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The 50 Coolest Sports Pictures of 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball as his elbow hangs on the rim in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2011

There's that old cliche about a picture and a bunch of words, and I'm not going to bore you with any of that. The following article has 50 of the most beautiful, most iconic or simply coolest photos from the past year. What else do you need to know?

Well, I should mention the following: Generally on an article such as this, I would put the pictures in a slideshow. But in the spirit of displaying these photos in all of their splendor at full size, I've put them in a standard article for your enjoyment.

Say cheese.

 

50. Michigan Under the Lights

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 10: The Michigan Wolverines take the field for the first night game ever at Michigan Stadium to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 10, 2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This year, Michigan played the first-ever game at the Big House under the lights. And the game was as beautiful as this picture, as Michigan won a thriller over Notre Dame, 35-31.

 

49. A Fan Does the Worm

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: A grounds crew member performs a dance as Ian Kinsler #5 of the Texas Rangers stands on the field during Game Four of the MLB World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 23, 2011 in
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Turn around, Ian Kinsler! You don't know what you're missing.

 

48. Duke Fans Know How to Heckle

Gerry Broome/AP
Gerry Broome/AP

It's hard to like Duke fans. But damn it, they know how to mess with an opponent.

 

47. Stephen Tulloch Gives Tebowing a Try

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 30:  Linebacker Stephen Tulloch #55 of the Detroit Lions reacts by 'Tebowing' after making a sack on quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos during the first quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 30, 2011 i
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Just like everyone else in America, apparently.

 

46. Mark Cuban Can't Let Go of the Trophy

Busted Coverage and this guy: http://yfrog.com/user/ConorCClancy/profile
Busted Coverage and this guy: http://yfrog.com/user/ConorCClancy/profile

Hey, when you are an active owner like Mark Cuban that obviously loves your team, you can do whatever you like with the trophy once your team wins the title. Just, you know, wash it—and your hands—when you're done.

 

45. David Freese Gets Mobbed

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 27:  David Freese #23 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates at home plate after hitting a walk off solo home run in the 11th inning to win Game Six of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium on October 27, 20
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Pimpin' ain't Freesy, yo. Though it was for David Freese this postseason, namely in Game 6, when he both tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run triple and won it in the 11th with a home run.

 

44. Anthony Robles Inspires Us All

AP
AP

Anthony Robles was born with one leg, went 36-0 his senior season wrestling for Arizona State and won a national championship. What have you done lately?

 

43. Derek Jeter Hits No. 3000

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 09:  Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees celebrates at home with teammates Jorge Posada #20, Mariano Rivera #42, Alex Rodriguez #13 and Curtis Granderson #14 after hitting a solo home run in the third inning for career hit 3000 whil
Michael Heiman/Getty Images

I think what I love about this picture is that you get to see the moment from Jeter's perspective. There are the two teammates he's played with his entire career, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, with the rest of his teammates just behind them. There is the crowd, with everyone on their feet. A great moment for a truly special ballplayer.

 

42. Alabama Starts to Recover

David Bundy/AP
David Bundy/AP

Amidst the disaster of the tornado that ravaged the South this past April, particularly in Alabama, there nonetheless could be found symbols of hope. In a year that reminded us of the dogmatic dangers associated with entrenched institutions, there were also moments that reminded us all of how sports can alleviate some of the pain that comes from tragedy.

 

41. The NFL Lockout

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - MARCH 03:  A view of Sun Life Stadium behind a locked gate as the NFL lockout looms on March 3, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

I remember seeing this photo while the lockout was in effect and just feeling depressed. A great photograph does that.

 

40. Bob Kraft and Jeff Saturday Share a Hug

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25:  DeMaurice Smith (L)   executive director of the National Football League Players' Association looks on as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft (C) is embraced by Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday (R) during a news confe
Rob Carr/Getty Images

This hug—shared as both an embrace for a lockout ended and consolation for the loss of Kraft's wife, Myra, to a battle with cancer—is the enduring image from the end of the NFL lockout.

 

39. Aaron Rodgers Earns His Belt

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers #12 (R) and Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate with the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011
Al Bello/Getty Images

And before all of this "discount double-check" business ruined the celebration.

 

38. The Scene of the Braun’s Fall

Adam McCalvy/MLB.com
Adam McCalvy/MLB.com

Braun's teammates recreated the scene after Braun fell trying to complete an inside-the-park home run this past season.

 

37. They must get tired of biking in someone else’s shadow…

Delly Carr/ITU/AP
Delly Carr/ITU/AP

This photo came from the 2011 Triathlon ITU World Championship Yokohama in Japan this September. And it is freaking cool.

 

36. An Elusive Puck, Indeed

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 04:  Maxim Lapierre #40 of the Vancouver Canucks and Andrew Ference #21 of the Boston Bruins fight for the puck in front of Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins during Game Two of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June
Harry How/Getty Images

What could be a better view of the Stanley Cup Final and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas than this one?

 

35. Symmetry in Motion

Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
Stefan Wermuth/Reuters

I've got it! No, I've got it! Well, somebody from either the Wales or Australian side was going to make the catch during their friendly in December.

 

34. Hi, Stick

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 29:  Craig Adams #27 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles in the corner for a puck against the Philadelphia Flyers at Consol Energy Center on March 29, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Flyers defeated the Penguins 5-2.  (Photo b
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As Craig Adams of the Penguins demonstrates, that's about as up-close as you'll ever want to see the blade of a hockey stick during a game.

 

33. Slight Engine Issues

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 12:  Brett Thompson, driver of the Rich Thompson Trucking Chevrolet, catches on fire after crashing during the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Casino Arizona 125 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 12, 2011 in Avondale, Arizona
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Nobody was harmed during the making of this slideshow.

 

32. The Paternos Greet the Mob

Gene J. Puskar/AP
Gene J. Puskar/AP

Somehow, this photo just says it all, doesn't it?

 

31. The Ankle Bone’s Connected to the Forehead…

Fadi Al-Assaad/Reuters /Landov
Fadi Al-Assaad/Reuters /Landov

The physics of this picture alone are astounding. Syria's Sanharib Malki probably didn't enjoy getting kicked in the face all that much.

 

30. Anderson Silva Was Just Kicking It

James Law/Heavy
James Law/Heavy

And Vitor Belfort was just getting knocked out.

 

29. The Handshake Heard 'Round the World

DETROIT - OCTOBER 16:  Jim Harbaugh head coach of the San Francisco 49ers argues with Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions during the NFL game at Ford Field on October 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. The 49ers defeated the Lions 25-19.  (Photo by Leon Halip/G
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Alternative title: When Aggressive Back-Slaps Overtake the Sports News Hole for Two Days.

 

28. Chaos Ensues

Kerstin Joensson/AP
Kerstin Joensson/AP

Finland's Jouni Pellinen probably has no idea that an explosion of skiers just went off behind him.

 

27.  The Last We Will See of Jose’s Hair

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 11:  Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets celebrates after scoring a run in the third inning against the Colorado Rockies on April 11, 2011 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Ji
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins have already informed Reyes he will have to cut his hair. So enjoy this photo—you won't be seeing another one like it for some time.

 

26. A Breathtaking Vault

Matt King/Getty Images
Matt King/Getty Images

Matt King photographed Chelsea Johnson competing in the pole vault during the Sydney Track Classic in stunning fashion.

 

25. Georgetown Learns a Lesson in Diplomacy

China Daily/Reuters
China Daily/Reuters

Georgetown traveled to China on a diplomacy tour to play the Bayi Military Rockets and a brawl broke out. Memes quickly followed.

 

24. A Prince in Name, a King in Game

David J. Phillip/AP
David J. Phillip/AP

Very likely the last time he'll be photographed in that uniform.

 

23.  The Perfect Photograph

Brian Snyder/Reuters
Brian Snyder/Reuters

British diver Gary Hunt dove to the backdrop of the skyline during the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series, and photographer Brian Snyder caught the moment at the perfect time. In a word, magnificent.

 

22. Fro Sho

Ben Margot/AP
Ben Margot/AP

Coco Crisp decided to let his hair down this April. It was inspiring, to say the least.

 

21. Enter Sandman

Steve Dykes/Reuters
Steve Dykes/Reuters

There is a person behind that sand, I swear—it's Bruce Lamb, who was competing in the long jump at the 2011 USA Track and Field Championships.

 

20. Alicia Is Living the Beam

Francesco Carrozzini/ESPN
Francesco Carrozzini/ESPN

That terrible pun didn't do justice this beautiful photo taken of gymnast Alicia Sacramone for ESPN the Magazine's Body Issue this year. While I almost didn't include this picture since it was a staged photograph, it was simply too stunning—and newsworthy alongside Hope Solo's appearance in the issue—to exclude.

 

19.  Lending a Helping Hand

NAPIER, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 18:  Pascal Pape of France wins lineout ball under pressure from Adam Kleeberger of Canada during the IRB 2011 Rugby World Cup Pool A match between France and Canada at McLean Park on September 18, 2011 in Napier, New Zeala
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Pascal Pape of France was lifted higher by teammates and won the ball over Canada's Adam Kleeberger during this September's Rugby World Cup.

 

18. Beast Mode

HOUSTON - SEPTEMBER 02:  Nyjer Morgan #2 of the Milwaukee Brewers plays to the fans as they defeat the Houston Astros 8-2 at Minute Maid Park on September 2, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm not a huge fan of Nyjer Morgan's antics, but I can't deny that this photo of him going all "Beast Mode" is just freaking cool to see.

 

17. Rooney's Bicycle

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Wayne Rooney of Manchester United scores a goal from an overhead kick during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford on February 12, 2011 in Manchester, England.
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

One of the plays of the year, hands down, came off the foot of Wayne Rooney in February when Manchester United played Manchester City. Bicycle!

 

16. By the Very Tip of a Nose

Handout/Reuters/Landov
Handout/Reuters/Landov

At this year's Melbourne Cup, Dunaden just beat out Red Cadeaux, which it apparently took judges three minutes to determine. Sometimes, nobody deserves to lose.

 

15. I Believe Blake Can Fly

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 19:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers dunks the ball over a car in the final round of the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest apart of NBA All-Star Saturday Night at Staples Center on February 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, Californ
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

And win the Slam Dunk Contest in style, on top of that.

 

14. Nadal Shakes It Off

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - MARCH 29:  Rafael Nadal of Spain shakes the sweat from his hair after his win over Alexandr Dolgopolov of the Ukraine during the Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 29, 2011 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Mat
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Has sweat ever looked this cool?

 

13. Mayweather Rocks Ortiz

John Locher/AP
John Locher/AP

The infamous "cheap shot" that ultimately felled Victor Ortiz against Floyd Mayweather.

 

12. Tiger and Steve Say Hello

AP
AP

Well that just about says it all, doesn't it? In case you aren't aware, Steve Williams is the ex-caddie of Woods that has run his mouth a whole lot since the two split. The timeless tale of a jaded lover, I guess.

 

11. Derrick Rose Elevates

MIAMI, FL - MAY 24:  Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls dunks on Joel Anthony #50 of the Miami Heat as LeBron James #6 of the Heat looks on in the first half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 24, 2011 at A
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Joel Anthony becomes familiarized with the term "posterized"

 

10. Oh, Hey There…

Hans Deryk/Reuters
Hans Deryk/Reuters

Spectators enjoy Rafeal Nadal toweling off during a match this year. And yes, I'm assuming he was wearing shorts, though you wouldn't know it by the reaction of the crowd.

 

9. Where There Is Smoke, There Is Boise...

Charlie Litchfield/Idaho Press-Tribune/AP
Charlie Litchfield/Idaho Press-Tribune/AP

There isn't a BCS bid, though, especially when the freaking Sugar Bowl goes with an inferior Virginia Tech team instead. To hell with the BCS.

 

8. Adam Kleeberger Reaches Enlightenment

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 02:  Flanker Adam Kleeberger of Canada receives mediacal attention after a heavy collision with prop Tony Woodcock of the All Blacks during the IRB Rugby World Cup Pool A match between New Zealand and Canada at Wellington
Phil Walter/Getty Images

I can't take my eyes away from this photo. The different colors. The look in his eyes. That facial hair. Turns out, he was just getting some treatment for an injury during the Rugby World Cup. But this photo is so much more than that, isn't it?

 

7. The Carrier Classic Doesn’t Disappoint

CORONADO, CA - NOVEMBER 11:  The North Carolina Tar Heels play against the Michigan State Spartans during the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic on board the USS Carl Vinson on November 11, 2011 in Coronado, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

North Carolina beat Michigan State 67-55 aboard the USS Carl Vinson this November. But the scene itself was so incredible, I don't think many outside of the two teams cared all that much about the outcome.

 

6. The Moment of the Year

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Abby Wambach's header in stoppage time—in overtime!—against Brazil in this year's Women's World Cup was, hands down, the moment of the year in American sports. It still gives me chills every time I watch it.

 

5. Chris Carpenter Covers First, Does Yoga

Jeff Haynes/Reuters
Jeff Haynes/Reuters

This is one way to make a play at first, as Chris Carpenter demonstrated during Game 1 of the 2011 World Series against the Rangers.

 

4. The Biggest Lily Pad Ever

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 08:  A Bull Frog hops around on the field as Carlos Costly #13 of Honduras brings the ball up in the rain against the USA at Sun Life Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

This is a picture of a frog that made its way onto a soccer field. If you weren't looking at it, it would sound pretty boring, right? This photograph, however, is anything but boring.

 

3. The Double Punch, Frozen in Time

Christinne Muschi/Reuters
Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Lucian Bute and Brian Magee demonstrate the double punch. Pain has never looked so incredible.

 

2. Even the Almighty Loves Football

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: Donnie Jones #5 of the St. Louis Rams punts into the sun against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

This is officially the coolest picture of a punter ever.

 

1. A Tender Moment Amid the Madness

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15:  Riot police walk in the street as a couple kiss on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.  (Photo by Rich Lam/G
Rich Lam/Getty Images

After all of the speculation that this moment was staged and the many memes that followed, the couple—Scott Jones and Alex James—would claim that they had been hit by police shields and Jones was simply trying to comfort his girlfriend, James, who was understandably upset after the incident.

That's all fine and dandy, but I nonetheless like to remember it as a kiss. It's just...so...epic that way.

 

My name is Timothy Rapp, and I put the "grrrr" in Swagger.

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