At The Comeback, we love sports and pop culture all year ’round, including December, so we don’t understand why so many best-of-the-year lists are announced before the year is actually over. This week, the last of 2015, we want to share with you some of our bests.
From the best male and female athletes, to the best new TV shows and movies, to the best coaches, the best superheroes, the most memorable moments and storylines, to who had the best year of anyone on the planet, we’re running down the best list of best lists of anyone in 2015.
We’ve covered the 15 Best Male Athletes in 2015, the 15 Best Female Athletes of 2105, the 15 Best Coaching Jobs in 2015 and the 15 Best Superheroes of 2015. Now it’s time for the 15 Best Teams in Any Sport in 2015.
It would be simple to just run down the list of teams that won a championship in their respective sports and call this list a day (or, as it is, a year) but there’s more to this than that. It’s important to consider teams that didn’t win a title, including at least one that finished the entire calendar year undefeated and still hasn’t won a title…yet.
What makes up a great team, and how can a great team perform on the field, court, ice or track to be viewed as one of the year’s best? Here is our attempt at finding the 15 best teams this year, from all around the globe.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers
The long-suffering sports fans in Cleveland went another year without a title, but the return of Lebron James brought an Eastern Conference title and a sense of hope. Starting out the new season with a conference-best winning percentage (.679) isn’t too bad either.
14. Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball
Perfection is hard to attain, and the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats nearly did that. Reaching 38-0 before running into a revenge-minded Wisconsin Badgers and having a roster full of NBA draft picks certainly makes them one of the best teams we saw in 2015. Think about this, though: one more win and they’re easily a top-5 team. Two more wins and they’re the tops on the list by far.
13. New Zealand Rugby
We’ll go from flashy to simply brilliant here, as the All Blacks dominated their way to winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup over hated rivals, Australia. A 34-16 win in the final was just the exclamation point on a World Cup run that saw New Zealand not allow an opponent to score more than 18 points in any game all tournament long.
12. New York Mets
The incredible Mets were back in 2015, as they rolled to a surprising National League East title and then mowed down all comers in the National League playoffs. A pitching staff full of young and live arms mixed with some of the most clutch hitting ever in postseason play gave the Mets a run to remember — until they ran in to the buzzsaw that was known as Ned Yost’s Kansas City Royals.
11. Mercedes AMG Petronas
If you want to talk about team domination in what is really an individual sport, then look no further than Formula 1 giants – Mercedes AMG Petronas. The team easily took home the constructors title, with a 1-2 finish from drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Both ‘Team Mercedes’ drivers finished on the podium in nearly every race, with just two races this season in which neither finished in the top three. The 1-2 finish was a repeat of the 2014 season, making this a historic dynasty in F1.
10. Michigan State Spartans football
The Spartans of Michigan State had one heck of a 2015, starting it off with a dramatic 21-point comeback win over Baylor in the Cotton Bowl. MSU then went on to an 11-1 regular season and a dramatic Big Ten championship win over Iowa. It all led to the next step — the College Football Playoff. Doing so with a crazy final drive in Indy…well, few who saw it will ever forget it. Sparty could have one heck of a two-year run if it takes down Alabama in a return to the Cotton Bowl.
9. Ohio State Buckeyes football
While the Spartans had a good run in 2015, no other team did what Ohio State did — win the inaugural College Football Playoff. Doing so with a third quarterback and taking down both Alabama and Oregon in the process was just stunning to watch. OSU appeared poised to run the table and finish a fourth-straight season undefeated in Big Ten play, but a sloppy game against Michigan State ruined that. Still, a national championship trumps just about everything for a team that went 25-2 in the last two years.
8. Chicago Blackhawks
Is there a city more hockey-mad in the United States than Chicago? The Blackhawks returned to dominating form in 2014-15 ending with Chicago hoisting the most recognizable trophy in all of sports. Chicago took care of two of its biggest rivals en route a Western Conference title, then took care of perhaps the most electrifying (pun intended) team in the NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in six games to win the Cup. It was a grind, but the Blackhawks certainly earned their place amongst the best teams in all of sports.
7. Clemson Tigers
The No. 1 team in the country, 13-0 and ACC champions? It’s not easy to have a perfect calendar year, but that’s exactly what the Clemson Tigers produced on the field during 2015. (Clemson has the distinction of going the entire 2015 calendar year before playing a bowl game, waxing Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 29, 2014, and not facing the Sooners again until December 31, 2015 in the season’s first semi-final. DeShaun Watson went from an intriguing prospect to dynamite quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy finalist, this year as well. This ranking could certainly change after the College Football Playoff, but Clemson was simply dominating en route to its perfect regular season. “Clemsoning” is replaced by winning every big game now, and that alone should have them this high on the list.
6. FC Barcelona
If there is a team that knows a thing or two (or a hundred) about winning it’s Spanish soccer giants FC Barcelona. This past year has been of one of the club’s best too, winning the treble — taking its 23rd La Liga title, its 27th Copa del Ray title and its 5th European Cup by winning the Champions League. Edging out arch-rival Real Madrid by two points for the La Liga title was sweet, but its run through the Champions League was equally impressive. Add in a Fifa Club World Cup in December and 2015 was quite the year to remember. Lionel Messi, Louis Suarez and Neymar formed one of the most dynamic attacking trios we’ve ever seen in the world of soccer, and it paid great dividends.
5. Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball
While the 2014-15 NCAA season was all about Kentucky’s undefeated run, it was Coach K’s Duke squad that cut down the only nets that mattered. Led by Senior guard Quinn Cook and a trio of Freshman in Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, Duke actually failed to win either the ACC regular season or the conference tournament, but by the time March Madness tipped off, Duke was clicking, reaching the Final Four with an average margin of victory of 17 points, including a resounding 14-point win over 2-seed Gonzaga in the South region.
In the Final Four, Duke destroyed Michigan State, 81-61 before taking down the Wisconsin Badgers, the hottest team in college basketball after beating Kentucky in the national semifinal, in one of the most entertaining championship games we’ve seen in years. Okafor was named First Team All-America for Duke, while Cook and Jones also earned national honors. Coach K recorded his record 1,000th career victory during the season, none more notable than Duke’s fifth national title.
4. Kansas City Royals
The Royals came thhhiiissss close to their first World Series title in over 20 years in 2014, forcing a game seven against the San Francisco Giants. It didn’t end happily, but the Royals used the loss as motivation and put together the best season in franchise history. Not only did the Royals own the regular season, going an American League-best 95-67, but they lost just five games in the postseason, culminating in a 4-1 World Series victory over the Mets.
The 2015 Royals didn’t have one big “star” which made the team, in many ways, that much better. All told, thanks to some dedicated fan voting, the Royals placed seven players on the All-Star Game, with some getting even hotter as the season came to a close. Lorenzo Cain finished a distant third in the American League MVP voting, while Alex Gordon finally reached his potential as one of the top players in the game. Salvador Perez was named World Series MVP in a unanimous vote, the first catcher in the last 23 years to earn the honor.
3. New England Patriots
Love them or hate them, the New England Patriots have become the bedrock of success on the field in the NFL. Just when you think Tom Brady is past his prime and ready to regress as he nears 40 years old, the future Hall of Famer managed to turn things up to an inexplicably greater level. Brady has put up gaudy numbers again in 2015, with a rotating cast of skill position players filling in after a series of injuries that would have surely sunk any other offense.
Brady and the Patriots managed to put all the DeflateGate mess to the side during the Super Bowl last season, and with the scandal dominating the NFL off-season, leading to a since-reversed-on-appeal suspension for Brady, the Patriots seem galvanized this season, the favorites once again to make it back to the Super Bowl out of the AFC.
2. United States Women’s National Team
Not only did the 2015 United States women’s national team hoist the Fifa Women’s World Cup trophy, Jill Ellis and her squad made America take notice in a way no women’s team had done before.
Not even the 1999 team drew the consistent attention the 2015 team earned this summer. The TV ratings were insane, as games were nearly outdrawing NBA Finals, continuing to rise through group play and into the knockout round, where they shattered previous ratings with 25.4 million people watching the USWNT take on Japan in the final, a record for women’s soccer in the United States.
Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrun, Hope Solo and a host of players who made up possibly the most talent-laden roster in women’s soccer history became more than just names to know and praise for soccer fans. Instead, this group became overnight sensations and changed the face of American sports in 2015.
1. Golden State Warriors
As if there was any doubt about which team would be tops on the list in 2015. As good as some of the other choices may be in any other year, the obvious pick for the best team in 2015 had to be the Golden State Warriors. This group not only dominated one of the deepest Western Conference fields in recent history en route to winning the NBA title, but backed their title up with a crazy 24-game win streak to start the 2015-16 NBA season and as the season turns to 2016, are well ahead of the pace set by the 72-win 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
It didn’t hurt to have a sharp shooting guy like Steph Curry bombing away from deep, or dishing to his fellow Splash Brother, Klay Thompson. It also didn’t hurt to have a do-everything star like Draymond Green who not only helped the Warriors win a title, but re-signed with the team and has, so far, lived up to the deal he inked. Everyone for Golden State has lived up to the billing. It’s incredible.
Oh, and while there isn’t much debate that the Warriors belong atop this list, but if you do have a problem with the pick, there’s a little Curry you’ll have to explain the reason why.