Few teams capture the heart of its city en route to a long-awaited championship quite like the Braves did in 2021. That's why Atlanta took home this year's Sports Illustrated Team of the Year Award.
After 16 straight postseasons without a World Series title, this Braves team was a hodgepodge of season veterans, electric young stars, late-season additions and a fan base that has endured it all. They overcame a supremely talented Astros squad in six games to bring the city of Atlanta its first sports championship in a quarter-century.
SI announced its Team of the Year on Dec. 7, with a number of dominant squads up for the award.
To find the ultimate winner, you can follow the broadcast at 8 p.m. ET across SI's social media channels. The SI Awards Show will also be simulcast by LiveXLive across at least 20 other platforms, including SportsIllustratedAwards.com, LiveXLive, YouTube, Twitch, TikTok and Twitter.
Here are the 2021 nominees for Sports Illustrated's Team of the Year Award
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago Sky
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Tampa Bay Lightning
It was time to party like it's 1995 in Atlanta on Nov. 2. The Braves secured their first World Series in nearly two decades this season with a postseason run for the ages, including a World Series victory over the Astros in six games.
Atlanta wasn't exactly a juggernaut for the ages en route to the World Series. Brian Snitker's squad didn't climb over .500 until August, weeks after star outfielder Ronald Acuña was ruled out for the season. But the baseball playoffs can yield some unexpected results. Atlanta's rag-tag bullpen was electric throughout October, and Royals cast-off Jorge Soler bashed his way to World Series MVP. Perhaps the Atlanta sports curse is now broken for good.
The Sky's first-ever championship was no guarantee in Game 4 of the 2021 Finals. Chicago faced an 11-point fourth quarter deficit against Phoenix in front of a nervous home crowd on Oct. 17, needing a major rally to avoid sending the series back to Phoenix. When the chips were down, the Sky delivered. Sharpshooter Allie Quigley tallied 11 of her team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, while Kahleah Copper added 10 points en route to Finals MVP honors. Who knows, maybe the Bulls can make it two Chicago hoops championships within a year this summer.
"Bucks in 6" finally came to fruition in July as the Bucks won their first championship in 50 years. And Milwaukee has one man in particular to thank. Giannis Antetokounmpo erupted for 50 points and 14 rebounds in a Game 6 win over the Suns, adding an impressive 17 of 19 from the free-throw line. Don't be surprised if the Bucks are back on this list of nominees again in 2022.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Is Tampa title town? The Lightning joined the Buccaneers with a championship of their own in May, securing the Stanley Cup behind a playoff-best 14 goals from Brayden Point. The Lightning's bubble championship may have been a bit strange, but it was certainly satisfying for the Tampa faithful.
Along with Team of the Year, SI will also recognize:
- The Muhammad Ali Legacy Award
- Sportskid of The Year
- Female/Male Athlete of the Year, Presented by the U.S. Polo Association
- Breakthrough Athlete of the Year, Presented by Emsculpt Neo
- Hometown Hero, Presented by Pepsi Stronger Together
- Team of the Year, Presented by Vitacost
- Play of the Year, Presented by Alkaline88
- Gamer of the Year, Presented by Arcade1Up
- Best Dressed, Presented by JCPenney
The Sports Illustrated Awards will be co-hosted by DJ Khaled and sportscaster and TV host Cari Champion, with musical performances by 2 Chainz and DJ Irie.