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.
50. Michigan Under the Lights
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
Turn around, Ian Kinsler! You don't know what you're missing.
48. Duke Fans Know How to Heckle
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
Just like everyone else in America, apparently.
46. Mark Cuban Can't Let Go of the Trophy
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
And before all of this "discount double-check" business ruined the celebration.
38. The Scene of the Braun’s Fall
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…
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
What could be a better view of the Stanley Cup Final and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas than this one?
35. Symmetry in Motion
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
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
Nobody was harmed during the making of this slideshow.
32. The Paternos Greet the Mob
Somehow, this photo just says it all, doesn't it?
31. The Ankle Bone’s Connected to the Forehead…
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
And Vitor Belfort was just getting knocked out.
29. The Handshake Heard 'Round the World
Alternative title: When Aggressive Back-Slaps Overtake the Sports News Hole for Two Days.
28. Chaos Ensues
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
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 photographed Chelsea Johnson competing in the pole vault during the Sydney Track Classic in stunning fashion.
25. Georgetown Learns a Lesson in Diplomacy
24. A Prince in Name, a King in Game
Very likely the last time he'll be photographed in that uniform.
23. The Perfect Photograph
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
Coco Crisp decided to let his hair down this April. It was inspiring, to say the least.
21. Enter Sandman
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
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
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
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
16. By the Very Tip of a Nose
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
And win the Slam Dunk Contest in style, on top of that.
14. Nadal Shakes It Off
Has sweat ever looked this cool?
13. Mayweather Rocks Ortiz
The infamous "cheap shot" that ultimately felled Victor Ortiz against Floyd Mayweather.
12. Tiger and Steve Say Hello
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
Meanwhile, Joel Anthony becomes familiarized with the term "posterized"
10. Oh, Hey There…
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...
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
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
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
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
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
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
Lucian Bute and Brian Magee demonstrate the double punch. Pain has never looked so incredible.
2. Even the Almighty Loves Football
This is officially the coolest picture of a punter ever.
1. A Tender Moment Amid the Madness
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.