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ESPY Play of the Year 2012: Ranking Top Play Candidates

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IDecember 13, 2016

ESPY Play of the Year 2012: Ranking Top Play Candidates

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    As we approach the 2012 ESPY Awards tonight, there are four dazzling plays up for Play of the Year.

    Will it be Edson Barboza's spectacular wheel kick knockout at UFC 142? What about Christian Watford's buzzer-beater from downtown that lifted Indiana over heavy favorite Kentucky in December?

    There is, of course, Lower Columbia College's Derrick Salberg, who made a fantastic leaping catch to rob a home run in the NWAACC Baseball Championships. And who can forget Joe Adams of Arkansas, who broke numerous tackles on a punt return against Tennessee for a touchdown in November?

    Here are my rankings for 2012 Play of the Year.

4. Christian Watford's Buzzer Beater

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    This play makes it on the list primarily because of the context.

    Kentucky, which went on to win the national championship, was ranked No. 1 and undefeated before Indiana shocked the Wildcats on Dec. 10 at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, were unranked at the time.

    When Christian Watford knocked down that three-pointer at the buzzer, it sent shockwaves across the nation, and you can still hear that crowd and Dick Vitale freaking out.

    However, given Watford had a pretty good look at the hoop, I can't give him the top play of the year.  

3. Derrick Salberg's Catch

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    It was tough for me to put this catch at No. 3, but I did so for a couple of reasons.

    One, I like the next two plays better. Also, that fence seems rather short and it likely wouldn't have been a home run in other parks. 

    Nonetheless, this was one of the most spectacular catches I've seen in baseball. The athleticism is unreal, along with the concentration and fearlessness, and there is no doubt it belongs in contention for the award. 

2. Edson Barboza's KO

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    Choosing between Edson Barboza's wheel kick knockout and Derrick Salberg's catch was mighty difficult, but, after a few more viewings of Barboza's KO, I can't help but give it to the 26-year-old Brazilian.

    This may be the greatest knockout in UFC history, and there have certainly been plenty to choose from throughout the years.

    Knockouts like these aren't supposed to happen in real life. This is the kind of stuff you see in movies. It wasn't just the kick, it was the level of precision. Terry Etim was done before he hit the floor.   

1. Joe Adams' Punt Return for a Touchdown

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    How many broken tackles does it take to reach the end zone?

    One, two, three, four, five, six, seven...seven.

    Well, that's at least how many I counted. You be the judge.

    The point is, you can hardly even do this in video games, let alone real life. The first thing I thought when I saw this was, "Barry Sanders."

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not calling Joe Adams the great Barry Sanders, but this is just the kind of thing Sanders used to do when he played for the Detroit Lions.

    Adams not only jukes multiple defenders, he cuts back (actually running backwards at one point), splits a pair of defenders, apparently stiff-arms two defenders at once, does a balancing act on the sidelines, cuts back again, then bursts down the right sideline for the touchdown.

    Just saying all that makes me tired.

    Adams' 60-yard punt return for a touchdown should win 2012 Play of the Year. 

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