Tuesday December 15th, 2015

Here is a roundup of SI.com's 25 most popular stories of the year.

The Return of Michael Phelps

For almost five days in the fall of 2014, the most decorated Olympian in history lay curled in a fetal position in his Baltimore home, crestfallen and fearful, embarrassed at his behavior and uncertain of his future. Now, after rehabilitation, the best may lie ahead for Michael PhelpsBy Tim Layden.

A Tragic, Violent Relationship

Former Major League Baseball outfielder Milton Bradley was known for his temper on the field. But trial transcripts and divorce records suggest no one endured Bradley's dark side worse than his wifeBy Michael McKnight with Jon Wertheim.

Who Killed Lorenzen Wright?

Lance Murphey/Associated Press

Former NBA player Lorenzen Wright was found dead in 2010 with multiple gunshot wounds. To this day, his murder remains unsolved. Who killed the 34-year-old—​and why? By Jon Wertheim.

Friday Night Lights, 25 years later

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the publication of Friday Night Lights, author H.G. Bissinger felt compelled to return. Twenty-five years ago, he went in search of the Friday night lights. Now, during a week in April in Texas, he went searching for those who played under them. By H.G. Bissinger.

A Triple Crown at last

Andrew Hancock for Sports Illustrated

For so long, horse racing had been stuck on the same, yellowed page, so many times the Triple Crown had seemed at hand and so many times cruel reality dropped a hammer on old Belmont Park. At a few minutes before seven on a Saturday night in May, it was a bay colt named American Pharoah who finally set everybody freeBy Tim Layden.

My big, fat NFL career

Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

Football forced former San Diego Chargers center Nick Hardwick into a lifestyle of competitive eating. When he stopped playing, the pounds melted away—and so did part of his identity​. By Emily Kaplan.

A Giant Shadow

Deanne Fitzmaurice/SI

In his quest to locate his biological parents, adoptee Aaron Levi made a startling discovery—his father may have been Wilt Chamberlain, one of the most transcendent athletes of the 20th centuryBy Gary M. Pomerantz.

The Hard News

James D. Smith/Associated Press

Ed Werder has become a fixture in the NFL while covering stories for ESPN. The news away from his job—concerning his daughter and her husband—has been much tougher to handleBy Jenny Vrentas.

The Disappearing Man

On the eve of the Super Bowl 13 years ago, Oakland Raiders center Barret Robbins went missing. This is his storyBy Phil Taylor. 

Learning to Dunk

Donald Miralle for Sports Illustrated

"I was 42, 6'1'', with small hands—and one huge obsession: learning to dunk. I had no idea what I was in for." By Michael McKnight.

Sportsperson of the Year

Serena Williams not only dominated her sport in 2015 like few athletes ever have, but she continued to grow off the court, searching, speaking out and, most important, healing an old woundBy S.L. Price.

Brett Favre in retirement

The legendary quarterback is finally content in retirement. But as he said during an interview for Sports Illustrated's annual "Where Are They Now?" issue, "I think I could play." Here is a look inside Favre's retired life in MississippiBy Greg Bishop.

Meet the women of the Legends Football League

Most still think of the rebranded Legends Football League as the Lingerie Football League. Chances are you know next to nothing about the players who are still showing all that skin. By Emily Kaplan.

A force unleashed

Carlos Schiebek/AFP

Just 18 when he turned pro, Mike Tyson was boxing’s ultimate destroyer. He remains its ultimate survivorBy Tim Layden.

The man behind Swaggy P

Robert Beck/SI

Nick Young has become one of the NBA's most beloved characters since he started playing for the Lakers. Find out what drives Young and his alter ego, Swaggy PBy Lee Jenkins. 

The Ewing Theory

New York Daily News Archive

Thirty years after the Knicks landed Georgetown big man Patrick Ewing amid rumors of conspiracy, the first draft lottery remains a seminal—and much dissected—moment in NBA historyBy Chris Ballard.

A tragic fight between basketball stars

Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News/Corbia

The last steps of Troy Causey's life led him out of the south Dallas home, where he'd been staying, and onto the asphalt to fight his roommate, Johnathan Turner. What happened next turned relatives into rivals and ruined reputations. And it has sent one family with a crushing loss on a quest for a justice it may never know. By David Gardner.

A Quarterback and His Game Plan

Paul Spinelli/Associated Press

Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals allowed The MMQB inside the installation of the game plan for their Week 8 meeting with the Browns. How does a QB absorb and apply so much complexity—nearly 200 plays, plus all of their possible permutations and adjustments—in less than a week? Commitment and confidence help—and so does virtual realityBy Peter King.

The gifts and ghosts of Lamar Odom

Getty Images

They called Lamar Odom “The Package” because he contained so many gifts. Strip away the size and the handle, the addictions and the demons, and you are left with the sweetest of souls.​ By Lee Jenkins.

The Seeker

Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Hakan Andersson's life is anything but stable. But the years he has spent traveling the world, in cold ice rinks away from his family, scouting talent that can make it into the NHL, have helped the Detroit Red Wings achieve consistent success for over two decades. By Michael Farber.

No-no regrets for Johan Santana

Three years ago, Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in New York Mets history—but he needed 134 pitches to do so and wasn't the same again. Did manager Terry Collins' decision to keep Santana in the game cost the pitcher his career? By Phil Taylor.

Oral history: Pro wrestling in North Korea

Courtesy of WWE

Twenty years ago, an unlikely group of Americans visited North Korea against all advice as invited guests of the government: a troupe of major professional wrestlers, a pair of wrestling officials, Muhammad Ali’s photographer and Ali himself. This is their storyBy Dan Greene.

Carli Lloyd's rise to World Cup hero

This is the story behind Lloyd's journey from Delran, N.J., to global stardom, a rise that culminated with her incredible World Cup final performanceBy Grant Wahl.

Trick Play

From the beginning of his time in minor league baseball, teammates and opponents noticed something strange about 21-year-old Rocky Perone. As it turned out, there was a lot more to the Australian than what met the eyeBy Chris Ballard.

Inside the Warriors' celebration

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Warriors won their first NBA title in four decades on a Tuesday night in June. Golden State capped its championship run with an all-night celebration that was 40 years in the making​. By Lee Jenkins.

More recommended reads

The MMQB spent four frantic days—and a few sleepless nights—with a top broker as he worked the wildest and most lucrative Super Bowl ticket market everBy Robert Klemko.

E-sports are filling arenas around the world and spawning a new generation of sports millionaires—but the competitors still only care about the gameBy Stephanie Apstein.

A long, strange drive with Pete Rose from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. By Tom Verducci. 

The story of Patty MillsBy Alexander Wolff. 

The story of Katy Perry's 26-foot long, 16-foot high, 1,600-pound lion that kicked off one of the most celebrated halftime shows in recent Super Bowl history. By Rohan Nadkarni.

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and changed lives forever. After an interrupted season, Tulane football helped the city healBy Joan Niesen.

Mookie Blaylock was a well-liked NBA player for 13 years. But his battles with addiction led to a tough life after basketball, and ultimately, a deadly car accidentBy Greg Hanlon.

Jace Malek's incredible fight to keep pursuing a football dream. By Zac Ellis. 

An exclusive look at the negotiations between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao that finally led to May's bout. By Chris Mannix and Greg Bishop.

How Carlton Fisk's home run altered baseball—and TV—forever. By Tom Verducci.

James Harden, the NBA's unlikely MVP. By Lee Jenkins.

Now a general manager, John Elway is still motivated by a strong competitive spirit—​even if all he can do on Sundays is watchBy S.L. Price.

Don Denkinger's errant ruling changed the course of the 1985 World Series and has been a part of his life ever since. By Dan Greene.

During the 1988 Super Bowl, a lopsided 42-10 victory for the Washington Redskins, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch had an idea that would forever change Super Bowl commercials. By Chris Nashawaty.

From losing his father to living in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the midst of a bloody African war to playing basketball abroad in China, Emmanuel Mudiay's journey to the NBA hasn't been easy. But now, with his brothers by his side, he's ready for the next stepBy Chris Mannix.

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