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

By The SI Staff
December 15, 2016

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

Rising rapidly from the Brazilian lower leagues to play in a continental final, Chapecoense were a Brazilian soccer Cinderella story; one that became an all-time sporting tragedy on the eve of the biggest game in club history. En route to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the charter plane carrying the club’s players, its coaches, its administrators, and journalists crashed into the side of a mountain on its approach into Medellin, Colombia. Of the 77 people on board, only six survived. Of those six, three were players. The crash triggered weeks of mourning from the global soccer community. — Alexander Abnos

Bill Murray’s presence at sporting events is always a treat. And Murray has a special rooting interest in Xavier, where his son, Luke, is an assistant coach. So when Bronson Koenig hit a game-winning three-pointer to put Wisconsin over the top against the Musketeers, the elder Murray looked on in disbelief and a meme was born. — David Gardner

Trevor Story made his major league debut for the Rockies on April 4, Opening Day. He hit two home runs that day against the Diamondbacks—in Arizona, it should be noted. He hit another the next night and one more the day after that, making him the first player ever to homer in his first three major league games. After an off-day for Colorado, Story hit two homers on April 8 and another on the 10th, giving him seven in six games and inspiring innumerable bad puns about his last name. It would take Story seven weeks to hit his next seven homers, but he finished with 27 and wound up fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. Still an amazing, um, tale. — Ted Keith

The Cardinals’ first-half in the NFC title game: Punt, Punt, Punt, Fumble, Touchdown, Fumble, Interception. Carson Palmer? He was responsible for all of those first-half turnovers. By halftime, Arizona trailed 24–7, and it didn’t get any better from there—Palmer completed his epic collapse with three more interceptions, including a pick-six, and the Panthers cruised to the Super Bowl with a 49–15 win. — Amy Parlapiano

It’s understandable that former SI swimsuit model Kate Upton took a personal stake in this year’s AL Cy Young vote. After all, her fiancé—Tigers starter Justin Verlander—was in the running for the award, and after he went 16–9 with a 3.04 ERA, she probably figured that he was a lock to take home his second Cy Young trophy. But instead, Rick Porcello was named the league’s best starter. That came as a surprise to Upton, who took to Twitter to blast the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voters—particularly two writers who left Verlander off their ballots entirely—using some less-than-friendly language in the process. Upton later clarified that she meant no disrespect to Porcello, but it’s safe to say she didn’t have much nice to say about the sporting press.



— Jon Tayler

Coming into the U.S. Open final, Stan Wawrinka was 4-19 against No. 1 Novak Djokovic—and 2-19 overall when facing the top-ranked player—but he also had never lost in a Grand Slam final. The Swiss remained undefeated in major title matches, rallying from a set down to win the next three sets and secure a 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 victory after nearly four hours. The win marked Wawrinka’s third Grand Slam title in three years and puts him one major (Wimbledon) from completing the career Grand Slam. — Jamie Lisanti

Among the many historical accomplishments made by the 2016 Warriors, one could argue Stephen Curry becoming the NBA's first unanimously voted MVP was the most shocking. Curry's season may have ended in disappointment, but he achieved a feat Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many other legends could not. — Rohan Nadkarni

Just four days after the United Kingdom shockingly voted to exit the European Union, England shockingly exited the 2016 European Championships thanks to a 2–1 defeat by Iceland in the tournament’s Round of 16. Iceland had never even qualified for the European Championships before, so simply advancing to the knockout round was itself considered a monumental accomplishment. Then, following an early Wayne Rooney penalty kick, Ragnar Sigurðsson and Kolbeinn Sigþórsson scored and the team’s defense held strong for one of the biggest upsets in the history of international soccer. — Alexander Abnos

In the years, months and weeks leading up to golf’s return to the Olympics, the stories ranged from troubling (a golf course behind schedule, the spreading Zika virus) to depressing (Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day drop out, citing health concerns). But in the end, the competition itself was spirited and moving. Two worthy gold medalists emerged in Justin Rose and Inbee Park, and all participants raved about the experience. — Jeff Ritter

In a summer of shocking free-agency moves, Dwyane Wade threw his hat in the ring by leaving Miami for the Chicago Bulls. Wade, a member of the Heat since the team drafted him in 2003, saw his relationship with Pat Riley break down as Miami failed to find a way to appease the franchise’s biggest star. Instead, Wade found what he wanted in Chicago, the city where he grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and the Bulls. — Rohan Nadkarni

Just 12 days before the start of the season, the Vikings lost franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a torn ACL and dislocated knee suffered in practice, sending Minnesota into panic mode and the NFL hot stove into chaos. That the Vikings made a move for a quarterback was no surprise, but their trade partner was: The Eagles had openly touted Sam Bradford as their starter all summer and seemed reluctant to throw No. 2 pick Carson Wentz into the fire, but Minnesota’s offering of a first-round pick was too tempting to pass up. For the second consecutive off-season, Bradford was the centerpiece of a stunning blockbuster trade, and for the second consecutive year, he has left the team that moved heaven and earth to get him feeling shortchanged. — Eric Single

The Minnesota Lynx kicked off a powerful anti-violence protest in July when the entire team wore black warmup shirts stating "Change Starts With Us," a nod to the killings of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling and five Dallas police officers. Other WNBA teams soon began donning their own black warmup shirts, and continued protesting despite fines from the league office. — Rohan Nadkarni

There was little doubt that Arizona-raised Auston Matthews, the latest generational talent in a string of them, was going to the Toronto Maple Leafs with the first pick of the 2016 draft. No one, however, could have predicted his historic coming out party. In a 5-4 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the 19-year-old wunderkind became the first player to score four goals in his NHL debut. — Michael Blinn

Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, died in early June after an illustrious career spanning five decades. He wasn’t just the greatest of all time (Wayne Gretzky’s words; not mine), he was an ambassador of the game, as great off the ice as he was on it. "Gordie set the standard that we all strive for,” Bobby Orr said. “They threw the mold away with him. There will never be another Gordie Howe. I truly believe that you can't do what this man has done and stay as humble as he stayed and as nice as he stayed. Nobody has or will ever be that guy.” — Ben Eagle

How did he miss that? Blair Walsh had a 27-yard field goal to put Minnesota ahead with 26 seconds left in the Vikings’ sub-zero wild-card clash with Seattle, but the kick hooked left of the goalpost, letting the Seahawks escape with a 10–9 win and etching Walsh’s name in Minnesota’s storied history of playoff blunders. Walsh didn’t survive the 2016 season—the Vikings cut him after an inconsistent start—but in many ways his fate was sealed months before. — Eric Single

It was the first U.S. win since 2008, and given Europe’s recent dominance, it was desperately needed. Every American player won at least a point, and Patrick Reed went to another level—he earned a team-best 3 1/2 points, and his screaming, fist-pumping, finger-wagging singles-match victory over Rory McIlroy will stand as one of the greatest mano-a-mano showdowns in golf history. — Jeff Ritter

They say that the measure of a great player is how they respond in big moments. Well, there are few moments bigger than what Cristiano Ronaldo faced at the end of 120 grueling minutes for Real Madrid against local rivals Atlético Madrid in the 2016 Champions League final. Ronaldo dealt with fitness issues coming into the game and didn’t look like himself for the majority of it. But in the penalty shootout, Ronaldo stepped up to take the fifth kick, needing to score to secure Real Madrid’s 11th Champions League title. He made no mistake. — Alexander Abnos

The IOC fielded a team of 10 refugees at the Rio Games in an attempt to raise awareness for social issues around the world. The team was the penultimate group to enter the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremonies. None of the refugees medaled but the IOC said it plans on supporting the group's athletic endeavors after the Games. — Chris Chavez

A season after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy, the Pitt running back finished 2016 with 1,060 yards and 20 touchdowns before declaring for the NFL draft in December. Conner holds the record for most career touchdowns in ACC history with 56, despite missing the '15 season with a torn MCL. Maybe the most staggering statistic of his career is measured in weeks, though, not yards or scoring; last summer, he returned to football fewer than eight weeks after having his chemotherapy port removed. — Joan Niesen