The calendar year of 2016 is coming to a close and boy was it a doozy in the sports world. The Cavaliers brought Cleveland its first title in 50 years. The Cubs broke the curse of the billy goat and ended their 108-year title drought. The year provided us with an endless number of sports highlights, but, for the sake of my sanity, we’ve narrowed it down to the Top 10 of the year.
10) DeflateGate Mercifully Comes To An End
Almost a full year and a half after the initial news about deflated footballs came into our lives, the case came to an end with Tom Brady accepting a four-game suspension from Roger Goodell. Now, Patriots fans will gladly still pull you aside to explain the “Ideal Gas Law” at any moment that they can, but in the end, Brady missed the first four games of the 2016 season.
All he’s done since is lead the Pats to a 9-1 record in games that he’s played and put his name in the MVP conversation by completing 66.9 percent of his passes for 3,064 yards and an insane 22-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
9) Peyton Manning Wins Super Bowl In Final Season
Yep, this did happen in 2016. Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it? Manning wasn’t close to his normal self in the 2015-16 season. Father Time finally caught up to him. He wasn’t great in the Super Bowl either, completing just 13 of 23 attempts for 141 yards and a couple turnovers, but it didn’t matter. Manning was on top of the mountain once again when the dust settled with the Broncos winning 24-10 and he was able to ride into the sunset. Or, well, into more Papa John’s, Nationwide and DirecTV commercials.
8) Colin Kaepernick Makes A Stand, By Taking A Knee
Whether you agree or disagree with his stance is immaterial. Kaepernick sparked a massive increase in athletes being outspoken for social causes during 2016. Players across the NFL and across sports followed his lead and spoke up when they saw injustices in the social sphere. In a year during which we lost one of the greatest socially conscious athletes of all-time in Muhammad Ali, it was especially fitting to see many big-name athletes find their voice and continue to try to use their position in society to effect change.
7) Dee Gordon Homers To Lead-off Marlins First Game After Jose Fernandez’s Tragic Death
There were plenty of down moments this year as well. One of the biggest, of course, was the death of Marlins ace Jose Fernandez in a boating accident in late September. The young pitcher was one of the sport’s brightest lights and best personalities and all of South Florida and Major League Baseball mourned his passing. In the Marlins first game back, his teammate and friend Dee Gordon, provided us all with an unforgettable moment.
No, you’re crying.
6) Katie Ledecky/Simone Biles/Aly Raisman/Michael Phelps/Usain Bolt Dominate Rio
Talk about girl power. Were there any bigger stars than this trio? Sure, you can argue Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, but neither of those guys were as dominant as these three ladies were in their events. For Ledecky, it wasn’t whether she would win, but, rather, how much she would win by? Answer? About a year.
But, for real though, is there a more lasting image from Rio 2016 than this?
How about Biles and Raisman consistently doing more athletic things than I have ever seen in gymnastics and becoming absolute darlings of the United States?
Or what about Phelps becoming the most decorated Olympian ever?
How about Bolt recording the first ever triple-triple, winning gold in the 100m, 4x100m relay, and the 200m? Rio was incredible and filled with memorable moments both on the playing field, and off (looking at you Ryan Lochte).
5) Lamar Jackson Hurdles Syracuse Defender
Also known as the moment Lamar Jackson announced his Heisman candidacy. Jackson was a little known sophomore coming into this college football season. Then, he raced out of the gates with 14 total touchdowns in the first two weeks and the hype train was off and rolling. Especially once he put this poor Syracuse defender on a poster in the realest way that you can on a football field.
4) LeBron James: “The Block”
In Game 7, with the score tied late in the fourth quarter, King James decided to remind us all of just how ludicrous an athlete he really is. This play will live on in highlights for years to come and it will also stick in my mind as the moment I realized LeBron is part of an advanced species. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and pause the tape to see where he starts on this play. He’s damn near in the back court when Iguodala hits the three point line. Somehow, he made up all that space, got across the lane and elevated to pin the shot on the backboard. Yeah, he ain’t human.
3) Kris Jenkins Buzzer-Beater To Win The National Title
National title on the line, clock ticking down, three-pointer for the win? That’s the stuff kids dream about and pretend to do on their basketball hoops in their driveways all across America. Kris Jenkins did it for real.
Oh, and it gave us this priceless reaction from Jay Wright.
2) Saying goodbye to “The Greatest” and so many other icons
2016 was also filled with its share of sad times. Memorable and beloved sports figures like Gordie Howe, Arnold Palmer, Craig Sager, John Saunders and others. All of these men and women will be greatly missed, but the passing that was felt the most in the sports world was the loss of the man referred to as “The Greatest”: Muhammad Ali. To all the family and friends of all of those we lost this year in the sports world, our condolences. All of these men and women will be sorely, sorely missed.
1) Cubs Win World Series
The lovable losers. 108 years it had been since the Cubs had won baseball’s biggest prize. 108 years of sports suffering for fans who saw their fair share of close calls over the years. This year, it was all wiped away.
2016 was quite a fun one from a sports perspective. Here’s hoping 2017 brings more of the same.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.