Best of Sports 2009

I heart sports, so it’s only natural for me to run an end-of-year segment highlighting the biggest stories in sports. While I’m not here to retell any specific story (that’s what the conveniently placed ESPN links are for), I thought it would be fun to count down the Top 10 greatest moments in the year that was 2009. As you will see later on, this is very much a personalized list and not necessarily the top stories of the year:

10. Kobe and Lebron light up the Garden (Feb 2009)

In a span of 2 nights, MSG saw records broken that not even the great Michael Jordan could accomplish. First, Kobe doused the Knicks dropping an arena record 61 points surpassing MJ’s best of 55. Two nights later, Lebron James performed an encore presentation, this time to a tune of a (game-time) triple double: 52 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds. An amazing display by the best in the game doing it big in the Mecca of basketball.

9. Syracuse works overtime (Mar 2009)

It seemed like a regular Thu night out with colleagues at a local eatery when little did I know, I would be watching history play out in the 2nd longest D1 college basketball game of all-time. 6 OT played out with Syracuse only taking the lead in the final extra period. UConn’s tough loss overshadowed West Virgina’s upset over Pittsburgh earlier on a night the Big East tournament brought the drama.

8. ARoid! (Feb 2009)

In a startling development a month before the 2009 MLB season, baseball’s golden boy Alex Rodriguez was outed for having taken performance enhancing drugs. This was yet another blow to MLB’s image as ARod was the guy most people believed was clean and the right man to surpass Barry Bond’s all-time homerun* record. While the drugs were admitted to only have been taken during the Texas years, fans will always question the 3 MVPs and integrity of any future accomplishments. For the record, ARod returned from a 1 month absence homering in his first at-bat of the season and finishing with an astounding 30 hr/100 RBI campaign having only played in 124 games.

7. Lightning Bolt (Aug 2009)

I don’t think I was the only one left wondering “what could have been” at the 2008 Summer Olympics when Usain Bolt strolled across the finish in a then world record time of 9.69 seconds. At the World Championships, Bolt ran a ridiculous 9.58 second 100m dash cementing his hold on the title, “World’s Fastest Man” and making 2nd and 3rd place times of 9.71 and 9.84 look amateur.

6. JJ four the win (Nov 2009)

I tend to follow NASCAR only because it is part of my job requirements, however I also am one who can appreciate domination within a sport. And I think that is the only word that can describe what Jimmie Johnson has done on Nextel/Sprint tracks since 2006 winning 4 consecutive championships including individual wins in 12 out of the past 40 Chase races. An accomplishment truly amazing considering how openly competitive the sport is and the fact that it had never been done before.

5. NL Cy Young fever (Nov 2009)

This year’s National League Cy Young race was perhaps the craziest I’ve ever seen. Three candidates each with their own merits: Chris Carpenter (ERA, WHIP), Tim Lincecum (Ks, CG) and Adam Wainwright (Wins, IP). Depending on who you ask (and believe me there was enough opinions around the office), each was deserved of the honor. In the end, the voting was separated by 10 points among the 3 candidates with Lincecum prevailing in one of the tightest races in history. To add to the crazy, Wainwright garnered the most 1st place votes yet finished 3rd, while one voter did not even place Carpenter on the ballot.

4. Roger passes Pistol Pete (July 2009)

My favorite tennis player growing up was Pete Sampras so some may question why I put Roger’s accomplishment on my top 10 list. The fact is, records are meant to be broken and I can’t think of a more suitable player than Roger Federer to dethrone Pete as the all-time Grand Slam champion. In a thrilling 5-set marathon, Roger beat Andy Roddick for his 15 career Grand Slam title. The script was written all too perfectly as the record was broken at Pete’s old stomping grounds in Wimbledon under the watchful eyes of greats Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Sampras himself.

3. Stanley Cup encore (June 2009)

It had been 25 years since the NHL last saw a Stanley Cup rematch (NYI-EDM 1984) so history was at hand during this year’s final. Detriot’s attempt to become the first repeat winner since they themselves performed the feat in 1997-1998, was aborted by Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in one of the most closely matched finals I have ever seen. Pittsburgh was down 0-2 and 2-3 in the series before finishing off the Wings 2-1 in Game 7 giving the city their first Stanley Cup since Mario Lemieux led the way in 1991-1992.

2. A super Super Bowl (Feb 2009)

There are not too many Super Bowls that are competitive, let alone one that is decided in the last minute. Pittsburgh saw a 13 point 3rd quarter lead slip away before Santonio Holmes made a ridiculous catch for the win. Throw in the fact that the game included a 100 yard interception return, was the 3rd most watched telecast of all-time, included some funny commercial spots and was capped off by an entertaining post-game The Office episode and you got the total package.

1. Orlando’s magical run to the Finals (June 2009)

(I warned you this list would be biased) It had been awhile since one of my 4 major teams had come close to any major championship with the most recent being the 1995 NBA Finals when the Orlando Magic were swept by the Houston Rockets (damn you Nick Anderson). Back then, it was Shaq and Penny leading the way and offering hope. 14 years later, the Magic thanked me for my years of devotion by making a triumphant return to the Finals eventually losing to Kobe and the Los Angeles Lakers in 5 games. Although the final result wasn’t what I had hoped for, it was great to have a team back in the national spotlight and competing for a championshp. It was an exciting road to the Finals having beat a resiliant Boston squad in 7 games and ousting LBJ and the Cavaliers in a thrilling 6 game set. While the Magic were displaced in 5 games in the Finals, 4 of the games were competitive with 2 of their losses coming in OT (hats off to the Lakers for winning the close ones). Perhaps the Magic were a big young for center stage however, it offered hope for years to come. Congrats on a “magical” year and here’s to seeing Orlando on next year’s Top 10 list (with a different ending).

Honorable Mention:

  • Dolphins resilient 2009 defense of the AFC East title
  • Mark Buehrle throws perfection with an assist from DeWayne Wise
  • Y.E. Yang comes from behind to trump Tiger at the PGA Championships
  • Siena-Ohio State 1st round thriller in March Madness
  • Serena Williams’ outburst at the U.S. Open Championship
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