2016 was filled with numerous memorable sports moments. We saw championship droughts come to an end, historical comebacks, unbelievable finishes, and jaw-dropping individual performances. Here are The Assist Podcast top five sports moments of the year.
5. Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky’s Dominance in Rio
Michael Phelps is without question the greatest Olympian of all time. In his final games, Phelps finished with six medals, five of them being gold. Phelps finished off his olympian career racking 28 total medals. People made it a priority to sit in front of their screen to watch Phelps do something special each Olympic games that he participated in and he did not disappoint.
But Phelps wasn’t the only dominating U.S. Swimmer, Katie Ledecky was quite impressive herself. Ledecky brought home five medals and four of those were gold. At only 19 years old there certainly seems like there will be more gold in her future.
Both provided strong performances for the United States bringing home a total of 11 medals. Combined, they had nine golds and two silvers.
4. Kris Jenkins Game Winner against North Carolina in the National Championship
This was truly an exciting National Championship game. The Tar Heels came out raining three-pointers. In the first half they were 7 for 9 from downtown, which helped them take the lead into the half 39-34. The second half remained close but Villanova took the lead.
The score was 74-71 in favor of Villanova late into the game and it appeared that Villanova would be the National Champions. Marcus Paige then hit a three-pointer that still has everyone wondering how on earth he made the shot. He was off balance and threw it up towards the rim and the shot hit the bottom of the net to tie the game at 74 with five seconds left.
It appeared this game was going into overtime with the momentum towards the Tar Heels. Kris Jenkins inbounded the ball, he trailed up the court received the ball back and rose up for the shot well beyond the three point line. Head coach Jay Wright was seen saying “Bang” as it left Jenkins hand, the ball traveled through the net at the buzzer to give Villanova their first National Championship since 1985.
3. Coastal Carolina Winning the College World Series.
Ok, who would have thought that Coastal Carolina was going to win the College World Series Championship? I am sure nobody said at the beginning of the season that the Chanticleers would be National Champions.
Coastal had a magical run through the tournament knocking off some of the best teams in the nation, such as the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers. The most impressive part of their run was their no-quit attitude, several times their back was against the wall facing elimination but they still found ways to win.
Even in the best out of three championship series they found themselves facing elimination as the Arizona Wildcats took game one. But the relentless coastal squad took the next two games to win their first National Championship.
It was also pretty cool to see Alex Cunningham, a High School classmate, get the save and strike out the final batter to secure the CWS title.
2. Cavaliers Win First Championship
Lebron James finally did it! He brought a championship to the land. The 2016 Finals was definitely one that you will never forget.
During the regular season, the Golden State Warriors set the record for most wins in the regular season with 73 wins passing the 1996 Chicago Bulls who won 72 games. After Lebron suffered defeat in the previous finals to the Warriors (worth adding that Kyrie left game one in that finals with knee injury missed the rest of the series, and Kevin Love missed finals as well with Shoulder injury) it appeared like Lebron would watch Golden State celebrate another championship as they were down 3-1.
No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a championship in NBA history. Golden State was able to erase that deficit in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in order to get back to the finals.
After game four many felt like the series was over including Stephen A Smith of ESPN, who was very vocal saying that the series was over. But after game four, Lebron James and Kyrie Irving elevated their games to another level. In game five Lebron and Kyrie combined for 82 of the 112 points they scored to force game six.
In game six Lebron and Kyrie combined for 64 of the 115 points in the win that would force a game seven, which would become one of the most memorable game sevens in finals history.
As game seven went back and forth late in the game both teams were tied and exhausted. No one was making shots and Andre Iguodala had a fast break that appeared he had an easy layup. JR Smith ran back and made him go up and under. This gave Lebron enough time to chase him down and block the shot, which has to be Lebron’s signature moment in his career.
Kyrie then had Stephen Curry covering him, Curry struggled to contain Kyrie in this series, when he saw Curry on him he knew he was going to take the shot. Kyrie hit a step-back three in the eyes of Curry that put the Cavs up by three.
Kevin Love then got stuck covering Curry and defended him well making Curry take a tough three that he missed. Lebron then nearly threw down a dunk on Draymond Green but was fouled. He hit one of two free throws and the rest was history. Lebron was named the Finals MVP and finished off the game with a triple-double.
1. Cubs End Their Championship Drought
The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series was 1908. That was 108 years ago, World War One had not even started yet. Babe Ruth was about 13 years old, there was no such thing as television, and bubble gum was not even invented yet.
The Cubs had the best record in baseball and certainly were the favorites to win it all. They faced a Cleveland Indians team that really caught fire after the Cavaliers won the championship. Cleveland looked like they were going to be on the top of the sports world by winning two major sports championships in the same year.
The Indians had a 3-1 lead but the Cubs came to life winning the next two games to force game seven. The bats in the middle of the lineup for Cubs players like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzio started to heat up.
Game seven started off with a Homerun by Dexter Fowler and the Cubs were rolling from there. They brought Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning with a 6-3 lead, when Rajai Davis hit a three-run homer to tie the game and Cleveland was rocking.
It looked like the Cubs were going to fall apart and continue their 108-year drought of not holding a World Series title. The game went to the 10th inning and Ben Zobrist provided a big hit with men in scoring position to give the Cubs an 8-6 lead. The Indians did score a run in the bottom of the 10th but were unable to tie it up, putting an end to the curse of the Billy goat.
2016 was unforgettable with countless great sports stories. There were certainly more major sports headlines this past year and you can count on more coming in 2017! Happy New Year folks!