2016 was one of the most unpredictable years in sports in recent history. From breaking curses to blowing 3-1 leads and dynasties, this year had a little bit of everything. From the soccer to basketball to tennis, the athletic events we experienced re-wrote the record books and will never be forgotten in the history of sports.
This comprehensive list embodies games and moments that bring out the good in sports, the essence of why we watch. If 2017 is anything near 2016 in the sports world, we are all in for a treat. Flip through our “best of” list above, and tell us what we missed. Play ball.
2016 was an unbelievable year in sports pic.twitter.com/Clvb6EsNiF
— Kent (@RealKentMurphy) December 19, 2016
10. Neymar Scores Penalty To Win Brazil’s First-Ever Olympic Gold
After a tough injury in the quarterfinals against a very aggressive Colombian team, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior sat out of the world soccer semifinals as Brazil hoped to see the CBF team bring home the World Cup. After the Brazilian squad took a very harsh 7-1 loss to the German soccer team, who took it all the way and won the cup.
Two years later, the bruised Brazilians prepared to host the Olympics where both Germany and Brazil were contestants for the Olympic gold in the soccer category. Led by their healthy superstar wonderboy, Neymar Jr, the squad cruised to the final where they met a familiar team, the Germans. During the tough game, both sides showed their strengths and the Colombian team garnered extra time. After a perfect shootout through 8 shots, Neymar sealed the Olympic soccer competition with the country’s first ever gold medal in soccer.
9. Steph Curry Drains Last-Minute 3-Pointer To Beat OKC And Tie 3-Pointer Record
Stephen Curry has been one of the most entertaining and unbelievable players during the last couple of seasons in the NBA. He led the Golden State Warriors to a championship and superstardom during the 2014-2015 season and followed that up by breaking the record for most wins in any regular season with a 73-9 win to loss ratio. Out of all the rollercoaster games that nearly broke the hopes of the Warriors breaking this record, it was the infamous game against the Oklahoma City Thunder that many say established their rivalry.
Stephen Curry hit the tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime. and with one timeout left, the Warriors inbound the ball and started running it down the court. The ‘15-’16 Warriors made almost all games exciting throughout their season and this OKC game was no different.
Curry took a few steps over half court and drained a long three-pointer to give the warriors the lead and what ended up being the winning bucket leaving only eight-tenths of a second for OKC to counter.
8. Kobe Bryant Waves Farewell To The Game Of Basketball
When Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, many basketball and sports fans alike expected a miracle season ending with a championship. With powerhouse teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the mix, this was one big dream. The Lakers ended the season pretty badly, but the main attraction was all of Kobe Bryants last stops.
In his last game, however, Kobe was sure to bring a magical performance. With an estimated 5.2 million viewers tuning in, Kobe had an 83% free throw average, 4 rebound, 4 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, and a whopping 60 points!
7. The Cavaliers Make The Comeback Of A Lifetime And Put “The Land” Back On The Map
Blowing straight through the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers met with a very enthusiastic Golden State Warrior team and made history by coming out of a 3-1 hole to win the conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Warriors brought the heat as they were ready to finish off their back-to-back championships against the Cavs, but after putting the cavs in the same familiar 3-1 hole, they couldn’t manage to get their last win. First, there was a Game 5, then a Game 6, and then the magical Game 7 which was filled with excitement. Lebron had an outstanding block that still haunts many players in the NBA and Kyrie showed us how to end a game. The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead and Lebron and his “Posse” made history bringing a chip back to “The Land.”
6. Aaron Rodgers Gets His Prayers Answered With A Hail Mary Catch
The 2-time NFL MVP made sure we knew he had a cannon for an arm earlier in the year with his hail mary pass against the Lions for the dramatic win. As Rodgers attempted to have history repeat itself, the Green Bay Packers were down 7 points with 5 seconds in the fourth quarter of the Wild-card game in Arizona. Many fans held their breaths and said their prayers when Rodgers scrambled back and launched a pass to the end zone in an effort to tie the game. Jeff Janis came down with the unbelievable Hail-Mary heave to send the game into overtime.
Although the Packers ended up losing the matchup in overtime, the play will be remembered as one of the all time greats in NFL postseason history.
5. Villanova Defeats North Carolina On Buzzer-Beater To Win National Championship
In what will go down as one of the best basketball games of all-time, Villanova and UNC gave fans heart palpitating excitement, down to the last second. Fast forward to the last minute of action, UNC Senior Marcus Paige drilled a double-clutch 3-pointer with just under 5 seconds left to tie the championship matchup at 74.
But after a short timeout, Kris Jenkins received a Ryan Arcidiacono pass and swished a deep game-winning three point shot as time expired, sending the crowd and fans at home into a frenzy.
Villanova notched their first National Championship since 1985, in classic fashion.
4. Chicago Cubs End 108 Year Drought With 3-1 Comeback To Win World Series
The curse of the Billy goat, Steve Bartman and black cat is no more in the southside of Chicago. The Joe Maddon led Chicago Cubs took home their first World-Series in over a century, after defeating the Cleveland Indians in 10 innings during Game 7. The Cubbies did it in improbable fashion, as the Indians blew their 3-1 lead, something Cleveland knows all too well. This is what sports is all about. You deserved it Cubs fans.
3. Serena Williams Matches Steffi Graf’s Open Record, Wins 22nd Major Championship
Serena Williams won’t tell you she’s the greatest, so I will. On a blistering hot July day, the Compton native captured her 22nd Grand Slam singles title, adding to her illustrious career, after defeating Angelique Kerber (7-5, 6-3) in the Wimbledon final. This pulled the 34-year-old even with the great Steffi Graf, tying her for the most major championships in the Open era.
2. Golden State Warriors Break ’96 Bulls Record, Win 73 Regular Season Games
The defending champs the Golden State Warriors entered the 2016 season by winning their first 24 games, and ended it with the opportunity to surpass the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls 73 game wins.
In front of their home fans at Oracle Arena, Steph Curry nailed 10 three-pointers and 46 points to give the Dubs the record regular season win after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 125-104.
The Cavs went on to the finals and became the first team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 finals lead.
1. The United States Shine At The 2016 Summer Olympics
The United States dominated the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, amassing 121 medals, including 46 gold medals. Great Britain came in second with 67 medals over the course of the games.
Gymnast Simone Biles set a new record as the most decorated American gymnast with five gold medals. Swimmer Katie Ledecky was the second most decorated Olympian in 2016, taking home four golds and a silver, dominating the individual 200M, 400M and 800M respectively. Team USA basketball cruised to their third straight gold medal, crushing Serbia by 30 (96-66).
Michael Phelps went out in style at his last Olympics. The 31-year-old added another 5 golds and 1 silver medal to his resume, making him one of the most decorated Olympians ever, amassing 23 gold medals over four games (2004-2016).