Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year

Scott Janovitz@@BrainTrain9Featured ColumnistDecember 23, 2014

Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year

0 of 30

    Richard Sherman was one of 2014's internet stars.
    Richard Sherman was one of 2014's internet stars.Michael Perez/Associated Press

    In relatively recent history, increased Internet activity has augmented sports coverage in a profound way, driving millions upon millions of eyes and ears toward the industry's biggest stars and stories.

    This year was no different, as the 2014’s most captivating sports moments found a home and plenty of room to flourish all across the Web.

    Landon Donovan, for example, never received as much publicity as when news spread online that U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann had decided to leave him off the prestigious World Cup squad.

    And, in a similar vein, news concerning the NBA’s Donald Sterling fiasco spread like wildfire mere minutes after TMZ exposed the former owner for his unknowingly recorded and unquestionably racist diatribe.

    Finally, in the NFL, Richard Sherman gained a new and perhaps unprecedented level of infamy as soon as Internet users clicked on his colorful conversation with Erin Andrews following 2014’s NFC Championship game.

    With the aforementioned events and New Year's around the bend, we were inspired to highlight the 30 Most Viral Sports Moments of the Year.

    Some brought laughter, while others inspired anger or even tears. In the end, though, each moment had—at least temporarilyone major thing in common: extraordinary fame and following all across the information highway.

Pondering Peterson

1 of 30

    Adrian Peterson's 2014 run-in with the law made serious headlines.
    Adrian Peterson's 2014 run-in with the law made serious headlines.Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    On September 12, 2014, Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.

    With issues concerning Ray Rice and domestic abuse not yet on the back burner, the nation was more outraged than surprised.

    The story was ready-made for American consumption: It included both a serious legal allegation and a former NFL MVP still in his prime.

    And when TMZ Sports is on the trail—and boy was itmoving on quickly and without endless publicity is thrown way out the window.

Money Mo’ne

2 of 30

    Mo'ne Davis was the viral sensation of the summer.
    Mo'ne Davis was the viral sensation of the summer.Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    There are few things American sports fans enjoy more than an athlete with potential. And when said athlete is an unknown and a female teenager at that, you can be sure countless headlines will be written.

    Of course, that was precisely the case last August when little-league sensation Mo’ne Davis took the sports world by storm.

    The 13-year-old pitcher from Philly bullied her way through the Little League World Series, leading her team all the way to the tournament’s semifinals.

    In the process, the phenom became the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in the Little League World Series.

    And forget viral: Davis’s star grew so large that she actually appeared on the August 25th cover of Sports Illustrated.

One Ring Short

3 of 30

    After a well-publicized mistake in its opening ceremony, Russia had to make fun of itself in the end.
    After a well-publicized mistake in its opening ceremony, Russia had to make fun of itself in the end.Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

    The 2014 Winter Olympics brought with it many compelling stories, and the event’s opening ceremony deserves at least some of the credit.

    Above all else, Sochi's salute to the world will be remembered for one pronounced gaffe.

    In a singular moment caught in time, the whole world stopped and simultaneously thought, “Boy, Vladimir Putin is going to be maaaad!”

    Then, from there, the Internet did what the Internet does.

    In fact, the story became such a well-known viral sensation that Russiathe nationwas actually embarrassed into responding.

Tragedy on the Track

4 of 30

    Tony Stewart made Internet headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2014.
    Tony Stewart made Internet headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2014.Ed Zurga/Associated Press/Associated Press

    When Tony Stewart’s car struck and killed Kevin Ward during a sprint car race on August 9, millions of people turned their attention to the track, seeking to discover exactly what had taken place.

    Plenty of outsiders blamed Stewart—though the racer categorically maintained that the incident was an accident—while many more, a judge included, gave him the benefit of the doubt.

    No matter which side of the fence one fell, however, most people simply had to see the footage for themselves to draw their own conclusions.

All About Oshie

5 of 30

    Regardless of sport, TJ Oshie was the star of the 2014 Winter Olympics
    Regardless of sport, TJ Oshie was the star of the 2014 Winter OlympicsClive Mason/Getty Images

    To avid hockey fans, deciding a contest with a shootout seems almost like sacrilege. To the rest of the world, though, the one-on-one format is about as exciting as the sport gets.

    The latter fact is one on which T.J. Oshie—a star on the 2014 U.S. Olympic Hockey team—capitalized in a major way.

    On February 15, in a preliminary-round Olympic hockey matchup, the USA and Russia found themselves in a nail-biting shootout.

    Fortunately, however, the Americans had a secret weapon on their side, and it came in the form of Oshie.

    After taking the team’s first shot, the Washington native was asked to take five more, all in a row (international rules stipulate that after the third shot coaches can reuse players as often as they desire).

    And like only he could, Oshie proceeded to make four of his six attempts, including the game-winning eighth and final shot.

    After that, as if his stick screamed, “Move over, Yoshi!” it was suddenly all about Oshie.

Southern Football

6 of 30

    There are many ways in which football in the south is different. If you ever need a concise explanation as to why or how, try using the video above.

    Then again, the lucky person you’re talking to has probably already seen the aforementioned viral magic.

    For those who don’t know, Alabama took on and fell to Oklahoma (45-31) in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, and, well, some fans didn’t handle it—or their alcohol—all that well.

    And like with kittens hounding a ball of yarn, everyone online needed at least a glimpse of the world’s most obstinate fan.

The Shot

7 of 30

    Damian Lillard broke Houston hearts and the internet with one Game-6 shot.
    Damian Lillard broke Houston hearts and the internet with one Game-6 shot.Cameron Browne/Getty Images

    The average NBA fan loves two things the most: buzzer-beaters and watching LeBron James lose.

    Last season provided enough of both.

    Now with regard to the former, they are at their absolute best in significant moments, like...say...at the end of a series-deciding playoff game.

    Of course, thanks to Portland’s Damian Lillard, that is precisely what NBA fans got on May 2, 2014.

    With just one Game 6 shot, the talented point guard sank Houston—99-98—and propelled Portland into the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in 14 years.

    And by the way, Lillard owned a lot more than the Rockets; he owned the Internet also, for at least a day or two.

Christ the Redeemer

8 of 30

    Soccer and Christ stole the show at World Cup 2014.
    Soccer and Christ stole the show at World Cup 2014.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

    In 2014, the World Cup brought the sports industry plenty to talk about, including great soccer and hungry humans (see one Luis Suarez).

    It also brought us one seriously lasting image of Jesus Christ in statue form.

    The Story: Shortly after halftime of the tournament’s final match, TV coverage turned its attention to, of all things, the sun, which happened to be setting in perfect alignment with Brazil’s legendary Christ the Redeemer statue.

    And in somewhat surprising fashion, the captured visual became an instant craze, or in other words a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.

Lauren Strong

9 of 30

    Lauren Hill became a major story and an even bigger hero in 2014
    Lauren Hill became a major story and an even bigger hero in 2014Ron Hoskins/Getty Images

    The year in sports brought plenty of heartburn and headaches. However, it also brought some touching moments too.

    On November 2, Lauren Hill appeared in her first college basketball game, suiting up for Mount Saint Joseph University.

    It wouldn’t sound like much, but in 2013 Hill was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

    As news of Hill and her heroic story trickled out of Ohio, the sports world tuned in to see what true passion and perseverance are all about.

    And when she scored twice during her first memorable outing, Lauren Hill quickly transitioned from college student to American hero.

Championship Cramps

10 of 30

    LeBron James cramped at the worst possible time in 2014, and it naturally became a major story.
    LeBron James cramped at the worst possible time in 2014, and it naturally became a major story.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Cramping is never fun, unless it’s happening to the guy you’re playing or rooting against.

    So when LeBron James came down with debilitating cramps during Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Finals, just about everyone outside of Miami found the story downright amusing.

    And as the four-time MVP was forced to check himself out of a rather important showdown with the Spurs, literally millions of people took to Twitter, YouTube and nearly every other corner of the Internet.

Howard Saves the Day…Almost

11 of 30

    Tim Howard's legendary World Cup performance went viral in a major way.
    Tim Howard's legendary World Cup performance went viral in a major way.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Like never before, the USMNT’s run in the 2014 World Cup took America by storm. And more specifically, goalie Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium in the round of 16 stole the show.

    In now-legendary fashion, Howard saved a World Cup-record 16 shots on goal and was named the Man of the Match even in defeat.

    Of course, as expected in today’s virtual society, the magical performance was documented and then sharedeverywhere!

Look, Mom, One Hand!

12 of 30

    Odell Beckham's sensational catch was one of 2014's hottest topics.
    Odell Beckham's sensational catch was one of 2014's hottest topics.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    On the topic of 2014's most memorable plays, perhaps none was more spectacular than the catch Odell Beckham made on November 23.

    Sure, the Giants lost to the Cowboys that day, but all anyone really remembers is Beckham’s miraculous snag, which some have referred to as the best of all time.

    Needless to say, when a sports play in the year 2014 is being mentioned among the “best ever,” you can pretty much guarantee it’s going viral.

    And it did!

    By the way, just for fun, check out some of these equally amazing Beckham clips captured in pregame warm-ups.

If Looks Could Kill...

13 of 30

    Ashley Wagner's look of disappointment went viral in 2014.
    Ashley Wagner's look of disappointment went viral in 2014.Pool/Getty Images

    Internet users can thank U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner and a panel of Olympic judges for one of the year’s most entertaining memes.

    When, on February 8, those very same judges revealed to miss Wagner an apparently low score of 63.10, the American’s immediate reaction said it all: plain-and-simple disgust.

    And the Viral Vixen’s look—you know, the one that said, “What a joke. I hate Sochi!”—was simply too good to ignore.

    So no one did!

Hey, You Stepped on My Tire!

14 of 30

    Brad Keselowski's fight with Jeff Gordon was, for a while, all anyone could talk about.
    Brad Keselowski's fight with Jeff Gordon was, for a while, all anyone could talk about.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    When your job is all about driving at speeds that sometimes exceed 200 mph, your fights should be pretty extreme too, and should really never involve shoving.

    Now we just need to notify Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick, who got into 2014’s biggest and most viral shoving match after a November race at Texas Motor Speedway.

    With two laps left, Keselowski attempted a pass that resulted in a Gordon flat, and the latter took serious offense.

    Like most petty squabbles, though, the fight solved absolutely nothing. It did, however, entertain millions of people all around the world.

Determined Dempsey

15 of 30

    Clint Dempsey and Team USA dominated the Internet during World Cup play.
    Clint Dempsey and Team USA dominated the Internet during World Cup play.Michael Steele/Getty Images

    In America this year—according to number of tweets per minute—only Percy Harvin’s Super Bowl kick return created more buzz on Twitter than Clint Dempsey’s go-ahead goal against Portugal in the World Cup.

    Coming off a win over Ghana in Game 1, the U.S. knew it needed a tie or a win against Portugal in Game 2, as the eventual-champion Germans awaited the Americans in Game 3.

    With that in mind, Dempsey’s improbable goal in the 80th minute—which gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead—was as exciting a soccer moment as practically any America had celebrated.

    It gave a country hope, positioned the nation firmly behind this whole "soccer thing," and on behalf of Americans everywhere screamed, “Group of Death, what?”

Paul George's Injury with Team USA

16 of 30

    Paul George's broken leg was something most people had to see at least once.
    Paul George's broken leg was something most people had to see at least once.Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    There’s just something about gruesome injuries that attract attention. Though many find them too disturbing to watch, it seems plenty of others have no issue at all.

    This year’s selection for the most horribly tragic and disgusting injury video goes to Paul George of the Indiana Pacers.             

    During the fourth quarter of a Team USA scrimmage in August, Indiana’s star shooting guard broke his leg in truly horrific fashion.

    The costly injury—which occurred while George was trying to chase down James Harden—was traumatic enough to put an end to the game.

Michael Sam Says, "Hello, World!"

17 of 30

    Michael Sam's big announcement in 2014 rocked the sports world.
    Michael Sam's big announcement in 2014 rocked the sports world.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    In February of this year, former Missouri Tiger Michael Sam let the world into his personal life, acknowledging to all that he is gay.

    The moment was seen as a socially groundbreaking one, as the talented defensive end represented the first openly gay football player.

    But while many celebrated the significant step, others failed to catch up.

    No matter which side of the line you fell, though, the moment Sam was drafted was unquestionably one to remember.

    And in these modern times—instead of, say, the traditional textbook—the Internet was the means by which Sam’s historic occasion was recorded and discussed. 

Cali Chrome

18 of 30

    As long as California Chrome flirted with winning the Triple Crown, the Internet was his.
    As long as California Chrome flirted with winning the Triple Crown, the Internet was his.Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The world has been waiting for a Triple Crown horse since 1978, the year Affirmed ran his way into the history books.

    And in 2014, it looked as though America would get its racing fix, as California Chrome flirted with becoming just the 12th horse to accomplish the amazing feat.

    As expected, when Chrome ran away with both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Internet proceeded to spontaneously explode.

    Of course, America’s hopeful came up short in the Belmont, the Triple Crown’s third and final race. For roughly three weeks, though, Chrome was killin' it!

The Curious Case of Jameis Winston

19 of 30

    It was a tough year for Jameis Winston, and Internet users never held back.
    It was a tough year for Jameis Winston, and Internet users never held back.Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

    Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had his share of setbacks in 2014, and each one could reasonably appear on this list.

    With that said, perhaps none captured America’s imagination quite like the signal-caller’s most crabby crime.

    Of course, coach Jimbo Fisher called the mishap an “honest mistake” when speaking to reporters, but either way, Americans devoured the story...instead of the crabs.

    After all, it had everything: a Heisman Trophy winner and defending national champion, a documented theft and, last but certainly not least, victimized crustaceans.

Ray Rice

20 of 30

    News of Ray Rice's mistake, as well as the video of it, spread virally like wildfire.
    News of Ray Rice's mistake, as well as the video of it, spread virally like wildfire.Andrew Burton/Getty Images

    When Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested on assault charges in February of 2014, a once-beloved NFL star was exposed, while a major national concern—domestic abuse—was brought into clearer focus.

    And when video of the horrific event surfaced soon after, the sports world couldn’t take its eyes away.

    Not surprisingly, the NFL’s subsequent mishandling of the issue in general and of Rice in particular only further intensified national obsession and outrage as the country turned full attention to a story that truly transcended sports.

    In the end, the rounds of intense coverage and debate demonstrated once again the power of social media pressure.

The Bite Felt 'Round the World

21 of 30

    When Luis Suarez bit an Italian opponent, the Internet exploded.
    When Luis Suarez bit an Italian opponent, the Internet exploded.Clive Rose/Getty Images

    On January 24, 2014, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez literally bit another man.

    That he bit that man—Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini—in the middle of a World Cup soccer game, while the entire world was watching, made the incident all the more captivating.

    And it wasn’t Suarez’s first taste of human flesh, either. In fact, it turns out he has sort of a bizarre inner pull toward cannibalism, tasting opponents in both 2010 and 2013 as well.

    Not surprisingly, the Uruguayan’s peculiar habit was a story into which the rest of the world has happy to sink their teeth (pun intended).

Landon Leftovers

22 of 30

    Landon Donovan's World Cup snub was one of the year's biggest stories.
    Landon Donovan's World Cup snub was one of the year's biggest stories.Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

    After representing the U.S. national team for nearly 16 years (Donovan joined the U17 team in 1998), Landon Donovan was somewhat abruptly left off the American squad in May of 2014 as the group readied for World Cup action.

    The decision, made by head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was as unpopular as it was surprising. The former team captain remains among the most popular players in American soccer history, is a four-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year and last July became the first U.S. player to reach the 50-goal mark in international play.

    Klinsmann was likely banking on the apathetic American soccer fan quickly moving on, but as we know well by now, that was far from the case.

Jeter Fever

23 of 30

    Online baseball fans were greatly affected when Derek Jeter called it quits.
    Online baseball fans were greatly affected when Derek Jeter called it quits.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    When Derek Jeter announced that 2014 would be his last season in MLB, the sports world took notice, to say the least.

    The five-time champion was honored, cheered and given gifts at every stop he made throughout the baseball season, while the media attention devoted to his farewell tour made him look more like presidential hopeful than retiring athlete.

    And leave it to the Jordan Brand to put America’s immense respect for Jeter into perspective: A two-minute video/emotional rollercoaster that could, and would, reach computers and cell phones all across the world.

Sterling Saga

24 of 30

    Donald Sterling was outed and analyzed all over the Web.
    Donald Sterling was outed and analyzed all over the Web.Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

    The NBA would never be the same after April 25, 2014, the day TMZ released recorded audio that included both Donald Sterling’s voice and obscenely racist comments.

    The subsequent media attention and eventual ousting of L.A.’s Sterling transformed the way in which owners could be disciplined as well as the league’s standard for general behavior moving forward.

    Before that, though, the former Clipper was left to be dissected at the mercy of the Internet and all its most social users.

    Not surprisingly things there got ugly, and fast.

Sochi, Oh Sochi

25 of 30

    Vladimir Putin likely grew tired of all the talk surrounding Sochi's disgusting living quarters.
    Vladimir Putin likely grew tired of all the talk surrounding Sochi's disgusting living quarters.Hannah Peters/Getty Images

    The Sochi Olympics brought it all: international competition, great theater and notably horrendous living quarters.

    The latter, in fact, was one of the major takeaways from the momentous event.

    Between the disgusting accommodations in and around the Olympic village and all the loveable stray dogs, members of the American media were appalled enough for it all to go incredibly viral.

    And thanks to ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, TV Land got a laugh out of it too.

    Enlisting the help of luger Kate Hansen, Kimmel and his team managed to create a hilarious—and realistic enough—video that captured a loose wolf wandering around what appeared to be Hansen’s hotel.

    In the end, Kimmel and Hansen were the best but far from the only people to poke fun at Sochi’s horrific housing: In just two days' time, Hansen’s video alone received nearly 2 million views and plenty more responses.

The Legend of Bumgarner

26 of 30

    Madison Bumgarner dominated batters and the Internet in 2014.
    Madison Bumgarner dominated batters and the Internet in 2014.Elsa/Getty Images

    In 2014, San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner cemented his spot among baseball’s all-time greats.

    He first amazed in Game 1 of the World Series, throwing seven strong innings while giving up just one run.

    He then improved upon his already stellar play in Game 5 when he threw nine brilliant innings of four-hit, shutout baseball.

    But believe it or not, in a Game 7 for the ages, Bumgarner managed to far exceed what he’d already done, putting together a performance that would stun the sports world and set the Web ablaze.

    On just two days rest, the 6’5”, 235-pound beast came out of the bullpen in the final game of the year and proceeded to throw five more innings of two-hit, shutout baseball, registering the longest save in World Series history while delivering his Giants yet another world championship.

    In the days to follow, Bumgarner was all anyone cared to talk about, on the Internet, in office buildings, in grocery stores and well beyond.

Brazilian Beatdown

27 of 30

    Germany's dominant win over Brazil in the World Cup got the whole world talking.
    Germany's dominant win over Brazil in the World Cup got the whole world talking.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    With World Cup returning to soccer’s sanctuary, 2014 was supposed to be a special year for both Brazil and its national team.

    By tournament’s end, though, the local favorites had done more to disgust than impress.

    In a disgraceful 7-1 loss to Germany in the tournament’s semifinals, Brazil was dominated and defeated in utterly historic fashion.

    Worse yet, the team appeared to give up mid-contest while an entire nation of supporters watched from up close.

    And while TV viewing had to be sufficient enough for the rest of the world, we were nonetheless equally intrigued by the humiliating display, as millions immediately took their shocked reactions to Twitter.

Super Bowl Blowout

28 of 30

    Percy Harvin's huge kickoff return in the Super Bowl lit up the Web.
    Percy Harvin's huge kickoff return in the Super Bowl lit up the Web.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    There are only a few life certainties consistent from year to year: Rain will fall, the taxman will beckon and the Super Bowl will go viral.

    In 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII proved to be no different.

    Whether you were a fan of the Broncos or of watching Peyton Manning suffer, Seattle’s demolition of Denver (a 43-8 Seahawk victory) was the talk of the town on February 2…and for roughly an entire week thereafter.

    More specifically, Percy Harvin’s kick return on the first play of the second half—which, by the way, went for a score—was the most talked-about play of the game, sparking 381,605 tweets per minute.

    And, well, it just doesn’t get any more Super than that.

Richard’s Rant

29 of 30

    Thanks to the Internet and a colorful conversation with Erin Andrews, Richard Sherman's infamy reached new levels in 2014.
    Thanks to the Internet and a colorful conversation with Erin Andrews, Richard Sherman's infamy reached new levels in 2014.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Sports fans love a good sound bite and few athletes can equal either the quality or quantity provided by the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman.

    Fortunately for all who bore witness, Sherman’s very best bit of sound was captured this year in what is now a legendary postgame interview with Erin Andrews.

    Dripping with both sweat and emotion following a huge NFC Championship win over San Francisco—which by the way ended on a huge play from Sherman—the polarizing defensive back used his time with Andrews to both rep himself and taunt the Niners.

    Of course, as we know well by now, the resulting sound bite—which, by the way, was passionate, hilarious, bizarre and inappropriate all at once—became an instant classic and Internet sensation.

LeBron’s Homecoming

30 of 30

    LeBron James's return to Cleveland was arguably the biggest sports story of the year.
    LeBron James's return to Cleveland was arguably the biggest sports story of the year.David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    On July 11th, 2014, LeBron James made his smartest career move to date: He announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    From both a fiscal and basketball standpoint, James struck with the hottest of irons. And equally important, the two-time champion rebranded himself, going from scapegoat to savior.

    It was his method of declaration, however, that made the most headlines and immediately went viral.

    To be exact, James wrote a heartfelt letter to the City of Cleveland through Sports Illustrated, a complete about-face when compared to his announcement in 2010.

    And whether you believe what he wrote or not, at least publicly, King James handled his move the right way this time

    In the end, while both decisions garnered unprecedented attention, we’re betting James enjoyed the limelight a bit more the second time around.

    Follow Janovitz on Twitter @BrainTrain9