Dear 2016, what a year it has been.
You brought us the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. You brought fans closer together with some of the most epic games and plays in sports history. Games were decided by the smallest of margins with underdogs climbing their way to the top. You gave us hope during the dark times and cemented the legacies of future Hall of Famers. New legends were born, curses were broken and superstars rode off into the sunset.
With all that has happened this past year, fans around the world witnessed arguably the best year in sports history. So with that, here’s a recap of 2016.
LeBron James keeps his promise, brings Cleveland an NBA title
LeBron James came back to Cleveland to do one thing: bring a title back to the state that he grew up in. It was the franchise’s first NBA title and gave the city of Cleveland its first pro sports title since 1964.
The 12-time All-Star did just that as he rallied the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit to beat Golden State in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Warriors were the heavy favorites after setting an NBA record with 73 regular-season wins. But the Cavs pulled out all of the stops and made history in the process. Not only was it the Cavs’ first NBA title in franchise history, but they also became the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit.
The series was encapsulated by the miraculous block by James late in the fourth quarter in Game 7 which will go down as one of the greatest defensive plays in NBA Finals history.
— NBA (@NBA) June 20, 2016
Cubs win World Series, end 108-year drought
It was a long time coming.
The Cubs won 103 games — the most in the regular season — but needed a miraculous postseason performance to pull off one of the greatest sports moments of all time.
The cubbies rallied from a 3-1 deficit — see the theme here in 2016 — to win the World Series. Game 7 was unlike any other as the Cleveland Indians nearly came back from a 5-1 deficit late in the game before weather postponed the game heading into the 10th inning. But in the end, the Cubs didn’t let their fans down and made history in the process.
My oh my, how long the Cubs have waited for this. pic.twitter.com/lRxjc72w8C
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 3, 2016
Lamar Jackson becomes the youngest player ever to win the Hesiman Trophy
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson stole the spotlight early after leading his team to a 63-20 win over then-No. 2 Florida State.
The sophomore quarterback ended the regular season with 51 total touchdowns and 4,928 total yards in what will go down as one of the greatest individual performance — surpassing NFL Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas — in school history.
For his performance, Jackson was named the Heisman Trophy winner and became the youngest person ever to win the award.
Vin Scully retires after memorable 67-year career
Vin Scully, “The Voice of Summer” called his last game in the most fitting way: a Dodgers-Giants game.
The 88-year-old called nearly decades for the franchise he grew up rooting against. Scully, got into baseball when he was walking around his neighborhood and saw the score of a World Series game in a store window.
From that moment on, the young red-headed boy decided to become a Giants fan. Little did he know what his future would hold as he’s since become one of the most iconic people in Major League Baseball.
Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, Scully has called over 9,000 games — a feat that won’t likely ever be broken. He’s also announced 20 no-hitters, including Don Larsen’s perfect game for the Yankees in the 1956 World Series and Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965.
Dear friends… pic.twitter.com/akgzIU1UdW
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 2, 2016
Kris Jenkins lifts Villanova in all-time NCAA title game
They don’t call it March Madness for nothing.
The championship game between No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Villanova was one for the ages. It had everything fans wanted in a crazy back-and-forth game in front of 74,340 at NRG Stadium.
Villanova went on to win the game in dramatic fashion (77-74) on a buzzer-beater shot by Kris Jenkins.
After North Carolina rallied to tie the game thanks to an incredible double-clutch 3-pointer by Marcus Paige, Villanova answered right back with just 4.7 seconds remaining in the game. Jenkins inbounded the ball and then got it back 10-feet beyond the arc before sinking the game-winning shot.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 5, 2016
Peyton Manning wins Super Bowl 50 in final game
Manning set a number of NFL records during his 18-year career and the gun-slinger made sure he went out on top during his final game.
Manning completed 13 of 23 passes for 141 yards against a stingy Panthers defense to lead the Denver Broncos to a 24-10 victory in Super Bowl 50.
The win was the first time since 1999 — when John Elway was the quarterback — that the Broncos took home the Lombardi Trophy and Manning rode off into the sunset.
Rio 2016: Phelps, Bolt cement legacies, ‘Fab Five’ dominate women’s gymnastics
Winning 22 Olympic medals just wasn’t enough for Michael Phelps as the most decorated swimmer in the sport added five more gold medals and a silver to his stash for an astonishing 28 career Olympic medals.
Usain Bolt continued his impressive run as he picked up right where he left off in the London summer games as the nine-time gold medal runner ended his Olympic career by claiming the “triple triple” in the 100 and 200 meters as well as the 4X100 relay.
Bolt, cemented his legacy as the 11-time world champion celebrated his 30th birthday during the closing ceremonies. Bolt nearly broke the internet when he was seen looking back and smiling at his competitors before crossing the finish line.
Led by Simone Biles, USA’s high-powered gymnastic’s team cruised to victories in the team and individual events. Biles took home four gold medals as the 19-year-old became the first American to win four gymnastics gold medals in a single Olympic Games.
Rio 2016: Ryan Lochte gets lit up for fabricating robbery story
Thank you, Stephen Colbert.
The Late Show host grilled Lochte in a “hard-hitting” interview for fabricating a robbery story where the swimmer said he was held at gunpoint at a gas station when in reality he had vandalized a gas station bathroom.
Colbert used short clips of Lochte’s interview on the Today Show in one of the most humorous videos of 2016.
TCU makes bowl history in 3OT win over Oregon
Down 31-0 at the half, TCU came roaring back to make bowl history in a 47-41 come-from-behind victory over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.
Playing without two All-Americans (one being their starting quarterback), TCU senior walk-on quarterback Bram Kohlhausen made his first and only start of the year and sure made it count. The senior threw for 351 yards and had four touchdowns on the day for a storybook ending.
The former walk-on lost his father to cancer just a month prior to the game and told reporters after the game that he was playing for his father.
“I knew my dad was watching from upstairs,” he said. “This was for him.”
It also helped that TCU head coach Gary Patterson changed his wardrobe at halftime to help change the mojo around his team. Patterson switched from a black shirt to a purple polo and jokingly told reporters that he was never going to wear black again.
Gary Patterson changed into a purple polo at halftime in hopes change the energy of TCU's game. pic.twitter.com/zGFeFm0zt5
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 3, 2016
No. 1 Kansas beats No. 2 Oklahoma in 3OTs
It was the first time in years that a 1-2 matchup took place with teams coming from the same conference. But the game between No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma made sure not to disappoint.
After three overtimes, but the Jayhawks prevailed at home to top the Sooners 109-106.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, who went on to win the Naismith and John R. Wooden awards among others, had 46 points in the loss, but was given a standing ovation from Kansas fans.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz retires
After 20 seasons and three World Series rings, David “Big Papi” Ortiz officially retired in what was an emotional night at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox pulled out all of the stops for the longtime designated hitter who ends his career with 541 career home runs. The slugger had bridges and streets named after him, a donut portrait of him as well as the outfield cutoff of the 10-time all-star among many other things.
“It was unbelievable,” Ortiz said after playing in his final regular-season game at Fenway Park. “It was more than what I expected. They even shut down my country in the Dominican.”
— Fenway Park (@fenwaypark) October 2, 2016
Leicester City defies odds to win Premier League title
Iceland’s impressive run to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals and Portugal finally winning it all were both incredible achievements, but nothing will top what Leicester City did as the small club won the Premier League title just one year after nearly being relegated.
A team comprised of bargain buys and cast-offs, Leicester started the year with 5000-1 odds of winning the league title.
To put that in perspective, most 15-16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament are given those kinds of odds and if anyone bet £20 on Leicester winning the league title, would have won over £100,000.
Leicester City. Champions of England. pic.twitter.com/WRwfysTn2N
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 2, 2016
Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen retire
It was an end to an era as future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen announced their retirements before the start of the NBA season.
Duncan was a five-time NBA champion and two-time league MVP and is arguably one of the best power forwards to ever play the game.
Garnett decided to hang it up after 21 seasons and left a legacy as one of the best defensive players in the game. The 40-year-old came into the league straight from high school and paved the way for young stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to do the same.
Allen was a two-time NBA champion and was one of the best 3-point shooters to ever play the game. Allen was a 10-time All-Star and holds the league record for most career 3-pointers (2,973).
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 11, 2016
Dee Gordon, Marlins honor Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ All-Star right-hander, was killed in a boating accident off Miami Beach. The 24-year-old was an up-and-coming star and despite his young age, was one of the leaders in the clubhouse.
To honor his death, leadoff hitter Dee Gordon took the first pitch as a right-handed hitter to honor Fernandez before making the switch back to his normal left side.
On a 2-0 count, Gordon took a fastball and hit a towering shot over the right-field wall for his first home run of the season. As he rounded the bases, tears starting streaming down Gordon’s face as he remembered his close friend.
“I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in batting practice,” said the 160-pound Gordon who finished with a season-high four hits. “I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.”
Kobe Bryant scores 60 as Lakers beat Jazz
In his last game of his career, it was only fitting the Kobe Bryant faced the Utah Jazz.
The Lakers and Jazz had a number of great battles over the years with the two clubs being the perennial powers out West.
So in true Hollywood form, Bryant — who always takes a lot of shots — didn’t disappoint as he hoisted up 50 in the Staples Center in his final NBA game. Bryant ended up scoring 60 points and not only got the win over the Jazz, but became just the first player to score more than 50 points in his final NBA game in one of the greatest walk-off performances in sports history.