A great year in sports

Let me tell you a story of an underdog. No, let me tell you about a last-second push for survival. No no no, let me tell you about believing in miracles. Stories are a part of our existence. Stories are how we tell of our past. Stories help us relive the experiences that seem too crazy to believe. However, in 2016-2017, stories were more than just tall tales full of wonder and make-believe. 2016-2017 was the year in sports that told us that it’s never too late to believe. 

Feb. 7, 2016: Super Bowl 50

Though it is incredible that the event lasted 50 years into 2016, the real significance with Super Bowl 50 was consumed by the stories within the matchup. The game featured a heavyweight matchup between the stout top-rated defense of the Denver Broncos and the explosive Carolina Panthers’ offense. But more than just the team matchup, this game featured the presence of two of the league’s bright stars at quarterback, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning. Newton had just received his first NFL MVP award in 2016, whereas his counterpart, Peyton Manning announced that after 18 seasons in the league, 2016 would be his final season.

Manning and the Broncos were able to dominate the game en-route to their 24-10 victory over Carolina. Manning ended his career as the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, while winning two Super Bowl championships. He also has made a case for being the most deadly in crunch time with 45 fourth quarter comebacks (most all-time). However, what may be most notable is that Manning concluded his illustrious career in storybook fashion, winning his final game on the sport’s highest stage.

April 4, 2016: Villanova uses Buzzer Beater to end March Madness

Down 74-71, the Tar Heels needed late minute heroics provided by Marcus Paige in order to tie things up at 74. However, with the game tied and 4.7 seconds left on the game clock, Villanova had one last trick up its sleeve. ‘Nova inbounded the pass and ball was handed off to Kris Jenkins, who stepped up to the arch, launched the three-ball right before the buzzer and stood victorious as his shot connected. The buzzer beater shot was enough to give the Wildcats their second men’s basketball national championship and their first since 1985.

April 13, 2016: Kobe Bryant takes center stage for the final time, as he puts up an impressive 60 points in his final NBA game. Bryant was a 5-time NBA Finals champion and 18-time all star during his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

April 13, 2016: Golden State Warriors rewrite NBA history 

The Golden State Warriors cruised throughout the 2015-2016 NBA regular season en-route to winning their 73rd regular season victory.  The Warriors’ win against the Memphis Grizzlies pushed Golden State into the record books with sole possession of the league’s best regular season record of all time. The team bested the 72-win season of the ’95-’96 Chicago Bulls, who previously held the record. This Warriors team was led by league MVP Stephen Curry and coached by coach of the year recipient Steve Kerr.

June 19, 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers come back to win it all 

Ending a championship drought lasting 52 years is a big deal. Doing this against one of the statistically best teams of all time is another story entirely.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were down 3-1 in the NBA Finals before LeBron James carried the team past the Warriors for three straight games. No team had ever come back from being down 3-1 in the Finals, but statistics sometimes are made to be broken.

Sept. 25, 2016: Vin Scully walks-off with his last call

Legendary sports icon and Los Angeles Dodgers’ sportscaster, Vin Scully called his final game in the Dodgers’ press box after 67 years of service to the team and the sport.

His career spanned nearly seven decades, but the call was always full of life, energy and anecdotes of love for the game. What a better way to send off someone who served for so long with one team, than to have him call a walk-off for the final play.

Dodgers’ infielder Charlie Culberson smashed a walk-off homerun to give his team the 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies and claim their berth into the 2016 postseason as NL West champions. Scully had broadcasted many calls in his day, but to call a walk-off for the final play of his career is something incredible. What a great retirement present after 67 years of service to the most iconic voice in baseball history.

Nov. 2, 2016: Chicago Cubs finally win it all

Yes, I am a Cubs fan, born and raised.  And, yes, I bleed Cubby blue, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this season was incredible for the Chicago Cubs.  I mean, come on, no other team has gone through 100-plus years of waiting for a championship.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you probably know all of the numbers like 1908 (last World Series prior to 2016) or 1945 (last Cubs team to make it to the World Series).  But let’s just take a minute and look at why the 2016 Fall Classic was exactly that, a classic.

The Chicago Cubs were down 3-1 against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. The Indians were without a championship title since 1948. Both teams were craving victory. However, the Cubs rallied to even the Series at three games apiece, and forced a game seven.

But this was not just any game seven. This was to decide the winner of the two longest active championship droughts in baseball. In a game that Chicago led for most of the night, the Indians struck late with a home run by Rajai Davis to tie the game at six. The game would go into extra innings, and end with the Cubs scoring two runs in the tenth inning to win game seven by a score of 8-7.

Love them or hate them, you’ve got to admit this game may have been the most iconic sports moment of recent history, considering the history and significance circling this phenomenal game seven.

Nov. 20, 2016: Jimmie Johnson wins again

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson celebrated his seventh Sprint Cup championship victory. He was able to do so after winning the final race of the 2016 season in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida.

Johnson has driven his way into the record books by tying the record for most championship victories alongside NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Johnson had never won at Homestead prior to 2016’s final race, but he picked a good time to figure out the track.

Aug. 5-21, 2016 Rio Summer Olympics breaks the record books

Usain Bolt: The renowned Jamaican sprinter won his 9th Olympic gold during the Rio games. This feat placed him as the only man in Olympic history to ever win the 100m, 200m and the 4x100m relay at three separate Olympic games.

Michael Phelps: In what was likely his last Olympic event, Michael Phelps received the gold medal in the 4x100m medley relay to earn his 23rd Olympic gold medal. With another successful Olympics under his belt, Phelps left his mark on the sport of swimming and Olympic sports, becoming the most decorated athlete in Olympics history with 28 medals.

Simone Biles: Simone Biles secured a successful start to her Olympic legacy as she won five medals including an Olympic gold in the women’s all-around, vault, floor and team competitions as well as a bronze in the balance beam.  Biles’ victory in the all-around competition comes after she had won the past three all-around competitions at the World Championships dating back to 2013.

Aug. 12, 2016: Alex Rodriguez’s final game

Midway through the New York Yankee’s 2016 campaign, Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement.  His final game was played against the Tampa Bay Rays in Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez played 22 seasons in the MLB and ended his career with 697 home runs, the fourth-most homers in Major League history.  Though Rodriguez will be remaining within the Yankees’ organization as an instructor, he most definitely secured his spot within professional baseball lore. 

Jan. 9, 2017: ‘David’ beats ‘Goliath’ in NCAA football championship

The 2017 NCAA college football national championship featured a rematch of the 2016 national championship between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Clemson Tigers. The Tide won the first matchup in 2016 and proceeded to go unbeaten throughout the 2016-2017 regular season, earning a #1 ranking throughout the season.

Down 24-14 going into the fourth quarter of the 2017 national championship, the Clemson Tigers were going to need to pull themselves together and rally strong against the stout Alabama defense. They rallied in the final quarter to pull within three points of the Crimson Tide.

With 2:07 left in the game, Clemson pushed the ball down the field. The Tigers had the ball on the 2-yard line and 6 seconds on the clock. Clemson snapped the ball and quarterback Deshaun Watson threw right to the open Hunter Renfrow in the endzone. Tigers took the 35-31 lead and cruised to finishing the upset of the unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide. 

Feb. 5, 2017: Super Bowl 51 ends in overtime 

As if you nails weren’t already chewed off already, Super Bowl 51 proved to be one of the most intense championship games in recent years, if not all time.

The matchup was between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. On the Falcons’ side, they had the league’s MVP Matt Ryan at quarterback. However, the Patriots were no ‘spring chicken’ to this big game. Both New England’s quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick had won four Super Bowls together prior to the start of Super Bowl 51.

The Falcons held a 21-3 lead at halftime and a 28-9 lead going into the final quarter. Something crazy was going to have to happen in order for the Patriots to come back in this game.  Well, something did happen, and his name is Tom Brady. Brady would end the night with 466 passing yards, 2 touchdowns and a 95.2 passer rating to help the Patriots fight their way back to tie the game and force the first overtime in Super Bowl history. The Patriots would go on to score a touchdown on their first possession of sudden-death overtime and win the game with a final score of 34-28.

I beg you. No, I implore you.  I challenge you to honestly assess everything you know about sports. Look at the intensity and historical significance of the sporting events of the past year and tell me there’s a better year of sports across the board. This list doesn’t even include other notable moments of the sports year such as Tim Duncan’s retirement, Dee Gordon’s emotional home run or even the death of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.

Go ahead and try to make an argument, but it’s a lost cause. The 2016-2017 sports year was the best we’ve ever seen.