The Best Of The Best: 10 Sporting Moments That Defined 2010

Jeff Cheshire@@jeff_cheshireAnalyst IIJanuary 2, 2011

The Best Of The Best: 10 Sporting Moments That Defined 2010

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    HOUSTON - DECEMBER 29: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a time out in second half during a game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on December 29, 2010 in Houston, Texas. Miami won 125-119.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowle
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    It is without a doubt that sports are defined by spectacular moments. Whether moments of greatness, failure, humour or inspiration, they make up what we all remember from sports. While each year may contain thousands of newsworthy stories, it is the truly memorable ones that we remember in years to come and are what defines each year.

    2010 was no different, with key moments coming in almost any sport you can think of, each just as important as the others.

    Picking just ten of these moments proved to be much greater challenge than I had foreseen, showing just how good the year 2010 was for sports. However, I've done it and I wish to share with you the ten sporting moments that I think will define 2010.

10. Lakers Claim Back-To-Back Championships

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 21:  Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (C)  acknowledges his fans with his four-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore (R) at his side and the championship trophy while riding in the victory parade for the the NBA basketball champi
    David McNew/Getty Images

    We kick off the countdown with the Los Angeles Lakers, who claimed their second NBA Championship in as many years after a closely fought finals series with their long time rival the Boston Celtics.

    Many had picked the Kobe Bryant led Lakers to repeat in 2010 and win their 17th championship. Early on in the season it seemed that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic would be the Lakers biggest obstacles in achieving this feat, but a late season run by the Celtics saw that neither of these teams would make it to the finals and we would experience yet another clash between the NBA's two oldest rivals.

    It was a battle of epic proportions, with Bryant spearheading the Lakers attack, while Rajon Rondo firmly took hold of the torch at Boston and set them up for three victories, taking the series to seven games.

    A low scoring, defensive-orientated game followed that saw the Lakers come out on top by just four points. Kobe Bryant was awarded his second Finals MVP, while Phil Jackson claimed his eleventh championship as a coach.

    In the scheme of Lakers-Celtics battles, this doesn't rate as highly as some in yesteryear. Nevertheless any Lakers vs Celtics finals series is well remembered given the history of the rivalry, with 2010 being no exception and will forever be remembered as one of sports defining moments of 2010.

9. The All Blacks Claim Victory In Soweto

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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 21:  Israel Dagg of the All Blacks celebrates as he scores the match winning try during the 2010 Tri-Nations match between the South African Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks at the FNB Stadium on August 21, 201
    David Rogers/Getty Images

    The All Blacks' dominance in 2010 made it exceptionally difficult to pick a moment that defined what has come to be known as one of the most dominant rugby teams of all time. In 2010 they defeated South Africa, Australia and Wales three times each, Ireland twice and England and Scotland once each, while losing just one game in the last minute to Australia. They claimed the Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cup and successfully completed the fourth Grand Slam Tour in their 107-year history.

    But for me, the match where they toppled the Springboks at Soccer City in Soweto stands out as the most defining moment of the season. 

    It was always going to be the toughest assignment of the season, playing in front of 94,000 screaming Springbok fans, against a Springbok team after revenge after being humiliated twice earlier in the year. To go with this John Smit was to become just the second Springbok to play 100 tests in this match, giving South Africa extra incentive. Throw in a century of history and the All Black-Springbok rivalry and everything was set for a classic showdown.

    It was possibly the most inspired Springbok team since the great 1995 team and it would be a near impossible feat to beat them.

    But the All Blacks did. Trailing 22-14 late in the game, they were able to put together some truly scintillating rugby in the dying stages. With the score tied at 22 all with time up on the clock, Ma'a Nonu broke the Springbok line and delivered a pin-point pass to new boy Israel Dagg who touched down for a famous win.

    While the All Blacks will be remembered more for their dominance of the entire year of 2010, this win had historical significance and such was the drama in the last minutes of the game, will always be remembered as one of the top sporting moments of 2010.

8. Nadal Eclipses Federer As World's Top Tennis Player

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    MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 22:  Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts at the end of a charity exhibition match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at La Caja Magica on December 22, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    For the best part of the last decade Roger Federer undoubtedly the top tennis player in the world. It seemed as though there was only one man capable of toppling Federer from his throne but when it came to it, Federer seemed to come out on top more often than not.

    That man's name was Rafael Nadal and in 2010 he was finally able to edge in front of the great Federer, winning three of the four majors to Federer's one. To go with this, Nadal spent the most time at the top of the world rankings in 2010.

    Looking back on Nadal's career it is likely we will remember the way he seemed to always be so close but unable to topple his greatest rival Federer. But 2010 will be remembered as the year that he was able to finally rise above and earn the title as the world's top tennis player and will be one of the most remembered sporting accomplishments of 2010.

7. Melbourne Storm Salary Cap Scandal

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 24:  Melbourne Storm fans show their support for their team during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at AAMI Stadium on April 24, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
    Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

    The Melbourne Storm has become something of a dynasty in recent years in Rugby League's top competition, the NRL. They were in four consecutive Grand Finals from 2006-2009, emerging victors in 2007 and 2009, while also claiming three minor premierships in those years. With their stars all returning, as well as some good additions to their roster, it seemed the Storm would once again be the team to beat.

    Then everything came crashing down. On 22 April, the Storm admitted to serious salary cap breaches after a second set of books was discovered at the headquarters.

    The penalty proved to be the harshest possible. They would be stripped of their two premierships, as well as their three minor premierships. And on top of this, they would be stripped of all points won in the 2010 competition, meaning they would finish last in the competition, although still having to face up and play every week.

    The aftermath has seen many stars leave the club for the 2011 season, the biggest of these being Greg Inglis, making for a much more vulnerable team for the new season.

    While this may seem to rate lowly on this list, in rugby league playing nations, this was undoubtedly the top story of the year and will always be remembered as one of the most defining moments of 2010.

6. Butler Defies The Odds At NCAA Tournament

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    INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05:  Gordon Hayward #20 of the Butler Bulldogs drives against Kyle Singler #12 of the Duke Blue Devils during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis,
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Despite falling at the last hurdle to NCAA powerhouse Duke, Butler's run in the NCAA Basketball Tournament defied the odds and saw them cause many an upset to find themselves in the Championship Game.

    Heading into the tournament Butler were rated no more than an average team that would contend for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, before being bundled out by one of the tournament's favourites, Syracuse.

    No one told Butler this though, as they upset both Syracuse and Kansas State for a spot in the Final Four, where they would play Michigan State for a place in the Championship Game. 

    A two point win, saw that they would advance to play Duke for the top prize in all of college basketball. Most had written them off, as they had done throughout the whole tournament. But Gordon Hayward led Butler in an inspired performance and came agonisingly close to obtaining victory when Hayward's last second half court shot missed by only inches.

    As far as upsets go, this was a big one and will always be remembered as one of the great runs in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, securing it's place amongst the defining moments of the 2010 sporting year.

5. Saints Win Super Bowl XLIV

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    MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints passes quarterback Drew Brees #9 the Vince Lombardi trophy after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Ga
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    The biggest day in American sports comes around once every year and such is the significance of the event that it will always be seen as a moment that defines any sports year.

    Super Bowl XLIV possibly held even more significance than normal as the New Orleans Saints were able to complete a fairytale season and defeat the Indiana Colts 31-17.

    After Hurricane Katrina hit the city five years earlier, the future of the city and the organisation was in question. The people of New Orleans certainly had very little to celebrate in the intervening years and the Saints were not knowing what was going to become of their beloved team. Through pure courage and determination they were able to rebuild and the fairytale was completed with the team winning the biggest of all prizes in American Football.

    Afterwards, the city of New Orleans went into a celebration like none the city has ever seen and brought true joy to the faithful fans.

    This was much more than just a game of Football and the implications of the Saints win ensures that Super Bowl XLIV will forever hold a place in sports history and will be seen as one of the defining moments of 2010.

4. England Retain The Ashes

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    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 29:  England players celebrate after taking the last wicket to win the match during day four of the Fourth Test match between Australia and England at Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 29, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.
    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    In what was one of the most hyped Ashes series in recent history, England arrived in Australia with the knowledge that they hadn't won the Urn in Australia since 1987.

    Boasting 138 years of matches played between arguably cricket's top two sides over the history of the game, the Ashes rates right up there with the top rivalries in sports and is the most prized of all trophies in cricket.

    After winning the Ashes off Australia in England in 2009, the 2010-11 series was seen as England's best chance to defeat Australia in Australia to retain the Urn since they last won in Australia in 1987. It was a side that entered Australia with high confidence, boasting a team of players hitting form at the right time, whereas the usually impeccable Australia were suffering from many stars struggling for form.

    With the series all square at 1-1 heading into boxing day, it was anyone's for the taking. And England delivered one of the greatest performances in Ashes history, bowling Australia out for 98 in the first innings before piling on 513 and finished by bowling Australia out for 258, to win by an innings and 157 runs. 

    It was a simply dominant performance and was possibly Australia's worst ever test loss.

    With one test still to go, the series can still be levelled, but whatever the result, the Ashes will make the trip from Australia to England for the first time in 24 years meaning 2010 will always have a significant role in cricket and sports history.

3. King James Takes His Talents To South Beach

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat starts the fastbreak during the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat defeated the Lakers 96-80. NOTE TO USER:
    Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

    We all know what happened here.

    On July 8, Lebron James announced that he would be teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the Miami Heat for the upcoming NBA season.

    It was quite possibly the most anticipated free agent decision of all time, with so much speculation and hype before the announcement. 

    For Miami, the decision saw a means to celebrate, that The King would be wearing their colours this year. For Cleveland however, the decision reeked of injustice and has left them in a hole it seems will take a long time time to pull themselves out of.

    Whether or not the move was the best one is yet to be seen. After a slow start, Lebron James and the Heat have begun to show just how good they can play. But the real proof will come in the playoffs, where James will make another attempt for his first championship, this time with the best supporting cast he's ever had.

2. Tiger Woods Loses No. 1 Ranking; Fails to Win A Championship

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    THOUSAND OAKS, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Tiger Woods reacts to his second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club on December 5, 2010 in Thousand Oaks, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    For over a decade he was on top of the world. Arguably the top golfer of all time. He spent the best part of the last 10 years ranked as the world's No. 1 golfer and was always prominent in any event he entered.

    And then everything came crashing down in late 2009 as the secrets of his personal life were discovered and he took time off. 

    2010 saw Tiger back on the golf course, but not quite the same force that he was in the past. It was the first year he failed to win one championship, as well as losing his No. 1 World Ranking midway through the year. 

    Chances are he'll get back up and will regain his status as the world's top golfer. But 2010 will forever be remembered as the year that Tiger Woods was unable to dominate the golf course the way he has done for the past 15 years.

1. Spain Claims Victory In South Africa

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    JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11:  The Spain team celebrate winning the World Cup during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Photo by J
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    And the winner is ...

    Spain of course!

    The FIFA World Cup remains one of the world's top two sporting events along with the Olympics, making the winning a very big deal. It is perhaps the toughest of all sporting events to win, given the immense popularity of soccer in the world and the number of top class teams you have to beat to win. The fact is, there are no easy games in the FIFA World Cup, even qualifying for the competition is an achievement.

    Therefore it is only fitting that the top sporting moment that should define 2010 should go to the champions, Spain. 

    They were the pre-tournament favourites and had all the pressure to perform. After a shock loss to Switzerland in their first game, they never looked back, going unbeaten for the rest of the tournament and defeating the Netherlands 1-0 in the final to claim victory.

    While in some sporting events certain years stick out more than others, the FIFA World Cup bears significance every time it is played and you can be assured that each will be remembered fondly. Therefore, Spain's victory in South Africa takes the honours as the No. 1 sporting moment that will define the year 2010.