The Biggest Sports Moments in the Last Decade

Bryan FlynnAnalyst IDecember 31, 2009

LAS VEGAS - JULY 31:  Chris Moneymaker, the 2004 World Series of Poker champion, competes on the fourth day of the first round of the WSOP no-limit Texas Hold 'em main event at the Rio Hotel & Casino July 31, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. More than 8,700 players have registered to play in the main event. The final nine players will compete for the top prize of more than USD 11.7 million on the final table which begins August 10.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

As this decade draws to a close and the next decade begins, nearly everyone is looking back at the world of sports over the last 10 years—everything from the best athlete to the best teams is being reviewed.

If one was looking for the greatest moment in sports over the last 10 years, you would have plenty of nominees.

In baseball, one could point to the Boston Red Sox breaking an 84-year drought between World Series victories. Baseball started this decade with the New York Yankees as World Series champions and ended the same way.

The NFL saw the New England Patriots reach the Super Bowl four times and win three times. New England also finished the 2008 season with an undefeated regular season for the first time since the 1972 Dolphins but unable to finish perfect after losing the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

A close runner-up in the NFL would have to be the Pittsburgh Steelers who reached the Super Bowl twice and won two more titles. The Steelers are also the first NLF team to win six titles. Pittsburgh now has one more title than both the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers each with five.

The NBA was dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers who made the NBA Finals six times and won the title four times. The Lakers won their 15th NBA title, and coach Phil Jackson was able to become the only coach to ever win 10 titles.

Again the NBA had a very close runner-up in the form of the San Antonio Spurs who won three titles in three trips to the NBA finals. Dating back to the final last year of the decade before this one the Spurs have won a total of five titles in 11 years.

The NHL was the one league with the most parody. In the last 10 years, the NHL has seen seven different Stanley Cup winners and a season lost to a labor dispute.

Two teams, the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings, won two titles. Both teams also made a trip to the finals three times with each losing once.

A special mention has to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who played in two Stanley Cup finals and finished with a win and a loss. The Penguins’ Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin have brought their league national attention again.

This decade saw some of the most dominate performances in individual sports as well. The first 10 years of the new millennium could arguably have been one of the best ever for athletes of individual sports.

Starting off in cycling with Lance Armstrong’s continued strangle hold of the Tour De France much to the chagrin of the French tabloids. Armstrong won six of his record breaking seven titles this decade. Then after he retired from his 2005 win, he came back to finish third in 2009.

The world of tennis was taken over by a super Swede the last 10 years. Roger Federer won 15 Grand Slam titles, completed the career Grand Slam, and won the US Open and Wimbledon five straight times.

Closing fast on Federer as the decade came to a close was a young Spaniard, Rafael Nadal. In a time when tennis was owned by Federer, only Nadal was able to constantly play foil winning every Grand Slam but the US Open and dominating the French Open.

Three sports were subjugated by just three men. In the PGA, NASCAR, and track the main question was not who would finish first but who would be runner-up.

Jimmy Johnson took this decade over in NASCAR winning 47 races and becoming the only man to win four straight championships. In a sport that seen great drivers like Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, and Jeff Gordon, no one has won put together a four-year span like Johnson has.

The PGA has seen a wild tiger take over the tour the last 10 years. Tiger Woods has dominated golf like no one else in history.

Woods won 12 majors in the last decade and 56 PGA tour victories. Even with his personal life now in turmoil, it still takes nothing away from what Woods did on the golf course.

Since he burst onto the world stage in 2002, Usain Bolt has been on a steady climb to the top of the track world. His biggest coming out party was the 2008 Beijing Olympics where he set world records in the 100 and 200 meters while winning gold medals in both.

Bolt followed up that Olympic showcase by breaking his own world record in the 100 and 200 again at the World Championships in Athletics in Berlin a year later. So dominate is Bolt that his competitors look like they are running through molasses.

And while all of these accomplishments are worth while there is one event that has to be elevated above the rest. There is one event that took place early this decade and changed the landscape of that entire sport quite possible forever.

It can be argued that the biggest moment in the last decade was not in an actual sport. Still no matter what one might think, this 2003 event changed the sporting world.

An account from Nashville, Tennessee, shocked the sporting world by winning the main event at the 2003 World Series of Poker. Chris Moneymaker’s main event victory made poker a household name after he won $2.7 million.

The poker world blew up in popularity since Moneymaker’s win. His win has been called the “Moneymaker effect.”

After his win, poker was seen everywhere from television shows to the Internet. From Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker online to Poker after dark and numerous other shows, poker got exposure everywhere and nearly every channel.

There has even been poker video games, videos, and books written on the subject by the best players. The winnings have sky rocketed into the millions in the biggest events and the high thousands in others.

Now the world has been introduced to the cast of characters from the poker world. Players like the self proclaimed “poker brat” Phil Hellmuth, “Texas Dolly” Doyle Brunson, Phil Ivey, and Daniel Negreanu know as “kid poker.”

Even an act of Congress has done little to slow down the popularity of poker. Since Moneymaker’s win, the World Series of Poker has seen an increase in European and online entrants.

The World Series of Poker was once shown only late at night or just as recaps. Since the invention of the pocket cam (showing a player’s whole cards) and Moneymaker being the first non-pro to win the biggest prize in poker have both helped move this sport into new heights of popularity.

The win by Moneymaker showed that with some luck and skill anyone could win the biggest event in poker. No matter what one thinks about poker, this has to be considered one of the biggest if not the biggest moment in sports over the last 10 years.

No sport gained more popularity and exposure this decade than poker. One event sparked home games, new interest, and more money than any other event.

Chris Moneymaker’s win in the 2003 Main Event changed the poker world forever. The only thing that has somewhat slowed the poker boom has been the recent economic downturn.

As the one moment that changed an entire sport, Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event victory might be the biggest so far of the new millennium.

Feel free to leave a comment on what you think was the biggest sports moment of the first 10 years in the 2000s.