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The 15 Biggest Sports Stories of 2011

Michael DunhamCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2012

The 15 Biggest Sports Stories of 2011

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    2011 had it all: Cinderella stories, dominant teams, heartwarming tales and headlines that make you sick. 

    It was a year of lockouts, a year of crazy twists and turns and a year of the unexpected.

    In 2011, we saw headlines we thought we would never see and headlines we had been expecting for far too long.  

    Here are the 15 biggest stories of the year. 

15: Peyton Manning Has to Miss Entire 2011 NFL Season

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    Following neck surgery, Peyton Manning was forced to miss the entire 2011 NFL season.  Manning had 227 consecutive starts for the Colts, which was the second longest streak in NFL history.

    Without Manning, the Colts started 0-13 before finishing 2-1 and securing the league's worst record.  

    Not all is bad in Indiana though; the Colts will get Manning back next season and will likely take Andrew Luck in the NFL draft, a player who will learn a lot being mentored by Manning. 

14: Barry Bonds Found Guilty of Obstruction of Justice

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    After an eight-year investigation into whether Barry Bonds committed obstruction of justice, Bonds was convicted and received 30 days of house arrest and two years of probation.  

    The guilty verdict will even further taint Bonds' career, which most notably includes the Major League record for most career home runs.

    Bonds is currently appealing the verdict.

13: Boston Bruins Win Stanley Cup

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    In a series that saw the home team win in each of the first six games, the Boston Bruins won Game 7 on the road with a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

    Following the loss for the Canucks, Vancouver natives took to the streets and sparked riots all over the downtown area.  

12: 2-Time Defending NBA Champions Swept by Dallas Mavericks

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    The Los Angeles Lakers entered the 2011 postseason as two-time defending NBA champions and as favorites to win the Western Conference and defend their title in the NBA Finals.

    The Lakers were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in a series which was topped off by a 122-86 loss in Game 4, which included controversial ejections of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.

11: Passing of Al Davis

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    Whether you loved him or hated him, you can't deny that Al Davis is one of the most important people the NFL has ever seen.

    The Raiders owner was 82 years old at the time of his passing.

    Other notable athletes to pass away in 2011 include Joe Frazier, Dan Wheldon and Wade Belak.

10: Auburn Wins BCS National Championship

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    In an Auburn football season that included illegal payment scheme accusations to start quarterback Cam Newton (who subsequently earned the nickname Scam Newton), the Tigers topped off their 14-0 perfect season with their second national title in school history.

    The BCS National Championship game against the Oregon Ducks came down to a last-second field goal to put the Tigers on top, 22-19.

9: NFL Nears Lockout, Reaches Collective Bargaining Agreement

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    The NFL neared facing a lockout for the 2011 season, but it was able to settle on a collective bargaining agreement on July 25.  

    Up until the agreement, it appeared that the season was going to be locked out, but the NFL was able to get the full season in and only had to shorten training camp.

8: Drew Brees Sets NFL Passing Record

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    The last of the major sports stories for 2011 occurred in the final NFL game of the year, as Drew Brees passed Dan Marino as the league's all-time single-season passing leader.

    Brees finished with 5,476 passing yards on the season.

7: NBA Lockout and Shortened Schedule

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    Due to a failure to settle on a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA owners and players, the NBA was locked out for the first two months of the league's schedule.

    The NBA announced the end of the lockout on November 26, allowing the league to proceed with a shortened 66-game schedule that began on Christmas Day.

6: NCAA Conference Realignment

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    In what seemed like a game of conference musical chairs, most major Division I conferences added and lost a number of major schools.

    Some notable moves include Texas A&M and Missouri moving from the Big 12 to the SEC, West Virginia and TCU moving to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC.

    SMU, Houston, Central Florida, Boise State and San Diego State went to the Big East.

5: Dallas Mavericks Win NBA Championship

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    In what many people have called one of the best team championships in history, the Mavericks completed an amazing title run by beating the Miami Heat dream team in six games.

    The underdog Mavs beat LeBron James and his crew in the finals after going through the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trailblazers and sweeping the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

    After years of disappointing, early playoff exits in the Dirk era—an era which has seen an NBA-long 12 straight 50-win seasons—the Mavs finally claimed their first NBA title, and Nowitzki received the Finals MVP award.

4: St. Louis Cardinals Win World Series

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    While the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers took seven games, this series will be forever remembered for Game 6 of the series.  

    Not once, but twice, the Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning their first pennant, and twice David Freese stepped up to the plate late in the game and ended the Rangers' hopes in what many people have dubbed the greatest baseball game ever played.

    The Cardinals ended up winning Game 7 of the series to claim their 12th World Series pennant. 

3: Penn State Scandal

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    2011 saw two sex scandals in major college sport programs: the Penn State football program and the Syracuse basketball program.

    The Penn State University president and football coach Joe Paterno reportedly covered up the discovery that former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was sexually abusing children.  When the story became public, both men were fired, and Sandusky was arrested.

    The firing ended Joe Paterno's 46-year tenure as the school's head football coach.

2: NBA Free Agency

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    Once the NBA and the NBAPA agreed on a collective bargaining agreement, the teams and players had a month for free agency and training camp.  Needless to say, it was one crazy month with a bunch of headlines.

    Chris Paul was traded three times before he finally left the Hornets.

    Lakers fans thought they were going to get Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams, but when all was said and done, the only deal they made was getting rid of Lamar Odom for a second-round draft pick.

    It seemed like every day, some big name was moved to another team, and it made for an exciting month for NBA fans.

1: Green Bay Packers Win Super Bowl

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    The Green Bay Packers snuck into the 2010-11 NFL playoffs with a 9-6 record, but they never looked back from there.  They completed an improbable playoff run with a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The Packers lost their first game in 2011 in their second-to-last game of the year, when they were beaten by the Kansas City Chiefs.

    The Super Bowl victory was the fourth in franchise history, and the team's 13th NFL Championship (including championships predating the Super Bowl era).

    Agree?  Disagree?  Post your feedback in the comments section!

    Follow me on Twitter: @mjdjr628 

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