Top 18 Sporting Moments That Defined 2018

AS millions of people around the globe celebrate by watching the fireworks go off, or arise, hungover, vowing this is the year I’ll change, we farewell another incredible calendar year in the sporting world. 2018 delivered plenty of unforgettable memories from old willy veterans proving age is just a number to underdogs producing iconic moments on the biggest stage of all. After some careful deliberation, here are 2018’s best 18 sporting moments.

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Kareem Hunt saga – THROUGH 11 games this season, Kareem Hunt was helping fuel a dominant Kansas City Chiefs attack, following up his awesome rookie campaign. However, his world came crashing down on November 30th, with TMZ releasing a video from February this year that showed the star halfback kicking and shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel. The NFL swiftly took action with Hunt placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, with Kansas City releasing him soon after, leaving his future in the NFL in jeopardy.

Khalil Mack Trade – THERE are some players in professional sports you never expect to get traded. Khalil Mack, arguably the greatest defender currently playing in the NFL is one such player. However, with new head coach Jon Gruden eager to build a championship team his own way, Mack found himself switching conferences with Chicago sacrificing a ton of draft capital to land the superstar edge rusher. Mack, of course, helped to revolutionise the Bears defense and helped them secure a playoff berth, while the Raiders slumped to a 4-12 record on the year.

DeMarcus Cousins joins the Warriors – JUST when you thought the rich couldn’t get richer, they did. Fresh off their third title in four seasons, Golden State was facing a difficult off-season, trying to juggle their stars’ lofty contracts but still find guys who can contribute with the leftover salary cap. One such player who was yet to find a home was All-NBA calibre center DeMarcus Cousins, who was still rehabbing from an Achilles tear and is still yet to return to the court. That didn’t stop Golden State sending Twitter into a meltdown, signing him to a one-year, $5.3 million dollar contract and, at the time, leading us all to believe Golden State just became invincible.

demarcus cousinsImage from sportsnet.ca

Red Sox win the World Series – WITH a 108-win regular season behind them (the second most W’s in the 21st century), Boston loomed as one of the favourites to take out the World Series crown. Of course, to do so they had to make their way through their arch-rival New York Yankees, the reigning champion Houston Astros and an equally impressive Los Angeles Dodgers outfit, who finished runner-up a season before. No sweat for Boston, who lost just one game in each series, romping their way to the illustrious franchise’s 9th World Series crown.


18. Roger & Rafa Continue to Dominate

A few short years ago it seemed the end of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s dominance was nearing an abrupt end. With both athletes in their 30’s, father time was against them, but that didn’t stop the dynamic duo from chalking up more records and more major W’s in 2018. Federer began the year by reaching the Australian Open final without dropping a set and finished the job in a five-set epic over Marin Čilić. That gave him 20 career Grand Slams, a feat no other male tennis player has achieved.

HE and Rafael Nadal then jockeyed for the No. 1 overall rank for a few months, only for Nadal to flex his own muscles at his favourite major. An unprecedented 11th French Open crown came with Nadal dropping just one set the entire tournament, cementing his legacy as most likely the greatest clay player ever. With Novak Djokovic holding the No. 1 ranking at the moment, don’t expect Federer and Nadal to let him keep it without a fight in 2019.

17. Donte DiVincenzo Catches Fire

EVERY athlete wants to be at the peak of their powers when it matters most. One guy who was able to successfully do so was Donte DiVincenzo, who single-handedly drove Villanova to knock off Michigan in the NCAA Championship Game. Averaging a meagre 13.4 points on the season, DiVincenzo erupted in the title game, scoring 18 points in the first half to finish with 31 for the game, the most scored in a Final Four game off the bench. The ‘Big Ragu’ came up huge knocking down multiple trey’s and provided a stable, calm source of scoring for the Wildcats, leading to their second national championship in three seasons.

16. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

HAVING a healthy Tiger Woods back on the course was a great gift for sports fans this season. His Thanksgiving Day match against long-time links colleague Phil Mickelson was just a bonus. The two went head-to-head in a historic contest dubbed ‘The Match’ with the winner claiming an insane $9 million prize pool. Starting with B/R Live’s stream of the game went down and ending with four playoff holes virtually played out in the dark, Tiger and Phil captured the attention of the nation in one of the most unusual, yet fascinating golfing events in recent memory.

15. The Aussie Cricket Scandal

IT was hard to comprehend at the time, but as more time passed it became quite clear this was more than a momentary lapse of concentration. With their backs up against the wall in the third test against South Africa in March, the Australian test team was looking for any advantage they could get, which led to Cameron Bancroft using an object from his pocket to rough up one side of the ball which would cause it to swing more in flight. Bancroft’s action was caught on camera which led to the field umpires questioning the Aussie batsman’s actions. In the days that followed reports broke stating Australian cricket captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were involved in the scandal, causing Cricket Australia to take action. Bancroft was banned for nine months while Smith and Warner were handed 12-month bans, set to expire in March this year.

14. Ronaldo Joins Juventus

WHEN the biggest name in the sport changes teams, the world stops. Arguably the most recognised sportsman on Earth, Cristiano Ronaldo opted for a change of scenery in 2018, leaving Real Madrid after nine seasons. He was a force during his time in Spain becoming the clubs all-time leading scorer (450 total goals) claiming two La-Liga crowns and a boatload of other accolades during his tenure. Ronaldo left Real Madrid for Italian giants Juventus for €100 million euros ($163,228,018 AUD) setting records for the most expensive transfer in Italian football history and the most expensive deal for a player over the age of 30.

13. Arike Ogunbowale’s Buzzer Beaters

IT’S obvious to anyone who follows college basketball that the UConn women’s team has been a force to be reckoned with. So yes, it was no surprise to find them in the NCAA Final Four once again in 2018, entering the contest with a 36-0 record. Longtime rival Notre Dame stood in their way with a spot in the Championship Game on the line, but Fighting Irish guard Arike Ogunbowale made sure her squad wasn’t just there to make up the numbers. With the clock winding down in an overtime epic, the Notre Dame junior broke UConn’s heart by hitting a game-winning jumper with just one second left on the clock. As if that wasn’t enough she followed up her heroics by canning an absurd shot at the buzzer just 48 hours later to give Notre Dame their second championship in school history. I still can’t wrap my head around it, unreal.

12. Tua Tagovailoa’s Coming Out Party

SPARSELY used Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa didn’t expect to see the field much in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship game. Besides, starting QB Jalen Hurts had led the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record that year with Tagovailoa only seeing the field in a few blowout victories. However, Nick Saban’s decision to start Tua in the second half of the title game, after uninspiring play from Hurts forced the Hawaiian freshman under center with the championship on the line. Of course, a fairytale unfolded with Tagovailoa throwing the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime, sealing his name in the record books as the games MVP.

11. Naomi Osaka Vs. Serena Williams

THE 2018 U.S. Open Championship was a highly anticipated event for multiple reasons, with the majority of fans zeroing on Serena Williams’ play. After her 12-month pregnancy hiatus, she had a chance to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles having fallen short at Wimbledon, losing the finals to Angie Kerber just a few months prior. That set the stage for an epic final in New York City, with her opponent, Japanese youngster Naomi Osaka eager to write her own name into the record books, by dethroning perhaps the greatest female athlete of the 21st century.

HOWEVER, after Osaka won the first set 6-2, the second set became a story of its own. Leading 1-0, Williams was warned for violating coaching rules after her coach Patrick Mouratoglou seemed to signal instructions to her from the box. This led to Serena approaching chair umpire Carlos Ramos to dispute the allegation. Over the following few games as she tried to regain her grip on the match, Ramos hit her with a second violation after Williams reacted to losing a point by hitting a ball up against the back wall. What ensued was a now infamous, ugly row between Williams and Ramos, where Ramos penalised her for umpire abuse and Williams accused Ramos of being sexist, a liar and a thief. It overshadowed an incredible victory for Osaka, who amongst all the chaos steadied to claim the second set and become the first Japanese man or woman to win a major Grand Slam title.

10. Rams/Chiefs Usher In A New Era Of Football

GRADUALLY over the last few seasons, scoring and offense in the NFL have been trending upwards, with the passing attack quickly becoming the flavour of choice in many high-scoring affairs. When the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs and the 9-1 Los Angeles Rams went head to head on Monday Night Football (MNF) in Week 11, none of us expected them to turn in the performance they did, but no one was complaining. Trading touchdowns with the scoreboard ticking over similarly to a basketball game the Chiefs/Rams quickly etched themselves into the history books with L.A. taking out a 54-51 win in the epic shootout. Both teams set a bunch of records, becoming the first two teams in NFL history to score 50 points in the same game, in what is now the highest scoring MNF game in 773 tries.

9. J.R. Smith’s ‘Moment’

SIGH.

AS a Cavaliers fan, I knew that there was no way my team could regroup and win the NBA Finals after what unfolded in Game 1. The final play of regulation was Cleveland’s best chance to get a 1-0 lead on the seemingly unstoppable Golden State Warriors. With George Hill stepping to the line and the game tied at 107 and just 4.7 seconds on the clock, it seemed like the Warriors were going to have to prepare for one last chance to take the lead after Hill hit the shot. However, after Hill’s free-throw clanged off the front rim, J.R. Smith snared the rebound and proceeded to dribble the ball to mid-court. The clock expired before the Cavaliers could get off a meaningful shot, with Smith admitting after the game that he thought they were leading by one when he gathered the ball. Golden State went on to win the game by 10 and eventually swept the Cavs giving them their third title in four years. Like I said, sigh.

8. Washington’s Sports Curse Is Lifted

D.C. was forced to wait a long time between championships with Washington sports fans subjected to plenty of misery in the last 20 or so years. The Capitals were able to finally end the hurting this year by claiming the 2018 Stanley Cup over an unlikely foe in the Las Vegas Golden Knights, who as an expansion team were in their first season of existence. However, the experience of Washington proved too great, with captain Alexander Ovechkin leading the way for the Capitals en route to a 4-1 series win. The 33-year old Russian Ovechkin has spent his entire career with the Capitals and boy did he celebrate after claiming the Conn Smythe Trophy as the series’ best player.

7. Minneapolis Miracle 

ONLY one playoff game in NFL history has ended with a touchdown as time expired and fittingly, it turned into a game-winning play. The Minneapolis Miracle was birthed on the 14th of January as the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints locked horns, with the winner earning a spot in the NFC championship game. NOLA seemed to have that honour sewn up leading by 1 with just 10 seconds left in the game until QB Case Keenum took a snap from his own 39-yard line. With time against them Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs on a 27-yard pass with the belief he would get out of bounds and Minnesota would attempt a potential game-winning field goal. Upon realising that he had an open path to the end zone, Diggs turned upfield and became an instant hero scoring the touchdown and sending the home crowd into raptures.

6. ‘That Play’ – 2018 AFL Grand Final

LEGENDS are made on Grand Final day at the MCG and in 2018 we were treated to an epic premiership decider. You’d be hard pressed to find a West Coast Eagles fan who can’t tell exactly where they were and what they were doing when ‘that play’ unfolded. In the dying stages of the game, the Eagles pulled off one of the most iconic end-to-end plays we’ve seen on such a big stage. Butthurt Collingwood fans will be the first to tell you that Sheed played on or that Willie Rioli infringed against Brayden Maynard, but Dom Sheed going back on the tightest of angles and kicking a match-winning goal for all the marbles, is a highlight that will be played on AFL montage videos for decades to come.

5. UMCB Knocks Off Virginia

IT was bound to happen sooner or later, but it DID happen in 2018. Ever since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, every No. 16 seed had lost to No. 1 seeds with a 0-135 all-time record during NCAA tournament play. The UMCB Golden Retrievers changed that ledger though, taking down one of the tournament’s heavy hitters Virginia in a 74-54 blowout. It was just the school’s second NCAA appearance and even though they bowed out in their very next game against Kansas State, no-one can take away their memorable triumph over Virginia.

4. Kylian Mbappé Arrives

YOU could be forgiven for not knowing who Kylian Mbappé was in 2017, but after he stole the show at the ’18 World Cup, that’s no longer acceptable. The Paris Saint-Germain forward has fast been establishing a reputation as one of the brightest young footballing talents in the world, but his World Cup performance officially announced his arrival. He became the youngest Frenchman to score a World Cup goal during the group stages of the tournament and went on to play a crucial role in France’s run to the final. During that run he joined Pelé as the only teenager to score two goals in a 4-3 win over Argentina and then once again joined the Brazilian giant as the only teen to find the back of the net in a World Cup Final. As if that wasn’t enough to announce himself to the world Mbappé’s generously donated his entire World Cup paycheck (about $500,000) to charity cemented him as one of 2018’s finest sportspersons.

3. LeBron Joins The Lakers

2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers Media DayImage from si.com

LEBRON continues to push forward his case as the greatest basketball player of all-time and facing his third big free-agency decision he opted to follow in the footsteps of some of the games greatest players. Like, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Nick Young before him, James chose to don purple and gold and join the Los Angeles Lakers, a decision that we all wildly expected to come to fruition for years. While his off-court actions continue to aid him growing his global brand, there’s no denying that James’ decision to leave for California was fueled by more than basketball. To this day he continues to strive for greatness and in turn, is poised to become one of the most successful sporting business people on the globe.

2. Khabib-McGregor Aftermath

UFC 229 offered mixed martial arts fans a chance to witness two of the greatest fighters go toe-to-toe for the Lightweight championship. Khabib Nurmagomedov put his perfect 26-0 record on the line as he prepared to do battle with former featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor, a matchup that fans had been longing to witness for years. It marked the first time McGregor was fighting in the octagon since November of 2016 following the birth of his son and his highly anticipated boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. So naturally, all eyes were on the fight that would alter both men’s legacy and Nurmagomedov proved to be too good finishing the fight by submitting McGregor in the fourth round.

WHAT unfolded next had to be seen to be believed, with Nurmagomedov leaping out of the octagon and charging towards Dillon Danis a cornerman from McGregor’s camp. Conor himself tried to climb out only to be confronted by two of Nurmagomedov’s cornermen, which resulted in another unscripted scrap unfolding. Fans at the arena and worldwide tried to comprehend what they had just seen with Nurmagomedov’s payment instantly withheld by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and both fighters handed suspensions. Dana White has stated that a rematch between two of the sports biggest names is being discussed, which leaves UFC fans excited and unsure of what to expect in the next chapter of this captivating rivalry.

1. Philadelphia Eagles take down Goliath

IT seems like a lifetime ago these two teams squared off in Super Bowl LII. Back in early February, both the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles geared up for the final game of the NFL season after finishing the regular season 13-3 and overcoming their conference foes to qualify for the 52nd Super Bowl. One one side was the dominant Patriots franchise who was defending their crown with the games greatest quarterback-head coach combo of Tom Brady-Bill Belichick looking for their sixth ring. The Eagles entered the game as underdogs and after losing their starting quarterback Carson Wentz earlier in the year to an ACL tear, there weren’t many people who thought backup Nick Foles could really finish the job.

AS is the modern-footballing way an offensive showcase unfolded over the next four quarters with Foles proving everyone wrong capturing the game’s MVP award in an eventful 41-33 triumph. In a game where Tom Brady set nine different records, Foles became the hero, becoming the first quarterback to catch a touchdown pass on the now infamous ‘Philly Special’ play. Eagles fans across the globe will tell their grandchildren of the great Nick Foles’ performance on the biggest stage as the city of Philadelphia celebrated the franchises first Super Bowl win for what felt like an eternity.

Peace ✌

 

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