Top 10 sport stories of 2016
A year in sports for the ages
By Dan Khavkin, Staff Writer
Leicester City crowned as BPL Champions
Yes, the story that tops off a memorable 2016 is the story of the Leicester Foxes winning their first ever Barclays Premier League title and their first piece of silverware in their modest 133 year history. Leicester city stunned the world of sports in a Hollywood-like fashion when they won the pinnacle of English football, lifting the BPL trophy against all odds. Coming into the season, the bookies had the Foxes at 5000/1 to win the title. To put that into perspective, Elvis has a better chance of coming back to life, Simon Cowell becoming PM of England, and Kim Kardashian becoming the president of the USA (however after 2016, this one is probably more likely).
Leicester only lost three games under the guidance of first year coach and ex-Greece national team manager, Claudio Ranieri who orchestrated the impressive display of team defence, putting together a starting 11 that was so tight knit, no other teams could match the Foxes determination. The team had the recipe for success that pitted well against the hogs of European qualification spots like Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, and the two Manchester money loaded powerhouses.
The story of Leicester gets even better when you look at the fact they almost got relegated back to the second tier the season before pulling a rabbit out of the hat when they won a string of seven games out of the last 10 to scrap out of the Relegation Zone. Winning the title also punched a ticket to their first ever Champions League. The year 2016 was one that footy fans will remember for the rest of their lives.
Portugal winning Euro 2016
After the worldwide celebration of Leicester City winded down along with the end of other leagues, the football world settled down and got ready for the return of the European Championship.
Host country France put on a show for their fans, who needed a brief escape from reality after the Paris terrorist attacks that took135 lives. With heavy hearts, the French side topped their group and made the finals. Other stories include the shocking collapse of England who were favorites to finish in the final four. Even with stars like Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and veteran Wayne Rooney leading the way, they were still knocked out by Iceland,
who were a story themselves by making their first appearance in a major tournament and making it to the knockout stage.
The champions from Portugal drew all three of the group stage games, won their fourth in extra time then their fifth in penalties the next game before playing Wales. Portugal would eventually make the finals, beating out host France in…. you guessed it, extra time, sending the country of Portugal into euphoria.
Canada winning the World Cup of Hockey
The return of the World Cup of Hockey didn’t quite live up to its high expectations. This could be because it felt slightly forced down the throats of hockey fans on short notice.But it was entertaining nonetheless. The addition of Team North America was taken well by hockey fans when they got to witness top prospects play against the big boys. Team Europe was another interesting and controversial decision made by the tournament directors; all the small European countries formed one team and became the underdogs of the tournament, not really having the firepower on paper that most of the other teams had.
However, it was pride that united the European players representing their respective countries that carried them into the final, where they would eventually lose to Canada. Team USA surprised everyone when they lost all three games, seeming out of sync on the ice. Canada was as stacked as ever on paper and played the game much like their Olympic performance in 2014 where they simply out-battled and out-classed the competition and under the leadership of Sidney Crosby proved again why Canada is the powerhouse of hockey.
Super Bowl 50
2016’s first major event was the NFL’s Super Bowl where high-powered, dabbing Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers took on the Denver Broncos lead by an aging Peyton Manning, looking for his second Lombardi Trophy to cap off his legendary career.
In a classic sports battle between offence and defence, it was Peyton Manning’s offence that was enough to outscore the Panthers who ultimately couldn’t solve Von Miller and his Bronco defence. Other than the fact that Lady Gaga opened the game with the Anthem and Coldplay headlined the halftime show, the game itself was slow paced but entertaining towards the end.
The Broncos sealed the deal with a late touchdown and a two-point convert, proving that while offence may win games, defence wins championships.
Cubs win World Series
After a 108-year wait, the cursed Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series against the Cleveland Indians in a seven-game series. The Cubs had the best record in the Majors going into September, at 103-58. The Cubbies also had the most wins in the league along with the highest win percentage. American League counterpart Cleveland had home advantage after the AL beat the National League at the All-Star Game. The Tribe were on a roll all season but the peak was in June when they strung a 14-game winning streak and finished 11-0 at home, clinching a division title. The Fall Classic was a back and forth affair which saw the Indians up 3-1 in the series until the Cubs’ bats came alive and shut the Indians down to make a miraculous comeback to end the curse. Its questionable to say that the wait was worth it for the fans, but they surely took advantage of the situation and a crowd of five million took part in the celebrations.
Year of Ronaldo
Arguably one of the most talented and skilled football players of all time and Lionel Messi’s only competition, Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar Christiano Ronaldo had a year he’ll never forget for both club and country. Ronaldo carried the Blancos to a UEFA Champions League title, the Club World Cup, and UEFA Super Cup. He also took home several player awards such as UEFA Best Player in Europe, the prestigious Ballon D’or, and best FIFA Men’s Player.
For country, Ronaldo captained a hungry Portugal side to a first ever Euro Championship despite the fact he had to leave the game injured and in tears. However that didn’t stop him from showing his support by jumping around and barking commands at his compatriots on the pitch before substitute Eder netted the winning goal. When asked if he can see himself in the same conversation as the greatest footballers of all time, Ronaldo simply remind us that “his trophies speak for themselves”.
Lebron wins title
It was ironic to say the least when Lebron James made the move to leave the Cavs to take his “talents to South Beach.” We saw all the burning jerseys and the Nike ads being torn down yet when he came back from catching rays and a few NBA titles, it seemed everyone forgot about him leaving in the first place.
Lebron was making his sixth straight finals appearance and second in a row with the Cavs after dropping the previous seasons’ Finals in six games. Nevertheless, the rematch ensued in the Finals, ending in a legendary game seven that ranks up there with some of the greatest sporting contests of all time. LBJ got the better of Steph Curry, making one of the most athletic plays you’ll ever see near the end of the game, sprinting the length of the court to block a potential game winning layup before teammate Kyrie Irving made a clutch three pointer, winning the NBA Title for Lebron’s hometown Cavs for the first time in their history.
Thus the viral Internet meme, “THE WARRIORS BLEW A 3-1 LEAD” was born.
Year of Retirement
The year of 2016 was a tragic year that took away some great lives and careers. The world of sports felt the impact of all these retirements. On the top of the list is one of the GOAT’s of the game, Kobe Bryant who decided to hang up the sneakers after 18 seasons in a Lakers uniform. The self-titled Black Mamba had five NBA titles to his name, being named Finals MVP twice, along with making 18 All Star games, where he was named MVP on four occasions.
The Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan also decided to walk away from the court, taking five NBA titles to retirement with him. The gridiron also lost possibly one if its greatest figures in Peyton Manning. Manning only had two titles to his name but was league MVP five times and held many league records. Baseball said goodbye to Alex Rodriguez after 22 seasons. Career rivals A-Rod and Big Papi David Ortiz also walked away from the MLB.
The NHL lost one of its greatest magicians of all time in Pavel Datsyuk who was known for his finesse and skill with the puck and is no doubt a future hall of famer.
Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier on NHL scoring list for 2nd place
Hockey’s ageless wonder and Czech legend Jaromir Jagr passed Mark Messier in career points before the turn of the calendar, netting in point number 1888 putting him second on the all time point list, around 950 points behind Wayne Gretzky. Jagr is in his 27th season at the ripe age of 44 and isn’t looking to stop any time soon.
He is in his second season playing in the sunshine state of Florida. Being the oldest player to ever score a hat trick in the NHL, most overtime goals, and most game winning goals. Jagr isn’t going through a drought any time soon either, as he comes into the 2017 calendar year with 25 points in just under 50 games.
Andy Murray dominating the Tennis world
Murray took the tennis world by storm in 2016 when he totalled 9 tournament wins in 17 finals. One of these wins was an Olympic gold medal from Rio this past summer, making him one of the only players to defend an Olympic gold medal, having also won gold in 2012. Murray also won a second consecutive Wimbledon title. He was the first player to win Grand Slam, ATP World Tour Finals, Olympic Games and Masters 1000 titles in the same calendar year. Murray racked up 78 wins and had a run where he won 24 in a row. And he bumped himself up the world ranking to the top spot for the first time in his young career.
Yes, this all happened in one calendar year.