Most memorable sports moments of 2016: Highs & lows, from 100 to 81

SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ranks the most memorable sports moments of the year.

100. U.S.'s Abbey D'Agostino helped by New Zealand's Nikki Hamblin

In the semifinals of the women’s 5,000 meters, the U.S.’s Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin tripped and fell—every runner’s worst nightmare. But instead of wallowing in their frustration or choosing not to finish the race, D’Agostino helped Hamblin to her feet, and both women finished the race, even though D’Agostino was clearly injured. The display of sportsmanship quickly became one of the indelible moments of the 2016 Games. — Bette Marston

99: Ohio State upset by Penn State

Through three quarters on Oct. 22, Ohio State had built a 21-7 lead over the Nittany Lions, who were heavy underdogs that night in State College. In the third quarter, Penn State looked utterly lost, finishing the frame with -7 yards of offense, but in the fourth it shut out the Buckeyes, scoring first a touchdown, then a field goal and then returning a blocked field goal for a touchdown with 4:27 to go. It would be Ohio State’s only loss of the season and ultimately not enough to doom Urban Meyer and company’s playoff dreams, but falling to Penn State kept the Buckeyes out of the top four of the first two CFP rankings and the Big Ten championship game. — Joan Niesen

98. Conor McGregor's fake retirement

In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon in April, the UFC featherweight champion dropped a bombshell by announcing his retirement in a 71-character tweet. Most thought the announcement was because of a dispute with UFC president Dana White, while others speculated it may have come as a result of the death of Joao Carvalho, an MMA fighter that died from injuries suffered during a fight that McGregor attended. No one knows the real answer, but McGregor would eventually return to the octagon months later to claim yet another belt. — Kenny Ducey

97. LSU parts ways with Les Miles

After surviving an attempted coup at the end of the 2015 season, LSU coach Les Miles was given one edict from his employer: Run a more modern offense. Miles refused, and after the Tigers mustered only 13 points in a Sept. 24 loss at Auburn and fell to 2-2, he was fired. Miles left the program with one national title (2007), two SEC titles (2007 and 2011) and some glorious memories of delightful press conferences, grass eating, trick plays and bending space and time to pull victory from the jaws of defeat. — Andy Staples

96. P.K. Subban-Shea Weber blockbuster trade

In the midst of a 23-minute span in the middle of the off-season, the Montreal Canadiens traded one of their most popular players and one of the league’s top young defensemen in P.K. Subban to Nashville for hulking perennial Norris Trophy candidate Shea Weber in a one-for-one deal. The swap stoked plenty of emotions, especially in the analytics community. Subban, who had a tumultuous relationship with the Habs’ front office, further stoked the fire by telling SI’s Alex Prewitt, “People said it was a hockey trade. I think it’s the furthest from that. I think it was a personality trade.” — Michael Blinn

95. UConn beats Cincy in 4OT thriller in AAC tournament

The Jalen Adams shot destined to be remembered is the 74-foot bank, but equally important was his iso layup at the end of the second overtime, which extended the game and made his ensuing shot possible. For UConn, a loss would have left it out of the NCAA tournament field, but Adams wouldn’t be denied on that day. — David Gardner

94. Lilly King calls out Russian Yulia Efimova

Lilly King doesn’t like cheaters, and she let the world know after the semifinals of the 100-meter breastroke. Russia’s Yulia Efimova, the reigning world champion in the event, tested positive for a banned substance earlier in 2016 and had previously served a 16-month doping suspension for a failed test in '13. While watching Efimova win a semifinal race from the ready room, King shook her finger at the screen, later saying in her post-race interview that she was "not a fan." King ultimately got the last laugh, winning gold in their head-to-head matchup in the 100-meter breastroke in Olympic record time. “It’s incredible, just winning a gold medal, and knowing I did it clean,” King said after the race. — Bette Marston

93. Panthers cut All-Pro Josh Norman

In arguably the biggest move of the off-season, the defending NFC champs decided to rescind the franchise tag on All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman after the most impressive season of his four-year career. Norman wasn’t on the market for long—he signed a five-year, $75 million deal with the Redskins just two days later, and went on to make some, err, strong statements about the difference between his old team and new one. “It’s like going from a dictatorship to freedom,” he said. — Amy Parlapiano

92. Bengals melt down en route to another playoff loss

A late A.J. Green touchdown put the Bengals on the verge of their first postseason win since the 1990 playoffs, but the same old disciplinary issues doomed Cincinnati to another early January exit. A Jeremy Hill fumble with 1:36 to play gave the Steelers one last shot, and on the ensuing drive Vontaze Burfict was flagged for a head-hunting hit that concussed Antonio Brown as he leapt for a pass, followed immediately by a scuffle on the field and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on an emotional and frustrated Adam Jones. Those 30 yards of penalties on one play set up Chris Boswell for a routine 35-yard field goal to give Pittsburgh an 18–16 win, and unlike the Bengals in the final minutes, Boswell made no mistake. — Eric Single

91. Russell Westbrook chases Oscar Robertson

When Kevin Durant left for the Bay Area, many assumed Russell Westbrook would follow him out the door. Instead, Westbrook re-upped with the Thunder and began a full-on statistical assault on the league. On pace to become the first player to average a triple-double since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62, Westbrook keeps finding himself in great historic company. First it was tying Michael Jordan with seven straight triple-doubles, then he became the first player with a 25-point, 20-assist triple-double since Magic Johnson in 1988-89. — Ben Eagle

90. Maria Sharapova banned for doping violation

After testing positive for a banned substance, meldonium, at the Australian Open in January, Maria Sharapova initially received a two-year ban from the International Tennis Federation. Sharapova appealed the ruling, arguing that the punishment was "unfairly harsh." In October, her doping violation ban was reduced to 15 months, and the five-time Grand Slam champion will be able to return to action April 26, 2017, just before the French Open. — Jamie Lisanti

89. Middle Tennessee upsets Michigan State in first round of NCAA tourney

The NCAA tournament that produced perhaps the greatest championship moment in sports history also gave us an all-time upset. SI Player of the Year Denzel Valentine had led the Spartans to a Big Ten tournament title on Selection Sunday, and they entered Friday’s first-round game as heavy favorites—more money was bet on Michigan State to win the NCAA tournament than any other team. But Middle Tennessee State jumped out to a huge early lead and the Spartans simply never recovered, their tournament run ending in a 90-81 defeat.  — David Gardner

88. Blake Griffin injures hand punching Clippers' staffer

In a forgettable season marked by untimely injuries, nothing was more embarrassing for the Clippers than how Blake Griffin broke his hand in January: by punching the team’s assistant equipment manager. Griffin fractured his hand after punching Matias Testi in the face, an injury that kept him out of the Clippers’ lineup for weeks. Griffin returned in time for the playoffs, only for L.A. to be bounced by the Blazers in Round 1. — Rohan Nadkarni

87. Olympic diving pool turns green

Who could forget the water at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Center turning green just days into the diving competition in Rio? U.S. diver Abby Johnston called the pool “the swamp” and organizers reacted by draining and transferring nearly 1 million gallons of clear water from a nearby practice pool. It is believed that the green color was the product of a chemical reaction after 80 liters of hydrogen peroxide were accidentally added to the pool. — Chris Chavez

86. Texas fires coach Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong started the year with what looked like a signature win, beating Notre Dame 50-47 in double overtime. What we didn’t know then was that the Fighting Irish were about to have their worst season in nine years, and that three-point edge by Texas meant nothing. The Longhorns would have an up-and-down year, beating Baylor one week and losing to Texas Tech the next, but it was their 24-21 loss at the hands of Big 12 bottom-feeder Kansas that sealed Strong’s fate and opened the door for Houston wunderkind Tom Herman. — Joan Niesen

85. Lionel Messi falls short in Copa America Centenario

The 2016 Copa America was many things to many people. To Lionel Messi, it was a time to vanquish demons. Despite his success at the club level with Barcelona, Messi had never won a major trophy with Argentina, and for most of the centennial edition of the Copa America it looked like he might finally do so. Argentina rolled through the competition and met Chile at the end, a rematch of the Copa America final from one year before. Messi’s great form gave way in that game, and his penalty kick in the shootout at the end went high and wide of the goal. Messi was inconsolable afterward, and shocked the world by announcing his retirement from the national team to reporters in the tunnel after the match. His exile was short-lived—Messi is back with Argentina now, still chasing that elusive first trophy. — Alexander Abnos

84. Odell Beckham Jr.'s love-hate relationship with the kicking net

Beckham Jr. gave us the most GIF-able moments of the season to date, and they weren’t even touchdowns: First, there was The Fight. During a particularly emotional game against the Redskins, Beckham Jr. took out his frustration on the sidelines by punching the kicking net. The net retaliated by falling on him. Then, there was The Reunion. After scoring his first touchdown of the season a couple of weeks later, OBJ apologized to The Net with a heartfelt hug. — Amy Parlapiano

83. Northern Iowa downs Texas on half-court buzzer beater

When Paul Jesperson hit a half-court heave as time expired, he added to the legacy of a team and a city. To his team, the Northern Iowa Panthers, he added another unbelievable March Madness moment, following Ali Farokhmanesh’s Round-of-64 buzzer-beater over Kansas in 2010. For Oklahoma City, he added yet another incredible basketball moment, following Bryce Drew’s game-winner over Ole Miss in 1998 and Steph Curry’s NBA record-breaking three-point shot against the Thunder. — David Gardner

82. Broncos top Patriots in final Brady-Manning matchup

It didn’t quite live up to the Brady-Manning matchups of the past, but this game still had its own share of drama. The Broncos had a 20–12 lead in the AFC title game with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots rallied and scored a touchdown to make it 20–18 with 12 seconds left. The Broncos’ defense then denied the Pats a two-point conversion to send Denver to the Super Bowl and give Manning one final victory over his long-time foe. — Amy Parlapiano

81. Conor McGregor makes history in UFC debut at MSG

UFC made its debut in New York City with Conor McGregor as its main attraction. He didn’t disappoint, strutting to the ring and hyping himself up to 50 Cent’s “I Get Money,” and telling the crowd that he “runs New York.” In just the second round, he showcased his elite boxing skills in the octagon, knocking out Alvarez to become the “double champ,” demanding his second belt in the ring. He’d later be forced to relinquish one, but the image of McGregor with two belts around his shoulders will live on in history. — Kenny Ducey

MORE MOMENTS: 116 - 101 | 100 - 81 | 80 - 61 | 60 - 41 | 40 -21 | 20 - 1

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