2012 in Review: The 50 Most Memorable Moments of the Year
The White House/Getty Images
At the risk of sounding unnecessarily exuberant over the nature of sports in 2012—sports are great OMG!!!—this was a particularly awesome year for memorable moments in our field (OMG). An Olympic year will do that, for sure. Yet 2012 had so much more than just two weeks in London. There were a ton of memorable moments from January through December, so many that the original plan of 25 quickly became a top 50.
Here are the top 50 moments in sports in 2012. Before you read on, please remember that we are looking at actual moments, not the biggest stories of the year (for those of you looking for Lance Armstrong or Joe Paterno, that is on a different list. See the story here.). These moments are across all sports, and surely some of you had a favorite moment, or sport, that didn't make the list.
As with any year-end review, this is totally subjective, so your additions are welcome in the comments. (Note: If Adrian Peterson breaks the rushing record, that moment would be in the top five for sure.)
With that, here is the list of the 50 moments we're still remembering as the year comes to a close.
50. McKayla Maroney Is Not Impressed
This is one of those sign-of-the-times situations, that a young athlete's grief can turn into a cultural meme so far-reaching the President of the United States asks her to pose with him for a photo. Maroney took the meme in stride, which is part of why it's such an awesome moment.
49. Los Angeles Kings Win the Stanley Cup
I wanted to write "Los Angeles Kings win the last Stanley Cup ever," but I think some beer league in Canada gets the rights to use the Cup if the NHL never returns. This is low for sure, but the actual moment of winning the Cup wasn't really memorable for anyone other than Kings fans, seeing Los Angeles win 6-1 in the decisive Game 6.
That said, the run that led to securing the Cup for the Kings—beating the top three seeds in the West with a 12-2 record in the playoffs to reach the Stanley Cup Final—was certainly worth remembering.
48. Andrew Luck Is Taken First Overall in NFL Draft
The most anticlimactic draft choice in the NFL in quite some time, Andrew Luck being picked first overall by the Colts set off a chain of events that changed this season, and the next few decades in the NFL, forever.
Plus, Luck was the first guy to have his name on the back of his jersey when he got drafted. Thanks, Nike!
47. Thunder 149, Timberwolves 140: March 23, 2012
This game was one of many "where were you when" games in the NBA last season, helping to erase the negative vibe of the lockout with an incredible year of quality on the court. Where were you during the 149-140 double-overtime thriller that featured Kevin Durant scoring 40 points and grabbing 17 boards and still getting outscored by two other guys on the court.
Russell Westbrook dropped 45 points for OKC on 17-of-28 from the floor and somehow had a minus-five in the plus-minus category. Kevin Love led all scorers with 51 points, including 7-of-11 from three-point range.
The game had a ton of great minor moments that added up to make one great moment in the NBA season.
Durant hit a three to take the lead with 3.9 seconds to go in regulation before Love hit a sprawling three to tie the game with a second to go, forcing overtime. In the first overtime, Love was called for traveling with 16 seconds to go, leading to a Durant three to tie the game and send it into the second overtime, where the Thunder took over for the home victory.
The NBA is a league of stars, and they were shining as bright as ever that night.
46. The Singing of the National Anthem for Olympic Gold
Originally I had slated this spot to be a shout-out to Missy Franklin for winning her first of four gold medals, but then I realized the national anthem moment was special for everyone who won gold.
"The Star-Spangled Banner" was played 46 times at the London Olympics, more than the national anthem of any other country. Those Americans should be proud to share that moment with all of us.
45. Rory McIlroy Dominates the PGA Championship
There was a time in 2012 when people questioned if Rory McIlroy had peaked, or if his personal love life was distracting him from focusing on golf. McIlroy did, after all, miss the cut at The Players and The Memorial before failing to make the cut at the U.S. Open.
Rory finished tied for 60th at The Open Championship too. The summer was not kind to Rory until August, when he dominated the field at the PGA, winning by a record eight strokes. McIlroy won two more events during the FedExCup playoffs and was an integral part of the Ryder Cup win for Europe. (More on that moment later in the list.)
44. John Elway Introduces Peyton Manning
What better way to replace an instant legend named Tim Tebow than to bring in one of the five greatest living quarterbacks on the planet in Peyton Manning? The visual of John Elway and Peyton Manning on the same podium was a quarterback fan's dream.
The best moment of that press conference certainly came when Elway was asked about a Plan B if Manning wasn't going to be ready for the season while still recovering from injury. Elway joked, "There is no Plan B," which was a great line, even if it understandably had Broncos fans nervous.
They shouldn't have been. So far, everything has worked out in Denver.
43. Raul Ibanez Wins ALDS Game 3 with Two Home Runs
When thinking back through the MLB playoffs, perhaps the biggest storyline was the benching of Alex Rodriguez, with apologies to Derek Jeter's broken leg, of course.
The Yankees were not short on postseason drama, and none—at least not one singular moment—was more memorable than Raul Ibanez coming in for A-Rod in the ninth inning and belting a game-tying home run in Game 3 of the ALDS, then getting back to the plate in the 12th and hitting a game-winner on the first pitch.
Ibanez instantly became a True Yankee that night.
42. Johnny Manziel Beats Alabama, Secures Heisman
Johnny Football may have been given the Heisman Trophy in December, but the superstar freshman quarterback actually won the award on Nov. 10, 2012 with a thrilling 29-24 victory over Alabama.
Manziel was 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, adding 92 yards on the ground against the Crimson Tide defense.
The game created a moment of panic in the SEC, as the Aggies took out the best chance at another SEC national championship. Of course, by the end of the season Alabama got the help it needed to get back into the title hunt, and Manziel got his Heisman Trophy.
Everybody wins in the SEC.
41. Phelps vs. Lochte: 200M IM Finals
Perhaps the biggest rivalry of the Summer Olympics was between two swimmers on the same team.
The biggest moment in the rivalry came when Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte were in adjacent lanes for the 200-meter IM final, where Phelps edged out Lochte for his first gold of the London Games, his third straight Olympic gold in that event.
Sure, I could have (and should have) put Lochte losing the 4x100-meter freestyle relay after getting passed by Yannick Agnel in the final leg on this list, but the fact that Lochte lost in that relay actually added more fuel to the fire between Lochte and Phelps, essentially taking away a gold for the legend to put around his record-breaking neck.
To be really fair, I should have put on the far more memorable moment when Chad le Clos of South Africa out-touched Phelps at the wall of the 200-meter butterfly, but neither of those were as much fun to relive as the Phelps-Lochte battle where the Americans really couldn't lose either way. I'm nothing if not a homer.
40. Serena Williams Finishes Wimbledon Sweep with Gold
In July, Serena Williams reminded the world just how dominant she can be on a tennis court, winning the Wimbledon singles title and the ladies' doubles title with her sister, Venus.
Less than a month later, Williams was back on the grass, dominating the world again with a sweep of the Olympic golds in women's singles and doubles, going down as the most dominant summer in the history of Wimbledon. This may be four moments rolled into one, but combined they are as good as it gets.
39. RG3 Takes over in Washington
Griffining didn't really catch on as much at Tebowing did, and thank goodness for that. The joke, of course, is while the fad didn't last as long, all indications are that the quarterback will last much, much longer.
Robert Griffin III flashed on the scene in Week 1 with so much anticipation, delivering on that excitement with a touchdown on his second drive of the year, hitting Pierre Garcon on a crossing route that ended up in the end zone some 88 yards later. That moment was the start of a career sure to be full of great moments.
38. Daytona 500's Fire and Water Delays
The Daytona 500 was delayed for days because of weather, and even after the race finally started, NASCAR had to bring in surplus jet engines to help dry the track. Unfortunately for Juan Pablo Montoya, the "safety truck" carrying one of the drying jet engines created the most dangerous situation imaginable.
A horrific scene that reminds us just how dangerous some of these sports can be. Oh yeah, Matt Kenseth won the race, but that's probably not what most people remember.
37. Ashton Eaton Is the World's Best Athlete
Ashton Eaton won the gold medal at the London Olympics in the decathlon by such a wide margin he basically just needed to finish the 1,500 meters to secure his place on the podium.
Interestingly, winning Olympic gold may not even have been the best thing Eaton did this year. In June, Eaton broke the decathlon world record, essentially making him not only the best living athlete on the planet, but possibly the best athlete in the history of the planet.
36. London Celebrates Its Own: Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah
Jessica Ennis started a brilliant day of celebration in Great Britain with her victory in the women's heptathlon.
Ennis was ahead in the event before the 800-meter finale, not needing to win the final race to secure gold. Ennis was passed during the final lap but would not be denied in front of her home crowd, passing those who ran by her to finish first in the race, winning gold as she carried the weight of the entire country on her shoulders.
The same night that Ennis won her gold, Mo Farah kept the British party going with a thrilling victory in the men's 10,000 meters.
The best moment of the night, for sure, was Farah running around in disbelief at the victory, smacking his head with both hands while looking for someone to hug before falling to the track, kissing the ground in joy. Farah backed up his 10,000-meter victory with a gold in the 5,000 meters as well. Truly amazing moments for his adopted country.
35. Ernie Els Wins the British Open
Was the story of the British Open the return of Ernie Els to the top of a major championship leaderboard or the fact that Adam Scott choked away his chance at the Claret Jug?
The speech by Els after winning the title was amazing, showing how classy a player he has always been. In an event full of "oh my gosh" moments—and long putters galore—that may have been the most memorable.
34. Manny Pacquiao Was Robbed in Loss to Timothy Bradley
Manny Pacquiao lost twice in 2012, most recently to Juan Manuel Marquez by knockout but first to Timothy Bradley on June 9, 2012, the day everyone on the planet realized that boxing is more, ahem, subjective than professional wrestling.
Despite every boxing pundit on the planet calling the fight for Pacquiao, two of the three judges saw Bradley win the fight. What fight they were watching, nobody was quite sure, but the result stood, Pacquiao lost for the first time in seven years, and nobody trusted boxing judges ever again. Wait…did anyone ever trust boxing judges?
The WBO actually had five independent judges watch the fight and score it after the fact, with all five scoring for Pacquiao. A lot of good that did.
33. David Beckham Wins MLS Cup in Final Game in America
David Beckham came to MLS with far more fanfare than when he left, but his departure from the sport in America should come with the recognition of what he did in his time in MLS.
Even up to the last match he played for the Los Angeles Galaxy as they won the MLS Cup, Beckham was at the top of his game, one of the best players on the pitch. His time in America will resonate for a generation.
If the match was Landon Donovan's last in MLS or in professional soccer altogether, it makes the moment all the more important to remember.
32. Alex Smith Hits Vernon Davis to Win NFC Divisional Playoff
Alex Smith has always been a bit maligned in San Francisco, but the moment of his career came in the NFC Divisional Playoff round when Smith hit Vernon Davis on a seam route for a touchdown with nine seconds left on the clock, capping the craziest few minutes in recent playoff history.
Down 24-23 with four minutes to go in their season, Smith led the 49ers on an 80-yard drive, highlighted by a 28-yard scamper for the go-ahead touchdown. Not to be outdone, Drew Brees somehow answered by going 88 yards in 34 seconds to re-take the lead from San Francisco.
With 1:32 left on the clock, Smith orchestrated a seven-play, 85-yard drive to win the game. An amazing ending, and if you want fan reaction, click here and turn your speakers down.
31. Balotelli Beats Germany
Mario Balotelli is an enigma, but boy is he talented. The Italian striker scored two goals against Germany in the semifinal of Euro 2012, the first with his head and the second with a rocket off his right foot following a long breakout pass, stripping out of his Azzurri kit after the second goal to pose in all his yellow-card-earning glory.
It's always interesting with him, isn't it?
30. NLDS Game 5: Cardinals Beat Nationals with 9th-Inning Comeback
There's really only one way to remember how the Cardinals came back from six runs down to beat the Washington Nationals 9-7 in Game 5 of the NLDS, scoring four runs with two outs and two strikes—twice—in the bottom of the ninth: from the loser's perspective.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the floor is yours:
The question of how baseball could be so cruel to this city may be answered some day. It existed in horrible form in the nation’s capital for decades, and then it vanished for 33 years. It came back gnarled and wretched for seven more seasons, only to yield to this blissful summer, to the moment Friday past midnight when Drew Storen stood on the mound at chilled Nationals Park and, with two outs in the ninth inning, threw 13 pitches that could have moved the Washington Nationals four wins from the World Series.
29. NFC Championship Game: The Fumbled Punt Return
Poor Kyle Williams. He wasn't even supposed to be there.
Williams, filling in for Ted Ginn on punt return duty, had muffed a punt earlier in the game and was still sent back twice in overtime of the NFC title game to field punts for the 49ers, the second of which he fumbled after being hit by Jacquian Williams of the Giants. Devin Thomas recovered the ball for New York, and the rest is playoff history.
From elation to depression: what a difference a week made in San Francisco.
28. AFC Championship Game: Wide Left
Tom Brady gave the ball back to Joe Flacco in the AFC championship game with 1:44 on the clock after the Patriots failed to ice the game with one measly first down. Flacco still needed to go 79 yards to win and probably about 55 or 60 for a reasonable shot to send the AFC title game into overtime with a field goal.
Flacco got the Ravens down to the 14-yard line, but on two chances found himself unable to connect with receivers to get a first down with only a few seconds remaining in the game.
So, in walked Billy Cundiff for a chip-shot field goal to send the game into…oh no, he missed it wide left, ruining the Ravens' season and sending the Patriots to the Super Bowl.
27. Kentucky Wins NCAA Tournament
To be fair to Kentucky, the 2011-12 Wildcats are one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time, going 38-2 and winning the national championship in convincing fashion.
Nothing was all that hard for Anthony Davis and crew, winning their first four games to get to the Final Four by an average of 14 points per game. The Final Four victory over Louisville was a big moment for the state of Kentucky, but no matter how hard the Cardinals fought, they weren't able to keep up with their cross-state rivals.
As for the title game, it ended up being more of a coronation than a contest with Kentucky getting out in front early before holding off Kansas to cut down the nets. A team too great for too many great moments.
26. Australian Open Final: Djokovic Beats Nadal in Marathon
Imagine playing tennis against one of the two best players in the world for five hours and 53 minutes. Now imagine you are the other guy who is one of the two best players in the world. That sounds like a match for the ages.
Novak Djokovic eventually withstood Rafael Nadal to win 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 in one of the most amazing displays of athleticism, will and determination ever put on display for nearly six hours of two men playing tennis. Or any six-hour span, really.
25. The Blade Runner
I wrote an article before Oscar Pistorius ran in the London Olympic games, suggesting it was an amazing story as long as he didn't win.
Well, he didn't win, but it really was still an amazing moment to see him run. Pistorius has opened the doors to both greater equality in the world of athletics and the ongoing conversations about technological advancements in sports. Even after he stops racing, it will be hard to forget the Blade Runner's impact.
24. U.S. Women Break 4x100-Meter World Record
To win a gold medal for the United States is one thing. To beat a team as good as the Jamaican sprinters is another. To break a world record held for 27 years by the East Germans makes the women's 4x100-meter relay gold medal one of the great moments of the year in any sport.
The team of Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Carmelita Jeter shattered the field with a record time of 40.82, the only time under 41 seconds in history. The previous record, that lasted more than a quarter of a century, was 41.37. History had no chance.
Jeter's final split, albeit with a running start, was faster than men's silver medalist Yohan Blake ran in the 100 meters. (I know you can't compare the two. I know.)
Felix, who earned her third gold medal of the Games in the event, also ran her split under 9.8 seconds. It's the stuff of track and field legend, really.
23. Women's Swimming 100-Meter Medley Relay
The United States' 100-meter medley relay team is possibly the greatest relay team ever constructed in any sport, ever.
Did I overstate that point enough? Missy Franklin (backstroke) won five medals, including four golds and a bronze, breaking two world records, one Olympic record and setting two additional American records.
Rebecca Soni (breaststroke) won three medals, including two golds and a silver, and helped break two world relay records.
Dana Vollmer (butterfly) won three golds with two world records and an Olympic record to her credit.
Allison Schmitt (freestyle) won five medals, including three gold, a silver and a bronze, and helped break one world record, broke two Olympic records and set two American records.
They won the relay by nearly two full seconds over the field. I'll take this team. You can take any other team, including the men.
22. World Series: Pablo Sandoval Belts Three Homers
I was going to go with the play in Game 2 of the World Series when Prince Fielder got thrown out at home after inexplicably trying to score from first on a double by Delmon Young. While that tag by Posey was rather memorable, it didn't really set the tone for the World Series as much as I thought at the time.
Looking back, the tone was set back in Game 1 when Pablo Sandoval belted three homers to lead the Giants, and Barry Zito, to a definitive victory over Justin Verlander. Break out your Panda hats, because that was the moment the Giants could feel the title in their grasp.
21. NCAA: No. 15 Lehigh Beats No. 2 Duke, No. 15 Norfolk St. Beats No. 2 Mizzou
March 16, 2012 was a day college basketball fans will never forget. First, 15th-seeded Norfolk State Spartans toppled second-seeded Missouri on the back of Kyle O'Quinn's 26 points and 14 rebounds, just the fifth No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the history of the tournament.
Then, just hours later No. 15 seed Lehigh did the same thing to No. 2 seed Duke! C.J. McCollum led Lehigh with 30 of the team's 75 points, defeating Duke 75-70 less than an hour from the Blue Devils' campus.
Cinderella was smiling that night, for sure.
20. Spain Beats Portugal in Penalties in Euro 2012 Semifinal
Spain defeated Italy in the Euro 2012 finale, but the semifinal match with Iberian rival Portugal was far more memorable. Sure, the game was rather boring to watch, as neither team managed a goal and Spain lulled the audience to sleep with ball control and short passing to nowhere, but the end sure was hard to forget.
To be fair to Portugal, it tried during the match to score but was unable to, settling for a roll of the dice in penalties.
The most memorable moment of those PKs was actually a moment that never happened. Cristiano Ronaldo never kicked, as Spain won the match 4-2 with a strike from Cesc Fabregas as Ronaldo was slated to kick next for Portugal. Why Joao Moutinho and Bruno Alves would shoot before Ronaldo is anyone's guess.
Spain went on to cement its legacy as the best national team in the world, but one has to wonder how things would have changed if Ronaldo kicked first, or at all.
19. Bubba Watson Wins the Masters, Cries
Back in April, I called Bubba Watson winning the Masters the feel-good story of the year. Eight months later, it may still deserve that title.
Watson won the Masters on the 10th green after beating Louis Oosthuizen in a two-hole playoff. Watson, as likable as they come on the PGA Tour, broke down in tears after sinking his putt, first with his caddy and then with his mother.
Watson's wife was back home with their newly adopted infant son, a child the superstar would spend a month at home with after winning the green jacket.
18. Roger Federer Wins Wimbledon over Andy Murray
I'm honestly not sure if the Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray was a better match than the Aussie Open final that came earlier on the list, but it was certainly a better moment.
Murray was going for his first major championship in the most important tournament for any man playing under the Union Jack. Federer was going for his first Grand Slam title in more than two years, the No. 1 ranking in the world and a tie with Pete Sampras for the most Wimbledon titles in history.
17. Andy Murray Wins Gold at Wimbledon
While the Wimbledon final was a disappointment for Murray, the Olympic final at Wimbledon was anything but.
Murray got his revenge on Federer, winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, becoming the first British man to win Olympic singles gold since 1908. To be fair, Federer may have been a tad spent after dispatching of Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6, 19-17 in the semifinals.
Murray called the victory the biggest win of his life. One has to wonder if the U.S. Open title he won later in the summer was better. Probably not.
16. Oklahoma City Rallies to Win 4 Straight over the Spurs
After Oklahoma City lost the first two games of the NBA Western Conference finals to the San Antonio Spurs, almost everyone wrote them off, suggesting they couldn't win four of the next five games to get to the NBA Finals.
Well, they won four of the next four, beating the Spurs in six games. The clinching game was a great moment in and of itself, with the Thunder trailing the Spurs by 14 points after one quarter and by as many as 18 points halfway through the second.
OKC outscored the Spurs 59-36 in the second half to win 107-99 and reach its first NBA Finals. Kevin Durant—shocker—led the Thunder with 34 points and 14 rebounds, including 20 and nine in the second half.
15. Ronaldo and Messi Star in El Clasico
It seems like Real Madrid and Barcelona play six times a year, and you know what, it's still not enough.
Take your pick of great moments in 2012 Clasico matches. Do you want the 2-2 draw with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scoring all four goals in an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better match of the ages?
Would you rather the 2-1 Real Madrid victory that had one goal from each player in absolutely stunning fashion?
I'll take the latter as my moment, but when they're both on the field, you can't go wrong with any moments they create.
14. The Super-Bowl-Winning TD That Almost Wasn't
With his team trailing by two points with seconds to go in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots were happy to let Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw score a go-ahead touchdown in hopes it could give them the ball back with enough time to answer.
Bradshaw did score, but he almost opted not to, slowing down to a crawl at the goal line before awkwardly falling in for the score.
Maybe he wanted to take as much time as he could before scoring. Maybe he wanted to stop but remembered how the Ravens lost to the Patriots in the previous playoff round. Whatever his motivation, Bradshaw had one of the oddest game-winning scores in Super Bowl history.
13. Humber, King Felix and Cain Are Perfect; a Lot of Others Are Unhittable
Seven no-hitters in one season, including three perfect games? SEVEN no-hitters in one season, including THREE perfect games?
I put this as 12 because I felt there are better actual moments than Jeremy Lin going nuts at the Garden or hitting that shot in Toronto that had all the Raptors fans cheering. In my post looking at the top stories of the year, clearly Linsanity is near the top, but for actual moments, there are some still better.
Am I insane for not putting this higher? Sorry, am I Linsane?
11. Alex Morgan Scores Extra-Time Winner over Canada
The United States women's soccer victory over Canada in the Olympic semifinals may be the most exciting soccer match played on the entire planet in 2012.
Christine Sinclair put Canada up early, taking a 1-0 lead into the half. Then the craziness started. The U.S. and Canada alternated five goals from the 54th minute through the 80th minute to head to extra time tied 3-3. How crazy was that second half? Megan Rapinoe scored on a corner kick, that's how crazy.
Nothing could have had the world ready for Heather O'Reilly's beautiful cross that Alex Morgan buried in the 123rd minute of play, seconds before the whistle was set to blow for penalty kicks. There was certainly some controversy throughout that match, and the Canadian readers surely do not remember that match as fondly as we do, but there was no denying Morgan's epic winner.
10. Chelsea Wins the Champions League over Bayern Munich
A scoreless match for 83 minutes was broken open when Thomas Muller netted what most of the world thought was a sure game-winner for Bayern, but Didier Drogba did the improbable, fighting back to bury a header that tied the match in the 88th minute to force extra time.
Drogba was nearly the goat in extra time, pulling down Franck Ribery in the box to give Bayern a penalty kick, but Petr Cech kept former Chelsea man Arjen Robben's attempt out of the net, securing a level match until the shootout.
With the PKs level and only a few kicks left to decide the title, Bastian Schweinsteiger hit the post—replays show Cech getting a piece of the ball with his fingertips—before Drogba had the chance to play hero again.
And hero he was. An epic title for Chelsea.
9. Alabama-LSU Rematch for the National Title
Alabama lost one game in 2011, falling to LSU 9-6 in overtime. But fortune shone on the Crimson Tide, as the voters and computers gave them another shot at undefeated LSU for the national championship despite not playing in their own conference title game.
'Bama took advantage of the chance, destroying LSU 21-0 in the title game, holding the Tigers to under 100 yards of offense.
8. The European Ryder Cup Comeback (And U.S. Collapse)
I can't bear to relive this again. Here is what I wrote in September. Please don't read it unless you want to feel horrible all over again. Or maybe you are from Europe; then by all means, click away.
7. Tim Tebow vs. the Steelers
Remember that time in Denver when Tim Tebow got the starting job and then willed his team into the playoffs with mediocre and somewhat gimmicky quarterback play but a whole bucket full of grit and determination (and defense), only to get into a playoff situation where the Pittsburgh Steelers were so sure the Broncos would never pass the ball in overtime they stacked 11 players on the line and dared Tebow to beat them in the air and then HE DID with an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime, making Tebow an even bigger phenomenon than he was the entire year up to that point and everyone around the country debated if Tebow could really be a bona fide NFL quarterback with a long and meaningful career? (Takes a deep breath…)
What a difference a year makes. I suspect that playoff win feels like a lifetime ago in Denver and they're pretty happy with how life has gone for them since.
6. Packers-Seahawks Finish (And the Replacement Refs Who Ruined It)
The play that ended the Packers-Seahawks game this year and is still haunting the NFL with serious upcoming playoff ramifications can be summed up with one everlasting point by my colleague Aaron Nagler, noted Packers fan and, in this case, truth teller about the replacement officials Roger Goodell tried to pass off as competent enough to referee his league's games:
No reasonable human being can look at that final play after reading the definition above and think anything other than "M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball."
The NFL currently has less credibility than the now-defunct XFL ever had. The Vince McMahon-founded league may have been cheesy and filled with subpar talent on the field, but at least that league tried to make sure the football games weren't compromised.
The NFL can no longer say it is doing the same.
It's hard to believe this actually happened. Well, not for Packers fans, or fans of whichever team doesn't make the playoffs because Seattle gets in.
5. Gabby Douglas Wins All-Around Gymnastics Crown
The Olympics have dominated this list, for sure, and Douglas winning the gymnastics all-around (and leading the U.S. team to team gold as well) is worthy of one of the five best moments of the year. Oddly, though, it's only the third-biggest moment from the Olympics.
That shouldn't take away from the moment at all. Really, the only thing that could take away from the moment is the fact that NBC didn't show it to us live (note: it didn't show either of the two ahead of this live either), opting to show us most live events online using overloaded streams that crap out during big moments instead of giving people a viable televised option to watch before prime time where they could make their money back.
But none of that has anything to do with Douglas, who was a revelation this summer. Her star potential was as wide as her smile, and her victory in the all-around was truly one of the great spirit-lifting moments for this country in 2012—not just in sports, but in all of life.
4. LeBron Wins the NBA Title, Sheds Monkey off His Back
This is probably the biggest moment to take place in America, and that's how I have it ranked, with LeBron James carrying the Miami Heat to the NBA championship in 2012.
I cannot remember a player who had more pressure to win a championship than LeBron, and 2012 allowed him to finally shed the "unclutch" moniker he really never deserved.
Much like Kentucky winning the NCAA title, this moment isn't higher because the finals weren't really close. The Heat won the NBA Finals 4-1 over the Thunder, winning the clinching game 121-106 with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh standing on the sidelines for the last three minutes.
Winning by too much can't make the moment any less important. It may actually make it more important, in a way.
3. Manchester City Wins EPL Title Away from Manchester United
It's hard to put into words how incredible the last few moments of the 2011-12 EPL season really were. Manchester United had done its part on the day, defeating Sunderland 1-0 on a Wayne Rooney goal. Once its match ended, the United team stayed on the pitch to get updates from the Etihad as Manchester City was in a shocking tussle with Queens Park Rangers.
City struck first before a surprising equalizer from QPR just after halftime. QPR scored again in the 66th minute, and all looked surely lost for Manchester City until stoppage time, when super sub Edin Dzeko scored to equalize just seconds before Sergio Aguero completed the comeback, giving City three points and stealing the EPL crown away from the clutches of Manchester City on goal differential.
Truly, words cannot do justice to the amazing Manchester moment, both good and bad.
2. Usain Bolt Wins the 100-Meter Dash in 9.63
1. Michael Phelps Becomes the Most Decorated Olympian Ever
Phelps went to London with 16 medals to his name, needing just three—ha, just three—to pass Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian of all time. Phelps left the 2012 Summer Games with 22 medals, including 18 gold. Amazing.
His record-breaking medal came in the men's 200-meter freestyle relay, but his true signature moments came in the battle with Ryan Lochte in the 200-meter IM and winning gold in the 100-meter butterfly, earning a touch of retribution after losing in the 200-meter by a fingernail.
It will be hard for anyone to catch Phelps in medals, or in golds. His final moments as an Olympian galvanized his legacy as the one of the greatest and gave us the most memorable moment of 2012.