The best games of 2016, ranked
The sports world saw its share of amazing games in 2016, but which topped the list? Ranking the 15 best games from 2016 was a difficult undertaking, especially determining which of three standout games deserved the top spot.
Cubs-Indians Game 7? Cavs-Warriors Game 7? Villanova's national title game meeting with North Carolina? All were deserving, and several of the games below would be No. 1 in any other year. But 2016 was epic.
Here's a look at the best games of the last year.
15. Cowboys 35, Steelers 30 (Nov. 13)
This game might have signaled the re-emergence of “America’s Team.” The Cowboys withstood a brilliant for 408-yard, three-touchdown passing day by Ben Roethlisberger, with the last 15 yards coming on a fake spike touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 42 seconds left. Dallas then proceeded to go 75 yards in 33 seconds with relative ease, capped by rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott running untouched for 32 yards with nine seconds remaining. The hard-fought win featured seven lead changes, including four in the fourth quarter alone.
14. Portugal 3, Hungary 3 (Euro 2016 group stage, June 22)
Portugal came back from a one-goal deficit three times during this critical group stage game. Featuring the suave Cristiano Ronaldo against the sweatpants-wearing 40-year-old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly, Ronaldo ended up scoring the last two goals for Portugal to secure a 3–3 draw. Portugal, which qualified for the knockout stage with the draw, went on to win Euro 2016.
13. Sparks 77, Lynx 76 (WNBA Finals Game 5, Oct. 20)
Under the WNBA's new playoff format, which saw the top eight teams making the playoffs based on record regardless of conference, the Finals came down to the league's best two teams: the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. In Game 1, Sparks guard Alana Beard drained a buzzer beater jumper as time expired to give Los Angeles the victory. The teams alternated winning each of the next three games in the series. In Game 5, Nneka Ogwumike's jumper with 3.1 seconds left off a rebound of her blocked shot gave the Sparks a 77–76 victory and their first title since 2002.
12. Tennessee 34, Georgia 31 (Oct. 1)
As bad as the dumpster fire known as the SEC East was this season, this game was one of the few that lived up to the hype. Tennessee again found itself down double digits and rallied by scoring 20 points in the final quarter. And of course Georgia thought it had the game won after Jacob Eason's 47-yard touchdown pass to Riley Ridley with 10 seconds left. Down by three and at the 43-yard line, Vols receiver Jauan Jennings somehow found himself in front of the entire Georgia prevent defense in the end zone. He caught a pass from Joshua Dobbs on the game's final play, leaving Georgia fans stunned and Tennessee coach Butch Jones kneeling on the turf in jubilation.
11. Brazil 1, Germany 1 (Pen: 5-4) (Olympic gold medal soccer final, Aug. 20)
At the 2014 World Cup, Germany embarrassed Brazil 7–1 in the semifinals. Two years later, the teams—albeit much different teams because of Olympic roster regulations—met again, this time in a tense gold medal match at the Olympics. Brazil finally broke through and earned its first Olympic soccer medal after an exciting penalty shootout. The match was tied at one goal apiece after 120 minutes. Neymar, who missed Brazil's World Cup semifinal defeat due to injury, provided the winning penalty goal, as Brazil won its first gold medal in men's soccer.
10. Central Michigan 30, Oklahoma State 27 (Sept. 10)
In one of the wildest finishes of the season, CMU wide receiver Corey Willis hauled in a lateral from receiver Jesse Kroll at the 12-yard line after a Hail Mary and sprinted into the end zone with no time remaining to beat the Cowboys 30–27. Central Michigan, a three-touchdown underdog, was awarded an untimed down after the Cowboys were penalized for intentional grounding trying to run out the clock. But rules state a game can’t end on a accepted live-ball penalty. The Chippewas were given the ball anyway, leading to the score. The Mid-American Conference suspended the officiating crew and instant replay crews for two games after the botched call.
9. Warriors 121, Thunder 118 (Feb. 27)
Regular season NBA games usually don't get much love in these year-end lists, but for the 2015–16 Golden State Warriors, it seemed like every game was must-see TV. Such was the case during a late February game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, a game that featured the last two winners of the NBA MVP award.
Oklahoma City blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead to send the game to overtime. With the score tied at 118, Stephen Curry got the ball after Russell Westbrook missed a jumper and launched a 37-foot shot that saw nothing but the bottom of the net, giving the Warriors a thrilling victory. Curry finished with 46 points, including 12 three-pointers, tying the NBA single-game record. Golden State won despite being out-rebounded 62–32. The teams would later meet in the Western Conference Finals.
8. Milos Raonic vs. Roger Federer 6–3, 6–7(3), 4–6, 7–5, 6–3 (Wimbledon semifinals, July 8)
In this five-set thriller, Milos Raonic finally broke through to reach his first Grand Slam final, rallying from down two sets to one to beat Roger Federer 6–3, 6–7 (3), 4–6, 7–5, 6–3 and handing Federer his first-ever defeat in the Wimbledon semifinals after 10 straight wins. In the pivotal fourth set, Raonic saved three break points.
Trailing 5–6 and serving, Federer went up 40–0 before double-faulting twice, letting Raonic back in the game. The Canadian ended up winning the game and the set before breezing through the decider.
7. UConn 104, Cincinnati 97 (4OT) (AAC tournament quarterfinals, March 11)
No stranger to multiple overtime games in conference tournaments, UConn came into the AAC tournament on March Madness life support, and essentially need to win the conference title to punch their ticket to the dance. In the AAC quarterfinals, the Huskies appeared beaten when Cincinnati guard Kevin Johnson hit a three-pointer in the last seconds of the third overtime. But, UConn's Jalen Adams then banked in a three-pointer to send the game into a fourth overtime, where the Huskies eventually prevailed 104–97. (Check out the UConn mascot in the video, who had no idea Adams's shot went it and tried to play it off).
6. Ohio State 30, Michigan 27 (2OT) (Nov. 26)
Did Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett come up short of the first down? Everyone has an opinion on that, but Michigan dominated this matchup for more than three quarters before blowing a 10-point lead. After trading touchdowns in the first overtime, Michigan went ahead on a 37-yard field goal in the second extra frame. On a 4th-and-1 play from the 16, Barrett kept the ball and barely got the first down, much to the dismay of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Buckeyes running back Curtis Samuel ended the game on the next play with a 15-yard touchdown scamper, giving Ohio State its fifth straight win over the Wolverines. The victory launched Ohio State into the College Football Playoff (without a division or conference title), while Michigan had to settle for an Orange Bowl bid.
5. Dodgers 4, Nationals 3 (NLDS Game 5, Oct. 13)
Desperate to close out the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers turned to ace Clayton Kershaw, who came out of the bullpen for the first time in seven years. The Dodgers did all of their damage in the seventh inning, scoring four runs off six different Nationals pitchers. Washington got back in the game by scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning.
That's when the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner went to work. Kershaw came in with one out and runners on first and second in the ninth inning and made quick work of the rest of Nationals, finishing off the final two batters on seven pitches and sending the Dodgers to NLCS to face the Chicago Cubs.
4. Cardinals 26, Packers 20 (OT) (NFC Divisional Playoff, Jan. 16)
For the second time in the 2015 season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivered a Hail Mary that stunned a road crowd. In the NFC Divisional Playoff against the Arizona Cardinals, his 41-yard desperation heave to Jeff Janis to send the game into overtime was short-lived. Arizona won the overtime coin toss, and on the first play, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer hit a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald, who took the ball 75 yards to the five-yard line. Two plays later, Palmer once again went to Fitzgerald, this time on a shovel pass, sending the Cardinals to the NFC title game, where they were blown out by the Carolina Panthers.
3. Villanova 77, North Carolina 74 (National Championship, April 4)
This game nearly went into overtime after UNC’s Marcus Paige hit a double-clutch, three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game at 74. But Villanova forward Kris Jenkins was having none of that. Jenkins buried a three-pointer of his own at the buzzer to give the Wildcats their first national championship since 1985.
2. Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89 (NBA Finals Game 7, June 19)
If people doubted LeBron James in the clutch before Game 7 of the NBA Finals, those people don't have much to say these days. The heavily favored Warriors had a 3–1 series lead (sound familiar?) and with the score tied at 89 in Game 7, James provided another signature moment in his career with “The Block,” swatting Andre Iguodala’s potential series clinching layup out of the sky with 1:50 left. Kyrie Irving hit the shot of the series, a three-pointer to give the Cavs the lead for good a minute later, securing the eventual 93–89 win. James won series MVP after averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists.
1. Cubs 8, Indians 7 (10 innings) (World Series Game 7, Nov. 2)
The Cubs looked like they were going to coast to a Game 7 victory, leading 6–4 with two outs in the eighth before Rajai Davis hit a game-tying, two-run homer that sent the Progressive Field crowd into a frenzy. But the Cubs quickly regained the lead in the 10th inning when World Series MVP Ben Zobrist hit an RBI double and Miguel Montero singled in another run to make it 8–6. The Tribe cut the lead to one in the bottom half of the inning, but the momentum was short-lived as reliever Mike Montgomery got Michael Martinez to ground out to third base, ending the Cubs' 108-year championship drought.