Biggest Goosebump Moments in Sports This Year (So Far)

Zac Wassink@https://twitter.com/ZacWassinkFeatured ColumnistOctober 5, 2016

Biggest Goosebump Moments in Sports This Year (So Far)

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    Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

    Certain sports moments trigger our emotions more so than others. 

    Goosebumps appeared on our arms when former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter walked to the plate for his final at-bat at Yankee Stadium in September 2014. You may have even shed a tear or two when Jeter delivered a walk-off single to win the game and produce one of the most memorable farewells to a home audience we'll ever see from a sports icon.

    2016 brought us a handful of similar moments in the first ten months of the year.

    We'll never hear Vin Scully call another Major League Baseball game. The legendary announcer retired following the regular season contest played by the Los Angeles Dodgers on October 2. Those of us lucky enough to hear Scully over the years couldn't help brushing goosebumps off our arms as we heard him wish us all a "pleasant good afternoon" one last time. 

    Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after winning a Super Bowl. LeBron James couldn't contain his emotions after winning a title with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Dee Gordon hit a home run that literally brought fans to tears. 

    For all we know, the biggest goosebump moment of 2016 hasn't yet occurred. 

    We'll be watching, and we'll be sure to not miss the next time sports gives us chills. 

Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund Supporters Unite in Song

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    Premier League side Liverpool and Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund don't have much in common. They play in different leagues and in different countries. They rarely meet for meaningful games. 

    As Glenn Price explained on Liverpool's official website, both clubs adopted "You'll Never Walk Alone" as their anthem years ago. Supporters' shared admiration of the tune made for quite the memorable scene when Liverpool hosted Dortmund in a Europa League showdown this past spring. 

    Liverpool fans inside Anfield held scarves over their heads as they belted out the opening lines of what may be football's most famous song. Dortmund fans joined in on the tradition, and the two sections at the stadium repeated the song's chorus on multiple occasions. Television commentators remained silent so those watching at home could truly appreciate the atmosphere. 

    Liverpool and Dortmund supporters became one unified group, if only for a few minutes. 

Kobe Bryant Retirement Game

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    Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant wasn't the dynamic player of old during the last years of his career. Injuries and age caught up with him, and he became more of a liability than a help to struggling Lakers teams that lost more than they won. 

    Watching Bryant drop 60 points in his last ever pro game was, thus, an entertaining throwback to when he was one of the best overall players in the NBA. 

    Bryant, admittedly, was hardly a selfless player on that evening. He made 22 of 50 shots. He attempted 21 three-pointers. Players on the Utah Jazz repeatedly gifted Bryant with open looks. 

    With all of that said, those last few minutes of Bryant's career remain remarkable to watch. Fans in the arena rose to their feet in appreciation, chanting his name, as Bryant carried the Lakers to victory one last time.

Dee Gordon Home Run Following Jose Fernandez's Death

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    Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is not known for slugging home runs over outfield walls. In fact, Gordon hit only a single homer during the 2016 regular season. 

    You can be sure he won't soon forget that at-bat. 

    The Marlins, along with the entire baseball community, lost All-Star pitcher Jose Fernandez on September 25 when the 24-year-old was tragically killed in a boating accident. The club canceled their game against the Atlanta Braves that was scheduled to occur later that day. The Marlins got back to the field the next day when they hosted the New York Mets. 

    Gordon was the first Miami hitter to make his way to the plate that night. After watching two pitches go by, Gordon smashed a home run over the right-field wall. Gordon was overcome with emotion as he crossed home plate, embracing teammates and coaches on his way to the dugout. 

    It was the most emotional home run during a Major League Baseball game since Mike Piazza went deep during the first game at Shea Stadium following the events of September 11, 2001. 

Leicester City Clinch the Premier League Title

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    Months after the fact, Leicester City winning the Premier League still feels like a dream.

    As ESPN's Paul Carr explained back in May, Leicester were listed as 5,000-to-1 odds to win the league at the start of the 2015-16 campaign with English bookmaker William Hill. The Foxes were largely afterthoughts among analysts and fans in August 2015—except for those who believed Leicester would be relegation candidates come springtime. 

    Leicester continued to find winning ways throughout the season while other teams failed to maintain consistency. Tottenham Hotspur managed to remain in Leicester's rearview mirror up through the start of May, but a 2-2 draw between Tottenham and Chelsea guaranteed Leicester their first Premier League title. 

    Celebrations began at bars and in the streets almost immediately after the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on May 2. Leicester players partied after watching the finish, and supporters were brought to tears upon realizing their favorite club was, indeed, the best club in England.

    It's maybe the greatest underdog sports story we'll ever witness. 

Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin Win the Olympics

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    You probably didn't know the names Abbey D'Agostino (USA) and Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) before the 2016 Summer Olympics. Some reading this may still not be familiar with the two. They competed in the 5,000-meter event in Rio, a race that is not one of the bigger events of any Olympics. 

    The two are now forever linked because of what happened roughly 3,200 meters into a qualifier. 

    As Helene Elliot of the Los Angeles Times explained, the two runners collided during a first-round race. D’Agostino paused her journey around the track to assist Hamblin, but the American soon collapsed down to the ground in pain. Hamblin paused to check on the fallen D’Agostino, and the two eventually crossed the finish line. 

    Both were awarded the International Fair Play Trophy for their selfless actions.  

    The majority of Olympic athletes are not millionaires and celebrities known to casual sports fans. They compete in sports many of us ignore except for once every four years. D'Agostino and Hamblin reminded us the so-called "Olympic spirit" of sportsmanship and kindness is real. Both women should be honored and remembered long after the 2016 Summer Olympics fades from our minds. 

LeBron James Wins for Cleveland

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    "Cleveland! This is for you!" With those four words, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James forever cemented himself as a legend in northeast Ohio and among fans who waited 52 years for Cleveland to have a professional sports title to celebrate. 

    James' journey leading up to June 19, 2016 was long and probably painful in a lot of ways. The product of Akron, Ohio became a villain in the eyes of many Cleveland fans when he left the Cavs for South Beach and the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010. It didn't help matters that James won a pair of titles while playing for Miami. 

    James returned home in 2014, and he delivered the title he once promised to a city that forgave him and again embraced him as its own. It's no wonder James could barely contain his emotions while speaking with ESPN's Doris Burke minutes after the Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. 

    To this day, Cleveland sports radio stations play the clip of James saluting the city. Local fans aren't tired of hearing that audio. Nobody can ever doubt what winning for Cleveland meant to James.

    He told the world about that very thing with four simple words. 

Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz at UFC 202

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    Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    James Edwards of the Mirror referred to the fight between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz at UFC 202 as "arguably [the] greatest fight in MMA history." SportsNet's Mike Johnston said it was "one of the best fights ever." 

    McGregor avenged a loss to Diaz in spectacular fashion, and they gave us reasons to want a trilogy featuring the two fighters. Both men exited the cage bloodied. Both appeared on the cusp of finishing the fight via knockout or referee stoppage at different points of the encounter. McGregor won via decision, but the judges easily could've named Diaz the winner. 

    The fight was that close and that entertaining. 

    This was more than just an even bout between two combatants. McGregor and Diaz talked trash before and during the fight. Diaz showed McGregor one finger, in particular, while taunting his opponent. McGregor cut an incredible promo inside of the cage after he was announced the winner. 

    Fans were not only left appreciating what they saw on that night. They wanted to see more, and that's why we had goosebumps when McGregor's hand was raised in victory. 

Arnold Palmer Tribute at the Ryder Cup

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    David Cannon/Getty Images

    We lost a sports and golf icon in September 2016 when Arnold Palmer passed away. 

    Every edition of the Ryder Cup exists as a celebration of the sport. Yes, golfers from the United States compete against counterparts from Europe. The biennial event is, in reality, more so for the fans who attend and watch on television than for those who are playing on the course. 

    It's only fitting those running the Ryder Cup offered a poignant memorial for the man who was one of golf's greatest ambassadors. 

    As Luke-Kerr Dineen of USA Today explained, Palmer's bag from the 1975 Ryder Cup was placed at the first tee of this year's edition. Some, such as Ian Poulter, posed for pictures next to the bag. Fans in attendance chanted Palmer's name on the morning of September 30 in a moment that brought goosebumps to our skin and tears to our eyes. 

    Those of us who missed Palmer's greatness on the course because of our age heard stories about him from our parents and our grandparents. We appreciate what he meant to them and what he meant to the sport. We look forward to Palmer being honored at the Masters next spring. 

    We expect that to be another memorable and emotional moment. 

Peyton Manning Retirement

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    Peyton Manning nearly broke down upon beginning his final speech as an active NFL player. We understand, Peyton. We felt the same way. 

    Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the National Football League, announced his retirement in March 2016. It was roughly one month after he hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his storied career. The five-time Most Valuable Player thanked coaches, teammates and fans during a press conference that lasted slightly under 20 minutes. 

    It was a classy farewell and no less than we would expect from arguably football's best representative. 

    Of course Peyton Manning delivered a retirement speech for the ages as his last act. It was almost as if Manning couldn't help but give us a historically-wonderful goodbye before stepping away from the game.

    Manning's resume, records and accomplishments all exist as proof of his greatness as a player. 

    His speech from March reminded us Manning was also often tremendous off the field. 

Vin Scully Says Goodbye

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    We often take things for granted in the sports world. We know, for example, our favorite baseball team will have an opportunity to avenge a loss. We rarely appreciate that baseball gives us no fewer than 162 days of entertainment per year. 

    For many reading this, legendary Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was always there during the baseball season. You could tune into a station if you were a local fan or open the "At Bat" app on your phone, listening to Scully call a Dodgers game on the couch in your living room or as you settled into bed.

    Thus, when Scully wished us a "pleasant good afternoon" one last time on October 2, it brought goosebumps to our skin. An era ended with one final out and one final farewell. Scully, who gave us the gift of his calls for 67 years, walked away from the microphone for the last time, and he did so with modesty and grace. 

    One cannot thank Scully enough for all he provided us and the sport over the decades. Whether he was describing a ball rolling through the legs of Bill Buckner or voicing one of his famous (or infamous) puns, Scully evoked emotional responses from more listeners than we'll ever know. 

    Thank you for everything, Vin. 

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