’s ranking of the most memorable sports moments of the year

December 17, 2015

It’s become an annual tradition:’s ranking of the most memorable sports moments of the year. From bat flips to broken jaws, we’ve got it all (we think):

Arkansas refuses to lose
Arkansas beat Ole Miss thanks to a BACKWARDS HAIL MARY

The Arkansas Razorbacks provided Week 10's wildest finish. Posted by SB Nation College Football on Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fourth-and-25. That’s the down and distance Arkansas needed to convert to keep its hopes of beating Ole Miss alive on Nov. 7. Thanks to one of the most ridiculous plays of the 2015 season, though, the Razorbacks found a way to get it done. Quarterback Brandon Allen fired a short pass to tight end Hunter Henry. As he was being tackled, Henry blindly lateraled the ball more than 20 yards across the field, where it hit the ground before bouncing into the hands of tailback Alex Collins. Collins then took off toward the sideline, moving past the first-down marker for a stunning 29-yard gain. It was every bit as crazy as it sounds, and it paved the way for a touchdown, a two-point conversion and a 53–52 Arkansas overtime victory that would ultimately keep Ole Miss out of the SEC Championship Game.
Grantland shuts down

Just months after publicly committing to Grantland for the long term, ESPN suspended the sports and pop culture publication indefinitely in October. The move came five months after ESPN parted with the site’s original editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons. Said ESPN in a statement: “After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise."
Browns’ misery continues
The Browns just can't catch a break. With the score tied at 27, the Browns lined up for a 50-plus-yard field goal. Why not, right? You miss it, the game goes to OT. Apparently, if you're the Browns, the kick gets blocked and returned for a game-winning touchdown.
A record-breaking bulldog
A sports moment? Maybe. An awesome moment? Definitely.
Masterful bench celebrations

The Monmouth basketball team's bench is taking celebrations to another level. Good timing, too, as the Hawks are off to a roaring start. From dying on the sideline and mocking Mike Dunleavy to the Sistine Chapel, no team can match their reveling.
Delly’s breakout

Matthew Dellavedova was a star in Australia and a standout at St. Mary's. Yet he went undrafted and posted meager numbers as a backup to Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. When his number was called in the 2015 NBA playoffs, though, Dellavedova was ready. He delivered critical offensive support to LeBron James and managed to stifle Stephen Curry at times in the NBA Finals with his pesky defense.
Down goes Bolt
After winning gold in the 200-meters at the track and field world championships, the world’s fastest man was swept off his feet by a cameraman riding a Segway. Luckily, Bolt walked away unharmed.
Where’d Dabo go?
After No. 12 Clemson upset No. 6 Notre Dame, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was at the height of a passionate postgame interview when ABC's coverage cut over to the SportsCenter set, where anchors Jay Harris and Kevin Connors were working on tablets, seemingly unaware that they were on camera. Oops.
Favre congratulates Manning ... from a tree

In only how he can, Brett Favre sends along congrats to Peyton Manning. Posted by Denver Broncos on Sunday, November 15, 2015

It may be the most confounding video clip of the year as Brett Favre, dressed in camo, toting what appears to be a crossbow over his shoulder and sitting in a tree stand, congratulates Peyton Manning for breaking his all-time regular season yards record. It was unclear if Favre successfully killed anything after issuing his congratulations.
Cousins gets fired up
Yes, Kirk, we do like that. Down 24-0 against the Buccaneers, Cousins tied a franchise record for completions while leading Washington to the biggest comeback win in team history. After the game, Cousins yelled at reporters: "You like that? You like that!"
Surfer survives encounter with a shark
A scary moment turned into a highlight when surfer Mick Fanning encountered a shark in the water during the final of a surfing competition in South Africa. The shark knocked Fanning off the board, but the surfer managed to punch the shark and swim to safety.

The wildest MLS Cup final in history went to the Timbers, who scored twice in the first seven minutes (the first goal came 27 seconds in, making it the fastest goal in MLS Cup history) as they beat the Crew 2-1. It was Portland’s first-ever league championship.
Cardinals investigated for hacking Astros

Stealing is a part of baseball—literally—but the Cardinals took it to another level when it was revealed in June that they were under FBI investigation for hacking into the propriety information system of the Astros.
Porzingis gives Knicks fans hope
A young Latvian with no foothold in the U.S., Kristaps Porzingis was an unknown to Knicks fans. New Yorkers gathered at Barclays Center for the 2015 NBA draft expressed their displeasure at the time, but the rookie has since won over the city with his resolve and steady performance.
Bolt edges Gatlin in 100
Back at the Bird’s Nest, the site of his coming out party in 2008, Usain Bolt reminded everyone he’s still the top dog in track. With Justin Gatlin roaring off the line, Bolt needed every bit of speed he had to inch ahead of Gatlin, who stumbled slightly right before the finish line. See you in Rio, Usain.


Fat Guy touchdown!
Baylor and Michigan State kicked off 2015 with a Cotton Bowl classic on New Year’s Day, as the Spartans edged the Bears 42–41 behind a furious second-half comeback. But the indelible image from the game came late in the third quarter, when Baylor’s LaQuan McGowan—all 6’ 7”, 425 pounds of him—reeled in a pass, rumbled across the goal line and stretched his arms wide for all to see. The score sparked a social media frenzy and prompted several feature stories, and it was only the beginning. McGowan also scored a touchdown in the Bears’ 66–7 win over Kansas on Oct. 10.
Thompson drops 37 ... in one quarter
The Warriors are known for their shooting prowess. Klay Thompson took that to another level when he scored an NBA-record 37 points in a quarter, including nine three-pointers, on Jan. 23. Thompson’s feat was made more impressive by the fact that it came within the flow of the game, as he effortlessly tied the league record by going 13-of-13 on field goals in the quarter. He finished the game with 52 points overall.
Miller leaves the Hokies in the dust
After being named the Big Ten Offensive Player in the Year in 2012 and ’13 for his standout play at quarterback, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller missed the entire ’14 campaign due to injury. He switched positions to H-back over the summer, and his first impression in his new role was unforgettable. In the Buckeyes’ season-opener at Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, Miller took a direct snap, cut left and then pulled off a spin move for the ages to blow by two Hokies’ defenders en route to the end zone. Ohio State won 42–24, and Miller’s highlight was played on repeat all week long.
Curry's incredible corner three against the Pelicans
Down 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, the Warriors staged a stunning rally to beat the Pelicans. The capper to that rally: a wild, corner three from Steph Curry that set the tone for the rest of Golden State's postseason run.
So young, so good

At 18 years, 4 months and 20 days old, Lydia Ko became the youngest professional female golfer to win a major with her victory at the Evian Championship. Ko bested the record set by Morgan Pressel who won the 2007 Nabisco Championship at 18 years, 10 months and 9 days old.
Stephen A. Smith makes an enemy of Durant
After Thunder star Kevin Durant proclaimed Smith was lying about a report that Durant was considering a move to the Lakers this off-season, Smith bellowed on his ESPN2 First Take show that “you don’t want to make an enemy out of me.” ESPN offered no discipline for one of its on-air people threatening a professional athlete.
Left Shark steals the show
Katy Perry’s “Left Shark” provided us with the most memorable halftime show since Janet Jackson thanks to his complete lack of rhythm. While perfectly coordinated Right Shark nailed the routine, Left Shark waved around seemingly confused, flailing his way into our hearts and Vines.
Five goals, nine minutes
Bayern Munich was losing 1-0 when Lewandowski came off the bench against Wolfsburg at halftime and provided more than just a spark. His record five goals in nine minutes set social media ablaze (not to mention the scoreboard at Allianz Arena) and stands as one of the most remarkable sequences ever for one player.
Spurrier quits

Steve Spurrier has always been one to do things his way, so perhaps it’s only fitting that he chose to leave the game on his own terms. Spurrier, 70 years old and the winningest football coach in South Carolina history, stepped down from his position on Oct. 12. A man known for his one-liners, he offered another one in his farewell press conference. “I’ll just be the former Head Ball Coach now,” Spurrier said.
No. 1 vs. No. 2

Quarterbacks going 1-2 in the draft is not uncommon. What is uncommon, however, is those QBs facing off in Week 1. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota did just that in the season-opener, with Mariota holding the clear edge over Winston in the Titans' win.
Welter makes history

She wasn’t the first woman to coach in football—that honor is widely thought to belong to Dot Murphy—but Jen Welter nevertheless made history in July when she was named a coaching intern for the Cardinals. The first female coach in NFL history, Welter saw her internship end on Aug. 31 and has yet to be hired by another team. But Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he’d “love to have her back.”
Pillar's acrobatic catches
Expected to be a backup entering the season, Kevin Pillar emerged as a crucial player for the Blue Jays, compiling highlight-reel catch after highlight-reel catch.
OBJ doing OBJ things
The most prolific wide receiver in history through 25 games, Odell Beckham Jr. is half-man, half-amazing. Every game seems to bring another jaw-dropping highlight.
Comedian makes it rain on Blatter
“Making it rain” is a tactic usually reserved for strip clubs, but the president of FIFA found himself an unwilling participant in a “rainstorm” stunt by British comedian Simon Brodkin at a July press conference. In a disgraceful year for FIFA, the sight of Blatter engulfed in fake dollar bills was an exclamation point of humiliation.
Lynch does not want to get fined
After amassing a $75,000 fine for not speaking to the media following the NFC Championship, Lynch avoided the same fate during the Super Bowl’s infamous Media Day. “I’m just here so I don’t get fine,” Lynch uttered in various forms after every question for the prerequisite five minutes. Then he stood up, said “Time,” and escaped.
Leah Strong

Players on the roster bubble rarely capture national attention, but Devon Still made news as his daughter, Leah, waged a public battle with cancer. In November, Devon announced that Leah's cancer was in remission.
Stan stuns Novak

Stan Wawrinka stunned Novak Djokovic in the French Open final, upending Djokovic's quest for his first French Open title, the only major that has eluded him in his career.
A trained assassin?

NASCAR driver Kurt Busch was suspended indefinitely on Feb. 20 after he was suspected of assaulting ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll. Busch testified that he feared Driscoll because he believed she was a trained assassin. His suspension came just two days before the Daytona 500.
Sarkisian battles alcoholism
USC fired its coach, Steve Sarkisian, in October after Sarkisian struggled with substance abuse throughout the season. The firing came just a day after Sarkisian took an indefinite leave of absence. The former coach announced in early December that he plans to sue the school.
Klitschko dethroned by Fury

Tyson Fury ended Wladimir Klitschko’s tenure as the world heavyweight champion following a unanimous decision by the judges. With the victory, Fury inherited the WBA, IBF and WBO titles. He is poised to face Klitschko in a rematch next year.


Stuart Scott passes away
After a long bout with appendiceal cancer, Stuart Scott, a longtime anchor at ESPN, died on Jan. 4 at the age of 49. Scott was one of most recognizable and popular faces of ESPN, the highest-profile black sportscaster at the network, and popularized many famous SportsCenter catchphrases including “booyah,” and "cool as the other side of the pillow."
The Saints trade Graham

Nobody saw this one coming. In a spring where Ndamukong Suh and DeMarco Murray were free agents, the stunner of the off-season was a trade: one that sent Drew Brees’s most coveted weapon to the reining NFC champs and sent shock waves through the league.
Hamilton suffers a relapse

The Josh Hamilton saga took an unexpected turn in 2015, with the former MVP self-reporting a drug relapse in February. Though MLB did not suspend him, the Angels decided to ship him to Texas, where Hamilton helped the Rangers win the AL West over his former team.
Geno’s jaw broken

Entering the season Smith had a real shot to solidify himself as the Jets starting QB in 2015 and beyond. Former teammate IK Enemkpali foiled those plans when he sucker-punched Smith in the jaw over a dispute reportedly stemming from Smith accepting a plane ticket to Enemkpali’s football camp and never showing. Smith, sidelined for a month, watched Ryan Fitzpatrick emerge as the Jets QB of the present and likely the future.
Westbrook goes nuts
Russell Westbrook is one of the NBA’s most skilled guards, but his will is by far his strongest asset. He utilized it often in the 2014-15 season, as he fought off a broken hand and facial fracture to average 28.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 8.6 assists and enter MVP talks despite missing nearly all of November.
Utley's dirty slide
Dirty? MLB thought so. In Game 2 of the NLDS, Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley streaked toward second and dropped a brutal slide on Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada. The resulting collision broke Tejada's leg. Utley was suspended two games for the play, but was eligible to play in Game 3 and 4 as he appealed the ruling.
Lesnar battles Reigns at Wrestlemania

It was already one of the year’s top matches: Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns, tearing each other apart in the WrestleManina main event. Then, in a swerve few saw coming, sneaky Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank at the 11th hour, pinned an exhausted Reigns and claimed his first WWE Championship.
Kyle Busch wins the Sprint Cup

A brutal leg injury couldn't keep Kyle Busch from racing. An accident at Daytona sidelined the younger Busch for several weeks, but he returned to the track weeks later and eventually, injury and all, captured the Sprint Cup championship with a victory at the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Kane under investigation

Just a few months after winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, star forward Patrick Kane was the subject of a three-month rape investigation by the Erie County (NY) District Attorney’s office. The inquiry saw several bizarre twists and turns, including an “elaborate hoax” by the accuser’s mother, before the charges were ultimately dropped.
Sefolosha's run-in with the NYPD

The subject of police brutality was prevalent in 2015 and the NBA was not without its own incident. In early April, Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha suffered a broken leg during a struggle with New York police officers outside a nightclub. Sefolosha refused to take a plea deal in the criminal trial and was found not guilty of misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstructing administration of government.
Papelbon, Harper scuffle in dugout
Bryce Harper suffered an undignified end to his brilliant MVP season as the Nationals’ star hitter was attacked in the dugout by teammate Jonathan Papelbon during the eighth inning of a game on Sept. 27. Papelbon was suspended for his actions.
Bravery in the face of cancer

In the final six months of her life, Lauren Hill fulfilled her dream of playing college basketball, became an assistant coach and earned the Pat Summitt award for courage. Her bravery in the face of inoperable brain cancer was an inspiration to a nation.
The biggest fail of the 2015 NFL season
A spectacular failure of a trick play. Nine Colts lined up on the right side of the field on 4th-and-3, leaving a receiver as the snapper and a safety as the defacto QB. It must be watched to truly be understood. Even then, it won’t be fully understood … because it makes absolutely no sense.
The Pistorius verdict

In September Pistorius was convicted of culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, who was shot dead in the early hours of Valentines Day in 2013. He faces a maximum of 15 years in jail and will be back in court next April for sentencing.
Manziel can't stay out of trouble

After voluntarily checking himself into a rehab facility in January, Manziel exited in April full of remorse and vowed to “be the best possible man [he] can be.” Then in October, Manziel and his girlfriend got into a roadside dispute that resulted in visible marks on her arms. After investigating, the NFL cleared Manziel a month later due to “insufficient evidence.”
Messi astounds
Messi scored perhaps the goal of the year against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final. "Trapped" on the sideline near midfield, he slalomed through three defenders before beating a fourth. It came on the heels of his goal vs. Bayern Munich, in which he embarrassed Jerome Boateng before chipping Manuel Neuer.
Ledecky dominates

The first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events at the FINA World Championships, Ledecky won five gold medals and set three world records before being named the 2015 Female Swimmer of the Meet.
Boeheim suspended

On March 6, the NCAA released the findings from its years-long investigation into Syracuse. The result? Coach Jim Boeheim received a nine-game suspension and was docked more than 100 wins. Twelve days later, he announced he’d retire in three years, after the harshest sanctions (scholarship losses and recruiting restrictions) had run their course.
Scherzer nearly perfect—twice!
Just the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw two no-hitters in a season, Max Scherzer should have been satisfied with his accomplishments in 2015. The rub? He nearly had a perfect game against both the Pirates and the Mets, facing just 28 batters in each start.
Rodgers to Rodgers
Weeks of hand-wringing about the Packers’ struggling offense were remedied in the final seconds of a primetime game in Detroit. Gifted a second chance by a defensive facemask penalty, Aaron Rodgers heaved a 61-yard bomb that tight end Richard Rodgers reeled in to stun the hapless Lions.


LaVine mesmerizes at the dunk contest
Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine’s dunks caught the collective attention of the basketball world well before he ever played an NBA game. LaVine, the No. 13 pick in 2014, first flashed his athleticism over in Summer League and was immediately pegged as a future participant in the Slam Dunk Contest. He added a jolt to the event in 2015, winning the contest with impressive slams and creative props.
LSU's Miles carried off the field
Rumors swirled about LSU coach Les Miles’s future, but the Tigers’ 19-7 win over Texas A&M put all the speculation to rest. The players carried Miles off the field, and after bellowing out the alma mater with the team, Miles entered the locker room where LSU president F. King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva informed him that he would retain his job.
JPP loses finger in fireworks accident

Neither kids, nor NFL defensive ends, should ever play with explosives. Ask the two-time Pro Bowler who blew off parts of the index finger and thumb on his right hand after playing with fireworks on the Fourth of July. Pierre-Paul’s career was thought to be in jeopardy but after extensive surgical repair and rehab, he signed a one-year deal with the Giants in October.
Flores's tears
A bizarre night of trade rumors on July 29 culminated with tears for Wilmer Flores, who cried on the field after learning that he had reportedly been traded to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez. The deal fell through, however, leaving Flores in Queens. Two days later, Flores cried tears of a different sort when he celebrated his first career walkoff home run.
Biles makes history

Biles made history at the world gymnastics championship, becoming the first woman to win three consecutive all-around titles. Overall, the Texas-native has won 14 world championship medals—10 of which are gold—in the last three years … and she has yet to compete at the Olympics.
Jenner's ESPY speech
During the annual ESPYs award ceremony, Caitlyn Jenner accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and urged acceptance for others who are transgender. "Trans people deserve something vital; they deserve your respect," she said. "From that respect comes a more compassionate community."
Gordon drives off into the sunset

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon retired from the sport after his final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22. Over the course of his 24-year career, Gordon won four championships and 93 total races.
Geiger windmills into Spartans’ lore
Last-second heroics, a season-defining upset and a celebration for the ages—Michael Geiger’s 41-yard field goal at Ohio State on Nov. 21 had it all. Entering the game, the Buckeyes were unbeaten (10–0) and looking to defend their national title. The Spartans were 9–1 and looking to vault themselves into College Football Playoff contention. After a back-and-forth, rain-soaked contest, Geiger gave Michigan State a 17–14 win as time expired … and promptly windmilled his way into Spartans’ lore.
Hardy in the spotlight
Jerry Jones saw talent over trouble in the All-Pro DE convicted of domestic violence. Highlights of Hardy’s tenure as a Cowboy: shoving a special teams coach and creepily asking the media if they had “seen [Tom Brady’s] wife” in advance of the Cowboys-Patriots tilt.
The Louisville recruiting sex scandal

Breaking Cardinals Rules was more the length of a pamphlet than a book, but in its few pages, it packed no shortage of damning allegations. Katrina Powell, a former escort, claims that an ex-Louisville assistant paid her and other prostitutes to have sex with recruits. The story is ongoing, with lawsuits mounting but answers proving elusive.
Collins drops in NFL draft amid investigation

From potential first-round pick to person of interest in the investigation of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, LSU offensive lineman La’el Collins lived a career-altering nightmare the week of the NFL draft. He eventually signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent after his name was cleared by police.
McGregor's devastating KO punch
Connor McGregor told the Wall Street Journal in October that he’d knock Jose Aldo out in the first round because Aldo would throw a wild right hand, which would allow McGregor a clean shot with his left hand. That happened exactly how McGregor envisioned it in December, and the UFC was awarded its loudest (and quickest) KO in a major fight this year.
Kearse's incredible Super Bowl catch
The play that preceded Malcolm Butler’s incredible interception? Kearse’s incredible bobbling 35-yard catch to give the Seahawks 1st-and-goal at the five-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Had the Seahawks scored (and subsequently won the Super Bowl), this would be the play everyone remembered—not Malcolm Butler’s interception.
Odom found in brothel

Lamar Odom’s decline—on and off the court—became public fodder in recent years as he struggled with addiction and divorce, but few were prepared for the life-altering event he endured on Oct. 13. Odom was found unconscious in a Las Vegas brothel after reportedly using cocaine and sexual performance enhancing drugs. Odom has slowly recovered in recent months but remains hospitalized.
Tragedy strikes Stillwater

Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade on Oct. 24 was supposed to be a celebration. Instead, it turned into the scene of a senseless tragedy. A driver crashed a car into a crowd of spectators, killing four and injuring more than 40 others. In the aftermath, those in Stillwater, Okla., came together to honor and remember the dead, and the football team served as a unifying force. The Cowboys beat Kansas 58–10 just hours after the tragedy and went on to start the 2015 season 10–0.
Rodriguez ties Willie Mays's home run record
It was a redemptive year for Alex Rodriguez, who made his mark on the history books on May 2 when he hit his 660th home run. The shot, a pinch-hit blast against the Red Sox at Fenway, brought him into a tie with Willie Mays at fourth on the all-time home run list. Five days later, he passed Mays with No. 661.
Coach K gets his 1,000th career win

Of course, Mike Krzyzewski would have preferred to win game No. 1,000 on the court named after him, but Madison Square Garden was a close second. Coach K has always held the world’s most famous arena in high esteem, and he’ll be forever a part of its legacy thanks to this win.
Tar Heels honor Dean Smith
On Feb. 7, Dean Smith died of complications due to dementia. On Feb. 21, in its first home game since Smith’s passing, North Carolina honored its Hall of Fame coach—the winningest in the sport when he retired in 1997—by running the play he made famous, the Four Corners. Once used to close out wins with such efficiency that it forced the adoption of the shot clock, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams instead employed it at the start of what became an 89-60 win over Georgia Tech.
Kelly overhauls the Eagles

Is Chip Kelly a mad genius or simply mad? That was the question everyone was asking after his bold and controversial off-season roster overhaul. The Eagles have had their highs and lows this year, but Chip Kelly has proved one thing for sure: He knows how to keep things interesting.
Winston throws it the wrong way
With defending national champion Florida State trailing Oregon 39-20 in the third quarter of the College Football Playoff semifinal, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston slipped backward and fumbled the ball right into an Oregon defender’s hands. The Ducks returned the ball 58 yards for a touchdown and would go on to win 59-20.


Paul's dagger buries the Spurs
Chris Paul, whose playoff woes are well documented, faced yet another uphill battle when his Clippers were matched up against the Spurs in the first round of the 2015 playoffs. The two teams played down to the final ticks of Game 7, and Paul picked up a rare signature postseason moment when he kissed in a floater to seal the series.
Riley Curry's post-game press conference antics
It has become commonplace for NBA players to bring their young children to the podium after games, but there is nothing common about Stephen Curry’s oldest daughter, Riley. Her big personality and Big Sean impersonation captured the attentions of basketball fans during the 2015 NBA playoffs.
Rousey's dominance
Before her loss to Holly Holm in November (see below), Ronda Rousey spent 48 official seconds fighting in 2015 for two easy wins. Both Cat Zingano and Bethe Correa were no match for the queen of the arm-bar, who took the UFC world by storm in 2015 and became the most popular athlete in the sport’s history.
Ron Hunter falls off his stool
Ron Hunter’s celebration should have come as no surprise. After all, he was coaching Georgia State on a stool because he jumped too hard after his son, starting guard R.J., beat Georgia Southern on last-minute free throws. When R.J. hit a three from another hemisphere to help Georgia State bounce Baylor from the NCAA tournament, Ron fell off the stool in disbelief and won the favor of the country.
Hernandez trial comes to a close

After a nine-week trial and six days of deliberation, 12 jurors found Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder in the first degree in the death of Odin Lloyd, a charge which in Massachusetts carries a sentence of life in jail with no parole. The verdict provided closure to a case that dragged out for more than two years, but Hernandez is still awaiting trial for a separate double murder.
UConn’s Auriemma ties Wooden with 10 titles

Yes, it’s a different sport. Yes, it’s a different era. But no, it’s not any less significant. With the win, Auriemma tied legendary UCLA leader John Wooden and took his rightful place among college basketball’s coaching elite. Auriemma has even gone a perfect 10–0 in title games to match the Wizard of Westwood.
The end of an era

No one expected the end of Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame career to come into view so abruptly. Four interceptions at the hands of the Chiefs’ defense in Week 10 sent a hobbled Manning to the sidelines with a 0.0 quarterback rating and put Brock Osweiler under center in Denver.
Simmons and ESPN break up
Just months after publicly committing to Grantland for the long term, ESPN suspended the sports and pop culture publication indefinitely in October. The move came five months after ESPN parted with the site’s original editor-in-chief, Bill Simmons. Said ESPN in a statement: “After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise."
Dez a victim of the "Calvin Johnson" rule
Dez Bryant caught it … or did he? A gutsy fourth-down pass late in the NFC divisional round backfired when officials ruled the Cowboys’ star receiver didn’t complete the process of making the catch as he reached for the goal line. Bryant was only 2015’s first victim of the NFL’s Byzantine catch rule.
The bat flip
The craziest moment of the playoffs belonged to Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays, who rallied from a 3–2 deficit in the seventh inning of ALDS Game 5 against the Rangers to win the game and the series, punctuated by Bautista’s emphatic bat flip on his game-winning three-run homer.
Murphy turns into Babe Ruth
For two weeks in October, no player was hotter than Daniel Murphy. The Mets’ second baseman turned the playoffs into his personal batting practice display, bashing seven homers in nine games against the Dodgers and Cubs.
The Miami-Duke lateral
There are crazy endings to football games, and there is whatever the heck happened at the conclusion of the Miami-Duke matchup on Oct. 31. Miami was trailing 27–24 with six seconds left when it fielded a short kickoff, and its players lateraled the ball eight times before Corn Elder broke free for an unbelievable game-winning score. The play wasn’t without controversy. The ACC acknowledged there were several officiating issues on the play—the referees failed to notice when a player was down and missed a blatant block in the back—and suspended the on-field crew and the two replay booth officials for two games.
Cam controversy
Just the ninth team in NFL history to start 13-0, the Panthers look like the team to beat in the NFC. At the heart of that success is Cam Newton, who is in the midst of a breakout, MVP campaign. Some, though, have felt Cam has had a little too much fun during the Panthers' run (see: Titans' LB, and Titans fans). Cam's response: "We’re celebrating because there’s greatness in the air."
Emojis define battle for DeAndre
Clippers center DeAndre Jordan learned that the grass isn’t always greener when he sought out a featured role in free agency and verbally agreed to join the Mavericks. Jordan immediately regretted the decision and backed out of the deal, but not before an emoji-filled arms race took place on Twitter.
The Seahawks stun the Packers

The Packers held a dominant 16–0 lead at halftime of the NFC Championship Game, but the Seahawks found new life when the Packers were unable to secure an onside kick. While Green Bay forced overtime with a last-second field goal, Russell Wilson found Jermaine Kearse for the touchdown to seal a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.
Borland walks away

After a standout rookie season, Borland unexpectedly retired from the NFL citing the long-term risks of repetitive head trauma. In an off-season dominated by young players walking away from the game, Borland stood out as the most memorable.
Blackhawks take home the Stanley Cup

After coming back from a 3-2 deficit against the Ducks in an epic Western Conference Finals, the Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six seasons by defeating Steven Stamkos and the Lightning 4-2 in the best-of-seven series.
Duke cuts down the nets

Grayson Allen came into the national championship game averaging 9.2 minutes and 4.4 points a game, largely overshadowed by fellow freshman Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow. But when Okafor and Winslow got into foul trouble, Allen came off the bench to score 16 points and secure coach Mike Krzyzewski’s fifth national championship.
Barcelona caps season off with a treble

After winning La Liga and the Copa del Rey, Barcelona finished off its second treble in six years by beating Juventus 3-1 in the Champions League final in Berlin. The front line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez became the world's most prolific, and the latter two scored the clinching goals.
Serena captures 2nd "Serena Slam" with victory at Wimbledon

No. 1 Serena Williams took down Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and her sister Venus en route to the 2015 Wimbledon final, where she beat Spain's Garbine Muguruza to win her sixth title at the All England Club and 21st Grand Slam overall. The win also marked Serena’s fourth consecutive major title—the second “Serena Slam” of her career—and at 33, she became the oldest women’s Slam champion in the Open Era.


Djokovic defeats Federer in epic match at Wimbledon
In a rematch of last year's final, Djokovic outclassed Federer with his consistent all-court game to become the first man to defend a Wimbledon title since Federer in 2007. It was Djokovic's third title at the All England Club and ninth major title overall.
Spieth dominates the Masters

Just 21 years old, Spieth rewrote the record books en route to his first major victory. Among his accomplishments: the most birdies at the Masters (28) and the lowest 54-hole score (-16). And his final score of 18-under? That tied a Masters record tallied by another golf prodigy: Tiger Woods (1997).
Kobe says goodbye to basketball
With the injuries piling up and his skills deteriorating, Lakers icon Kobe Bryant decided it was time to go after 20 seasons in the NBA. He announced the retirement in his own poetic words and embarked on a farewell tour. That last hurrah hasn’t always been pretty, but Kobe continues to play with the never-say-never approach that defined his career.
DFS in the crosshairs

DFS grew fast in 2015. (Remember those commercials?) Perhaps too fast, as the billion dollar businesses drew the attention of lawmakers in several states. Will others follow New York, which barred DraftKings and FanDuel from operating within the state? This is one to watch in 2016.
The buildup to Mayweather-Pacquiao

Fans arrived a week early, with some sleeping inside the casino, and tickets sold out within a minute even though the lowest-priced one was estimated at $1,500. Celebrities from Donald Trump to Clint Eastwood to 50 Cent all arrived to watch. The fight itself was boring, but it’s hard to imagine another fight receiving even half the hype of the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao bout.
Michigan fumbles away victory
Michigan had outplayed rival Michigan State for the first 59 minutes and 10 seconds of their matchup on Oct. 17—and was set to beat the Spartans for the first time since the 2012 season—when its hopes were dashed in a heartbeat. Punter Blake O’Neill fumbled a snap, the ball spun into the hands of sophomore Jalen Watts-Jackson and he sprinted 38 yards to paydirt to seal a stunning 27–23 win as time expired. Watts-Jackson’s touchdown was as painful as it was heroic: He broke his hip when he was tackled into the end zone on his return.
The streak

Doubters called the Warriors’ title “lucky” all off-season. No one is saying that after their unbelievable start. 24-0: Not only the best start to an NBA season, the best start by any team in North American pro sports history.
What happens when the most fun team collides with the best? Kentucky arrived at the Final Four two games away from a perfect season. Wisconsin came in with the national player of the year (Frank Kaminsky) and a notorious prankster (Nigel Hayes). At the buzzer, fun won, while the Wildcats finished the year 38–1.
Missouri players stand up to racism
Several members of Missouri’s football team took the news cycle by storm on Saturday, Nov. 7, when they announced online that they were going strike until university president Tim Wolfe resigned. The players—who were supporting the organization Concerned Student 1950—were upset over Wolfe’s lack of action following several racially charged incidents on campus. The move ultimately prompted Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin to step down, and it may have a more lasting impact: It proved how much power college athletes truly hold.
Vinci shocks Serena
With the major players out of the U.S. Open field, the stars seemed to be aligning for a Serena Williams calendar-year Grand Slam. But Italian journeywoman Robert Vinci shocked the world, upsetting the World No. 1 in the semifinals. "I think she played literally out of her mind," Serena said of Vinci after the match.


Spieth wins US Open after Johnson misses putt
Approaching the 18th green at the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson was in prime position. One-putt for his first major victory, two-putt for a tie. Johnson missed both putts, however, ceding the major—and the second leg of the Grand Slam—to Jordan Spieth.
KC Royals win the World Series
Thanks to a thrilling series of come-from-behind wins all postseason long, the Royals captured their first World Series title in 30 years by beating the Mets in five games. Among those comeback victories: Game 5, in which K.C. tied the game in the ninth on a memorable dash home from Eric Hosmer.
Holm ends Rousey’s streak of perfection

She seemed unbeatable. Ronda Rousey had dominated every opponent she faced, drawing comparisons to Mike Tyson. But at UFC 193, it was her opponent, Holly Holm, who dominated in one of the biggest upsets of the year. The two are poised for a rematch, which will be one of the most anticipated events of 2016.
Ohio State wins the inaugural CFB playoff championship
Ohio State entered the inaugural College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed, and proceeded to decimate its competition. The Buckeyes rolled to the national title behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, who rose to stardom over a span of three games, and tailback Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 246 yards against Oregon.
FIFA corruption scandal

The U.S. and Swiss departments of justice rocked the soccer world with a pair of raids on the Baur au Lac hotel in Switzerland, indicting and arresting some of FIFA's heaviest hitters in an attempt to clean up the world's game. Longtime president Sepp Blatter remains in the crosshairs.
Warriors win first NBA title in 40 years

Golden State’s slow build toward a title reached its pinnacle last season, with Stephen Curry and Steve Kerr leading the perfect team at the perfect time. The Warriors won 67 games and defeated LeBron James’s Cavaliers in an epic NBA Finals to bring Golden State its first title since 1975.
USWNT defeats Japan to win the Women's World Cup
Carli Lloyd's hat trick in 16 minutes–the third goal from the center circle, no less–led the USA to a 5-2 win over Japan in the Women's World Cup final, with the USA capturing its first title since 1999. The U.S. women were honored with a rally in L.A. and a parade in NYC.
American Pharoah claims the first Triple Crown in 37 years
Many came close, but horse racing hadn't seen a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed held off Alydar in 1978. Then came American Pharoah, who dominated the Belmont's brutal 1 1/2-mile track, leading every step of the way to become just the 12th horse to ever capture racing's greatest title.
The Deflategate Saga

The scandal over whether Tom Brady was involved in the deflation of game balls turned into a court battle, plus gave us a new understanding of PSI levels and a press conference where Bill Belichick quoted My Cousin Vinny. Judge Richard Berman erased Brady's four-game suspension, but the NFL is appealing, so who knows where Deflategate will take us next.
The Interception
A classic Super Bowl came down to one yard: Russell Wilson’s goal-line throw for Ricardo Lockette instead found undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler in the final seconds. Butler entered Patriots lore, the Seahawks entered a funk and the play call went under a national microscope for 11 months and counting.

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