Most memorable sports moments of 2016: Highs & lows, from 60 to 41

Sunday December 18th, 2016

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

60. Texas A&M rallies from 12 down in final minute to stun Northern Iowa

A miraculous shot propelled Northern Iowa into the NCAA tournament’s second round, but a methodical comeback kept them from advancing further. A game after Paul Jesperson’s half-court heave, the Panthers were nursing a 12-point lead on Texas A&M with 34 seconds left. Then they committed three turnovers and one poorly-timed foul, allowing the Aggies to tie the game in regulation and win in overtime. — David Gardner

59. NFL, Giants botch Josh Brown's domestic violence case

In March 2015, Brown was arrested and charged with assault following an altercation with his now ex-wife. After an investigation, the NFL suspended Brown just one game despite its personal conduct policy mandating six games barring mitigating circumstances. The case came to a climax when Brown’s journal admitting frequent abuse was made public. Brown was immediately placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and subsequently cut by the Giants. — Melissa Jacobs

58. Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen retire

Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all ended their careers in 2016, taking with them fond memories of the ‘90s, hard-fought playoff series and intense rivalries. Garnett vs. Duncan was long one of the NBA’s marquee matchups, with Duncan enjoying more team success until Garnett was traded to Boston. Allen helped Garnett capture his only title with the Celtics, though their relationship cooled when Allen left Boston to join the Heat—with whom he hit one of the clutchest shots in NBA Finals history. — Rohan Nadkarni

57. Russian doping scandal unfolds ahead of Rio Games

In the weeks leading up to the Rio Games, Russian doping took center stage. While the IOC ultimately decided against a full-country ban, 119 Russian athletes were told to stay home as evidence of systemic and widespread doping was revealed. In the months since the Games the story has continued to grow, as a new report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren has determined that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were a part of the organized doping system set up for the Summer and Winter Olympics. "For years, international sports competitions have unknowingly been hijacked by the Russians," McLaren said. — Chris Chavez

56. Drake LaRoche sparks near-mutiny in White Sox clubhouse

It probably wasn’t a good sign for the White Sox that the team almost self-destructed before the season even started over one of the year’s stupidest controversies. In March, veteran designated hitter Adam LaRoche shocked his White Sox teammates and their fans by announcing his immediate retirement—a move spurred by the team’s decision to bar his teenage son Drake from the players’ clubhouse. That led to a number of players—notably ace Chris Sale and centerfielder Adam Eaton, who called 14-year-old Drake a leader of the team—calling out the team’s management, particularly president Ken Williams. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed all around, and the White Sox’s season went on without LaRoche. In the end, though, Chicago won just 78 games and, after the end of the year, traded Sale and Eaton as part of a rebuild. Maybe Drake was more important than we realized. — Jon Tayler

55. John Scott’s NHL All-Star journey

The vote to get noted Arizona Coyotes pugilist John Scott into the NHL All-Star game began as a joke, though an ensuing conversation with a league official and a trade-and-demotion added some real-world stakes. Scott did indeed attend, and with the Nashville crowd in his corner, notched a pair of goals on the afternoon en route to MVP honors. — Michael Blinn

54. Browns release Johnny Manziel after two tumultuous seasons

Manziel’s fall from grace—from first-round pick to all-time bust—was officially complete when the Browns parted ways with the troubled quarterback in March. Manziel was unable to curb his partying despite a stint in rehab, and was investigated in January for a domestic violence incident against his ex-girlfriend (prosecutors later agreed to drop the charges). — Amy Parlapiano

53. D'Angelo Russell secretly films teammate Nick Young

In one of the most bizarre off-the-court stories to hit the NBA, D’Angelo Russell was widely criticized after he surreptitiously filmed his teammate Nick Young talking about his activities with women while on the road. The problem? Young—at the time, anyway—was engaged to pop star Iggy Azalea. — Rohan Nadkarni

52. Cam Newton storms out of Super Bowl postgame press conference

Newton had little interest in answering questions after his worst performance of the season (18 of 41, 0 TDs, 1 INT). He appeared quite agitated, and either answered questions with one-word answers or ignored them altogether. Then he walked away, launching an off-season of questions about his leadership. — Melissa Jacobs

51. Michael Phelps stare down spawns meme

Who could forget it—Michael Phelps in a hoodie, staring straight ahead with a giant scowl on his face as his South African rival Chad Le Clos shadow-boxed to get pumped up for their upcoming 200-meter butterfly semifinal. Memes of #PhelpsFace spread across the internet like wildfire—reminiscent of McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” face from London. Phelps claimed he wasn’t watching Le Clos as he tried to remain focused on the upcoming race. But one can imagine it’s hard to ignore your rival when he’s clearly trying throw you off your game. In the end, Phelps emerged with the upper hand, winning Olympic gold medal No. 20 in the event. — Bette Marston

50. Cavaliers fire David Blatt despite having best record in East

Before there was triumph, there was head scratching. The Cavs fired David Blatt on Jan. 22 despite having the best record in the East. The decision underscored the dysfunction that followed Cleveland for much of the regular season. Tyronn Lue took over for Blatt, and the controversial decision ultimately paid off handsomely for Cleveland. — Rohan Nadkarni

49. Underdogs in College World Series

Coastal Carolina won six elimination games to win the College World Series and claim the school’s first national title in any sport. The champions of the Big South Conference got three wins on the mound from sidearmer Andrew Beckwith, and the Chanticleers became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the CWS in its first appearance. - Andy Staples

48. Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles

Back in January it looked as though it would be the Chargers and Raiders who would be relocating to Carson, Calif., while the Rams stayed in St. Louis. But after a six-hour meeting in Houston, the vote swung dramatically. It was instead Stan Kroenke and his Rams who moved back to Los Angeles, where they’d be featured on Hard Knocks and, despite the change of scenery, proceed to put together yet another subpar season. — Amy Parlapiano

47. Jurgen Klinsmann fired by U.S. men's national team

Hired in 2011 to lead the U.S. national team, Jurgen Klinsmann promised to change the American style of play—making it more proactive, balanced, and able to compete on level footing with the world’s elite teams. But toward the end of 2016, the U.S. was having trouble defeating teams in its own region. A 2–1 loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, was bad enough, but the U.S.’s 4–0 loss to Costa Rica days later sealed Klinsmann’s fate. Days later, the German’s time in charge of the U.S. came to an end, with Bruce Arena—the U.S. coach from 1998–2006—now back in the fold to get the team’s World Cup qualification campaign back on track. — Alexander Abnos

46. Ohio State outlasts Michigan in 2OT thriller

Nothing to see here ... just a clash between two bitter archrivals ranked No. 2 (Ohio State) and No. 3 (Michigan) in the playoff rankings, with the loser all but extinguished from the national championship race. We saw the Wolverines build a 10-point lead, the Buckeyes crawl back to tie it despite two missed field goals, and a game-winning double-OT TD run from Curtis Samuel that followed a controversial fourth-down conversion by the Buckeyes. — Brian Hamilton

45. Draymond Green suspended during NBA Finals

The slap that swung the Finals. If not for a tap by Draymond Green to the crotch of LeBron James, it’s likely that the Warriors would have won the Finals. Green was suspended for Game 5 of the series for the tap, thanks in part to a groin kick from the round before—the NBA simply could no longer look past Green’s pattern of antics. His suspension set the stage for the Cavaliers to mount their epic comeback. — Rohan Nadkarni

44. Cardinals edge Packers in epic fashion

Two of the game’s most esteemed veteran superstars, Aaron Rodgers and Larry Fitzgerald, would not be denied when the Packers and Cardinals met in the divisional round. Rodgers connected with Jeff Janis on a desperate 61-yard heave to convert a fourth-and-20 with less than a minute left, then fired up a last-second Hail Mary that once again found its way to a leaping Janis as time expired for a game-tying touchdown. That all served as prologue for Fitzgerald, who weaved through the Packers' defense for 75 yards on the first play of overtime, then scored the game-winning touchdown on a shovel pass two plays later, capping off a breathless finish that made the rest of the 2016 playoffs seem unremarkable by comparison. - Eric Single

43. Craig Sager works his first NBA Finals

Over the last few years of a long life in sports television—his career began in 1973 when the Northwestern University speech major moved to Sarasota, Fla., where he worked as a sailing instructor, a bouncer at Big Daddy’s and a cub reporter at a radio station—Craig Sager has become the most beloved figure in the NBA (see his interview with LeBron James during Game 6 of Sager's first and only NBA Finals). Think about that—a broadcaster becoming the most beloved person in a sport. But it was true. Respected by players and executives, loved by fans, Sager passed away in December of acute myeloid leukemia. He was 65 and will be immensely missed by the NBA family and beyond. — Richard Deitsch

42. Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor brawl

The year’s best boxing match took place in Texas within the confines of Globe Life Park, when Blue Jays rightfielder Jose Bautista and Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor squared up to trade fists during a May game. There was already plenty of bad blood between the Jays and Rangers following Toronto’s unceremonious dumping of Texas in the 2015 American League Division Series—capped by Bautista’s monstrous game-winning home run and bat flip in the deciding Game 5—so it wasn’t a surprise to see the teams scrap in the regular season. All it took was a rough slide on Bautista’s part into Odor at second to set off the fireworks—first a solid right hook into Bautista’s jaw by Odor, then a benches-clearing brawl and a place for this fight among baseball’s all-time best donnybrooks. - Jon Tayler

41. Rams, Eagles make massive trades to move up for QBs

The Titans and Browns earned the first two picks of the 2016 draft, but as quarterbacks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz became crystallized at the top of draft boards, both teams chose to deal their spots away, shaking up the draft order in the process. First, the Rams jumped up from the 15th pick to No. 1, and once word leaked out they had their eye on Goff, the Eagles jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 to secure their man, Wentz. By the time Round 1 rolled around, the first two selections had been drained of all surprise—but fans got their share of that in the weeks leading up to it. - Eric Single

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

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