason is the way he gets lit up after the catch, but still hangs onto the ball. Falcons safety Keanu Neal makes a huge hit on Evans, but he’s still able to hang onto the ball going to the ground.
33. October 2: Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed trade long putts to halve 8th hole
2016 Ryder Cup
This is what the spirit of the Ryder Cup is all about. In one of the best golf matches of the year, American Patrick Reed and Europe’s Rory McIlroy were all square through seven holes, and both were looking to gain an edge at the eighth. McIlroy had a forty-foot put to make birdy on the par 3 eighth, which he nailed, pumping his fist and amping up the crowd. Reed was next, whose put was lengthy, though not quite the length of McIlroy’s. Reed also sunk his put to halve the hole, wagging his finger at McIlroy soon after the ball landed in the bottom of the cup. Gotta love some good ol’ friendly competition.
32. January 16: Henrik Lundqvist's scorpion save
New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins
Further proof that Lundqvist is the best goalie in hockey. In real time, this play doesn’t look like much, but Lundqvist is able to get his right skate up to block a rebound shot from Max Talbot.
31. September 9: Lamar Jackson jumps over a guy
Louisville Cardinals vs. Syracuse Orange
This is the play that defined Lamar Jackson’s Heisman-winning season. The guy is an absolute machine. It’s Lamar’s world, and we’re all just living in it. Was there really any doubt that Jackson wasn’t going to win the Heisman?
30. November 30: Goaltender Oscarine Masuluke scores on 96th minute bicycle kick
South African Premier Football: Baroka FC vs. Orlando Pirates
This from the South African Premier Football League. In the 5th minute of extra stoppage time, Baroka FC goaltender Oscarine Masuluke scores on a bicycle kick to tie the game. The GOALTENDER. A BICYCLE KICK. TO TIE THE GAME. Absurdity.
29. August 5: Adonis Garcia tumbles into the camera pit after making catch
Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Please enjoy this video of an incredible catch by Braves 3B Adonis Garcia, and the lackadaisical response to it by the TV commentators.
28. June 9: Lebron James does it all- the steal, the block, the pass, the jam
NBA Finals, Game 3: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
This isn’t the first play this guy made in the Finals, and it certainly won’t be the last. Lebron makes the block on Steph Curry’s long three, comes up with the ball, falls down, dishes it back to Kyrie Irving, who in turn makes the pass back to Lebron. Lebron finishes with the jam. Tell me again how good this guy is, will you?
27. February 28: Steph Curry drains 35-footer to beat Thunder in OT
Golden State Warriors vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Am I the only one who thinks that the way Steph Curry shoots threes is similar to a hack tossing up shots at the Y? The only difference is that Curry’s actually go in. In this game, the Warriors and Thunder found themselves tied at 118, with time winding down. Curry with the casual 35-footer to win the game for the defending champs.
26. Pekka Rinne makes ridiculous saves agaisnt two San Jose Sharks
Stanley Cup Playoffs, Western Conference Semifinals, Game 2: Nashville Predators vs. San Jose Sharks
I see you one kick save, and I raise you another almost immediately afterward. Rinne makes two consecutive saves, one on Couture, the other on Donskoi. This was one of the best of the playoffs, and it keeps the Predators in the game for the moment. The Sharks would win 3-2, however, and go on to win the series in 7 games.
25. August 16: Ben Revere robs Freddie Freeman of a home run
Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves
The jump. The reach. The ability to catch the ball even though it is behind you. The full extension by Ben Revere. This is the home run robbery of the year.
24. October 1: Tennessee and Georgia hit back-to-back Hail Mary plays, Tennessee wins
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Georgia Bulldogs
We’ve got two for the price of one play here. Georgia completes a long bomb with 19 seconds to play, with Tennessee up, 28-24, as Bulldogs QB Jacob Eason hits WR Riley Ridley from 47 yards out. Georgia goes up 31-28, with only 10 seconds left to play. Six seconds of regulation later, Tennessee has the ball on the Georgia 43. Joshua Dobbs fires the ball down the field into the fray of Tennessee receivers and Georgia defenders, only to have Jauan Jennings come down with the Hail Mary catch. One of the great things about sports is how despair and elation can flip in a minute. Listen to the radio calls of each broadcast (and the fan reactions on the TV broadcast) to see what I mean.
23. November 20: Damian Lillard makes layup falling away from basket
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets
Damian Lillard get this gem to fall, drawing the foul on the way there.
22. March 11: Jalen Adams hits 3/4 court shot with .8 seconds left to force 4th OT
American Athletic Conference Semifinals: Connecticut Huskies vs. Cincinnati Bearcats
In the quarterfinals of the AAC Tournament, UConn and Cincinnati had already played through three overtimes before this happened. With .8 seconds to play, Cincinnati’s Kevin Johnson hit a deep three that put the Bearcats up 88-85, all but sinking the Huskies, and ending their chance to play in the NCAA tournament. Miraculously, freshman Jalen Adams received the inbounds pass, and fired up a shot from just about his own three point line. It banked in off the backboard and tied the game, sending it to a 4th overtime. Connecticut would win in quadruple overtime, 104-97. The Huskies would go on to win the AAC Tournament, moving on to the NCAA Tournament in late March.
21. December 17: Kevin Rader traps ball against defender's back for game-winning TD
FCS Semifinal; Youngstown State Penguins vs. Eastern Washington Eagles
In the FCS (Division I-AA) Semifinal between the Youngstown State Penguins and the Eastern Washington Eagles, the Penguins found themselves with a 2nd and goal from the EWU 5 yard line and 5 seconds on the clock, down 38-34. Youngstown State QB Hunter Wells fired a bullet to Kevin Rader, who hauled it in with one hand, but trapping it against Eastern Washington defender Ketner Kupp, for a game-winning touchdown The play was upheld, and the Penguins would go on to play in the FCS Championship game.
20. April 10: Richard Bachman reaches behind himself to rob a goal
AHL: St. John's Ice Caps vs. Utica Comets
Some goalies can stand on their heads. Richard Bachman can turn himself into a pretzel to make a save, and he does just that in this game between the St. John’s Ice Caps and Utica Comets, the AHL affiliates of the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.
19. May 7: Kevin Pillar is Superman (again), lays out for diving catch
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
In last year’s top plays of 2016, Kevin Pillar had two plays in the top 15. This year, he’s gone and made the list again, with this magnificent web gem to rob Carl Crawford of a sure base hit. With men on 1st and 3rd and the Dodgers threatening in the 9th once again, Pillar sacrifices his body to keep games in check. The Blue Jays fielding unit is absurdly good, by the way.
18. December 17: Stefan Frei denies Jozy Altidore's header in extra time
MLS Cup Final, Seattle Sounders FC vs. Toronto FC
Seattle FC and Toronto FC were tied 0-0 in extra time. Jozy Altidore (that Jozy Altidore), puts a header on net, all but sealing the Cup for Toronto. Seattle’s Stefan Frei makes the save of the year to keep the game going. Altidore, who had scored in every single match during the playoffs, was finally held goal-less in the most important game of the MLS season. Seattle would win the match 5-4 on penalty kicks.
17. February 25: Michal Neuvirth's insane paddle save to preserve Flyers win
Philadelphia Flyers vs. Minnesota Wild
Michal Neuvirth is scary good at goaltending. With the Flyers up 3-2 and time running down against the Minnesota Wild, Charlie Coyle fired a shot from the left circle with 1.6 seconds remaining, off a cross ice pass that left the net wide open. Neuvirth came out of nowhere to block the puck with his stick, keeping it from crossing the goal line. When even the members of the other team are celebrating like the puck went in and it didn’t, you know you‘ve done something right.
16. June 19: Kyrie Irving hits dagger 3-pointer to seal NBA Title win
NBA Finals, Game 7: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden States Warriors
Moments after another of our top plays happened (which we’ll get to later), Kyrie Irving put the finishing touches on the comeback for the Cavaliers, as he hit this three point shot over NBA unanimous-MVP Steph Curry to win the game, giving the Cavs their first franchise title.
15. October 23: A.J. Green reels in Hail Mary bomb
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
When you’ve got a long bomb to throw into a lot of orange jerseys and helmets, and you need someone to come down with the ball, who are you gonna call? Clearly, A.J. Green would be a good place to start, as he’s able to corral this Hail Mary with his fingertips at the end of the first half. One can knock this play because it’s the Cleveland Browns he scored against, but this catch looks tough.
14. September 10: Central Michigan wins on Hail Mary-lateral play
Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Two years ago, in the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, Central Michigan was on the receiving end of one of these, as Western Kentucky scored on a Hail Mary with three subsequent laterals, on a play that started from its own 25 yard line. This time around, it was Central Michigan getting the last laugh on Oklahoma State, as they needed a Hail Mary and one lateral to take it to the house for the game winning touchdown as time had expired. Chippewas 30, Cowboys 27. The play received some criticism, as it came on an untimed down after Oklahoma State had been penalized for intentional grounding, even though under college football rules, the Cowboys have won the game after running out the clock. However, since it did count, it stands at #14 in our top plays of 2016.
13. August 16: Chase Utley's no-look flip to first base
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Colorado Rockies
This one is equal parts skill and luck. Dodgers 2B Chase Utley is able to flip the ball to Adrian Gonzalez to get the runner at first. I’ll bet you he couldn’t do this again if he tried. For him to bobble the ball, retrieve it and actually get the out is highly impressive. To do it without looking is even more so.
12. May 2: Kyle Lowry's half-court buzzer beater sends game to overtime
NBA Playoffs, Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 2: Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat
In one of the best games of the NBA Playoffs this year, Kyle Lowry’s half-court buzzer beater saved the Raptors from dropping a pivotal game one at home to the Miami Heat (even though, despite the heroics, they would lose in overtime, 102-96).
11. March 18: Paul Jesperson's buzzer-beater
NCAA Tournament, First Round: Northern Iowa Panthers vs. Texas Longhorns
The first buzzer-beater of the NCAA tournament came on the second day of the first round, as 11th seeded Northern Iowa took on 6th seeded Texas. The two played to a tie with 2.7 seconds remaining, as Texas knocked down a game-tying jumper after NIU missed a crucial free throw to put the Panthers up by three. It was then that Paul Jesperson became legendary, as he banked home a game-winning half-court shot to beat the buzzer, upsetting the Longhorns, and propelling the Panthers toward the second round.
10. September 17: Noah Brown's one-handed grab against the defender's back
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Oklahoma Sooners
It’s just plain old hard to do something like this. It’s even harder to do it when you’re falling out of bounds, with a defender in your face, and only one arm to catch the ball with. But if you’re Noah Brown, it shouldn’t be a problem, as he reels in this pass from J.T. Barrett, catching it with one handed against an Oklahoma defender’s back. The 3rd-ranked Buckeyes would throttle the 14th-ranked Sooners, 45-24.
9. August 14: Russell Martin reaches into the Marlins dugout to make the catch
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Miami Marlins
Russell Martin is that damn good. Watch as he reaches into the Marlins dugout, and has to twist and angle himself just right to make this catch over the railing.
8. August 16: Anthony Rizzo stands on the edge and reels in foul ball
Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Last year, Anthony Rizzo had the tarp catch, as he stood on the field tarp and turned a foul ball headed for the stands into an out. One year later he would do the very same thing. Rizzo defies what can be used in a ballpark to extend the field of play, as he uses the brick-and-concrete wall at Wrigley Field to snag another foul ball for the out.
7. November 1: Tyler Motte kicks puck between his legs to himself and scores
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Calgary Flames
What floors me most about this play is the very end: where we see Motte actually kick the puck through his own legs to himself, and score, because I’m pretty sure he lost possession of the puck, and then found a way to get it to himself.
6. July 7: Ryan Smith makes no-look touchdown grab
CFL: Winnipeg Blue Bombers vs. Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Hey, ma! Look what I found! In this CFL matchup between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tigercats, Blue Bombers QB Drew Willy found Ryan Smith for a short-yardage touchdown pass. What’s even more bizarre is the fact that Smith wasn’t looking at the ball when he caught it. Willy’s pass was so precise, it stuck right between Smith’s arm and his body, and he miraculously was able to hold onto it and take it to the house. In the video, even Smith can’t believe it. Right at the end, we hear him go “I didn’t look at him… It hit me.”
5. April 4: Kris Jenkins' buzzer-beater to win the National Championship
NCAA Tournament, National Championship: Villanova Wildcats vs. North Carolina Tarheels
Was this the greatest NCAA Tournament game ever? Perhaps. What helps its case is that it sports only the second buzzer-beater in the Championship game ever. Here, Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono passes to Kris Jenkins, who puts up a long three and makes it as the horn sounds. Even though the referees whistle for the basket to be reviewed, the confetti cannons fire, the Wildcats and their fans celebrate their National Championship victory on a thrilling last-second three to one of the best National Title games ever played.
4. November 2: Rajai Davis ties game 7 with dramatic two-run blast
World Series, Game 7: Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago Cubs
With one out in the 8th inning of Game 7 of the World Series, and the Cubs up by 3 runs, set to win their first World Series in 108 years, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman gave up an RBI double to Brandon Guyer, who knocked in a run for the Indians to make it 6-4. The next batter was Rajai Davis, who had only 55 home runs in 11 seasons in the majors. He clocked one out of Progressive Field, tying the game, giving the Indians new life, and sending Cleveland into a frenzy. In that moment, every goat in Chicago was bleating as loud as they could. The second broadcast on the clip is from MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian, who announced “Santa Maria!” as Davis’s home run left the park. I want to know what possesses a human being to make that his signature home run call. There’s also a featured celebration by Lebron James in this clip, so there’s that. The Cubs would win the game and the series, but not without some of the most intense drama imaginable.
3. October 1: Jourdan Lewis' one-handed pick to end the game
Michigan Wolverines vs. Wisconsin Badgers
This is the most incredible individual display of athleticism on this list. With Wisconsin on their final drive, needing a touchdown to tie the game, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis reached up with one hand and took away a pass intended for Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook. The play was reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr’s one-handed grab against the Dallas Cowboys, as Lewis seems to float in the air for a split second, before coming down with the game-ending interception. This play may be a fantastic one-man effort, but it takes the bronze medal spot on our list, as the two above it came in bigger spots.
2. June 19: "The Block," Lebron James stuffs Andre Iguodala to keep game tied
NBA Finals, Game 7: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
In the first four games of this series, Lebron James tried to be the team player everyone wanted him to be. In those four games, the Cavs lost three, and found themselves in a 3-1 hole, a deficit that had never been come back from in the NBA Finals. That’s when Lebron decided to stop messing around and take over the games himself. In game 7, with the score tied at 89, Golden State’s Andre Iguodala headed for the basket, attempting to lay in an easy shot to put the Warriors back up by two. James, from out of nowhere, stuffed the former Finals MVP cold at the backboard, keeping the game tied. Kyrie Irving hit a game-sealing three seconds later, and the Cavs were NBA Champions. It is a career defining play for Lebron James, as he proved (finally) that he can take over a game, and do everything within his power to take over and win a game.
1. January 16: Aaron Rodgers' Hail Mary sends game to overtime
NFC Division Playoff: Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals
Believe it or not, this was not the first miracle long throw that Aaron Rodgers made this season. Hell, it wasnt even the first long miracle throw he made in this game. In a week 12 game against the Lions, Rodgers and the Packers found themselves in a 20-0 hole in the 3rd quarter. Green Bay would storm back with 20 points of their own, and trailed 23-20 with second left to play. Aaron Rodgers fired a Hail Mary to Richard Rodgers to win the game, 27-23. In this game, Rodgers found himself down 20-13 and the ball on his own four yard line. First, he fires a 60-yard bomb to Jeff Janus, moving the ball to the Arizona 36. After a penalty, the Packers were at the Arizona 41 with five seconds left to go. Again, Rodgers heaved one toward the end zone. Janus, the target once again, jumped between Patrick Peterson and Rashad Johnson, and miraculously came down with the ball. The Packers would tie the game and send it to overtime, but the Cardinals would score quickly to end the game, due in part to the superhuman performance from Larry Fitzgerald. Regardless of the outcome, this was a career-defining performance for Aaron Rodgers, who continues to prove time and time again that the teams he commandeers should never be counted out. This unforgettable playoff moment earns the top spot on our list.
Did we miss any out? What are some of your favorite sports plays from the last year? Leave a comment down below.
You can check out the rest of According to Andrew's Best of 2016 Spread HERE.
Top 10 Games of 2016
Sport is the greatest drama because it cannot be scripted. No one can predict what real life competition will produce, and no one can predict how athletes will perform under intense, high pressure situations. When the stakes are high, the games become the stuff of legends. They’re the contests that kept us on the edge of our seats for hours on end. These are the best games from the sports world in 2016.
October 13- National League Division Series, Game 5
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Washington Nationals 3
The Dodgers and Nationals are two teams that have been very good in recent years. The Nationals boasted a team that included Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, as well as always-present MVP candidate Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. The Dodgers countered with players like Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, and Joc Pederson, as well as Clayton Kershaw, whom we’ll discuss later. The Nats had a 1-0 lead for most of the game, as Scherzer shut his opposition down. It wasn’t until the seventh inning, when Scherzer gave up a home run to Joc Pederson and was lifted for Marc Rzepczynski. Five other pitchers who entered for Washington allowed the Dodgers to score three more runs. After the Nats scored another two in the bottom of the frame, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called on his closer Kenley Jansen to close the door on any further rallies. Jansen pitched a flawless rest of the seventh and a full eighth, but by the ninth had thrown 51 pitches and given up two one-out walks. In came Kershaw, the 2009 NL Cy Young winner, who was making his first relief appearance in seven years. Kershaw got Daniel Murphy to pop out, and struck out Wilmer Difo to end the game, sending the Dodgers to the NLCS to face the Chicago Cubs. For Kershaw, whose ability to perform in the postseason had come into question, it was a major relief for him to win the series for his team.
January 4- NCAA Basketball Regular Season
Kansas Jayhawks 109, Oklahoma Sooners 106 (3OT)
This was your classic #1 vs. #2 showdown. Technically, both teams were ranked #1- Kansas by the AP Poll and Oklahoma by the Coaches Poll- so it was going to be a game to remember. Perry Ellis had 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Jayhawks, while Wayne Selden and Devonte’ Graham had 21 and 22, respectively. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, on the other hand, had a career high 46 points, but made two crucial turnovers and missed a game-tying three at the final buzzer of the third overtime.
November 13- NFL Regular Season, Week 10
Seattle Seahawks 31, New England Patriots 21
What is it with these two teams and throwing the ball at the one yard line? The last time these two teams met, we ended up with the greatest Super Bowl in history, with the Patriots coming out on top. This time around, it was the Seahawks who got the last laugh, as they kept the score close and finally pulled ahead in the fourth quarter for good. The game featured a huge hit from Seattle safety Earl Thomas on New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, and a fantastically underrated performance from Seattle RB C.J. Prosise, who had 153 all-purpose yards in the game. At the end, it came down to the one yard line, this time with the Patriots on offense with the game on the line. The Patriots had four opportunities to score from the goal line, and could not, as Tom Brady’s fade pass to Gronkowski was batted down. Was there pass interference on the play? We’ll let you decide. Regardless, can we see these two teams play again in February, please? No matter how volatile the Seahawks’ offense has been at times, these two always bring their A-game whenever they play one another.
September 21- World Cup of Hockey, Preliminary Round
North America 4, Sweden 3 (OT)
If you wanted hockey, this was the game for you. In this year’s World Cup of Hockey format, eight teams put their squads together, highlighted by the formation of the North America and Europe team, comprised of players aged 23 or younger from their respective regions of the world. The North American team had a plethora of hype surrounding it, including young guns like Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Auston Matthews. It was up to the players to determine if they were worth all the buildup, and boy, did they deliver. In this group play matchup against Sweden, the North American team’s speed and skill were on display early, as McDavid found Matthews for a goal against Henrik Lundqvist only thirty seconds into the game. Watch the first goal by Matthews, and you’ll see the young guns making the best defence in the tournament look silly. In replace of the injured Matt Murray, John Gibson made himself a wall between the pipes, stopping 35 of 38 shots, including one from Daniel Sedin on a breakaway in overtime. Finally, in the last minute of the extra period, it was Nathan MacKinnon who deked Lundqvist out of his skates to score the game winner. While North America didn’t make it out of the group stage, it goes to show that the kids can really skate with the big dogs and get the job done. It’s evident these kids are already tearing up the NHL, as players like Matthews and MacKinnon make Toronto and Colorado a little scarier to face.
September 4- NCAA Football Regular Season, Week 1
Texas 50, Notre Dame 47 (2OT)
In hindsight, both of these teams finished the season at a combined record of 9-15, and neither of them made a bowl game. But the opening game of the season would have made you think that Notre Dame and Texas were going to meet again in the College Football Playoff in January. In a game where we were fed a crazy amount of hype, from Texas’ turnaround as a football program, having been embarrassed in South Bend the year prior 38-3, to the questions surrounding Notre Dame’s depleted defense and quarterback controversy, the two teams did not disappoint. The Fighting Irish and Longhorns traded jabs through halftime, but Texas built up a 31-14 lead midway through the third quarter. Notre Dame QB Deshone Kizer showed poise the rest of the way, leading the Irish back with 21 unanswered points to put Notre Dame ahead 35-31 with just under 11 minutes to play. Three possessions later, Texas broke through to retain the lead on a 19 yard run from D’Onta Foreman, putting Texas back on top, 37-35. The extra point attempt was blocked and returned by the Irish for a two-point, defensive PAT, knotting the score back up at 37 apiece. In overtime, Texas struck first on a touchdown from Tyrone Swoopes, but Notre Dame answered back on its first play of OT with a 25-yard pass from Kizer to C.J. Sanders. In double overtime, the Irish broke the tie with a field goal, only to have Texas drive back down the field and score a game winning touchdown. “Texas is back!” exclaimed broadcaster Joe Tessitore, as Swoopes plowed into the end zone to win the game. While their record might show otherwise, this was one of the best games the college football season would have to show. Texas jumped from being unranked to 11th in the nation as a result of the win. Neither team would finish ranked at the end of the season.
The Top 10:
10. July 17- The Open Championship, Final Round
Henrik Stenson vs. Phil Mickelson
I say this about pretty much every other sport, but it’s really great when you have a classic one-on-one duel in golf. In the final round of the British Open at Royal Troon, Henrik Stenson began the day with a one-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, who has a history of blowing it in pressure situations, and particularly in major championships, held pat, actually taking over the lead with a birdie on the first hole, while Stenson bogeyed. From there it was pretty even. Mickelson evened the score up again at 14-under with an eagle on #4. The two traded blows, and it was close until the very last hole, when Stenson’s birdie put him at 20-under, 267 for the tournament, which would be an all-time record for an aggregate score at any Open Championship. Mickelson would finish three strokes back at 17-under.
9. May 16- NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 1
Oklahoma City 108, Golden State Warriors 101
The Warriors hadn’t faced much adversity in their historic 73-win campaign. They had only lost twice on their home floor- albeit their two losses came within a week of one another toward the end of the season. Regardless, the defending champions opened up the Western Conference Finals on their home floor of Oracle Arena against the Oklahoma City Thunder. With 17.2 seconds to play, and the Thunder up 105-102, Russell Westbrook took the inbound pass and crossed over into the front court, and appeared to travel as he tried to stop and reset his feet. Much to the dismay of the begging Warriors coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the fans at Oracle, the travel was not called. A few seconds later, Westbrook hit a key free throw to put the Thunder up by 4, and the game was pretty much out of reach for the defending champs from there, who ended up falling on their home floor, 108-102. The game was the subject of much criticism due to its poor officiating, but it sure made for some memorable moments and lots of excitement.
8. March 20- NCAA Tournament, Second Round
Texas A&M 92, Northern Iowa 88 (2OT)
This was supposed to be a shocking upset. Instead, it turned into one of the most stunning comebacks/collapses in the history of college basketball. Northern Iowa, an 11th seed in the tournament, had already knocked off Texas in the first round on a half-court buzzer beater from Paul Jesperson. They faced the Aggies from Texas A&M in the second round, a 3rd seed. This game really only gets exciting in the second half, but the scene is this: NIU is up by 10 points with 31.1 seconds remaining in regulation. They’re ready to punch their ticket to the Sweet 16. That’s when A&M mounts a comeback for the ages. Northern Iowa, who were without primary inbound passer Matt Bohannon and out of timeouts, were throwing the ball all over the court, as they were swarmed by the Aggie defense. A&M capitalized on four NIU turnovers and went on a 10-2 run in the final 30 seconds to tie the game at 71. Northern Iowa had its chance to win the game in the first overtime, but two of the team’s seniors fouled out, leaving Texas A&M’s deeper bench to win it in the second overtime. At the 44 second mark, statistical analysis showed that Northern Iowa had a 99.9% chance to win the game, with A&M’s chances sitting a less than .1%. But, of course, this is March Madness, and this game will go down as one of the best of the tournament, and possibly the greatest collapse in the history of basketball.
7. November 26- NCAA Football Regular Season, Week 12
Ohio State 30, Michigan 24 (2OT)
One of college football’s biggest rivalries resulted in one of the best games of 2016. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh was determined to make an advance on his record in his second year as head coach. The Wolverines were ranked #3 in the nation, only to Urban Meyer’s #2-ranked Buckeyes of Ohio State. Even though the game was in Columbus, the Wolverines controlled the better half of the game, as they led 10-7 at halftime, and 17-7 in the third quarter. The Buckeyes cut the lead to three after a late third quarter touchdown, and tied it with five seconds to play on a field goal. One of the best college football games this year wouldn’t be complete without overtime. On the Buckeyes first possession, Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett ran all over the Michigan defense, putting the buckeyes up by seven. Michigan answered with a touchdown of their own, and added a field goal in the first half of double overtime to make it 27-24. On Ohio State’s next possession, Barrett faced a 4th and 1 from the Michigan 16. He ran it right up the gut, and looked like he was stopped right at the line to gain, his foot barely crossing the line. It would hold up after video review, and Ohio State was given a first down. On the very next play, it was Ohio State RB Curtis Samuel who scored the game winning touchdown, scoring from 15 yards out. The red-clad Ohio State faithful poured out onto the field after the victory, as Ohio State’s push for the national title was very much alive. As for Michigan, the controversial play on 4th and 1 is still disputed. They will face a tough Florida State team in the Orange Bowl.
6. January 2- Valero Alamo Bowl
TCU 47, Oregon 41 (3OT)
The Alamo Bowl featured another fantastic playoff comeback between the TCU Horned Frogs and the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks had stumbled to a .500 start to begin the 2015 season, but ended the season on a six game winning streak. The Horned Frogs were the opposite, starting the season 8-0, and being ranked as high as #3 in the nation, but backed into the playoffs, only winning two of their last four games. Regardless, the game was set to feature two teams with very good records. Out of the gate, it was all Oregon, as TCU was without some of their key players, including first-team All-American WR Josh Doctson, and QB Trevone Boykin, who had been suspended for a violation of team rules. The Ducks jumped out to a 31-0 lead at halftime. However, Ducks QB Vernon Adams Jr. left the game with a head injury and would not return. The Horned Frogs mounted the biggest comeback in Bowl Game history, tying the game at 31 and sending it to OT. The teams traded blows for two overtimes until TCU scored to make it 47-41, and then stopped the Ducks on a 4th and 8 to win.
5. April 4- NCAA Tournament, National Championship
Villanova 74, North Carolina 71
The NCAA Tournament is referred to as “March Madness” for a reason. Take this past April’s National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels, for instance. The game was nip and tuck for the first half, with neither team leading by more than five points in the first 19 minutes. North Carolina was up by seven near the end of the first half, but Villanova’s Phil Booth hit a jumper that cut the lead to 39-34 at halftime. After the break, however, it was Villanova who took over, going on a 13-2 run. North Carolina was left to chip away. Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono hit a three to keep the lead solid at 6 points. With just about 5 minutes to play. Villanova led 67-57, its largest of the game, until North Carolina went on a 10-3 run of its own. Down 70-64, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit a three to cut the lead to three points. Villanova’s ensuing possession saw Arcidiacono make an errant pass that sailed out of bounds, giving the Tar Heels the ball. Another field goal later, and the Villanova lead is one. With 35.7 seconds to play, Booth was fouled and hit both free throws, extending the lead back to four for the Wildcats. With 22.2 seconds to play, North Carolina made a key offensive rebound and basket to cut the lead to 72-71. Villanova’s Josh Hart was fouled and hit both free throws. 74-71, Villanova. On one of the plays of the year, Paige hit a sensational double-clutch three-pointer with 4.7 seconds to go to tie the game. It would have been the play of the year, had it not been unseeded by the play that followed. Arcidiacono received the inbound, and passed to Kris Jenkins, who knocked down a three at the buzzer to win the national title. It was the first since Lorenzo Charles’ dunk in 1983 for NC State against Houston. Villanova is known for one of the greatest tournament upsets of all time, when, in 1985 they (then an 8 seed) defeated top-seeded Georgetown to win the championship. This team, this game, and this finish, are up there, though.
4. July 10- UEFA Euro 2016 Final
Portugal 1, France 0 (ET)
A series of terrorist attacks rocked Paris in late 2015, during which a football match between France and Germany at Stade de France had to be evacuated. Three explosions occurred near the stadium, killing four, occurring about 20 minutes after the start of the match. Between the attacks in November 2015, the Charlie Hedbo shootings in 2013, and a mass of others, France was reeling. I don’t want to make the gross generalization that sports are the only thing that can bring people together, but it certainly can help boost morale a little bit. France was the host country for the UEFA Euro tournament. Spain, the two-time defending champions of the tournament, was ousted by Italy in the first round. The tournament also found the heavily-favored English team losing to Iceland. France found its way to the final by way of defeats of Iceland, Ireland, and Germany. France’s opponent, Portugal, was seeking its first major international championship. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo was poised to add another notch to his already impressive career resume. But early in the first half, it was Ronaldo himself who went down with injury and had to leave the game. France’s imposed uptempo rhythm was shut down by Portugal goaltender Rui Patricio, who denied shots from Antoine Greizmann and Moussa Sissoko. In the second half, France and Portugal used both of their substitutions, as Portugal brought on Joao Moutinho and Eder, while France brought on Kingsley Coman and Andre-Pierre Gignac. In the final minute of regulation time, Gignac’s potential championship winner beat Patricio, but hit the post, keeping the score tied at 0-0. Most of Portugal’s best chances came in extra time, as Eder had a shot bounce off the crossbar. In the 190th minute, Eder finally struck for Portugal, netting a ball to the lower right corner of the net. Portugal would go on to win its first major international trophy. So, no, the home team didn’t win. But this match between two extremely even opponents was one of the best, if not the best contest of the year from the pitch. Even though there is still a lot to accomplish outside the sports bubble, the 2016 Euro Final showed that for 120 minutes, twenty two men can give it their all and put on an unforgettable display of athleticism, sportsmanship, and respect.
3. June 19- NBA Finals, Game 7
Cleveland Cavaliers 93, Golden State Warriors 89
Reminder: The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cavs.
The Golden State Warriors of 2015-16 were the New England Patriots of 2007-08. They shattered the mark set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls for best record in a season, winning an astounding 73 games during the campaign, losing only two games at home the entire season. The only thing left was a date with destiny: a rematch against the team they had beaten a year prior: the Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. The defending champs quickly jumped on their opponents, winning the first two at home, and winning a third in Cleveland in game 4. With the critics once again in his ear, Lebron James set out to silence them once and for all. The Cavs won game 5 on Cleveland and Game 6 in Oakland, with James posting 41-point games in both contests.
Set for a decisive Game 7 in Oakland, the Cavaliers set the pace early, but the Warriors kept the game close, and actually led 49-42 at halftime. It was in the second half that James and the Cavaliers took over, outscoring the Warriors 51-40, and not allowing Golden State to score in the last 4:39 of the game. With around two minutes to play, Lebron James chased down 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, who was set to break the tie with an easy layup. Instead, James caught Iguodala and stuffed the ball against the backboard, keeping the game tied. The play would thereafter be known as just “The Block.” With 53 seconds to play, rookie Kyrie Irving hit a go-ahead three pointer over the NBA’s first ever unanimous regular season MVP, Steph Curry, to put the Cavs ahead for good, 92-89. James made a free throw to just about seal the deal, as the Cavs would win 93-89. They were the first team ever to win an NBA Finals after being down three games to one. They would topple a team that was beyond dominant in the regular season. They would end their city’s championship drought, ending a long string of sports despair, which all include iconic names like “The Shot,” “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “Red Right 88,” “The Decision (which, ironically, involved James himself)” and “The Move.” This time, the Cavaliers finally got an iconic name to fall in their favor, and Lebron James finally brought his city the title he promised 13 years ago.
2. November 2- World Series, Game 7
Chicago Cubs 8, Cleveland Indians 7 (10)
It’s not often we get really good baseball games. We all know by this point that the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in a very, very long time. 108 years, to be precise. Their GM Theo Epstein had promised the Chicago faithful a Championship- the city was ultimately patient, and the Cubs finished the season with the best record in baseball, cruising to the World Series. The Cleveland Indians, who also haven’t won a world series in more than half a century, were on a miracle tear. They had lost two of their best pitchers in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, but had only lost one game on their way to the Fall Classic. They even went up three games to one in this series as well. Manager Terry Francona was poised to win his third Championship, an accomplishment that would undoubtedly land him in the Hall of Fame.
But the Cubs, whose luck had seemingly run out, rose from the grave, forced game seven, and even jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead, started by a leadoff home run by Cubs OF Dexter Fowler, the first player ever to lead off a World Series Game 7 with a home run. The Tribe would tie the game in the third inning, but the Cubs would add two in the fourth and another two in the fifth, knocking Indians P Corey Kluber out of the game. The Indians would make it 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth on a scoring error that allowed two runs to score. In the sixth, Cubs C David Ross homered to make it 6-3, as he became the oldest player to homer in a World Series Game 7.
In the bottom of the eighth with two outs, Cubs manager Joe Maddon called on closer Aroldis Chapman, who, traditionally had been dominating ninth innings, but still had to make four outs in order to win the game. Jose Ramirez’s single and Brandon Guyer’s subsequent double put the Indians within two. The next batter was Rajai Davis, who had hit only 55 home runs in 11 seasons in the majors. He crushed a 2-2 count to deep left field, tying the game at 6 apiece. Fortunately, that would be all the damage allowed, and Chapman would pitch a perfect ninth to send it to extra innings.
Then came the rain, because this game was essentially the apocalypse. A 17-minute rain delay allowed both teams to catch their collective breaths (while essentially killing the Indians’ momentum). The Cubs scored two runs in the tenth on hits by Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. The Indians got a run back in the bottom half of the frame, but Cubs P Mike Montgomery was able to close the door, as he got Michael Martinez to ground out to Kris Bryant, winning the Cubs’ first World Series title in 108 seasons. Billy goats and curses aside, this game was a final exorcism for the Cubs, who had staved off elimination in three consecutive games, finally winning it all in the most dramatic of fashions. This may be one of the greatest World Series games ever played, if not the greatest.
1. January 16- NFC Divisional Playoff
Arizona Cardinals 26, Green Bay Packers 20 (OT)
The legend of Larry Fitzgerald and the mystique of Aaron Rodgers continue to defy all logic. The recent history between the Packers and Cardinals is intense. During the 2009 playoffs, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals beat the Packers 51-45 in overtime in a crazy wild card game. Arizona would go on to play in the Super Bowl. Three weeks prior to this match up, the Cards had throttled the Packers at home, 38-8. This game would top them all, and gave us the best game of the year in only the third week of the 2016. Ironically, the game was relatively tame at the outset. The Packers had lost Devante Adams and Randall Cobb (their two best receivers), and the Cardinals’ typically potent offense couldn’t get anything going when on the field. The game was a stalemate through the first half, with Arizona up 7-6 at halftime. With Green Bay ahead 13-10 with about 3 minutes or so to go, QB Carson Palmer drove the Cardinals down the field, getting break after break with receivers catching ridiculous passes, with the go-ahead touchdown getting batted up in the air and caught by Michael Floyd, putting Arizona ahead, 17-13 with 10 minutes and change left to play in the 3rd quarter. The Cardinals would give the ball back to Green Bay after kicking a field goal at the 2 minute warning, this time up 20-13. Facing a 4th and 20 from his own 4 yard line, with 48 seconds left, Aaron Rodgers moved the Packers 96 yards in two completed plays, both to Jeff Janus. The first was a 60 yard bomb, which moved the Packers to the Arizona 36. Still, they needed a touchdown to tie the game. After a false start penalty and a time out spent, Rodgers and the Packers found themselves at the Arizona 41. With five seconds to play, Rodgers flushed out of the pocket, and threw a deep strike toward Janus once again. Janus, who had seven catches during the game (five more than he had all season), jumped between Cardinal defenders Patrick Peterson and Rashad Johnson and came down with the ball, effectively tying the game and sending it to overtime. But on the first play of the extra period, it was the Cardinals’ turn to spin a little postseason magic of their own, this time in the form of the “Hail Larry.” Palmer fooled the Packers defense, finding a wide open Larry Fitzgerald, who scrambled 75-yards down the field to the Green Bay 5. On the next play, Palmer found Fitzgerald again on a shovel pass to win the game. I for one really hope we get to see more matchups like this in the future between these two teams, because they always seem to put on a show whenever they meet. This game featured career-defining performances from both Aaron Rodgers, who had thrown his second successful Hail Mary in a season, and Larry Fitzgerald, whose 8-catch, 176-yard performance will long live in NFL playoff lore.
What games kept you on the edge of your seat this year? Leave a comment down below.
You can check out the rest of According to Andrew's "Best of 2016" spread by clicking HERE.
Top 10 "Oh No!" Sports Moments of 2016
There are good plays in sports, and there are the painfully bad ones. This is a list of the latter. These are the moments in sports this year that made us flinch, cringe, and experience the worst kind of secondhand embarrassment. If you’ve ever watched a sporting event that made you scream at your television in disbelief or question your faith in humanity, this is the list for you. These are the top 10 moments in sports this year that made us facepalm the hardest.
Odell Beckham Jr's relationship with the kicking net
OBJ is a character. The guy who exploded onto the scene with a spectacular one-handed grab in 2014, and had a literal fight with Josh Norman, is at it again. This time, he’s got a partner in crime. It’s not Eli Manning, it’s the kicking net on the sidelines. In a game against Norman’s Washington Redskins, the Giants were driving down the field down by two in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning threw a pick in the endzone that eventually sealed the deal for Washington. Beckham, furious and in tears, took to the sidelines and hit the kicking net with his helmet. The net pushed back, falling right into Beckham’s face. His postgame comments included him mentioning that he was no longer having fun.
A week later, Beckham caught his first touchdown pass of the season against the Green Bay Packers. Seemingly having fun again, the Giants receiver gave the net a big makeup hug.
A week later against the Ravens, Beckham scored on a 79-yard pass from Manning, and took his relationship to the next level with the net, proposing to it and giving it a big ol’ kiss. And then he consummated his relationship with it.
I… I have no words for what happened earlier this fall.
August 24- Hope Solo calls Swedish team "cowards" after U.S. loses in Olympics, gets cut from team
Just because the US Women’s National Team is wildly successful doesn’t mean that problems don’t exist. Enter goaltender Hope Solo. While not taking away from Solo’s ability between the pipes (she’s a damn good goalie), she could have chosen her words a little more carefully. The U.S. Olympic team played Sweden in the quarterfinal match in Rio and dominated possession and on offense, managing 27 shots on net in the game. The Swedes only had two in regulation. Their second, however, found the back of the net, and tied the game at 1. Sweden would beat the U.S. 4-3 in a penalty kick shootout, eliminating the team that had never not medaled since women’s soccer was included in the Olympic program. “I… think we played a bunch of cowards. But, you know, the best team did not win today,” remarked Solo after the loss, “Unfortunately, the better team didn’t win.” Solo’s comments were well criticized by analysts and other athletes alike.
Unfortunately for Solo, this isn’t the first time she’s made headlines with her words. She has consistently feuded with her teammates and former U.S. Women’s National Team players, including World Cup and Olympic heroes Brandi Chastain and Brianna Scurry. In the end, Solo’s comments (paired with a mass of other things) got her a six-month suspension from the National Soccer Team, and a release from her contract. Solo was understandably angry about being released, as shown in the video above. When looking at this from afar, it’s not difficult to see why Solo’s words got her in so much trouble. It’s great to have players who are outspoken, but it gets to be a problem when that player makes an entire country out to be sore losers.
January 9- Vontaze Burfict lays out Antonio Brown, Pacman Jones draws another penalty, Steelers hit game-winning field goal (AFC Wild Card Game, Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh)
In the AFC Wild Card playoff earlier this year, the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers matched up in what turned out to be a pretty tame game until the last few minutes. The Steelers had a 15-0 lead heading into the 4th quarter, but Cincinnati turned it around, scoring 16 unanswered points to go ahead with 1:50 remaining. The Steelers, operating without QB Ben Roethlisberger, who had gone down with an injury, turned to Landry Jones, who threw a terrible interception, effectively sealing the game. But the Bengals, attempting to run out the clock, fumbled the ball at the Pittsburgh 20. Roethlisberger came back into the game with a tender throwing arm, and led the Steelers to the Cincinnati 47 with 22 seconds to go. Then it all went south for Cincinnati. On the next play, Roethlisberger threw to Antonio Brown, but just barely overthrew him. Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict laid a malicious, clearly head-hunting hit on him, giving the Steelers a free 15 yard penalty. Watch the replay at your own risk- watching the shoulder-to-head contact, then watching Brown’s body effectively go limp as he slumps to the ground- it’s scary. Naturally, there was a skirmish between the two teams over the hit. That’s when Bengals CB Adam “Pacman” Jones decided to mouth off to the referee, yielding another 15 yard penalty against the Bengals, putting the Steelers at the 17 yard line. Steelers kicker Chris Boswell hit the chip-shot field goal, putting the Steelers up 18-15 for good. Burfict would earn a fine and a four game suspension for his hit on Brown. Just disgusting.
April 16- Steve Mason gives up a goal from center ice (Stanley Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Game 2, Washington vs. Philadelphia)
Finally, some lighthearted “oh no” moments. I seriously thought bad goaltending only belonged in Toronto, and then I saw this highlight. With the Capitals leading the series 1 game to none, and already leading 1-0 in the game, Capitals LW Jason Chimera chipped the puck down the ice from the center line. Flyers goaltender Steve Mason, who just made an incredible save on Eric Carlson, was playing way back in net, and did not judge the trajectory or speed of the puck as it came back to him. The puck skittered between his legs and into the net. 2-0 Caps. Washington would win the game 4-1, and go on to win the series, four games to two.
The Top 10:
10. November 17- Justin DeLuzio gets decked by a deer during a cross country race
A senior at Gwynedd Mercy University in Pennsylvania, Justin DeLuzio was about a mile into his last cross country race of the year. And then he got blindsided by Earl Thomas disguised as Bambi. He would finish the five-mile race in 31 minutes and 16 seconds. Please watch this video of a man getting truck sticked by a deer.
"Watch out for the deer!" *WHAAPP* "Ooooh..."
9. September 10- UConn calls timeout they don't have, clock runs out while trying to score game-winning touchdown (Navy vs. UConn)
If you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you that I hate everything about athletics at the University of Connecticut. This one is pretty sweet. Navy had already been up 21 to nothing, capitalizing on a few UConn fumbles. UConn battled their way back into the game, scoring a touchdown on a 92-yard fumble recovery and run back. With Navy up 28-24, UConn drove down the field in an attempt to score the winning touchdown. With 17 seconds remaining, UConn had the ball at the Navy 1-yard line after QB Bryant Shirreffs had found Hergy Mayala on first and goal from inside the 10. The clock had stopped as Mayala ran out of bounds. On the next play, to prevent the play clock from running out, UConn head coach Bob Diaco called a timeout. On second down, Connecticut RB Ron Johnson got stuffed at the goal line. Diaco tried to call timeout again, but failed to realize that he had just called one and had none left. The clock ran out as UConn failed to get back on the ball to run another play. Navy holds on to win, 28-24. When UConn makes stupid mistakes, America wins.
8. September 10- Ray-Ray McCloud drops ball before crossing goal line (Clemson vs. Troy)
This happened far too many times this season in college football, and it all happened within two or three weeks of one another. Late in the second quarter of a 13-10 game between Clemson and Troy, Clemson punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud ran back the kick 75 yards for what seemed like a Clemson touchdown. And it definitely seemed like it was a Clemson touchdown- it took a while for anyone on the broadcast team to realize what had happened. Before he crossed the goal line, McCloud dropped the ball in celebration, which is a fumble. It’s nothing like the original DeSean Jackson fumble, or the Kaelin Clay fumble that led to an Oregon fumble recovery, but it certainly makes you shake your head in disbelief.
7. November 21- Top-ranked Maryland blows 4-1 lead in last 20 minutes to lose to Providence (NCAA Soccer Tournament, Maryland vs. Providence)
You don’t hear about the world of college soccer all that often. When it’s a good thing, typically it’s some absurd highlight-reel goal or save. When it’s a bad thing, it’s typically something like this. No. 1 ranked Maryland was hosting Providence, and was cruising to a 4-1 lead late in the 2nd half. That’s when it all came crashing down for the Terrapins. Providence Midfielder Julian Gressel scored first (his second of the game), making it 4-2. 36 seconds later, it was Friars defender Nick Sailor putting one into the net. About five minutes later, defender Steven Kilday scored to tie the game at four. This was the first time since 2013 that Maryland had allowed four goals in a game. In the 82nd minute, defender Joao Serrano scored off of a corner kick to give the Friars a stunning 5-4 lead over the undefeated Terrapins. With the Terps in disbelief, having squandered a sure victory, the Friars celebrated and danced their way to the Sweet 16. Inside every great comeback is a historic collapse, and this is probably the biggest collapse (okay, second biggest collapse) of 2016.
6. June 22- Nationals botch ground ball, allow Yasiel Puig to hit walk-off, inside-the-park home run (Los Angeles vs. Washington)
It’s not often you see a botched ground ball like this. In this game back in June between the Dodgers and Nationals at Dodger Stadium, the Nats had a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the 9th, with one out, a man at first, and Yasiel Puig, who had been having a relatively subdued 2016 season, at the plate. Nats closer Shawn Kelley’s 1-0 was a ground ball up the middle that should have been easily playable for CF Michael Taylor. The game would have stayed 3-2, with men at 1st and 2nd. Instead, Taylor made the mistake of playing the ball to his left, and it snuck underneath his glove and rolled all the way to the wall. Howie Kendrick, the man on 1st, came all the way around to score and tie the game, and the speedy Puig followed closely, scoring the winning run on an inside-the-park home run, giving the Dodgers the improbable 4-3 victory. Taylor, who had struck out five times in the game, ultimately had the play that sunk his team.
5. September 7- Ryan Lochte suspended by U.S. Swimming after being caught in lie about Rio gas station robbery
I don’t really understand why people embraced this guy in the first place, to be quite honest. I mean, Jason Lezak and Nathan Adrian have done more for the mystique of American Olympic swimming than Lochte has. Sure, the guy’s won a gold medal at each of the last four summer Olympics, but there’s this really great swimmer named Michael Phelps who has more than twice the medals he does. Lochte is also known for his lack of brain power, and it was on display in full force in the events that happened at the Olympics in Rio. Essentially what happened is this: a story broke that Lochte and four other American athletes were robbed at gunpoint by “armed robbers posing as police” at a gas station in Rio. Details later emerged that these “armed robbers” were security guards, and that Lochte and the others had urinated outside the bathroom and vandalized property, and ended up paying money from the guards. This was caught on security camera. Lochte lost some major sponsorships, was charged in Brazil for falsely reporting a crime, and suspended for 10 months from U.S. swimming. Media response was highly critical of the swimmer (except for NBC, which later faced criticism of its own for believing Lochte’s story in the first place), saying that Lochte overshadowed the accomplishments of the other athletes. For a guy who has admitted to peeing in the pool at the Olympics, this takes stupid to a whole new level.
4. October 23- Cardinals and Seahawks play to 6-6 tie, both kickers miss potential game-winning field goals from inside 30 yards in overtime (Seattle vs. Arizona)
This was either the worst football game of the year, or the best football game of the year, depending on how you look at it. Defensive battles are always great, but this is taking it to the extreme. The game was tied 3-3 at the end of regulation, after both teams had battled three-and-out after three-and-out to a tie after 60 minutes. The two exchanged field goals again in overtime, leaving 6 minutes for Carson Palmer and the Cardinals to drive down the field and scored the game-winning points in sudden death overtime. He found Jimmy Nelson for a 40 yard gain, which took them to the Seattle five yard-line. Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro lined up for a 24 yard field goal (nine yards shorter than an extra point) with 3:26 left in overtime. If he hits the field goal, the game is over. Easy, right?
Catanzaro’s kick hit the left upright, leaving the Cardinals and their fans stunned, and the Seahawks elated, as they were given another chance to win the game. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks drove down the field, making it inside the Arizona 10 yard line with less than a minute to play in OT. Now it was kicker Steven Hauschka’s turn to try to win the game for his team, with a 28-yard field goal to win it in sudden death. Then, this happened:
Listening to Al Michael's disbelief is fantastic. "And he misses it! That is impossible!" The Cardinals would take a shot for the endzone but come up short. A 6-6 tie. A TIE. Arizona had the ball 14 different times for a total of 46:19 and scored two points. They should have won this game. Watching Catanzaro and Hauschka miss those kicks makes your heart break. To see those players fight for so long and to come up with a tie is a little depressing. Regardless, this game was the best worst game in a long time, and it culminated with one of the most bizarre endings to any NFL game in history.
3. April 10- Jordan Spieth quadruple-bogeys 12th hole, blows 5 stroke lead in final round of The Masters
Jordan Spieth was riding high at the start of the 2015-16 PGA Tour Season. The former number one player in the world was the defending champion at the tournament, and had won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay the previous year as well. Early in 2016 he posted a score of -30 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he second player only to accomplish the feat. At the 2016 Masters, Spieth opened the final round with a one-stroke lead over Rory McIlroy, but extended the lead to five strokes at the start of the back nine. In a collapse that mirrored Greg Norman’s meltdown in 1996 at Augusta, Spieth bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes, then hit two balls in the water on the par 3-12th hole. He carded a quadruple-bogey 7, which dropped him back into a tie for fourth place, three strokes back of the lead. He ended up finishing in second place, three strokes behind winner Danny Willett. We haven’t seen much of Spieth since the collapse at Augusta, but he did win a tournament a month later, and made a strong showing on the Ryder Cup team. Spieth is currently ranked #5 in the world.
2. September 17- South Carolina State player forgets to take knee in the end zone and tosses ball to ref, Clemson jumps on it for a touchdown (Clemson vs. South Carolina State)
If this had been done in a game where it mattered, it might be in the top spot on this list. This game, however, got so out of hand, South Carolina State asked if the third and fourth quarters could be shortened to 12 minutes instead of the usual 15. Clemson led 14-0 late in the first quarter, when kicker Greg Huegel kicked off to SC State’s Ahmaad Harris in the end zone. Any ordinary player would do what one logically does on a kickoff that reaches the end zone- take a knee for a touchback. But not Harris. For some unknown reason, Harris decides to flip the ball to the official instead. Obviously, that’s not a touchback. That’s a fumble. Clemson’s Denzel Johnson pounces on the ball and scores a touchdown for Clemson, putting the Tigers up 21-0. Clemson would go on to blast S.C. State, 59-0. They led 45-0 at halftime, leading the two coaches to agree to shorten the quarters from 15 minutes to 12 minutes. Clemson outgained S.C. State 555 to 102. They played 65 players in that game, essentially empting the bench so they could all get some playing time. Naturally, S.C. State didn’t help themselves. They literally gave Clemson a free touchdown. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all, I suppose. The Bulldogs actually blocked a field goal in this game, which was the one drive Clemson didn’t score in the first half.
1. January 10- Blair Walsh misses 27-yard game-winning field goal to lose Tundra Bowl (NFC Wild Card, Seattle vs. Minnesota)
Listening to this radio call breaks my heart. That's Paul Allen, he's the play-by-play guy for the Vikings on the radio. The phrase "the season can't end like that!" followed by obvious stunned disbelief.
You'll also hear the Seahawks' Steve Raible, with his stunned "oh, baby!"
This one hurt me personally. Not because I am a Vikings fan, or because I root against the Seawhawks (which I do, ardently), but because it hurts to lose a game that you should have won. Any sports fan knows that. When you have an opportunity to knock out the defending NFC Champion, in a game in which you control maybe 80% of, it hurts when you can’t pull the trigger.
The Vikings and Seahawks met in an NFC Wild Card game, where the NFC North division champion Vikings were hosting at their temporary venue, TCF Bank Stadium, on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The Seahawks, the defending NFC Champions, had fallen in second place to the Arizona Cardinals, who finished with the NFC West division title. The NFL has a history of naming its absurdly-cold-weather games. We’ve had the “Ice Bowl,” and the “Freezer Bowl.” This one would become known as the “Tundra Bowl.” The temperature at game time was six degrees below zero, with a wind chill factor of -25 degrees, making it the third coldest in NFL history.
The game was pretty slow, as a result, with the Vikings take a 9-0 lead into the fourth quarter, solely on the foot of kicker Blair Walsh. Seattle, who seemed to be asleep for most of the game, finally heated up in the fourth quarter, as QB Russell Wilson found WR Doug Baldwin on a 3-yard touchdown pass with 11:37 left to play. With 8:04 remaining, the Seahawks went ahead with a field goal of their own from Steven Hauschka, making it 10-9 in favor of Seattle. On the game’s final drive, Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater led his team down the field, aided by a 19-yard pass interference call on Seattle S Kam Chancellor, and a 24-yard strike from Bridgewater to TE Kyle Rudolph. They made it all the way to the Seattle 9 yard line with 26 seconds left to play, and left it up to their kicker, who hadn’t missed a field goal on the day. Unfortunately, Walsh’s attempt from 27 yards away sailed wide left. Seattle took a knee to end the game and advance to the divisional round. Walsh was understandably inconsolable after the loss.
The Vikings are no strangers to kicker gaffes, as Gary Anderson’s kick in the 1998 NFC Championship is just about as famous. The 1998 team was 15-1, and Anderson hadn’t missed a field goal or extra point all season. Anderson’s kick went wide left as well, and the Falcons went on to win the game and play in the Super Bowl.
This kick by Blair Walsh stings too, though. It’s one thing to kick in a cold weather game, it’s another to completely freeze your team’s chances of winning a championship. This missed kick earns the number one spot on this list.
What moments in sports make you shake your head in disbelief? Leave a comment down below.
You can also check out According to Andrew's "Best of 2016" spread HERE.
Top 15 Sports Moments of 2016
2016 was actually a pretty solid year for sports moments. We had some records destroyed, some once-in-a-lifetime moments occur, and instances that elicited pure elation, devastation, and even utter confusion.
Here are the top 15 sports moments of 2016.
August 7- Ichiro gets career hit #3,000
Ichiro came to play baseball in America from Japan in 2001, where he quickly established himself as one of the top hitters in the game. His longevity, prolonged skill, and subsequent accomplishments are astounding: He won the rookie of the year AND the American League MVP in his first season; he holds the record for most base hits in a single season (282), and has amassed well over 4,000 hits between his two careers in America and Japan. On August 7th, Ichiro finally crossed the threshold into the illustrious “3,000 hit club,” as he clocked a triple against the Colorado Rockies for his 3,000th hit in Major League Baseball. This milestone is yet another notch in the belt of a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer.
September 25- Dodgers clinch division with walk-off home run in Vin Scully's last game at Dodger Stadium
In November 1949, Vin Scully broadcasted a football game from the roof of Fenway Park (you read that correctly, the roof). Scully left his coat and gloves at his hotel, as he was expecting an enclosed press box, but never once mentioned his discomfort in the air. Almost 70 years later, he was broadcasting his final home game for the team he had been broadcasting for since 1950, the Los Angeles (formerly of Brooklyn) Dodgers. At the All-Star Break, the Giants led the Dodgers by seven games atop the National League West. The Dodgers rallied to close the gap on August 9th, and had extended their lead in the division by eight games when September 25th rolled around. In the 10th inning of their final home game of the season against the Colorado Rockies, Charlie Culberson hit a walk-off home run to clinch the division for the Dodgers, which was fitting, as it was Scully’s final home game before retiring at the end of the season. In a touching tribute to their beloved play-by-play announcer, the Dodgers tipped their caps to Scully at the end of their celebration.
June 26- Billy Hurley III wins the Quicken Loans National
The road for Billy Hurley III’s win at the Quicken Loans National is a long one. He attended the Naval Academy, earning a degree in quantitative economics. He spent five years in the United States Navy, rising to the rank of lieutenant, and was deployed twice aboard the USS Chung-Hoon. He navigated ships through areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. However, he never gave up his dreams of being a professional golfer. He turned pro in 2006, while still on active duty. The tournament in question, the Quicken Loans National, takes place in the D.C. area, where Hurley is from. In 2015, while he was playing in that very same tournament, Hurley learned that his father had committed suicide. A year later, Hurley returned to the tournament in 2016, this time being held at Congressional Country Club in Maryland. Hurley, the leader after the first three days, carded a 2-under 69 to win his first PGA tour victory in 104 starts. The day was capped off by a fantastic chip in on #15, and a 27-foot putt on #16 to effectively seal the deal. For someone to go through all that Billy Hurley III has gone through and come out on top in front of a home crowd is nothing short of remarkable. Watching him celebrate his victory is a thing of beauty.
January 31- John Scott gets voted onto the NHL All-Star team, scores two goals and wins MVP
I, personally, am a fan of the new NHL All-Star Game format. Instead of the traditional East vs. West, the teams are now divided between the four divisions, and each game is contested in a 3-on-3 format, with the winner of the two Eastern Conference Divisions facing off against the winner of the two Western Conference Divisions. John Scott, an enforcer for the Arizona Coyotes, was voted onto the All-Star team through a fan vote. Not only that, he was named as captain of the Pacific Division. Things all went south when Scott was traded out of conference to the Montreal Canadens. To make matters worse, he was then demoted to the Habs’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s Ice Caps. However, on January 19th, the NHL voted to uphold Scott’s status as an All-Star team captain, even though he was not on an NHL team. In the end, Scott ended up being the MVP of the All-Star tournament, scoring two goals in the process, helping to lead Team Pacific over Team Central, and eventually help them again in their win over Team Atlantic. It’s a bizarre story and an even weirder turn of events, but Scott’s success despite all these outside events is pretty spectacular.
September 13- Kevin Harlan makes the greatest sports call of all time as drunk fan runs on field
Kevin Harlan is a national treasure. He’s the lead play-by-play announcer for Westwood One’s radio coverage of the NFL, but he also works for CBS when they do the NFL and NCAA tournaments. In this early season contest between the 49ers and Rams on a Monday night, Harlan was calling the snoozefest. The 49ers were up 21-0 in the fourth quarter, but the reality of the situation was that both teams sucked and no one cared. That was until a drunk 49ers fan ran onto the field, and Harlan made the sports call of the century. Take a watch/listen and see what I mean. Even Harlan himself commented on the event, calling it “the most exciting thing to happen all night.” The man is a legend. There are calls, and then there are GREAT calls. Raise a glass to Kevin Harlan.
The Top 15:
15. August 7- Jim Furyk shoots a 58, lowest round in PGA Tour history
Who says old guys can’t keep up with the young guns? You can be old and good- Jack Nicklaus won the Masters when he was 46, after all. At the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, Furyk, also 46, finished his third round with a 72, leaving him at 1-over for the tournament. Furyk’s next round was one for the ages: he finished with a PGA-record 58, the lowest round ever recorded on tour. He finished the front nine with a 27- shooting six birdies and an eagle. His back nine was just about as good, shooting a 31 with four birdies. Furyk hit all 18 greens in regulation during this round (which, as a golfer, is hard to do even for one hole), and his record-setting round left him in a tie for 5th place at 11-under par. And to think, this one was almost wiped out, as his playing partner nearly signed off on a scorecard which had an incorrect score written down- which would have had Furyk disqualified. Thankfully, the score of 58 stood, and we were able to witness one of the most historic performances ever by one of the most timeless golfers ever.
14. February 6- Denver Broncos win Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning retires on top
I am reluctant to include this selection on this list (see my article about the 2016 AFC Championship game here), but, for the casual sports fan, this one is a great moment in sports this year. Peyton Manning nearly lost his starting job to backup Brock Osweiler in 2015 after he injured his ankle. Osweiler brought the Broncos back from nearly missing out on the playoffs to keeping them in contention for the #1 seed in the AFC. In the last week of the season, Osweiler struggled against the San Diego Chargers, and Manning came in to save the day, clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs for Denver. While still injured, Denver’s defense was able to aid Manning in wins over Pittsburgh and New England. For a quarterback who is known to choke his team out of the playoffs, Manning was steady while his defense ate up opposing quarterbacks. The Broncos held the heavily favored Carolina Panthers to just 10 points, while Manning was able to keep the score just out of reach for Carolina. In a game in which he had zero touchdown passes, and the Broncos set a record for fewest total yards for a winning team (not to mention Manning becoming the oldest QB to win a Super Bowl), the Broncos won 24-10, sending Peyton Manning off into the sunset one last time- a winner.
13. December 4- Tom Brady becomes the NFL's all-time winningest quarterback
The guy seems to get better with age. Tom Brady’s win against the Los Angeles Rams on December 4th vaulted him one win past Peyton Manning (coincidentally, he’s also one spot ahead of him on this list) for most wins by a quarterback in the history of the NFL, with 201. Brady led his New England Patriots to a 26-10 win over the Los Angeles Rams, the team, which, coincidentally, he defeated to win the first of his four Super Bowl wins in 2002. Since that time, Brady has accrued various accolades, including three more Super Bowl wins, three Super Bowl MVP awards, two league MVP awards, a single season passing touchdown record, led the Patriots to an undefeated regular season, and seems to get better as he gets older. With this records that will far exceed 201, it seems like Brady is only solidifying his place in Canton, Ohio as one of the best to ever play the game.
11. May 11- Leicester City defies 5,000-1 odds and wins the Premier League
I saw Leicester City play Aston Villa in Birmingham in the early months of 2015. I wasn’t blown away by their performance. Turns out, neither had anyone else during the 2014-15 season, as they were nearly relegated out of the Premier League. Aston Villa went to the finals of the FA Cup that year. The 2015-16 campaign saw a reversal of fortune for both squads. Leicester City began the season with 5,000-1 odds to win the Premier League. They signed a new manager, Claudio Ranieri, and took a money-ball-esque approach to the game, utilizing many free transfers and loans from other clubs. Manchester City spent more money on its players in the last two seasons than Leicester City ever has in its 111 seasons in existence. The team lost three matches all year, and had winning streaks of three, four, and even five games nearing the last months of the season. With a draw to Chelsea, and a draw between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelea, the Foxes turned the sports world on its head. English football pundits have called it the “most unlikely triumph in the history of team sports.” To go from essentially last to best, and get an emotional win in one of the toughest football leagues in the world is nothing to slouch at. Leicester City is still playing strong, as they have advanced to the UEFA Champions League knockout phase. As for Aston Villa? Well, they’re currently sitting in the middle of the pack of the Championship League, after they were relegated, losing 27 games in 2015-16.
11. August 17- Abbey D'Agostino and Nikki Hamblen show amazing sportsmanship in Rio
It began as an ordinary heat of the women’s 5,000 m, as American Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin made their way around the track. About midway through the race, as the two were toward the rear of the pack, Hamblin fell, and D’Agostino fell over her, also toppling to the ground. D’Agostino was the first to get back up, but instead of continuing the race, she comforted Hamblin for a brief moment, and then helped her up to finish the race. Even though D’Agostino hopped back up first continued the race, it quickly became evident that her injury was far worse- she had torn her ACL in the fall. Instead of continuing past her, this time, Hamblin was the one who stopped and helped her competitor on. The two finished in last place in the heat, but the organizers decided to reinstate the two as finalists, along with another runner who was also impeded by the collision. Hamblin went on to compete in the final, finishing in last place. After the race, the two were awarded the Rio 2016 Fair Play Award by the International Fair Play Committee. The two exemplify great sportsmanship as well as the Olympic spirit. In short, it’s one of the most touching moments of these past (as well as any) Olympic games.
10. Max Scherzer ties MLB record with 20-strikeout game
Striking out one batter is very difficult. Striking out 20 is absurd. In fact, only two other pitchers have ever done it- Roger Clemens (who did it twice) and Kerry Wood. Max Scherzer has been very good for a very long time- he’s won two Cy Young Awards, he’s only the sixth pitcher in Major League history to throw two no-hitters in a season, and yet, he consistently flies under the radar as one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball. In 2015, he was dealt from the Detroit Tigers to the Washington Nationals. On May 11th, against that very same team he was dealt from, Scherzer rung up 20 strikeouts on his former teammates. In a 3-2 victory, Scherzer allowed two runs on six hits, both home runs, one in the 3rd to Jose Iglaseas, the other in the 9th to J.D. Martinez. This dominant performance was one of the many reasons Max Scherzer earned himself the 2016 National League Cy Young Award.
9. June 27- Iceland shocks the world, defeats England in Euro 2016
One typically doesn’t associate Iceland with soccer. One typically doesn’t associate Iceland with many things related to sports (D2: The Mighty Ducks doesn’t count). In the group play stage of the Euro 2016 tournament, Iceland placed second in its group, after drawing with both Hungary and eventual tournament winner Portugal, as well as a win against Austria. England, which featured some of the best stars from the Premier League including Wayne Rooney, was expected to do extremely well in the tournament, and finished second in its group only to Wales. In the round of 16, Iceland was expected to be throttled by the far-more-experienced England. It showed early, as Rooney scored in the fourth minute on a penalty kick. Almost immediately though, Ragnar Sigurðsson scored two minutes later to equalize the score. Shockingly, Iceland scored within 15 minutes later, as Kolbeinn Sigþórsson scored to make it 2-1. Iceland held strong the rest of the way, shockingly eliminating England from the tournament.
The reaction from both sides was night and day. Many English players were seen lying face down on the pitch in tears, and, in turn, were being booed off the pitch by their own supporters. Iceland, on the other hand, led their fans in an emotional, triumphant cheer. England fired their manager, Roy Hodgson, shortly thereafter. The defeat by Iceland has been called one of the most humiliating defeats in the history of international football. Iceland, on the other hand, would be a part of one of the most stunning upsets in sports history, although they would go on to lose in the quarter finals to France, the host nation.
8. April 13- Golden State Warriors finish 73-9, best regular season record in NBA history
The 95-96 Chicago Bulls won 72 games out of the 82 in an NBA season, a record no one ever thought would be match. Then came the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, fresh off a championship season of their own, poised to break that record. With the emergence of a hot offensive lineup that featured the “Splash Bros,” Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, as well as the presences of Draymond Green, the Warriors exploded out of the gates, winning their first 24 games, another NBA record. The season also featured a 54-game home winning streak, ended in the last two weeks in the season by the Boston Celtics, as well as a single season three-point record (Curry had 402). With only a single-digit loss column, the Warriors were the best team in the NBA by a longshot, and dominated all the way to the NBA finals for a rematch against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. We will get to that.
7. April 13- Kobe Bryant puts up 60 points in the final game of his career
In last year’s list, one of the great sports moments of 2015 included Kobe Bryant’s announcement of his retirement. In 2016, he left us with one last indelible image of a legendary career. In his final game, at home against the Utah Jazz, the Black Mamba put on a clinic, shooting 22 of 50 from the floor, making 6 threes, and 10 from the line, while posting 4 rebounds and 4 assists for an grand total of 60 points, the high for any NBA player that season. Bryant hit the winning shot for the Lakers with 31.6 second remaining, capping off a 4th quarter in which he outscored the entire Jazz team, 23-21. In his 1,346th and final game, he put the exclamation point on a career many of us can only dream of having. The Lakers, ironically had their worst season in franchise history last year, going 17-65, and winning only one game in the final month of the year. But the one win came on the back of one of the greatest athletes ever to grace the basketball court. It’s an understatement saying that the sports world will miss Kobe Bryant.
6. August 14- Usain Bolt wins third consecutive 100 meter gold medal
At the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt shocked (puns) the track and field world by running the 100 meters in 9.79 seconds- a new world record at the time. Had Bolt not celebrated the last 10 meters and finished the race in a full on sprint, he may have made it in under 9.6 seconds. In 2012, Bolt did it again, defending his 100 m gold medal in London. This past summer in Rio, the then-29-year old competed one more time in his signature race, determined to become the first man to win three golds in the 100 meters, and also the first person to win three medals in the same event. Sure enough, in a flash, Bolt beat out American Justin Gatlin by .08 seconds to win his third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. Usain Bolt is a freak, plain and simple. To have the ability to still perform at such a high level not only at 21, but 8 years later at 29 is simply remarkable. Bolt, now 30, has since said that he will retire after the 2017 World Championships- it’s almost as if he was electrifying crowds as a 21 year old just yesterday. A legend of the track for three consecutive Olympics, Usain Bolt made track cool again.
5. August 13- Michael Phelps caps off career with 23rd Olympic Gold medal in final race
Long removed from his legendary string of eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, and a four-gold performance in 2012 in London, Michael Phelps came out of retirement in 2014 to pursue another set of gold medals in Rio. At 31 years of age, well past the prime for any other competitive swimmer, he competed in six events, and win gold medals in five of them, only finishing in a three-way tie for silver in the 100 meter butterfly. His final event was in the 4 x 100-meter medley relay, a team event with fellow swimmers Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller and Nathan Adrian. With Phelps swimming the butterfly leg of the relay, the Americans won the gold by nearly two seconds over Great Britain, setting a new Olympic Record of 3:27.95. To be able to watch this man swim in the pool for 12 years has brought this nation so much pride (not to mention all the gold). Phelps retires as the most decorated Olympian of all time, with 28 medals in total, with a ridiculous 23 of them being gold.
4. September 3- Nebraska lines up with 10 men in formation to honor late Sam Foltz
On July 23rd, Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were tragically killed in a car accident on their way home from a kicking camp in Wisconsin. Foltz, set to be a fifth-year senior, was a returning starter and a successful walk-on. He was the Big 10 Conference’s Punter of the Year, and ranked fifth in school history in punting. On September 3rd, in Nebraska’s home opener against Fresno State, the Cornhuskers lined up on 4th down to punt early in the first quarter. They lined up in a typical formation, but left the punting spot open- keeping only 10 men on the field to honor their late teammate, letting the clock run out and taking a delay of game penalty. The scene, as you can imagine, was extremely emotional. You can see in the video above just how much Foltz meant to the students of the University of Nebraska, his friends, his family, and the spirit of college football in general.
3. September 26- Dee Gordon hits home run in first game after death of Jose Fernandez
Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was an incredibly gifted pitcher. In his four seasons with the Marlins, he amassed a 38-17 record, a 2.58 ERA, and 589 strikeouts. He was a two-time All-Star, and the National League Rookie of the Year in 2013. He was much sought after by many teams, as his contract was set to expire at the end of the 2016 season. Unfortunately, he was taken from this earth far too soon. Late on the night of September 25th, Fernandez died in a boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach. His death left the team shocked, and many other players around the league shaken and deeply saddened. It was very evident how big Fernandez’s impact was on the game of baseball. He was a product of Cuba, a country where the influx of professional baseball players was just beginning to emerge.
The Marlins, in tribute to their fallen teammate, all donned uniforms with Fernandez’s name and number 16 on the back. Other players around the league honored Fernandez by writing simply “JF16” on their hats, gloves, cleats, or even in the dirt on the mound. In the first game at Marlins Park after Fernandez’s death, Marlins outfielder Dee Gordon stepped into the box to start the bottom of the first against the New York Mets, and crushed a home run to the deepest part of right field. As he rounded the bases, Gordon began to cry, and finally crossed the plate, looking toward the sky but ultimately succumbing to the emotion. This was a very special moment in honor of a very special athlete who was gone too soon. Gordon’s teammates helping him to the dugout will surely bring a tear to your eye.
2. June 19- Cavaliers win NBA title after being down 3-1, bring Cleveland first sports championship since 1967
You can hate LeBron James, or you can love LeBron James. But you cannot deny that the torch of NBA greatness has been passed from Michael Jordan to him. Down three games to one in the NBA finals against the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers set out to make history- become the first team ever to win an NBA Final after falling behind 3-1. In game 5, in Oakland, LeBron and Kyrie Irving each put up an astonishing 41 points each, the first two teammates ever to score 40 or more in an NBA Finals game, and sent the series back to Cleveland in a 112-97 clinic. In game 6, it was more of the same, with LeBron putting up another 41 points. The Cavs were determined to send the series back to California, as they led 31-11 at the end of the 1st quarter, and never looked back, holding off furious rallies from Steph Curry and the Warriors at every turn. With a 115-101 win, the teams head back west for a decisive game 7 showdown. In an extremely close game, and the score tied at 89 with two minutes to play, LeBron James stuffed Andre Iguodala as he threatened to put the Warriors ahead again. Kyrie Irving’s three pointer with 53 seconds to play sealed the deal, and the Cavs had given Cleveland its first major sports title in nearly 50 years. You can hate LeBron for leaving Cleveland to go win two titles in Miami, but it’s obvious that his hometown is even more important to him. For a city that has had lovable losers like the Indians and Browns, it’s a nice reprieve for the city of Cleveland to have something to celebrate.
1. November 2- Chicago Cubs win first World Series since 1908
A lot of time has gone by since 1908. Generations have come and gone. Two World Wars were fought and won. Teams have won and lost. But the spirit and tenacity of the Chicago Cubs and their fans has never faltered or faded. The Cubs were so close on a number of occasions, most notably in 2003. But the Billy Goat could not keep this Cubs team down this year. We’ll all remember where we were the night the Cubs finally won it all. It may not have been a traditional underdog victory; the Cubs were the best team in baseball (by a lot) in 2016, and rolled into the World Series, never really facing any kind of tough obstacle on the way there. The Cleveland Indians were the same way, seemingly throttling opponents, losing only one game on their way to the Fall Classic.
The way the Cubs won this World Series was nothing short of magical. After falling behind three games to one over the first four games, the Cubs put together two straight wins, one at Wrigley Field, the other at Progressive Field in Cleveland, to tie the series at 7. In one of the greatest World Series games ever played, the Cubs went up on the Tribe 6-3, headed into the 8th inning, when traditionally reliable closer Aroldis Chapman (who hadn’t been scored on all season), allowed three runs, including a game-tying home run to Rajai Davis. After a rain delay between the 9th and 10th innings, the Cubs were able to score 2 in the 10th and seal the deal, winning their first World Series in 108 years, ending their century-long “curse.” For all sports fans, just about everyone knows how long the Cubs have been baseball’s lovable losers. For them to finally break the mold is history-defining, and it earns them the number one spot on this list.
What sports moments made you jump out of your chair this year? Leave a comment down below.
This is part of the Best of 2016 Series, where we're counting down the best of music, film, sports, and pop culture. You can check out the spread of our other lists HERE.