With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time to look back on all the year’s thrilling moments (while doing our best to forget the less-than-thrilling ones).
With that in mind, here are the 10 most memorable sports moments from the past 12 months.
10. Adam Jones robs Manny Machado to preserve Team USA victory in World Baseball Classic
Yeah, yeah, we know the cool kids don’t care about the World Baseball Classic. But the 2017 edition of the triennial event was tense and compelling from start to finish, never more so than when Adam Jones robbed Manny Machado of a home in the seventh inning of the United States’ do-or-die victory over the Dominican Republic.
Days later, the U.S. crushed an exciting Puerto Rico team to win the tournament.
9. Kevin Durant sinks a clutch 3-pointer over LeBron in Game 3 of the NBA Finals
The 2017 NBA Finals may not have provided much drama, with Golden State cruising past Cleveland in five games, but it did feature one finish to remember. With less than a minute to play in Game 3 and the Warriors down two points, Kevin Durant strolled across mid-court, pulled up behind the 3-point line and sunk a go-ahead bucket in the face of his nemesis LeBron James.
Golden State won the game and the series, while Durant collected MVP honors.
8. Aaron Rodgers finds Jared Cook to set up game-winning field goal in playoff victory
Aaron Rodgers has earned a reputation as the king of the Hail Mary, and although his pass to Jared Cook in a divisional playoff game against the Cowboys wasn’t his most improbable completion, it might have been his most clutch. Without this throw — far from the pocket, on the run, with the clock ticking down — the Packers would have headed for overtime. With it, they advanced to the NFC title game.
7. Roger Federer beats Rafael Nadal at Australian Open; Serena Williams wins while pregnant
The Australian Open provided marquee moments for each of the two most accomplished players in tennis history. Roger Federer vanquished his longtime rival Rafael Nadal in five gripping sets to win his first Grand Slam tournament since 2012. Serena Williams, meanwhile, merely captured her 23rd Grand Slam singles title while eight weeks pregnant.
Serena and Fed are each 36 years old, but they’re not done creating highlights just yet.
6. Isaiah Thomas scores 53 points in a playoff game on his sister’s birthday
Just two weeks after Isaiah Thomas’ sister Chyna died in a car accident, the then-Celtics guard submitted a game for the ages on what would have been her 23rd birthday. Facing the Wizards in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Thomas poured in 53 points, including 29 in the fourth quarter and overtime, as Boston prevailed 129-119.
“It’s my sister,” Thomas explained after the game. “Everything I do is for her, and she’s watching over me. So that’s all her.’
5. Deshaun Watson’s late touchdown pass lifts Clemson to an upset of Alabama
A year after losing to Alabama in the College Football Playoff title game, Deshaun Watson and Clemson exacted revenge, beating the Crimson Tide 35-31 to claim the program’s first national championship since 1981. Tigers fans will forever remember the game’s final play, a go-ahead two-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Hunter Renfrow in the final seconds.
Alabama and Clemson will usher in 2018 with a yet another Playoff matchup, this time in the semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.
4. Dozens of NFL players kneel to protest racial injustice, police brutality
This was not exactly one moment but rather a series of moments. On September 24, days after Donald Trump called activist athletes “sons of bitches” and demanded they stand for the national anthem, players on more than half of all NFL teams knelt in protest or raised their fists, while others locked arms. Demonstrations were the top story in the NFL all season long, and that Sunday marked their apex.
3. Morgan William sinks buzzer-beater to beat UConn in national semifinal, snap Huskies’ winning streak
The UConn women’s basketball team had won 111 games in a row before running into Morgan William and Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament semifinal. Then, the 5-foot-5-inch William became a college hoops legend, drilling a pull-up buzzer-beater as the clock expired in overtime to send the Bulldogs to the national title game (where they lost to South Carolina) and relegate the Huskies to the wrong end of a historic upset.
2. Astros and Dodgers break baseball in wild World Series Games 2 and 5
Game 2 of the World Series between the Astros and Dodgers was one of the craziest baseball contests of this century, with comebacks and lead changes and a preposterous number of home runs. Yet somehow the teams needed only a few days to top it. Game 5 was 4-0 Dodgers, then a 4-4 tie, then 7-4 Dodgers, then a 7-7 tie, then 8-7 Dodgers, then 11-8 Astros, then 12-12 after nine innings. Houston finally won 13-12 on a tenth-inning Alex Bregman walk-off single, capping one of the wackiest games ever.
The Astros later finished off their first ever World Series title in a Game 7 that felt anticlimactic compared to what had come before it.
1. The Patriots come back from down 28-3 to win Super Bowl LI
Look, we said “memorable” moments, and no one promised those memories would be happy. Thanks in part to a physics-defying catch by Julian Edelman on a dramatic game-tying drive, the widely hated Patriots erased a 28-3 deficit to beat the Falcons and capture the fifth Super Bowl of the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era.
Whether the Super Bowl’s final minutes made you cheer or cringe, it ranks among the best title games we’ve seen and one we’ll remember long after the calendar flips to 2018.