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With each year that passes, the sports landscape feels more and more like a high school yearbook: the freshman make their collegiate debuts, the sophomores finish their run in college to go pro, the juniors begin their professional careers and seniors retire and are honored in their outgoing class. While the younger students get wrapped up in the senior quotes, the older students look back at the memories, good and bad, memorable and infamous. That’s where lists like this come in.
While many may not open their yearbook regularly, barring a mid-life crisis, sports is different as it’s ever changing. Moments of triumph and devastation often signal a change, whether it’s an era or how the game is played. We may love it or hate it, but as Bruce Hornsby once sang, “that’s just the way it is.”
So what were the ten most memorable moments of 2022? Let’s find out.
10. The Lady Huskies Fall In The National Championship
There may be no name more respected and feared in college sports than UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. An 11-time National Champion, a 22-time Final Four coach and a Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, there isn’t much Auriemma hasn’t done. However, one thing he can now cross off that list: lose a National Championship game.
Heading into the Women’s National Championship game, Auriemma was 11-0, having never lost a title game. That changed when South Carolina ran roughshod over the Huskies, winning 64-49. While it’s very rare for the National Champions to be eclipsed, the real story was less about South Carolina winning, and more about Auriemma’s 11-0 becoming an 11-1 in title games.
9. TCU In The College Football Playoffs At Last
Ever since the last few years of the BCS rankings, it always seemed that TCU was always a bridesmaid but never the bride. Despite good seasons, they always found themselves on the outside of the National Championship game and later the college football playoffs, looking in. It seemed like they were eternally doomed to be waiting.
Then, like a Hallmark Christmas rom-com, TCU got the surprise of their lives. Despite falling to Kansas State earlier in the year, they rebounded and received a college football playoff bid. Even with if they lose to Michigan, this is the year we can finally say, “TCU is finally a bride.”
8. Pop Goes The Record
In a time where people still debate who the greatest NBA player of all time is, this year saw Gregg Popovich take a step towards claiming the title of the greatest NBA coach of all time. Five NBA championships, four All-Star game head coaching honors and three coach of the year awards already put him into that conversation. It was this year that really thrust him into the finalists of this talk.
On February 16th, Popovich won his 1,333rd regular season game, passing Lenny Wilkens for the second most career wins by an NBA coach. A little less than a month later, he won his 1,336th game, passing Don Nelson for most career wins. With a little fuel left in the tank, there’s no telling how many wins “Pop” will finish with, but at the end of it, he will still be seen as the winningest coach of all-time.
7. Golden State Vs. Boston For The Title
The NBA Finals this year was unofficially billed as a match up of dynasty’s as the team of the 2010’s, the Golden State Warriors faced the team of the 1960’s, the Boston Celtics. While not quite Lakers-Celtics, this battle turned out to be a fun six-game series.
Ultimately Golden State prevailed to win their seventh championship as an organization. However it solidified legacies on both sides of the court. Players like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Andrew Wiggins, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson all played crucial roles in each game. It was a matchup not many were expecting, but it was a matchup that was worth seeing.
6. Los Angeles Finally Wins It All
Usually on these lists, the Super Bowl would be higher, seeing as it’s the biggest game in sports. Unlike most years though, there were just too many undeniable stories that pushed it to the side slightly. Still, the vindication of owner Stan Kroenke (for moving the team from St. Louis to Los Angeles) and general manager Les Snead (for trading in multiple first-round picks for the next years) has come to fruition and for that, it deserves a place on this list.
Winning the Super Bowl not only justified quarterback Matthew Stafford as a Hall of Fame quarterback, but it also gave players like Aaron Donald, Eric Weddle, Odell Beckham Jr., Jalen Ramsey and Andrew Whitworth Super Bowl rings after already having Hall of Fame caliber careers. Not to mention, it solidified Sean McVay as one of the best coaches in the NFL right now. It was a moment that left people saying, “it’s about time.”
5. Ovechkin Surpasses Howe
Ever since Washington Capitals’ left winger Alexander Ovechkin came into the league, it always seems like he’s been overlooked. When Ovechkin first came into the NHL, Jaromir Jagr was still hitting his stride, and as he developed and became a star, players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin and Patrick Kane had all eyes on them.
Ovechkin would make the league take notice in 2022. On December 23, he would net two goals, tying and passing Gordie Howe for second most career goals of all-time. Now sitting at 802, he needs 92 goals to pass Wayne Gretzky for most all-time, and at age 37, it’s looking like a real possibility that this could happen.
4. Dusty Gets His Ring And Aaron Judge Breaks A Record
The Houston Astros and New York Yankees star Aaron Judge seem to have their careers intertwined. Usually when one has an amazing year, the other has success of some sort as well, and vice versa. It’s odd because these are two sides that are always portrayed not to like each other.
In the same year that Aaron Judge broke the American League home run record, which was held by Roger Maris since 1961, the Houston Astros won the World Series. The World Series win finally gave manager Dusty Baker his first championship ring as a manager, something that had eluded him for decades. Baker got his ring and Judge would be rewarded with a massive extension by New York, and the captainship of the team.
3. The Brittney Griner Saga
2022 was dominated by two stories, including Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia (we’ll get to the other one soon). For over half the year, Griner was held in Russia for possession of hashish oil, which is illegal in the country. Despite the nine-year sentence, the United States completed a prisoner-swap and got her out in ten months.
While the detainment was a huge story in itself, this was eye opening for multiple reasons. One of which being the amount of WNBA players who went to Russia to play overseas and the reason why. The lack of fan support and funds for the league as a whole was put on full display for the sports world to see.
The incident saw a rise in viewership for the WNBA finals, and with Griner’s release and pledge to play basketball again, it should provide a much needed boost to viewership and revenue for the league. The question will quickly become, will it be sustainable? For that, we’ll have to wait and see.
2. Messi Finally Wins A World Cup
He is one of the greatest to ever step onto a soccer field, he is someone that has done nearly everything a star can do in the sport and this year, he helped Argentina finally win their first World Cup since 1986…he is Lionel Messi. It took him five tries (almost 20 years with the tournament being played every four years) but it finally happened.
In seven matches, Messi scored seven goals with three assists, all World Cup highs for him. Messi would also add the Golden Ball award, which is presented the best player in the World Cup finals, and finished second in the Golden Boot award (given to the top goal scorer in the tournament) behind France’s Kylian Mbappe. This was truly the year of Messi in the soccer world.
You may be asking yourself, what was a bigger moment than any of the championship moments in sports or Brittney Griner’s return home? Well there’s one moment that spanned most of the year…
1. Tom Brady’s Fall From Grace
There may be no name that transcends sports more than Tom Brady. Arguably the most successful quarterback in professional football, and one of the most decorated players in NFL history, Brady has done it all and still comes back for more. To put it simply, it was only a matter of time before his haters finally got what they were asking for, and boy, did they get it.
On February 1st, it was reported that Brady was retiring from the NFL after 22 seasons. Forty days later, on March 13th, he would change his mind and announce his return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the subsequent months, more came out about personal issues surrounding Brady’s marriage to Gisele Bundchen, stemming from concerns about the violent nature of football and the time he was missing with his family. In October, it was announced that Brady and Bundchen were getting divorced after 13 years of marriage.
Brady’s hard times continued on the field as Tampa Bay, despite staying in the playoff race, has had a disappointing season. Tampa Bay has been under .500 most of the season, and Brady has looked like Father Time has caught up with him. Even if the Buccaneers make the playoffs, this will go down in the history books as Brady’s worst season of his career.
The reason this is the biggest moment in sports (other than the abundance of coverage) is because this was the point that displayed that even star athletes are human. Fans put people like Brady on these massive pedestals, when the reality is they’re normal people with massive talent. They go through same issues that we do, it’s just hidden behind an abundance of wealth.
It also provided the perfect companion piece for one of Netflix’s biggest hits, “Harry & Meghan.” The story as told by the defectors of the Royal Family spoke about a need for accountability in the media. The start of Brady’s story shows the other side of the coin where accountability is needed by the subject, as he seemingly unretired to prove a reporter wrong, as well as just try to stop Father Time from claiming his prime. It’s not the best sports moment of the year, but it was arguably the biggest.