American Pharoah Becomes First Triple Crown Winner Since 1978
American Pharoah was able to do what 13 other Triple-Crown hopeful horses couldn’t do since 1978 – he won the Belmont Stakes, winning the Triple Crown of horse racing, sweeping the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. This was just the 12thtime in history a horse won those three races in the same year, and it was the first since Affirmed performed the feat 37 years earlier – the longest stretch without a Triple Crown champion ever.
2 of 24Simon Bruty for Sports Illustrated
Carli Lloyd Scores a Hat Trick to Clinch World Cup Final Win for U.S. Women
In possibly the greatest performance in World Cup history, Lloyd scored three goals within 16 minutes in the finals to help the U.S. beat Japan, 5-2. Amazingly, she even scored a goal from midfield that sailed over the outstretched arms of the Japanese goalie.
3 of 24Erick W. Rasco for Sports Illustrated
Kansas City Royals Tops Mets in Extra Innings For World Series Win
Rather than collapsing after losing the 2014 World Series to San Francisco, the Royals topped the N.Y. Mets in five games for their first World Series title since 1985. They Royals were the Comeback Kids this past October, winning seven postseason games after trailing by multiple runs – two more wins than any other team had in a single postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
4 of 24David E. Klutho for Sports Illustrated
Blackhawks Become First Hockey Dynasty in Over a Decade
The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning for their third championship in six seasons, making them the first NHL team to do so since the Detroit Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002. Considering this team was also the first to do so during the NHL’s salary cap era makes it even more impressive.
5 of 24Kathy Kmonicek/AP
Max Scherzer Throws No-Hitter No. 2, Strikes Out 17 Mets
For just the sixth time in Major League history, Max Scherzer threw a second no-hitter in the same season, while also striking out 17 Mets. He joined Nolan Ryan and Roy Halladay as the only pitchers with two no-no’s in the same season over the past 50 years.
6 of 24John Iacono for Sports Illustrated
Who Killed Seattle’s Super Bowl Dreams? The Butler Did It!
New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler jumped in front of Seahawks wideout Ricardo Lockette to intercept a pass that would have sealed back-to-back championships for Seattle. Armchair quarterbacks will forever second-guess head coach Pete Carroll’s decision to throw the ball on second-and-goal from the 1-yard line rather than run Marshawn Lynch.
7 of 24Robert Beck for Sports Illustrated
Jordan Spieth Wins Masters at Just 21 Years Old
Spieth made everyone in the golfing world take notice by winning his first Masters title at the age of 21 this spring. The 21-year-old led all four rounds, never letting anyone closer than three shots the entire way. He was the second-youngest champion, behind only Tiger Woods, and he followed up his green-jacket win by winning the 2015 U.S. Open just a few weeks later, becoming the sixth player to ever win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
8 of 24Greg Nelson for Sports Illustrated
Ohio State Wins National Title Behind Third-String QB
Despite being seeded fourth in the first year of the new College Football Playoff system, the Ohio State Buckeyes upset both Alabama and Oregon to win head coach Urban Meyer’s third national championship. The Buckeyes were led by Cardale Jones, who started the 2014 season behind Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett, who both went down with season-ending injuries.
9 of 24Greg Nelson for Sports Illustrated
Duke’s Coach K Wins 5th NCAA Tourney, Makes Case For Best NCAA Coach Ever
Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski cut down the nets on Duke’s fifth national championship this past April, after beating Wisconsin in the finals. While UCLA’s John Wooden has twice as many championships (in an amazing 12-year run, no less), Coach K has done so in a much more difficult era, with players leaving for the NBA before their senior seasons. (Wooden had both Lew Alcindor and then Bill Walton for six of those 10 championship years).
10 of 24Carlos M. Saavedra for Sports Illustrated; Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images
‘Stan the Man’ Wawrinka Stuns Djokovic for French Open Title
After Novak Djovic beat the “King of Clay,” Rafael Nadal, in the quarterfinals, he seemed to be destined to become just the eighth man to complete the career grand slam. But Stan Wawrinka had other plans, losing just one set in the first five matches of the tournament, beating Djovic for the French Open title despite being the No. 8 seed.
11 of 24Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Holly Holm Shocks the World By Beating Undefeated Ronda Rousey
In a year that proved women’s MMA is more exciting than the most anticipated boxing match in decades (Mayweather-Pacquiao), Holm landed a solid kick to the previously unbeaten Rousey for the unlikely knockout win. You can bet a Holm-Rousey rematch will build more excitement than Mayweather-Pacquiao II.
12 of 24Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Jose Bautista’s Bat Flip Punctuates a Great Season by the Blue Jays
In Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, Jays catcher Russell Martin accidentally hit Shin-Soo Choo’s bat while throwing the ball back to the pitcher – allowing a runner to score from third. While playing the game under protest, Bautista made it a moot point, after he crushed a three-run-home run to put Toronto ahead for good, sending them to its first championship series since 1993. But Bautista’s bat flip became one for the ages, emphatically tossing his bat 10 yards away toward his dugout.
13 of 24David Goldman, Julio Cortez/AP
Vinci Came, She Saw, She Conquered Serena Williams at U.S. Open
Italy’s Roberta Vinci beat the 300-1 odds against her to beat Serena Williams, who was all set to become the first tennis player to win a calendar-year Grand Slam since Steffi Graf in 1988. The 32-year-old, unseeded won their semifinal match in three sets, despite never even winning one set against Williams in their four previous matches.
All season, it appeared as if the Kentucky Wildcats (stacked with four NBA first-rounders just a few months later, including the No. 1 overall pick, Karl-Anthony Towns) were on a date with destiny, rattling off 38 consecutive wins. But Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky and his Badgers teammates ended Kentucky’s chances of becoming the first unbeaten NCAA champion since 1976.
15 of 24Elsa/Getty Images
Todd Frazier Wins Revamped Home Run Derby in Cincinnati
Reds third baseman Todd Frazier beat Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson 15-14, in front of his home crowd at Great American Ballpark. The new Gillette Home Run Derby rules proved to be a huge success, as Frazier won in bonus time, after knocking off Prince Fielder and Josh Donaldson in head-to-head matches.
16 of 24Bill Kostroun/AP
A-Rod Homers For His 3,000th Hit in Impressive Comeback Season
Much to the chagrin of many baseball fans, including many of those in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez returned from a season-long suspension and hip surgery to put together one of the most amazing comeback seasons ever. In his age-40 season, he became the 29th member of the 3,000-hit club, and just the third to hit a home run for 3K, along with Wade Boggs and Derek Jeter. Rodriguez is now fourth on the all-time homer list, and he joined Hank Aaron and Willie Mays as the only players with 600 home runs and 3,000 hits.
17 of 24Rob Carr/Getty Images
Bryce Harper Wins (First of Many?) NL MVP Award
In May, Harper smacked three home runs in one game against the Marlins. That was one highlight in what proved to be a season full of many for the youngest player to ever win the National League MVP Award by a unanimous decision. At just 22 years old by season’s end, Harper is behind just Johnny Bench and Stan Musial to have won the award at a younger age. Amazingly, the NL MVP was younger than the NL Rookie of the Year (Kris Bryant, 23).
18 of 24Butch Dill/AP
Brees, Eli Manning Combine For NFL-Record 13 Touchdown Passes
Eli Manning set a personal record for touchdown passes when he threw No. 6 against the Saints in Week 8 of the 2015 NFL season. But Drew Brees topped him with seven touchdown passes in the game – tying the NFL record with seven other quarterbacks – and New Orleans came out on top in the overtime game. Brees has since passed Dan Marino to become the fourth-ranked NFL player in career TD passes.
19 of 24Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire; Gary Bogdon for Sports Illustrated
Mariota Goes Up 2-1 in Head-to-Head Battles With Winston
In just the third time in history, the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners battled in the postseason, as Marcus Mariota’s Oregon Ducks beat Jameis Winston’s Florida State Seminoles in the first semifinal game of the new College Football Playoff. Interestingly, Winston beat Mariota to be the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, only to have Mariota beat him again in both players’ first NFL game, between Tampa Bay and Tennessee in September.
20 of 24Jason Miller/Getty Images
Ravens Beat Browns on Kick Six, Save MNF Game We Expected to Stink
There’s only so much you can expect from a Monday Night Football matchup between a 3-7 Ravens team and a 2-8 Browns team in the 2015 Art Modell Bowl. But there were plenty of scoring highlights in a close game that had a chance to go into overtime, including Will Hill’s return of a blocked field goal as time expired, giving the Ravens an improbable last-second win. Cleveland snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory once again.
21 of 24Jared C. Tilton, Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
Jeff Gordon Retires After Amazing Run For 5th NASCAR Title
He came into the NASCAR world a bright young phenom behind the shadows of Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty more than 20 years ago. And now he leaves it as one of its most decorated champions in the racing circuit’s history. He qualified for the 2015 Sprint Cup finals, and while he finished third, he still ranks as one of the all-time most popular drivers, winning four NASCAR championships. He never missed a race in a career that spanned 24 seasons and 797 starts.
22 of 24Mark J. Terrill/AP
Jake Arrieta Wins Cy Young Award, Young Cubs Prepare to End Curse
After getting traded from the Orioles last season, Jake Arrieta didn’t seem to be on track for great things the rest of his career. But he beat out two Dodgers aces (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) for the National League Cy Young Award, after posting a phenomenal 0.75 ERA in the second half of the season, which included throwing a no-hitter. He led the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs, and the 29-year-old serves as a veteran leader on a team stacked with superstar youngsters that include NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and now, Jason Heyward. The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, and they haven’t been to the World Series since 1945, but things are looking up on the North Side.
23 of 24John W. McDonough for Sports Illustrated
Stephen Curry, Warriors Win NBA Title, Start 2015-16 Season With 24 Straight Wins
Golden State finished last season as NBA Champions for the first time in 40 years, capping off an amazing MVP season for Stephen Curry. That included Curry breaking his own record for three-pointers in a season, and helping his team go 48-4 at home during the regular season and playoffs. How do they top that? How about starting this season with a 24-game winning streak – destroying the previous record of 15 wins?
24 of 24Chris Keane for Sports Illustrated
UConn Women Win Third Consecutive NCAA tournament
For the third consecutive year and 10th time in 21 years, the Connecticut women, led by coach Geno Auriemma, won the NCAA title. Unlike last year's squad, this Huskies iteration lost a game — just one, to Stanford in November — but UConn ended the season on a 35-game winning streak, which culminated in a 63-53 win over Notre Dame in the championship contest. For her performance during the season, forward Breanna Stewart was named AP Player of the Year, and she won her third straight Final Four Most Outstanding Player award as well. The Huskies have now reached 10 consecutive Final Fours, 15 of the last 16 and 20 of the last 22.
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