The 25 Biggest Sports Moments & Stories of the Decade
It is hard for me to believe that the first decade of the 2000s is coming to a close in less than two weeks.
This was a special decade for a lot of people, and it was a trying one as well.
When I look back at it, I, like most people, remember the vivid and graphic images of 9/11, and the sickening feeling that everyone had knowing that we were attacked by radical terrorists.
We remember other big names like George W. Bush, Barak Obama, John Kerry, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein as the featured figures of that time.
On the entertainment scene, shows like "24," "Lost," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The Sopranos," and films like "The Dark Knight," and increasingly stupid reality shows like "American Idol" and "Survivor" gave us all something to talk about with friends.
Still, the decade of the 2000s will best be remembered by me as the time I went to Ramapo College of New Jersey, a small liberal arts college nestled in the Ramapo Mountains in Mahwah, N.J. It was a time that my friends and I who went there will never forget.
During my time there, I was a journalist and Managing Editor of the college newspaper's sports section, so great moments in professional and college sports were always a huge topic of discussion.
There were a lot of memorable sports moments in the past decade. Some moments will never be forgetten for the thrill they gave us; others will be remembered for the ignominy they brought to their respective sports.
So here is a slideshow on the Most Memorable Sports Moments of the decade!
No. 25: Danica Patrick, First Woman to Win Indy Car Series Race
Patrick's rise in sports was much publicized when she joined the Indy Car Series in 2005.
Patrick became the fourth woman to race the Indianapolis 500, with her best finish to date at third place.
She was consistently a player for a championship; however, her celebrity became bigger then her credentials when she was viewed as nothing more than a pitchwoman for GoDaddy.com.
She won her first race at the Indy Japan 300, making her the first woman to win an Indy car race.
No. 24: Michael Phelps on Top of the World
Michael Phelps showed the world how gifted an athlete he was during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, when he broke Mark Spitz's mark of seven gold medals, capturing eight total.
Phelps has 16 Olympic medals all told, dating back to the 2004 games and broke numerous Olympic records with his medals tally.
He was named World Swimmer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, and American Swimmer of the Year in every single year of the decade except 2000 and 2005.
Phelps is a physical freak in the best sense of the word. He stands at 6'4" with a wing span of 6'7" that allows him to be one of the world's best swimmers.
That said, Phelps' credibility took a huge hit in 2009 when pictures of him at a college party caught him smoking a bong.
The image did its damage. Phelps lost his contract with Kellogg's, and he was suspended from swimming competitively for three months.
No. 23: Vince Young Becomes a Star at 2006 Rose Bowl
Before becoming the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, Vince Young put together one of the most memorable performances of his career at the 2006 Rose Bowl.
Young was incredible for the Longhorns. He totalled 467 all-purpose yards, 267 through the air and 200 on the ground.
USC had no answer for Vince; whenever the Trojans jumped out in front of this game, Young would find a way with his legs to pull Texas right back in front.
After Matt Leinart hit Dwayne Jarrett for a touchdown to expand USC's lead to 38-26, Young went ballistic.
Young led an eight play, 69-yard drive that culminated in a 17-yard rushing TD by Young to cut the lead to 38-33.
Later, Young led a 10 play, 56-yard drive inside the final minute of the game, ending in an eight-yard touchdown run plus a two-point conversion to beat the mighty Trojans, 41-38.
No. 22: Roger Federer Captures 15th Grand Slam Title
Roger Federer became tennis' most dominant player when he captured his 15th Grand Slam singles title in 2009 at Wimbledon.
He set numerous records at this particular Wimbledon tournament. He beat Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-3, 7-5 to qualify for his 21st consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Final.
Federer went on to defeat Tommy Haas in straight sets to earn a trip to his seventh straight Wimbledon final.
At the final, Federer took on arch-nemesis Andy Roddick in a match that lasted four hours and 17 minutes; it was one of the longest matches in Grand Slam history.
Federer lost the first set 5-7, won the second and third 7-6, 7-6, lost the fourth 3-6, and won the deciding set 16-14.
Currently, Federer is ranked No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals.
No. 21: Wardrobe Malfunction at Halftime of Super Bowl XXXVIII
Ahhh, the wardrobe malfunction. Everyone and their grandmother remembers this one.
It was during another over-produced tedium of a Super Bowl halftime show—this one performed by Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake—that the unexpected and inexplicable happened, and I am not talking about the game between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.
The show was quite racy and sexually explicit, and that was before...ummm...Timberlake accidentally ripped off a piece of Jackson's wardrobe, revealing her breast.
The outcry was enormous, of course, and it changed the way halftime shows were to be performed at the big game.
No, the NFL didn't go back to inviting high school and college bands. Instead, it went the classic-rock route with the likes of Bruce Springsteen and The Who.
No. 20: Yankees Win 2009 World Series
The New York Yankees experienced a long drought (for them) through the decade, suffering one playoff disaster after another from 2001-2008. 2009 heard a different song.
The 2009 Yankees were a mentally tough group that found a way to put together over 50 come-from-behind wins during the regular season. During the playoffs, Alex Rodriguez exorcised his playoff demons, batting .365 with six home runs and 18 RBI.
Meanwhile, C.C. Sabathia went 3-1 in the playoffs with a sparkling 1.98 ERA. Andy Pettitte, the reliable lefty for the Bronx Bombers, locked up all three series-clinching victories for the Yankees.
Hideki Matsui's six RBI in Game Six against the Phillies led the way toward clinching World Series title number 27.
No. 19: Brett Favre Moans and Groans His Way to the Jets
In what has to be the decade's biggest melodrama, Brett Favre, beginning in March of 2008, two months after the Packers lost the NFC title game to the New York Giants, tearfully announced his goodbye to the Packer Nation.
Football fans thought they had seen the last of Favre, but that wasn't to be the case. In July, Favre told the Packers that he wanted to come back to play—this after he had already turned down numerous comeback offers from the team.
The Packers and Favre got into a heated battle full of bruised egos. Favre wanted to be traded within the division to the Vikings, but the Packers would have none of that, and sent him packing (no pun intened) to New Jersey to play for the Jets.
Favre was welcomed like a king by the Jets organization and its fans. His Gang Green No. 4 jersey became the top-selling jersey in 2008.
And the Jets got off to a great start under Favre; they went 8-3 by Thanksgiving and looked poised to reach the postseason.
Then it all fell apart. Favre injured his throwing shoulder, threw nine picks in the last five games, and the Jets finished out of the playoffs at 9-7. Eric Mangini was fired, and Favre retired ... again.
No. 18: Brett Favre Gets His Revenge with the Vikings
To continue ...
Brett Favre retired from the Jets, only to return to the Vikings at the end of July 2009. Favre fooled a lot of people when he told the media around the 4th of July holiday that he didn't believe that his shoulder could handle another season.
Favre returned late in training camp, this time with his dream team, the Minnesota Vikings. He got even with the Packers, sweeping them in the season series, including a 38-26 victory at Lambeau Field on November 1.
Favre has been brilliant this year. He has thrown for 3,341 yards, 27 touchdowns and only six interceptions. So much for a bum shoulder. The Vikings are 11-2 and probably locked in as the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
No. 17: Steelers Outlast Cardinals in Closing Minutes of SB XLIII
If someone had told you before the 2008 season that the Arizona Cardinals would be two-and-a-half minutes away from winning the Super Bowl, you probably would have told that person to stop drinking.
Yes, the Cardinals were a mere 2:30 away from beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in last year's Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald's 85-yard catch-and-run put Arizona out in front 23-20, shocking the world, and the Cardinals were on the doorstep of obliterating a history of mediocrity.
But, Ben Roethlisberger had one more drive in him. He moved the Steelers all the way downfield in the final two minutes and hit Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown to give the Steelers the 27-23 victory.
For a game that got off to a very boring start, Super Bowl XLIII will be remembered as one of the best championship games ever. In fact, this Super Bowl was the most watched in NFL history.
No. 16: Lance Armstrong Wins Seven Tour de France Titles
I must admit that I am not big into cycling, but let's face it: Lance Armstrong is as polarizing a sports figure as has existed in this decade.
Armstrong beat testicular cancer, a disease that spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen in 1996.
He was only 25 when diagnosed but fought his way through it, and, by 1999, captured the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere when he won his first Tour de France.
Armstrong went on to repeat that feat six more times from 2000-2005.
His Lance Armstrong Foundation is a thriving nonprofit organization that does research on various cancers, and even guides those affected by cancer.
Armstrong's LIVESTRONG rubber wrist bands became a popular item for people across the country throughout the decade, as a symbol of support for cancer research.
Walk up to a friend and family member and you might see that yellow band around their wrists.
No. 15: Aaron Boone Lifts Yankees over Red Sox in 2003 ALCS
In a game that featured two of the best pitchers in the game with Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, the Yankees and Red Sox did battle in a deciding Game Seven in the 2003 ALCS.
The Red Sox jumped to an early 4-0 lead, and it appeared that Boston was on its way to ending The Curse of the Bambino.
However, the game turned for the worse for Boston.
With Martinez tiring, manager Grady Little decided to leave him in the game to face Hideki Matsui.
Like he would later do to Martinez in the 2009 World Series, Matsui tattooed Pedro. A double brought in one run, and a bloop by Jorge Posada tied the game.
In extra innings, a little-known player that the Yankees picked up off the scrap heap before the trade deadline became a hero. Aaron Boone lifted a knuckle ball from Tim Wakefield down the left field line and into the seats.
Boone sent the Yankees to the World Series. As we all know, Boone was dismissed after the season for Alex Rodriguez.
No. 14: Tiger Woods Wins 2008 U.S. Open
Tiger Woods is arguably the most gifted and successful athlete in professional sports.
His 14 career majors are second only to Jack Nicklaus, and, in time, if Woods should return to the game of golf, he will try his best to tie golf's greatest winner.
But, before Woods' "transgressions" bit him where it really hurts over the past three weeks, Tiger was still the king.
The last time we saw him in the winner's circle was at the 2008 U.S. Open; this tournament was an example of Woods' stubborn determination and will power.
With an injured knee, Woods found a way to tie Rocco Mediate on the final hole on Sunday to force a playoff Monday morning. The playoff did not disappoint.
An injured Woods held a three-stroke lead after eight holes but watched Mediate recapture the lead after the 12th hole.
It came down to a 18th hole with Woods trailing by a stroke. He sunk the birdie with his knee killing him to tie it, then won it on the 19th.
The win was the last time Woods won a major. He returned in 2009 after knee surgery but was not quite the same, finishing second numerous times.
The pictures from this tournament of Tiger with his wife, Elin, and their daughter are now distant images of a man once sitting on top of the world.
No. 13: NBA Dual Dynasty: Spurs and Lakers
Which team was the most dominant in the NBA this decade?
It's a great question.
The Spurs won four titles (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007), while the Lakers won four as well in 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2009.
The Lakers' run from 2000-2002 was quite different from the team that won again in 2009.
The former had the combination of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant to lead the Lakers to the promised land three times over the 76ers, Nets, and Pacers.
Once Shaq and Kobe couldn't co-exist any longer, O'Neal was shipped to Miami and the Lakers became Bryant's show.
This past summer, Bryant finally delivered on winning his own title, as he led the Lakers over the Orlando Magic in five games.
As for the Spurs, their team has been one of the most consistent in the NBA. The combination of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili is as good a core as any the NBA has had to offer in this decade.
The Spurs cruised past the Nets in 2003, fought off a tough Detroit Pistons team in 2005 and beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007.
Clearly, no two teams were as dominant as the Lakers and Spurs were in the NBA during the 2000's.
No. 12: First Ever NHL Winter Classic, Jan. 1, 2008
The NHL needed an attention-getter when it came off its strike year during the 2004-2005 season; it was during the 2007-2008 season that hockey got exactly what it needed...
Ice Hockey outdoors, in the middle of winter!
The Pittsburgh Penguins faced off with the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. The game drew the largest crowd in NHL history when some 71,000 people packed the football stadium to watch the tilt.
The game earned a 2.6 rating on NBC and other broadcast affiliates, making it the highest-rated regular season hockey game since 1996.
It wasn't the Super Bowl, nor Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals, but it was a big moment for the NHL.
The game was a great opportunity to feature Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby, and even though he only managed an assist in the game, the Penguins still won in the overtime shootout 2-1.
The Winter Classic was repeated in 2009 with the Detroit Red Wings visiting the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field. The 2010 game will be held at Fenway Park between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers.
No. 11: The "Tuck Rule" Begins a Dynasty
On a snowy Saturday night in January 2002, the New England Patriots played host to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC divisional playoff game.
The Raiders, at the time, were kings of the AFC West, and appeared to have the Patriots at death's door late in the fourth quarter, until the craziest of calls happened.
Tom Brady was hit from behind by Charles Woodson, causing him to lose control of the ball as he tried to pull the ball back into his chest.
The Raiders recovered the apparent fumble, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged the call.
The officials reversed the call, stating that Brady was trying to throw the ball as he was being hit.
Replay clearly showed that Brady was instead trying to cradle the ball back into his chest, which was not a pass, but a clear fumble.
This became known as the "Tuck Rule," and it helped ignite the Patriots' dynasty in the decade.
No. 10: Barry Bonds Becomes the Symbol of the Steroid Era
Wow, Barry Bonds' head fits into this photo.
In some respects, it's unfortunate that Bonds has become the symbol of the steroid era in baseball, but the evidence against him looms large.
He was heavily involved in the investigation of BALCO Corp. of 2002 and 2003, which was linked to providing steroids to several athletes.
His friend and trainer Greg Anderson was indicted by a grand jury for supplying anabolic steroids to athletes, and Bonds himself was indicted for committing perjury and obstruction of justice in November 2007.
Bonds never returned to the game. He was universally hated by baseball fans when he broke Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record just as the steroid story was coming out with rumblings that Bonds was a user.
No. 9: Mets Choke Away 2007 and 2008 Seasons
The 2007 and 2008 New York Mets suffered the biggest collapses in baseball history.
First, 2007. Those Mets held a seven-game lead with 17 to play over the Philadelphia Phillies, only to choke it away in the final two weeks.
Horrific losses to the Nationals, Cardinals and Marlins highlighted the disaster, including a total implosion by Tom Glavine in the season finale.
2008 was supposed to be different, because the Mets brought in Johan Santana.
Even though Santana pitched a gem against the Marlins on the next-to-last day of the season, it was not enough to stop the bleeding.
The Mets were dismantled by the Cubs during the week, and lost two of three to the Marlins, again to cost them both the division lead and wild card.
No. 8: Phil Mickelson Wins First Ever Major in 2004
Before the 2004 Masters, Phil Mickelson was known as golf's lovable loser, a guy who could shoot well on the course on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but would ultimately find a way to choke on par on Sundays. He was seemingly always blowing a lead and finishing second or third by the time a major was over.
However in April 2004, at Augusta National, Mickelson exorcised his demons when he sunk a birdie on the 18th hole to win the Masters.
The fans sat on their hands in silence as Mickelson tapped the ball with his club. Mickelson stood crouched, waiting for the ball to go in.
Once the ball sank into the hole, Mickelson leaped into the air in excitement as the throngs of fans celebrated with him.
Since then, Mickelson has won two more majors: the 2005 PGA Championship and the 2006 Masters.
No. 7: Baseball Testifies In Front Of Congress
I did say in the introduction that there were some moments that will live in infamy from the past decade. So here's one of them.
What? Everything has to be rosy?
Baseball not only took one black eye when it became clear that many of its prized stars were using performance-enhancing drugs, it took another when the likes of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens embarrassed themselves in front of Congress.
The hearing will forever be remembered for McGwire's reluctance to talk about the past, and Sosa's inability to remember how to speak English.
No. 6: Peyton Manning Finally Beats Tom Brady
No rivalry has been more acrimonious this decade than Patriots-Colts.
The Patriots had the upper hand in the battle during New England's run at three Super Bowl titles in four years from 2001-2004.
The first half of the 2007 AFC title game looked like the same old story in this rivalry. Peyton Manning, one of the game's best quarterback's could never win when it mattered. That is what separated him from Tom Brady.
The Patriots built a 21-3 lead, highlighted by a 39-yard interception return by Asante Samuel.
However, the second half would not be so easy for New England.
In total, the Colts put up 32 points in the second half, and a Patriots blowout turned into a shootout. Indianapolis managed to tie the game three different times, at 21, 28 and 31. With 3:49 to go, New England held a slim three-point lead at 34-31.
The Pats had a chance to run out the clock on this game but were forced into a three-and-out deep in their own territory. Coach Bill Belichick (unlike this year's wacky 4th-and-2 debacle) decided to punt the ball back to Indy.
That turned out to be a mistake, too.
The Colts moved the ball 70 yards in 19 seconds to spot the ball at the Patriots' 11. Later in the drive, Joseph Addai scored from three yards out to give the Colts a 38-34 lead.
Tom Brady threw up a desperation pass that was picked off by Marlin Jackson in the final seconds. The Colts went on to win Super Bowl XLI over the Chicago Bears two weeks later.
No. 5: LeBron James Takes NBA By Storm
In 2003, a kid from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio went into the NBA Draft and was selected first overall by the home-team Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the most dreadful franchises in the sport.
That young man is none other than LeBron James.
James has taken the NBA by storm over the last six years and amazed fans of all shapes and sizes with his veteran presence and unselfish style of play, and he is only 24 years old.
"King James" won NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2003-2004, as he averaged 20.9 points per game that year.
Since that time, James has made the Cavs into a perennial NBA title contender. In 2006-2007, he took the Cavs all the way to the Finals, only to lose to the Spurs in five games. However, his efforts in those playoffs will not be forgotten.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, he scored 48 points against the Detroit Pistons in Game Five, including the team's final 25 points in the second overtime of that game.
The Cavs have struggled to get back to the finals in the last two years, and with James entering free agency, the Cavs need to prove that Cleveland is indeed James' true home.
No. 4: New England Patriots Become Team of the Decade
The New England Patriots were indeed the NFL's best team during the 2000s. Their three Super Bowl titles made living legends out of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, Adam Vinatieri, and numerous others.
They became the model franchise in the NFL, preaching perfection and persistence; anything but victory was not an option for the Patriots during their decade-long run of success.
Their first title was won on a terrific drive by second-year quarterback Tom Brady, who would not have been the Patriots' starting QB in 2001, were it not for a vicious early-season hit on Drew Bledsoe by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.
Brady put Adam Vinateri in position to kick the game-winner over the Rams. Two years later, same story: Brady drove the Patriots into field goal range, and Vinatieri won it with a field goal to beat the Panthers 32-29.
The next year, 2004, the Patriots were a juggernaut. They went 14-2 in the regular season en route to dismantling the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 to win their third Super Bowl in four years.
In 2007, the Patriots became the first team in NFL history to remain undefeated in a 16-game season. The Patriots moved to 18-0, before falling to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
The 2007-2008 Patriots had one of the best offenses in football history. The combo of Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker ripped apart opposing defenses from start to finish, as the Pats set the record for points scored in a season with 589.
No. 3: Red Sox Come Back to Beat Yankees in 2004 ALCS
"They have waited 86 years to hear it. The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!" said Fox Sports play-by-play man Joe Buck after the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Four of the 2004 World Series.
However, before the Sox "reversed the curse" of the Bambino, they had to pull off arguably the greatest comeback in baseball history.
The Red Sox were down three games to none against the Yankees in the ALCS.
First, Dave Roberts' legs beat Mariano Rivera in Game Four. Then, it was Curt Schilling and his bloody sock that helped pitch the Red Sox past the Yankees in Game Six to tie the series.
Schilling's sock was soaked with blood as he pitched seven incredible innings, allowing only one run to the Yankees.
Then Johnny Damon, who looked more like a runaway hippie with long hair and a scraggly beard, beat his future team with a grand slam in the second and a two-run shot in the fourth. Red Sox Nation was never happier.
The Red Sox had a nice run from 2004 to 2007. In 2007 the Sox won it all again, when they beat the Colorado Rockies in five games.
No. 2: Mets Beat Braves in First MLB Game in New York after 9/11
Sept. 21, 2001.
Ten days after the horrific acts of Sept. 11, 2001, when 3,000 people were brutally murdered by terrorists as two planes struck and took down the World Trade Center in Manhattan, the first baseball game hosted in New York City was played at Shea Stadium between the Mets and Braves. Both teams were fighting for playoff positioning, but on this day no one cared about who won or lost, as both teams greeted and hugged each other during pre-game festivities.
The game was a good one. The Braves held a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning; with one on, Mets All-Star catcher Mike Piazza stepped up to the plate with a chance to pull the Mets even.
Steve Karsay threw a fastball down the heart of the plate, and Piazza lifted the pitch over the center field wall to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.
For the first time, Shea exploded in utter jubilation. It was a combination of joy that the Mets were in front, and relief that something good had finally happened, after days—which felt more like years—had passed since the horrifying moments of that Tuesday morning.
The home run was a symbol that life and the strength of the American people would move on.
1: Giants Defeat 18-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII
David vs. Goliath.
Before Super Bowl XLII, nobody would have guessed that the New York Giants, who had turned from mediocre football team during the 2007 regular season, turned road warriors during the playoffs in January 2008, would find a way to dethrone the undefeated New England Patriots.
On a night that many thought would be a coronation of the greatest pro football team ever in the Patriots, turned into the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
The Giants hung with the Patriots all night long. Trailing 14-10, Eli Manning somehow avoided two different sacks, and heaved the ball down the middle of the field to David Tyree.
Tyree, who had only four catches all season, caught the ball with his hand and helmet: The Helmet Catch!
A few plays later, Manning hit an open Plaxico Burress in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
The Giants defense held off the mighty Patriots offense by smacking Brady around, ending the game and giving Big Blue the 17-14 victory and the Lombardi Trophy.