As the year comes to an end, it's time to take stock of everything the sports world threw at us in 2018: the best, worst, weirdest, most embarrassing and more. Below, we'll share snippets of our look back at 2018 and what we expect to unfold in '19.
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.
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.
Cerebral palsy couldn’t keep Justin Gallegos from earning a pro contract
On Oct. 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 him with a professional contract, believed to be the first for an athlete with cerebral palsy.
J.R. Smith in the NBA Finals
Have you ever booked a train ticket for the wrong date? Or showed up to a party at the wrong time? It sucks, right? But it’s not the end of the world, because usually the entire country isn’t watching. Unfortunately for J.R. Smith, all of America watched him forget that Game 1 of the NBA Finals was tied and attempt to dribble out the clock because he thought the Cavaliers were winning. The game then went to overtime and the Warriors proceeded to crush Cleveland, a team that was only there because LeBron James had hoisted them onto his back and carried them uphill all season. LeBron’s reaction to J.R.—that exasperated look, those outstretched hands—quickly became a meme. J.R. is gonna J.R. — By Charlotte Wilder
UConn defensive coordinator Billy Crocker
A hearty congratulations to UConn’s 2018 defense for being literally the worst in the history of major college football. Here is just a sampling of records broken by the Huskies:
• 605 points allowed (33 more than East Carolina in 2010)
• 617.4 yards allowed per game (56.57 more than Kansas in 2015)
• 50.42 points allowed per game (.15 more than Louisiana-Lafayette in 1997)
UConn allowed a staggering 8.8 yards per play, allowed opponents to score on 62 of 67 red zone opportunities, surrendered 325 first downs while only forcing 130 third-down situations and gave up 81 touchdowns. Opposing teams averaged 7.7 yards per carry and 335 rushing yards per game. I could go on, but you get the picture. — By Dan Gartland
College Basketball: Duke Blue Devils
Talk of the Blue Devils running the table was snuffed out early by a loss to Gonzaga, but that it took such a strong night from such a talented and experienced Bulldogs team to knock them off is a testament to just how good Duke is already. Without the burden of chasing perfection, the absurdly talented, skilled and large Blue Devils can focus on improving further still, something Coach K's freshmen-heavy teams have shown a knack for doing rapidly in recent years. No team's ceiling is higher. — By Dan Greene
PGA Championship: Tiger Woods
Wishful thinking? Maybe. Totally out of the realm of possibility? Absolutely not. Tiger Woods showed last year that he’s capable of winning majors again. Remember, he led on the Sunday back nine at Carnoustie and finished alone at second at Bellerive. Woods typically fares well on PGA Championship setups—he’s won the tournament four times—and he’s got a solid history at this year’s host venue, Bethpage Black, where he won the U.S. Open in 2002 and finished T-4 in '09. It says here: Woods wins the first PGA Championship in May for his 15th major and, in the process, truly completes one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history. — By Daniel Rapaport
Saying Goodbye to the Legends
While Tom Brady expresses a desire to play until 45, he has notably slowed this year, as have some of the key role players in the Patriot dynasty. Elsewhere, Drew Brees will turn 40 before the Super Bowl. Larry Fitzgerald is 35, Julius Peppers is going to be 39, Rob Gronkowski is going to be 30, but with two careers’ worth of serious injuries on his body. That’s just a few of the names we’ll be keeping an eye on as the grind of another NFL season forces players to make decisions about their long-term health and life after football. Luckily for the NFL, the league was infused over the past two or three seasons with a bedrock of young stars capable of replacing the outgoing class. Still, it is never easy for a league to wave goodbye to its biggest cash cows. — By Conor Orr
• This week's SI cover story: Tua Tagovailoa plays for God, the universe and the culture that helped shape him into Nick Saban's perfect quarterback. (By Greg Bishop)
• Injuries, a coach's death, a kicking debacle, a coordinator firing have all threatened what was cued up to be the Vikings’ crowning season. We had a reporter embedded with them during this contentious journey.(By Greg Bishop)
• Players and coaches lift the shroud on the halftime locker room to reveal ... it's not always how it looks in the movies. (By Ross Dellenger)
• The ongoing Anthony Davis trade hype has been years in the making. (By Rob Mahoney)
• You had questions in the wake of the "Steve McNair: Fall of a Titan" podcast. Here are the answers. (By Tim Rohan)
Vault Photo of the Week: Vince Young's Epic Dive
Vince Young was on the move, and so was SI photographer Robert Beck. It was the third quarter of the 2006 Rose Bowl, and Young's Texas Longhorns—trailing by a point—were slicing through USC's defense, marching from their own 20-yard line to the Trojans' 14 in six plays and less than two minutes of game clock. That posed a problem for Beck, who had to hustle down the sideline to get in position for a potential Longhorns touchdown. "I'm running down there, they start their play—I don't even have a spot yet. I'm not even standing still," Beck recalls. "[Young] starts moving, and he's running toward me. We were heading toward the same corner at the same time. I must have had a head start because I'm not as fast as Vince Young."
As Young broke a tackle and dived toward the right pylon, Beck had his wide-angle lens ready. "We got there at the same time. I grabbed the camera around my neck and got that picture," Beck says. "Total luck." Maybe Texas was a bit lucky that night too, but both Young and Beck were rewarded for their hustle: The quarterback's diving score helped the underdog Longhorns to a 41–38 national title win, and the photographer's shot ended up on the cover of SI. — By Stanley Kay
Editor's note: What kind of stories and content would you like to see in the Weekend Read? Let's chat at SIWeekendRead@gmail.com.