Best Games/Events of the Year
Canada 3, USA 2 (OT)
It was gold or bust for the proud host nation, so after losing an Olympic match (in group play) to the U.S. for the first time in 50 years, Canada sweated out the rematch in Vancouver. Clawing out of a 2-0 hole, Team USA tied the game 2-2 when Zach Parise scored off a frantic scramble with a mere 24.4 seconds left to play. The game went into overtime where Sidney Crosby became Canada's hero. Hustling to grab the loose puck in the left corner of the U.S. zone, he passed to Jarome Iginla, took the return feed and fired a shot between the skates of goaltender Ryan Miller at the 7:40 mark. Crosby's goal and the subsequent celebration are now part of Canadian hockey lore.
Auburn 28, Alabama 27
For weeks, Auburn detractors had circled the Nov. 26 Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa as the day of reckoning for Cam Newton and the Tigers. When Alabama jumped out to a 24-0 first-half lead, the skeptics seemed vindicated. But then Newton came to life, throwing three touchdowns and rushing for another to lead No. 2 Auburn to a thrilling win over the defending national champions. The biggest comeback in Auburn history was also the signature performance of Newton's Heisman-winning season.
USA 1, Algeria 0
Locked in a scoreless tie after missing a host of chances (and fortunate not to be trailing after Algeria hit the crossbar early), the U.S. was staring at first-round elimination in the World Cup. But Landon Donovan dramatically scored in the first minute of injury time to send the U.S. into the second round as group-stage winners for the first time in team history, sending U.S. TV soccer ratings to all-time highs and its fans into rapture.
Saints 31, Vikings 28 (OT)
This one will be remembered as much for Brett Favre's throwing an interception deep in Saints territory in the final minute of regulation as it will for the Saints' earning their first Super Bowl berth. Minnesota appeared to be positioning itself for the winning field goal when Favre was flushed from the pocket and intercepted by Tracy Porter at the Saints' 22-yard line. After New Orleans won the overtime coin toss, Drew Brees, who threw for three scores and no picks, drove the Saints into field-goal range. The possession featured a gutsy call by coach Sean Payton, who successfully went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 43. The game wasn't pretty -- the teams combined for nine fumbles and two interceptions -- but it was suspenseful. No one led by more than a touchdown.
Phillies 4, Reds 0
It's only fitting that the Year of the Pitcher be remembered best for a masterpiece from the mound. Roy Halladay, who had already thrown a perfect game back in May, became just the second man to throw a postseason no-hitter when he blanked the Reds in his playoff debut. Halladay struck out eight, walked just one and needed only 104 pitches to complete his gem.
Duke 61, Butler 59
The Bulldogs made a captivating run to the national title game -- played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, just 5.6 miles from the Butler campus -- and came within inches of bringing home a championship for the ages. But Gordon Hayward's majestic, half-court heave rimmed out at the buzzer and the Blue Devils won their fourth national title. The scintillating David-vs.-Goliath showdown was a back-and-forth contest throughout, as neither team led by more than six points. This was only the 11th championship game decided by two points or fewer and the first since Michigan defeated Seton Hall 80-79 in 1989.
Lakers 83, Celtics 79
In the first Finals Game 7 in five years, the Lakers overcame a 13-point third-quarter deficit and a 6-of-25 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant to win their second championship in a row and 16th overall. The Lakers shot only 32.7 percent but made 12-of-14 free throws in the final six minutes and got a huge three-pointer from Ron Artest down the stretch.
While a scandal-plagued Tiger Woods contended in his 2010 debut, Mickelson stole the show. Mickelson shot a 5-under 67 in the final round, highlighted by a spectacular 6-iron from the pine straw on the 13th hole to set up a birdie, and pulled away for a three-shot victory over Lee Westwood. Lefty's third green jacket was made all the sweeter by the presence of his wife, Amy, who had been undergoing breast cancer treatment and hadn't attended a tournament in almost a year.
John Isner def. Nicolas Mahut
The U.S.' Isner and France's Mahut took part in an epic three-day battle, with Isner finally prevailing 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68. The longest-ever match, which was twice suspended because of darkness, lasted 11 hours, five minutes, and the fifth set alone took 8 hours, 11 minutes. Both served more than 100 aces, and the players went 167 games without breaking serve. Of note is that the scoreboard gave out before the players did.
Nevada 34, Boise State 31
Two storylines dominated the 2010 college football season: Cam Newton's off-field saga and Boise State's worthiness as a national championship participant. When Chris Petersen's third-ranked Broncos took the field in Reno, the latter talking point proved moot. After allowing Nevada to chip away at a 17-point lead, Boise put itself in position to steal back the victory with a 53-yard pass from Kellen Moore to Titus Young. But typically reliable kicker Kyle Brotzman missed the would-be game-winner from 26 yards, then missed a 29-yarder in overtime. "It is the greatest victory this university has ever had, I can tell you that," Nevada coach Chris Ault said.
Cain Velasquez def. Brock Lesnar
Velasquez, 28, needed just nine pro bouts to prove his worth against Lesnar -- the most marketable heavyweight in the sport who, in just seven fights, took the belt and captivated audiences with his power and persona. Velasquez's rousing first-round stoppage of Lesnar was a superlative performance, one the new champion called "almost perfect" as Velasquez became the first fighter of Mexican descent to hold a major combat sports heavyweight title.
Tigers 3, Indians 0
Perfect games? Pssh, those were old news by the time Armando Galarraga took the mound against Cleveland in Detroit. In addition to Mark Buehrle's perfecto the previous July, Oakland's Dallas Braden had pitched a perfect game on Mother's Day and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay had thrown one just five days before. But even though Galarraga didn't get his perfecto, he earned a spot in baseball history for the classy way he conducted himself after first base umpire Jim Joyce erroneously ruled Cleveland's Jason Donald safe at first base for an infield single with two outs in the ninth. Galarraga got the next batter to complete what's being called baseball's first 28-out perfect game.
Eagles 38, Giants 31
What a finish! The Eagles trailed 24-3 at the half and 31-10 after a Giants field goal with 8:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. From there, Philadelphia scored 28 consecutive points, in this order: Michael Vick threw a 65-yard TD pass to Brent Celek with 7:43 to go; Vick, after a successful onside kick, scored on a 4-yard run at the 5:32 mark; Vick hit Jeremy Maclin for a 13-yarder to tie it with 1:24 to play; and, on the last play from scrimmage, DeSean Jackson first fumbled a Matt Dodge punt and then returned it 65 yards for the game-winner.
Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31 (OT)
"We always name our trick plays after movies," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio explained to a stunned viewing public after the game. This one was called "Little Giants." With Dan Conroy lined up for a 46-yard field goal to tie the game in overtime, holder Aaron Bates took the snap. Then Bates stood up. Scanning the field, he found Charlie Gantt open downfield and connected for a 29-yard game-winning touchdown. The play would have lived in Spartans lore regardless, but it became even more infamous in light of two postgame developments: video evidence that Michigan State had failed to snap the ball before the play clock expired and Dantonio's heart attack mere hours later.
Amir Khan def. Marcos Maidana
Khan was the skilled technician with the dodgy chin. Maidana was the crude slugger with the slightly less dodgy chin. Khan sprinted out to an early lead on the scorecards when they met for his WBA junior welterweight title in Las Vegas, but Maidana roared back down the stretch -- nearly knocking out Khan in the 10th round. In the end, Khan survived and won a slim unanimous decision.
Kansas State 101, Xavier 96 (2OT)
Thirteen lead changes, 17 ties, two overtimes and oh, so many clutch shots. This instant classic, played at a breakneck pace, was a battle of two dynamic backcourts: Xavier's Jordan Crawford and Terrell "Tu" Holloway vs. Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente. Holloway converted three free throws at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime and Crawford (career-high 32 points) ripped a 35-foot three to tie it late in the first OT, but the second-seeded Wildcats prevailed after Pullen (28 points) hit two threes in the second extra period.
Jazz 140, Thunder 139 (OT)
The highest-scoring game of the 2009-2010 season ended in dramatic and controversial fashion. First, Deron Williams' jumper with 1.1 seconds left in overtime gave host Utah a one-point lead; then, the Jazz's C.J. Miles blocked Kevin Durant's three-pointer on a play on which the Thunder pleaded for a foul call, to no avail. (The next day, the NBA said Miles should've been called for a foul, which would've sent Durant, a 90 percent free-throw shooter, to the line for three shots.) Williams finished with 42 points, 10 assists and one turnover, teammate Carlos Boozer collected 28 points and 15 rebounds and Durant had 45 points in a game Boozer described as an "instant classic."
Uruguay 1(4), Ghana 1(2)
Uruguay star striker Luis Suarez was a hero of sorts as he ended up saving his team from a defeat at the end of extra time with a blatant and deliberate handball on the goal line. The heartbreak for Ghana commenced as Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing penalty shot; he welled up after his shot bounced high off the crossbar. In penalty kicks, Sebastian Abreu scored the game-winner for Uruguay, which advanced to the semifinals for the first time in 40 years.
Giants 6, Phillies 5
This may have been the game that finally convinced the world that the Giants were capable of winning their first World Series title in 56 years and that Buster Posey, who went 4-for-5, was a special player. The Giants had already beaten two of the Phillies' vaunted H2O in Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and in Game 4 they beat Roy Oswalt, making a rare relief appearance, in the ninth inning, rallying for victory on Juan Uribe's sacrifice fly. Earlier, the Phillies had overcome a 3-0 deficit to score four in the fifth but the Giants got two in the sixth to take the lead before the Phillies drew even in the eighth.
Tyson Gay def. Usain Bolt
In Stockholm, Gay (9.84) beat Bolt (9.97) for the first time and handed the world's fastest man his first 100-meter loss since July 2008.
Northern Iowa 69, Kansas 67
Kansas got Farokhmanesh'd, plain and simple. After the top-seeded Jayhawks, who entered the NCAA tournament as the favorite, stormed back with full-court pressure to reduce a 12-point second-half deficit to one, Ali Farokhmanesh delivered the game's signature play. The Northern Iowa guard got the ball in the open court with 38 seconds left in the game and 30 seconds on the shot clock. But instead of pulling it out and burning some clock, Farokhmanesh stroked a back-breaking three, all but sealing the tournament's biggest upset.
Cardinals 51, Packers 45 (OT)
Was this football or pinball? The teams combined for a playoff-record 96 points, 1,024 yards of offense and 62 first downs and averaged 8.3 yards per play -- 16 of which covered at least 20 yards. Yet, ironically, the game was decided on a defensive play. After the Packers overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime, Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams forced a fumble while sacking Aaron Rodgers. Linebacker Karlos Dansby recovered the ball in the air and returned it 17 yards for the decisive score, giving Arizona playoff wins in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history.
Blackhawks 4, Flyers 3 (OT)
Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell extended Chicago's 49-year wait for the Stanley Cup by scoring his second goal of the game with 3:59 left in the third period. In overtime, the Blackhawks weathered a furious Flyers attack before Patrick Kane ended the game with shocking suddenness at 4:06 when his low shot from the bottom of the right circle beat Michael Leighton. But with the puck lost in the goal's padding, the red light did not go on and neither Leighton nor the crowd in Philadelphia's Wachovia Center immediately realized that the decisive goal had been scored. Kane did, and he jubilantly raced down the ice toward goalie Antti Niemi, pursued by his teammates.
Netherlands 3, Uruguay 2
The five-goal thriller saw the return of the fluid attractive attacking soccer for which Netherlands is famed. The Netherlands edged resilient Uruguay -- a team heavily reliant on indomitable forward Diego Forlan -- with the help of arguably the goal of the tournament, a 35-yard strike from captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Olympics men's figuring skating
Lysacek, without a quadruple jump, became the first American man to take home Olympic gold in figure skating since Brian Boitano in 1988, laying down a passionate, difficult, nearly perfect program to pass Russia's Evgeni Plushenko, he of the quad-triple jump. It wasn't that Plushenko, the defending Olympic champion, imploded. Far from it. In addition to his quad, he landed all seven of his triple jumps, completed all his spins, stayed on his feet, mugged and preened for the judges, and showed the supreme confidence that borders on arrogance -- which is his trademark. No, Plushenko lost in his bid to become the first man since Dick Button ('48, '52) to repeat as Olympic champion, because Lysacek, who had skated confidently all week, wrested the gold away from him.
Ryan Lochte def. Michael Phelps
Ryan Lochte beat Michael Phelps for the first time in a major national or international competition and ended his American rival's winning streak of 38 in championship races in this event. The victory was part of a dominant season for Lochte, who was named male swimmer of the year in the United States for the second year in a row.
Cowboys 38, Colts 35 (OT)
The game had so many turns it left you dizzy. Indianapolis trailed 17-0, stormed back for a 28-27 lead, fell behind by a touchdown, tied the score with 29 seconds to go in regulation, then lost in overtime when Peyton Manning's fourth interception set up the decisive field goal. It was the second straight week that Manning threw four picks and had two returned for scores. When Dallas wasn't scoring defensive touchdowns, Indy was scoring on special teams, recovering a blocked punt in the end zone. Frenetic? The teams combined for 29 points in the fourth quarter. Whew!
Skidmore 128, Southern Vermont 123 (7OT)
Skidmore and Southern Vermont set a Division III record and tied the longest men's game in any division with seven overtimes. Seven! The game, which was tied at 59-59 at the end of regulation, lasted three hours and 50 minutes, and each team had four players foul out. Southern Vermont's Taeshon Johnson led all scorers with 39 points and his teammate Lance Spratling played all 75 minutes in the loss.
Mets 2, Cardinals 1
After 18 scoreless innings, both teams scratched across a run in the 19th. In top of the 20th, the Mets scored on a sacrifice fly, and in the bottom half, Mike Pelfrey, normally a starter, saved the win for Francisco Rodriguez, normally the closer. The game featured 19 pitchers, two of whom were position players and another two became position players if only for one night. The 18 scoreless innings was the longest a game had started without a run in more than 20 years.
With copious rain necessitating the first Monday finish in Ryder Cup history, the Americans rallied under blue skies but couldn't quite produce a 1999-style miracle in the singles, and Europe won 141/2-131/2 to reclaim the Cup. The U.S. won the singles matches 6-4-2, but after suffering one of the worst routs in the history of the Ryder Cup in the third session, it wasn't quite enough. Needing just five points to win back the Cup, Europe got exactly five when U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell birdied 16 and hung on to defeat Hunter Mahan 3 and 1 in an anchor match many initially thought would mean nothing.
Flyers 4, Bruins 3
Up three games to none, the Bruins were pushed to the decisive match on home ice by the tenacious Flyers and led 3-0 when the floodgates began to creak open. The Flyers' James van Riemsdyk scored with 2:48 left in the first period. Scott Hartnell and Danny Briere tallied in the second. The game went into the third tied, 3-3. In a nightmare repeat of their disastrous playoff moment against Montreal in 1979, the Bruins were penalized for having too many men on the ice. Simon Gagne scored on the ensuing power play with 7:08 left and the Flyers held on to their 4-3 lead, becoming only the third NHL team to climb out of a three-games-to-none hole and win a seven-game series.
Serena Williams def. Justine Henin
After a string of generally uninspiring matches in the women's finals of majors, Williams and Henin served up a borderline classic. Serena prevailed 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in a thoroughly engrossing three-setter, marked by wild swings in momentum, some lethal hitting and some real wills. In her first major of Career 2.0, Henin had real chances to take the big prize, but Williams won six of the last seven games to claim her 12th major title.
LSU 16, Tennessee 14
Not for nothing do they call Les Miles the Mad Hatter. No. 12 LSU trailed by four and faced a third-and-goal at the Tennessee two-yard line. The Tigers had no timeouts. With the clock approaching zero, LSU began shuffling players. Baffled, Tennessee did too. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson called for the snap with three seconds remaining. It sailed right by him. Tennessee's sideline exploded as time expired. Then everything changed. Officials reviewed the play and found that Tennessee had 13 players on the field when LSU snapped the ball. The penalty gave LSU an untimed down from the half-yard line, and tailback Stevan Ridley scored the game-winner. "It went from a cry, to a frown, to a smile, to a realization of how you really won the game," LSU linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said.
This Daytona 500 will forever be known for its infamous pothole, but it was a pretty good race before and after the two red flags came out. The race went into two extra sessions of overtime before Jamie McMurray won, 6 hours and 12 minutes after the green flag waved. McMurray was one of 21 race leaders, a Daytona 500 record, and the 52 lead changes were the third most. The only time he was in front was for the final two laps -- the fewest for a Great American Race winner.
Leonard Garcia def. Chan Sung Jung
Want a relentless war, short on technique, tall on everything else? This is it, a wild, three-round featherweight fight. Rapidly faltering technique combined with increased aggression was an early indication that these two were meant for one another. The "Korean Zombie" mythology, if there is such a thing, was born out of the nature of Jung's performance. Garcia played along, unloading so many power shots that his right hand was badly broken in the first round. Jung was also forced to the hospital afterward his split-decision loss because of a damaged hand.
Breeders' Cup Classic
Seeking to go 20-for-20, Zenyatta came up short ... but just barely. The 6-year-old mare, the only female in the bunch, fell behind by nearly 20 lengths, a ridiculous deficit against top horses, but stormed all the way back only to lose a photo finish to Blame. Even in defeat, Zenyatta put on a show-stopping performance in front of more than 72,000 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Nuggets 118, Cavaliers 116 (OT)
In a classic duel between superstars, Carmelo Anthony nailed the game-winning jumper over LeBron James with 1.9 seconds left as Denver snapped host Cleveland's 13-game winning streak. Anthony finished with 40 points while James countered with 43 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists.
Phillies 1, Reds 0
It was almost a playoff preview in more ways than one. Just under three months before the two teams met at the same Citizen's Bank Ballpark for Game 1 of the NLDS in which Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter, the Reds' Travis Wood made a bid for some history of his own. Wood carried a perfect game into the ninth inning. The only problem was that his team had yet to score off Halladay. Wood gave up a double in the ninth but kept the game scoreless. He left after nine innings. Two innings later, the Phillies won on Jimmy Rollins' RBI single.
Steelers 13, Ravens 10
This is arguably the league's best current rivalry because the teams are virtual mirror images of each other. They're smart, physical and built around their defenses and running games. As expected, this was another slugfest. Baltimore appeared to be in control with 3:22 to play; it had the ball and a four-point lead. However, that's when Steelers safety Troy Polamalu blitzed from the right side of the defense and stripped QB Joe Flacco of the ball. That set up Ben Roethlisberger's 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Isaac Redman. But before the Steelers could finish celebrating, the Ravens rallied back and advanced to the Pittsburgh 31-yard line. Rather than attempt a tying field goal, Baltimore went for it on fourth down-and-2; Flacco short-hopped a pass to a wide-open Ed Dickson to end the game. Notable: It was the fourth consecutive meeting decided by three points.
Lakers 103, Suns 101
With the series tied 2-2 and the game tied 101-101 in Los Angeles, Ron Artest retrieved Kobe Bryant's layup and quickly laid it in to beat the buzzer. Artest was an unlikely hero: Phil Jackson considered benching him in the final minute after two errant long jumpers from Artest, who finished 2-of-9. Artest's dramatic put-back spoiled a nice comeback by the Suns, who rallied from an 18-point second-half deficit and tied it with 3.5 seconds remaining on Jason Richardson's banked-in three-pointer. Phoenix never led in the second half.
Novak Djokovic def. Roger Federer
On the verge of reaching his seventh consecutive U.S. Open final and setting up the match the tennis world craved, Federer couldn't close the deal. Federer failed to convert two match points in the 10th game of the fifth set, with Djokovic hitting winners both times. Djokovic broke the five-time U.S. Open champion in the next game before closing out a 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 victory, denying Federer his first career meeting with Rafael Nadal at Flushing Meadows. Nadal went on to beat Djokovic in the final to complete a career Grand Slam.
After two-putting for bogey on the 72nd hole at Whistling Straits, Dustin Johnson believed he had earned a spot in a three-way playoff for the Wanamaker trophy. That is until a rules official caught up to him as he was exiting the green and broke the news: Johnson had unknowingly played his second shot from a messy bunker in the rough where fans were walking and grounded his club. After a long discussion with rules officials, Johnson was assessed a two-stroke penalty and knocked out of the playoff. Martin Kaymer beat Bubba Watson in the three-hole playoff to win his first major.
Oklahoma 47, Oklahoma State 41
Rarely has the Bedlam game so lived up to its name. Thanks to two road losses on the season, No. 14 Oklahoma set off for Stillwater as a rare underdog against instate rival and 10th-ranked Oklahoma State. But a career passing day from Landry Jones (468 passing yards, four touchdowns) secured the Sooners a share of the Big 12 South title and a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game thanks to an edge in the BCS standings. The teams combined for 967 yards of total offense and 10 total touchdowns and exchanged two touchdowns apiece in the span of 92 seconds late in the fourth quarter.
Jazz 116, Heat 114 (OT)
Utah trailed by as many as 22 points and was still down by eight (98-90) with 30 seconds left in regulation when Paul Millsap went wild. The Jazz forward, who entered the game 2-for-20 in his career from three-point range, made three long ones in less than 25 seconds and added a buzzer-beating, game-tying 6-footer to force overtime. Playing without Deron Williams, who had fouled out, Utah prevailed in OT to complete the second-biggest comeback in franchise history. Millsap finished with a career-high 46 points to spoil LeBron James' triple-double and Dwyane Wade's 39-point performance.
Olympics women's downhill
Still recovering from a severely bruised shin that threatened to derail her Olympic hopes, Vonn became the first American woman to win the downhill in a Winter Games. "This is the best day of my life, by far,'' she said after edging fellow American Julia Mancuso with a spectacular run.
Michigan State 85, Maryland 83
The game featured four lead changes in the final 39 seconds, capped by Korie Lucious' game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer. Michigan State star Kalin Lucas tore his Achilles tendon at the end of the first half and the Spartans blew a 16-point lead in the second half. But Lucas' replacement, Lucious, drilled the shot for an MSU team that would go on to reach its sixth Final Four in the last 12 years.
Barcelona 5, Real Madrid 0
La Liga observers expected a riveting show in perhaps the most-hyped clasico of all time between bitter, star-laden rivals Real and Barca. The game did turn out to be unforgettable, but only for Barcelona, which won a one-sided affair and turned in one of the greatest single-game performances ever. David Villa scored twice and Lionel Messi set up two goals and controlled play for Barca, which won its fifth straight game against Real.
Texans 30, Redskins 27 (OT)
After falling behind 27-10 in the third quarter, the Texans scored the final 20 points to improve to 2-0. Matt Schaub was outstanding, throwing for 497 yards and three scores. He found wideout Andre Johnson for a 34-yard, game-tying touchdown with 2:03 to go in regulation -- on fourth down, no less -- then hit tight end Joel Dreessen for 28 yards to set up the decisive field goal in overtime. Donovan McNabb had his moments as well, throwing for 426 and a score. It was the first time since 1994 that opposing QBs passed for 400 yards or more in the same game.
Braves 10, Reds 9
The Braves pulled off the biggest ninth-inning comeback of the year, scoring seven times to beat the Reds in Atlanta. Brooks Conrad capped the amazing rally with a walk-off grand slam. Reds left fielder Laynce Nix appeared to have caught the ball with an over-the-wall catch, and even Conrad thought it was an out before realizing the ball had deflected off Nix's glove and over the fence.
Celtics 118, Knicks 116
December regular-season games don't get better than this, complete with two confident teams on long winning streaks, terrific individual performances, tremendous late-game shot making and, of course, a little controversy. Paul Pierce hit a tiebreaking jumper with 0.4 seconds left to cap his 32-point night. Amar'e Stoudemire (39 points) then made a three-pointer but it was ruled to have come after the buzzer. Knicks fans thought New York should've had a few more tenths of a second on the clock for the last possession -- which means Stoudemire's basket might've counted.