These are the 75 moments that defined the year in sports in 2018.

By The SI Staff
December 20, 2018

What will you remember from the 2018 year in sports? As the year comes to a close, Sports Illustrated is looking back at the most memorable moments from the last 12 months, from Nick Foles and the Philly Special in Super Bowl LII; to Chloe Kim and the U.S. men's curling team at the Pyeongchang Olympics; to J.R. Smith's infamous blunder in the NBA Finals, and much more. Below, in no particular order, are the moments that have defined our year.


SURPRISES and BREAKOUT STARS

Tua Tagovailoa's national title-winning touchdown pass

After Alabama trailed 13–0 at halftime of the national title game, Tua Tagovailoa took over for starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. At the end of regulation, kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won the game for the Crimson Tide. In overtime, Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith to clinch a 26–23 overtime win over Georgia—and Alabama’s fifth national championship since 2009.

UMBC stuns No. 1 Virginia

The University of Maryland Baltimore County shocked No. 1 Virginia in the first round, winning 74–54 and becoming the first school ranked No. 16 to beat a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA tournament. The historical moment changed March Madness forever.

Shohei Ohtani’s Rookie Year

Welcome to the big leagues, Wonderboy. Shohei Ohtani's first home run of his MLB career, a three-run shot off of Cleveland's Josh Tomlin, was the first of 22 on the season to go with a dominant stretch of starting pitching outings. It was the first great moment from an unusual, transcendent talent.

Arike Ogunbowale’s Buzzer Beaters

The first game winning shot for Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale came against UConn in overtime in the NCAA women’s semifinals. With 43 seconds to go in overtime, the Irish were up by five points, but UConn cut the lead to three with 38 seconds remaining. After Ogunbowale missed two free throws, UConn tied the game with a three-pointer. But with two seconds left, Ogunbowale hit the game-winner to send Notre Dame to the final.

In the title game, Ogunbowale did it again, sinking a three-pointer with 0.1 seconds left to seal a 61-58 victory over Mississippi State and a second national championship for Notre Dame.

Team Shuster does the damn thing at the Olympics

The U.S. men’s curling team—a group of three Minnesotans and a Wisconsinite—became the darlings of the Olympics after stringing together five consecutive victories in must-win games to capture an improbable gold medal. Since PyeongChang, the team of John Shuster, Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner have been busy spreading their sport’s gospel around the country—and it seems to be catching on.

Germany’s Shocking Early Exit at the World Cup

After winning the trophy in 2014, Germany failed to get out of the group stages for the first time in its history at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, falling to South Korea 2–0 for the earliest exit for a German team at the World Cup since 1938.

Texas Tops Oklahoma in Red River on a last-second FG

Texas freshman Cameron Dicker kicked a 40-yard field goal with nine seconds left to seal a 48–45 win for No. 19 Texas over No. 7 Oklahoma. While Kyler Murray helped the Sooners claw back from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger scored five touchdowns.

Jordan Poole's Game-Winner

Michigan freshman Jordan Poole sunk an insane three-pointer as time expired to beat Houston and send the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. In turns out Poole had practice: he nearly hit the exact same shot to beat the buzzer in high school.

The Vegas Golden Knights Make It to the Final

The Vegas Golden Knights’ inaugural season was filled with historical benchmarks, but none more impressive than making it to the Stanley Cup Final. The team of misfits cruised through the first three rounds with each home-game opening ceremony somehow topping the last. Though they didn’t lift the Cup in the end, what the Golden Knights accomplished was incredible.

Donte DiVincenzo’s Breakout Performance

Villanova redshirt sophomore Donte DiVincenzo became a national sensation in the national title game, coming off the bench to score 31 points, including five three-pointers, to propel Villanova to a second national title in three years.

Baker Mayfield and the Browns

Which Mayfield moment was most memorable? From the being selected at No. 1 in the NFL Draft, to remaking Brett Favre's draft-day outfit, to ending Cleveland’s losing streak, to keeping playoff hopes alive for the Browns, Baker Mayfield has not disappointed this season.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open Finals

In the U.S. Open final in September, Serena Williams got into an argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos, leading to an ugly scene that overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s 6–2, 6–4 maiden Slam victory.

Chloe Kim Becomes a Household Name

17-year-old Chloe Kim became America’s newest Olympic sweetheart in PyeongChang, capturing the gold medal in women’s halfpipe by landing back-to-back 1080s on her third and final run and capturing hearts with her bubbly, charismatic personality and charm.

The Minnesota Miracle

Facing a 24-23 deficit against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship game, with 10 seconds left and no timeouts on its own 39-yard line, Minnesota was done—or at least appeared to be, until Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs on a 61-yard, last-second, game-ending touchdown. "Somebody's gonna have to name that play," Keenum said after the game. And the Minnesota Miracle was born.

Chris Mazdzer’s silver medal run in luge

The U.S. had never won a medal in men’s singles luge before 2018, when Chris Mazdzer, who finished 13th in the 2010 and ‘14 Olympics, unexpectedly slid into second place to take home the silver.

Everything Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes' dominance is undeniably one of the top storylines of the NFL season, as the Chiefs QB leads the league in yards, touchdowns and most passing yards per game for 2018. Six touchdowns against Pittsburgh? The left-handed completion against the Broncos? Mahomes has done it all this year and is in the race for the league's MVP—but that comes as no surprise to those who’ve known him.


THE OMG! VIRAL MOMENTS

J.R. Smith’s NBA Finals Blunder

It’s a play—and a meme—we’ll never forget: Smith dribbled out the clock in the finals seconds of regulation in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, as if Cleveland had already secured the win. It may have been the worst brain fart in sports history, but it at least it produced some good memes.

Phil Mickelson Lets His Frustration Get the Best of Him

During the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, Phil Mickelson putted a moving ball, leading to a massive rules controversy and an eventual apology from Lefty.

North Texas's fake punt touchdown against Arkansas

North Texas pulled off the season's best special teams trick play, fooling Arkansas with a fake fair catch. After standing still for several seconds following a Razorback's punt, return man Keegan Brewer sprinted past a pair of unassuming defenders, breaking free for a 90-yard touchdown. 

Jacob Copeland's mom walks out of his signing day ceremony

Sitting at table surrounded by his family and friends in early February, four-star wide receiver Jacob Copeland committed to Florida over Tennessee and Alabama. When Copeland put on the Gators cap, his mom—wearing an Alabama shirt and Tennessee hat—got up and left without saying a word. 

Fitzmagic’s Postgame Interview in DeSean Jackson’s clothes

After a Week 2 win against the Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick arrived to his postgame press conference swagged out in gold chains, black sunglasses and a track suit. The FitzMagic was real, even if the outfit was DeSean Jackson’s from before the game.

The Astros' Two extremely weird walk-off hits by the same player

Baseball is unpredictable and cruel as the A's and Padres learned against the defending champions. You'll never see endings like this as long as you live.

Loyola-Chicago (and Sister Jean) Make the Final Four

The Ramblers of Loyola-Chicago busted brackets across the nation in March with their improbable run in the NCAA tournament, joining fellow No. 11 seeds 1986 LSU, 2006 George Mason and 2011 VCU as the highest seeded teams to make the Final Four. While Loyola-Chicago shocked the World, the team’s 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt stole the nation's hearts.

Tony Finau Hurts His Ankle While Celebrating

Tony Finau hit a hole-in-one on the seventh hole during the Par 3 contest at the Masters and then severely twisted his ankle while celebrating. He went on to finish T10 in the Masters.

Pablo Sandoval, The Pitcher

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning in a 15-6 loss to the Dodgers in April. Sandoval's stint as a pitcher was the first by a Giants position player since Greg Litton on July 4, 1991. Look at the big guy confuse those Dodgers hitters!

Khabib vs. McGregor at UFC 229—and the Aftermath

In the most-hyped UFC bout of the year, Khabib Nurmagomedov retained his lightweight title (27–0) by forcing McGregor (21–4) to tap out. But it was what happened after the fight that stole the show: a brawl erupted after Nurmagomedov jumped out of the octagon and chaos ensued. The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended both fighters after UFC 229.


STANDOUT PERFORMANCES

Eagles win Super Bowl LII with the Philly Special

The Philadelphia Eagles sealed an improbable championship season and the franchise’s first Super Bowl title with an unforgettable, gusty call against the New England Patriots, as backup quarterback Nick Foles caught a pass from an undrafted tight end in a pivotal play called the Philly Special. “That’s called big balls,” Eagles general manger Howie Roseman said in the locker room after the game.

Warriors win third title in four years

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to their third NBA championship in four years with a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers. For their accomplishments, the Warriors were also honored with Sports Illustrated’s 2018 Sportsperson of the Year award.

Simone Biles wins Six Medals at World Gymnastics Championships

Simone Biles spent the night in the hospital before the qualifying rounds at the World Gymnastics Championships, dealing with pain from a kidney stone. But even that didn’t stop the 21-year-old, who went on to dominate the event, winning six medals for the meet and 20 total in world championships, tying her with Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most by a female gymnast.

France Wins the World Cup, Kylian Mbappé Arrives

A dynamic, diverse and young France held off Croatia in a thrilling 4–2 triumph in Moscow, winning a second World Cup title and its first since 1998. During France’s run to the title, then-19-year-old Kylian Mbappé scored four times in seven matches in Russia, including France's final goal of the World Cup in the 65th minute of the final. Mbappé became the only teenager besides Pele to score in the final and after the tournament, generously donated the entirety of his earnings.

U.S. Women’s Hockey Wins Gold in PyeongChang

Looking for redemption after a heartbreaking loss in Sochi, the U.S. women’s hockey team beat its archrival Canada in an exhilarating shootout win to claim gold. Thanks to a golden goal from Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and a crucial save from goalie Maddie Rooney, the U.S.’s won it’s first gold medal in 20 years.

Justify's Triple Crown, Short-Lived Career 

Justify won the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes in June, becoming the 13th horse in history to complete the Triple Crown. Justify’s win marked the second time trainer Bob Baffert claimed the Triple Crown, after American Pharoah won in 2015. Justify’s unique process to winning the Triple Crown—and his subsequent retirement in July—gave us the latest chapter in horse racing lore.

Red Sox World Series

Fifteen years ago, they were the most cursed team in baseball. Now, the Boston Red Sox have won four World Series titles since 2004, the latest a five-game trouncing of the Los Angeles Dodgers (in a World Series that included an 18-inning Game 3 that rewrote the recordbooks). Thanks to one of the most balanced lineups in the game, Boston finished 2018 with the best record in baseball and easily dispatched of the NL pennant winners in manager Alex Cora's first season in charge.

Drew Brees breaks the career passing record

During Week 5 against the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees passed Brett Favre with a one-yard touchdown pass to Josh Hill, and then eclipsed Peyton Manning’s total of 71,940 yards with a 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown by Tre-Quan Smith, in order to become the all-time leader in passing yards in NFL history.

Liverpool’s Resurgence and Mohamed Salah’s Incredible Debut Season

Mohamed Salah’s record-breaking first season with Liverpool was highlighted by his 32 goals in the Premier League—a record in a 38-game season—helping the Reds secure a place in the Champions League final. 

Sony Michel's Rose Bowl-winning touchdown run

Sony Michel's 27-yard touchdown run in the second overtime sealed the game for Georgia against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, sending the Bulldogs to the national championship with a 54–48 victory.

James Harden wins first MVP award

After placing second in MVP voting in two of the last three seasons, Rockets guard James Harden beat out LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award,  averaging 30.4 points, 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds while also gifting us Internet-breaking moments like his disrespectful crossover on Wesley Johnson.

Brooks Koepka Wins Second Straight U.S. Open

In June, Brooks Koepka shot a two-under 68 in the final round at Shinnecock to finish one over par and win his second straight U.S. Open title, the first person to accomplish the feat since 1989.

Manchester City Breaks 11 Premier League records in title-winning season

Pep Guardiola’s side landed the league title in style in 2018, winning it with the most points (100), most wins (32), most away wins (16), most goals (106) and best goal difference (+79) in Premier League history.

Rafael Nadal Continues Roland Garros Reign

Rafael Nadal proved unstoppable once again on the clay in Paris, beating Dominic Thiem in three sets for a record 11th French Open title.

USWNT goes undefeated in 2018

With a 1–0 win over Scotland, the U.S. women's national team finished off its undefeated 2018 seasonw with an 18-0-2 record as it qualified for next year’s Women’s World Cup in dominating fashion.

Chiefs–Rams on Monday Night Football

Week 11 of the NFL season gave us a Monday night treat: an epic showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Rams that ended in a 54–51 scoreline in favor of the Rams. It was the first time both teams scored 50-plus points in one game and highest-scoring MNF game in its 773-game lifespan. Naturally, Twitter had a lot to say about the swing of emotions during the insane game.

The U.S. wins first medal in cross-country skiing in 42 years

Jesse Diggins and Kikkan Randall made history at the Olympics in 2018, winning gold in the team sprint with a photo finish. Diggins pushed her boot over the finish line just 0.19 seconds ahead of Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, and as Diggins collapsed, Randall crossed the line and tackled her teammate in celebration. The medal was the first of any color for the U.S. in cross-country in 42 years.

The Capitals Win the Stanley Cup

Alex Ovechkin’s (and all of Washington’s) wait was finally over when the Caps raised their first-ever Stanley Cup. After ending several exciting seasons with disappointing second-round losses, the Capitals gave D.C. its first major pro-sports title since 1992. The celebrations that followed all summer were almost as memorable as that win.

Kevin Mayer Breaks Ashton Eaton's Decathlon world record

France’s Kevin Mayer totaled 9,126 points over 10 events in the decathlon at the IAAF Combined Events Challenge in Talence, France, in September, eclipsing the previous world record set by two-time Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton in 2015 by 81 points.

Canelo Alvarez defeats Gennady Golovkin in rematch

In a rematch of a September 2017 fight that ended with a controversial draw, Canelo Alvarez won by majority decision in September, taking the unified middleweight world championship from Gennady Golovkin in front of a sellout crowd.

Desiree Linden Wins 2018 Boston Marathon

After a dozen years of trying, Desiree Linden won the 122nd Boston Marathon in 2:39:54 in windy, stormy conditions, marking the first time a U.S. woman has won in 33 years.

Camille Herron Runs 162 Miles on a Track Over 24 Hours

Ultrarunner Camille Herron set two new world records in December at the Desert Solstice Invitational in Phoenix, a 24-hour track race. She ran a stunning 162.9 miles over 24 hours and finished her first 100 miles in 13 hours and 25 minutes. Covering that distance is an impressing feat, but Heron’s 8:40 minute per mile pace is absolutely sensational.

Simona Halep Finally Breaks Through

Romanian Simona Halep defeated Sloane Stephens to capture first Grand Slam title at the 2018 French Open.

Eliud Kipchoge’s Marathon World Record

34-year-old Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:01:39 at the Berlin Marathon to break the world record, becoming the first person in history to run 26.2 miles under 2:02.


NEWSMAKERS

Colin Kaepernick’s Nike commercial debut

In September, Nike announced that Colin Kaepernick would be the face of the "Just Do It" campaign, featuring his face and the words, "Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything #JustDoIt."

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Transfer, Rape Allegations

In July, after spending nine years with Real Madrid, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus as the Italian club paid more than $100 million for the 33-year-old. Just a few months later, nine-year-old sexual assault allegations against Ronaldo came to light after German magazine Der Spiegel published an interview with a woman named Kathryn Mayorga, who accused Ronaldo of raping her in Las Vegas in 2009. After the allegations resurfaced, there were many layers left to examine.

Dominating Teams in Women’s Soccer

The NWSL's North Carolina Courage won the league’s Shield, an annual award given to the team with the best regular season record, and their first-ever NWSL title, defeating reigning champion Portland. Meanwhile, Lyon also completed a double, winning the women’s French League and the Champions League titles.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Arrival in L.A.

In his debut game with the L.A. Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored MLS’s goal of the year—an impressive volley from 40 yards out to level the match at 3–3. On top of that, Ibrahimovic added goal on a header in stoppage time that proved to be the game-winner. 

The Jimmy Butler Trade Saga

From the request, to the antics, to the tension with teammates, Jimmy Butler’s lengthy, drawn-out and public clash with the Timberwolves dominated the conversation at the start of the season. Eventually, Minnesota dealt Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kobe Bryant wins an Oscar for “Dear Basketball”

At the 90th annual Academy Awards in March, Kobe Bryant took home an Oscar for the animated short “Dear Basketball,” which was based his retirement letter from 2015 and created with the help of Disney animator Glen Keane.

Bryce Harper’s Home Run Derby Win in D.C.

Maybe he won't be back in D.C. in 2019, but Bryce Harper thrilled the locals with an electrifying Home Run Derby performance, perhaps the last moment the star and his fans were able to celebrate together.

SCOTUS Decision Legalizes Sports Betting

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to strike down a 1992 federal statue that had prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting and paved the way for states to begin offering legal sports wagering. The decision opened the floodgates for individuals across all sectors, including gambling media, casino executives, league officials, entrepreneurs and more, and sent waves through the sports world.

Nick Saban Apologizes to Maria Taylor

Alabama head coach Nick Saban called and apologized to ESPN's Maria Taylor after an incident during a post-game interview in September, where Taylor asked about how he was evaluating the team’s quarterbacks, as he had yet to name a starter for the season. “I think both guys are good players. I think both guys can help our team,” Saban said. “Alright, so why do you continually get me to say something that doesn’t respect one of them?” Saban appears to have made amends with Taylor after the incident.

Changes at ESPN

It was a year of changes for the network, as Jimmy Pitaro was appointed as president of ESPN in March, after John Skipper's unexpected resignation late last year. After 12 years as an anchor, writer and commentator at ESPN, Jemele Hill departed the network.

The Match: Tiger vs. Phil

The historic head-to-head match play showdown between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson—titled “The Match”—dominated headlines in the months before it all went down over Thanksgiving weekend. While the pair still competed for the $9 million pot, Turner Sports' B/R Live offer a refund to pay-per-view customers who paid the $19.99 to watch, after significant technical issues occurred at the start of the stream.

USMNT great Clint Dempsey retires

In August, Clint Dempsey—one of the greatest and most unique players in U.S. Soccer history—announced his decision to step away from the game at age 35. He played in three World Cups—2006, 2010 and 2014—scoring in all three, and retired tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in U.S. men's national team history.

LeBron James joins the Lakers—and Builds His Legacy Further

Facing his third free-agency decision, LeBron James decided to join an iconic franchise and follow in the footsteps of legends, agreeing to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. But James didn't just relocate in 2018—the four-time MVP and three-time NBA champion also inspired change. He opened his groundbreaking "I Promise School," to help educate some of Akron’s children with difficult backgrounds, and helped launch the new Showtime series, "Shut Up and Dribble," serving as an executive producer for the three-part documentary on the changing role of athletes in the current political and cultural climate.

Dwyane Wade announces retirement from the NBA

In September, 36-year-old Dwyane Wade—a 12-time All-Star, eight-time All-NBA performer and a three-time NBA champion—announced that he plans to rejoin the Miami Heat for one final season before retiring at the campaign's conclusion.

Khalil Mack trade

In September, the Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears reached an agreement to send All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears on a record setting, six-year, $141 million deal. The Raiders received a 2019 first-round pick, 2020 first-round pick, 2020 third-round pick and a 2019 sixth-round pick for the trade.


INSPIRATIONS and COMEBACKS

Sister Survivors Speak Out and Take Down Larry Nassar

Rachael Denhollander was the first person to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse and she was last of more than 150 women, including Olympians Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, to confront him in court during his sentencing in January. “How much is a little girl worth?” she asked in a 36-minute statement. Those words—and Denhollander’s courage—will have a lasting impact. 

Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer Make NFL Broadcast history

Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer became the first all-female duo to call an NFL game in 2018, paving the way for women and setting the standard for a new kind of broadcasts.

Cerebral Palsy Couldn’t Keep Justin Gallegos From Earning a Pro Contract

On October 6—World Cerebral Palsy Day—University of Oregon runner Justin Gallegos believed the video cameras at his club cross-country meet were there to simply capture his race, but they were recording even bigger news: After Gallegos crossed the finish line, Nike presented Gallegos with a professional contract, believed to be the first for an athlete with cerebral palsy.

Brian Boyle's Hat Trick

Just a couple days after announcing his cancer was in remission, Brian Boyle scored his first hat trick on Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Pittsburgh. Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in September 2017 and won the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy in 2018 for his perseverance and dedication to hockey.

Shaquem Griffin Inspires

Former UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin first wowed us with his personal best of 20 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine. Then, at the 2018 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks selected Griffin at No. 141 in the third round, reuniting him with his twin brother Shaquill.

Tiger Woods Wins the Tour Championship

In the final round of the 2018 Tour Championship with scores of fans following him up the 18th fairway, Tiger Woods shot a one-over 71 to finish at 11 under for his 80th PGA Tour victory, but first since 2013, putting an exclamation point on his resurgence in 2018.

Novak Djokovic’s Comeback

As he continued to struggle with injuries at the beginning of the season, Novak Djokovic fell out of the top 20 in the rankings, but fought his way back to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018, bringing his Grand Slam total to 14 on his career.

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