Is 2012 the year of redemption?
First there is LeBron James, whose lack of performance in the 2011 NBA Finals made him the butt of a series of ring-oriented jokes. For instance, "Why doesn't James have a championship ring? Because it is a choking hazard."
But for James, play time is over. Normally a fun loving player, LeBron has traded in his typical smiles for a stone face and fourth quarter results. The way the Heat have been rolling in their past two games, and with James finally proving he can handle the pressure of the playoffs by taking down the battle-tested Celtics, many believe 2012 might be the year he gets to trade in his foot-in-the-mouth moment for a long awaited ring.
A win over the Thunder could finally be the redeeming moment James needs to put his ostentatious free-agent signing and infamous guarantee of "not five, not six, not seven" championships to bed.
Then there is Tiger Woods and his extracurricular marital activities that landed him beyond the doghouse—perhaps in the kennel—crippling both his public appearance and course performance. For the longest time Tiger's career dragged like the economy: promises of getting better, but no signs of improvement.
Finally, in 2012, he has begun to turn around his two-and-a-half year competitive absence by winning two tournaments, including the Jack Nicklaus Memorial tying the "Golden Bear" for second-most tournament wins all time.
He has resurrected from a career low, and an abominable (by Tiger standards) ranking of 58 to No. 4, and in the lead up to the U.S. Open, has many people whispering comeback. As Oakland Tribune writer Carl Steward writes, "Tiger Woods comes to the Olympic Club this week having recaptured much of the long-misplaced skill, swagger and intimidating aura that some thought was lost forever." Redemption is just a two-putt away, it would seem.
Then there is Josh Hamilton, whose well-documented redemption story has been unfolding since 2007. His bat has been devastating to opposing pitchers and leaves baseball analysts asking, "Kemp who?" His league leading home run total is record-threatening, as his batting average and RBI continue to climb.
In light of these stories and more, here is a look at the top three redemption stories in sports this past decade.