As we live in a 24/7 world where sports news and debate and controversy is seemingly always at our fingertips, it’s almost easy to forget why we fell in love with sports in the first place – the games. The epic comebacks, thrilling back-and-forth contests, and heroic moments define what it means to be a sports fan and are what we will remember long after any headline or tweet.
Counting down the list of the top games of the year is usually an impossible task, let alone the top games of the last ten years. However, now that we’ve turned the page from the 2010s to the 2020s, we’re going to try our best to do so. Out of the thousands and thousands of games from the last decade, there are surely many that deserve to be here that didn’t make it. And yet, the Top 20 that we have chosen contain a mix of exciting buzzer-beaters, championship conquests, and carry a certain historical weight to them. Enjoy one last look at the decade that was as we forge ahead to the 2020s.
20) Saints-Vikings, 2010 NFC Championship Game
There have been an absurd number of fantastic NFL Playoff games to choose from this decade. So allow this Saints fan the personal privilege of including one that didn’t end in crushing defeat after an instant classic (2011 49ers-Saints), a one-in-a-million walk-off (Minneapolis Miracle), or the blown call of the century (2019 NFC Championship). The Saints-Vikings NFC Championship Game in 2010 is a forgotten classic. The game featured a back-and-forth contest between two future Hall of Famers in Drew Brees and Brett Favre, who withstood an insane amount of punishment. The teams traded touchdowns and big plays as the Saints stayed in the game thanks to some massive Minnesota turnovers, none more important than Tracy Porter picking off Brett Favre in the dying seconds with the Vikings *this close* to a game-winning field goal. The Saints would win the toss in overtime and Garrett Hartley would go on to kick the game winning field goal to send New Orleans to their first Super Bowl and championship after years of losing seasons and heartbreak. Coincidentally, the game led to current NFL overtime rules we have now, which has been a little less controversial than the rule change following the 2019 NFC Championship Game.
19) Notre Dame-UConn, 2018 Women’s Basketball Final Four
Arike Ogunbowale may have pulled off one of the great sporting feats of the decade – back-to-back buzzer beaters in the 2018 Final Four to give Notre Dame the national championship. Her game-winner against Mississippi State in the final followed up another against the undefeated UConn Huskies in overtime in the semifinal. That win gets the nod in our countdown because not very many teams were able to beat Connecticut in the 2010s, let alone with a buzzer-beater in overtime in the Final Four.
18) John Isner-Nicolas Mahut, 2010 Wimbledon First Round
If there’s one statistical outlier in this decade as a sporting event, maybe even in the last 1,000 decades, it was the Wimbledon matchup at the beginning of the decade between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut. In fact, it still may actually be going on as we speak. The pair obliterated every record known to humankind as their tennis match lasted three days, 11 hours, and 183 games. Isner finally topped Mahut by the absurd score of 70-68 in the final set. It is the longest tennis match in history by over four hours. The fifth set alone at 8 hours, 11 minutes would be the longest match in tennis history by itself.
17) Auburn-Alabama, 2013 Iron Bowl
There are few plays that are so iconic that you remember exactly where you were when it happened. Even if you aren’t from Alabama or aren’t a fan of college football, the Kick Six may be one of them. The 2013 Iron Bowl was already one of the greats in the storied rivalry between Alabama and Auburn, but Chris Davis’ 109-yard return from a missed field goal as time expired to win the game vaulted it to mythological status.
16) Patriots-Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX
The most astounding play call of the decade was Seattle’s decision not to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the one-yard line with their second straight Super Bowl firmly in their grasp. Instead, Russell Wilson inexplicably threw the ball and Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette to clinch yet another Super Bowl for the Pats. At least Pete Carroll and the Seahawks learned their lesson… well, maybe not.
15) Cardinals-Rangers, 2011 World Series Game 6
While the other MLB entry later on in our countdown may be more historically significant, the Cardinals-Rangers 2011 World Series may go down as one of the most exciting in the history of the Fall Classic. It culminated in Game 6, when the Rangers had two run leads erased by the Cardinals in the 9th and 10th innings. Finally, David Freese won it with a walk-off in the 11th inning and St. Louis would go on to win in Game 7.
14) Liverpool-Barcelona, 2019 UEFA Champions League Semifinal Second Leg
In one of the greatest comebacks of the decade, Liverpool faced a 3-0 deficit returning to Anfield for the second leg of their semifinal matchup against Lionel Messi and Barcelona. Before the game, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said the team would try to do the impossible without star forwards Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino as only they knew how. “If we can do it, wonderful. If not, then fail in the most beautiful way.” It was certainly beautiful, but Liverpool didn’t fail in their quest to return to the pinnacle of European soccer. Divock Origi scored in in the 7th minute to give a flicker of hope. Then Gini Wijnaldum added two off the bench to level the tie in the second half. Finally, a genius bit of quick thinking from Trent Alexander-Arnold at a corner kick led to Origi’s second and the 4-0 victory. Liverpool then beat Tottenham in the Final for their first Champions League trophy since 2015.
13) Warriors-Thunder, 2016 Western Conference Finals Game 6
The greatest victory of the Warriors dynasty didn’t come in any of their Finals triumphs, but rather in the 2016 Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder (ironically the one year they didn’t win the championship). With their All-Star duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, the Thunder were up seven points with five minutes to play and holding a 3-2 series lead. The splash brothers of Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant combined for 16 points in the final five minutes to force a Game 7 they would eventually win, and end any chance of the Thunder competing with them. Durant would sign with the Warriors just a couple months later and win two championships with Golden State.
12) Manchester City-QPR, 2011-2012 EPL season Final Day
“I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again!” is one of the great calls of the decade from Martin Tyler, and it perfectly captured the moment Manchester City won their first league title since 1968. It all came down to the final touch of the ball in the final game of the season. City led cross-town rivals Manchester United on goal differential heading into the final game. However, they trailed Queens Park Rangers 2-1 while United were in the midst of a 1-0 victory over Sunderland. Mario Balotelli scored the equalizer at the beginning of stoppage time. And then with mere moments to spare, Sergio Aguero netted the title winner and set off scenes of mad jubilation at the Etihad Stadium.
11) Georgia-Alabama, 2018 College Football Playoff Final
One of the gutsiest coaching decisions of the decade came in the 2018 National Championship Game. Trailing 13-0 at halftime, Nick Saban benched star quarterback Jalen Hurts for freshman Tua Tagovailoa and a legend was immediately born. Tua led a Bama comeback that almost ended in victory in regulation, but resulted in a missed field goal as time expired. Nevertheless, he threw the game-winner in overtime on a 41 yard pass backed up on 2nd-and-26 when it looked like Georgia had it won.
10) Heat-Spurs, 2013 NBA Finals Game 6
The Spurs were just a few seconds away from yet another NBA Championship when Ray Allen let fly from the corner. Had his shot not fallen, it’s a great what-if on how we would judge the legacy of the teams and players involved. What if James hadn’t won that second ring with the Heat? What if Tim Duncan got to six titles? Alas, we’ll never know. Facing a three-point deficit in Game 6 and a 3-2 deficit in the series, Allen’s shot saved both. The Heat would go on to win in overtime and then in by seven points in Game 7.
9) Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer, 2019 Wimbledon Final
Perhaps Djokovic and Federer could have gone as long as Isner and Mahut did at the beginning of the decade, but Wimbledon finally instituted a fifth set tiebreak in 2019. Incredibly, 24 games in the fifth set weren’t enough to separate two of the three players (along with Rafael Nadal) who defined this generation of men’s tennis. Djokovic fought off multiple championship points from Federer to win the final set 7-3 in a tiebreak. All three of his sets were won via the tiebreak in one of the most dramatic matches in the history of the sport. With the pair at 32 and 38 years of age respectively, hopefully it’s not the last major final encounter we see between two of the all-time greats.
8) USA-Canada, 2010 Winter Olympics Men’s Hockey Gold Medal Game
There’s no better sporting theatre than an overtime hockey Game 7… but what about overtime hockey when playing for your country? There were many great Stanley Cup playoff games to consider for our list (Blackhawks-Flyers, Blackhawks-Bruins, Bruins-Canucks), but the lone hockey representative came from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It was another epic USA-Canada showdown in the gold medal game that had to go to overtime to be settled. Who else but Sidney Crosby would net the golden goal to set an entire nation into celebration.
7) Clemson-Alabama, 2017 College Football Playoff Final
Alabama was the dominant force for much of the 2010s in college football, but the 2017 National Championship Game may have been something of a passing of the torch to Clemson. The Tide had won four of the previous seven titles including beating Clemson the year before. Trailing 31-28, DeShaun Watson led the Tigers on a game-winning touchdown drive finding Hunter Renfrow with just one second left to win the title. Their third meeting two years later signaled that the changing of the guard was complete when Clemson blew out Alabama by a 44-16 final score.
6) USA-Canada, 2012 Summer Olympics Women’s Soccer semifinal
While it’s easy to first think of the US Women’s National teams World Cup triumphs this decade and the heroics of Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, this game in the London Olympics may be the best pure sporting contest of the decade. In a rivalry showdown against Canada, the US pegged back their neighbors to the north on three occasions and withstood a hat trick from Christine Sinclair to send the game to extra time. In the final moments, Alex Morgan looped in a header for a classic victory that led the Americans to yet another gold medal.
5) Villanova-North Carolina, 2016 Men’s Basketball National Championship Game
The NCAA Tournament is known far and wide for its buzzer-beaters. But we had never seen a true buzzer-beater in a national championship game until Kris Jenkins in 2016 for the Villanova Wildcats. The play was set up perfectly as Villanova ran up the floor with the score tied 74-74. His three pointer as the clock hit triple zeroes is the shot every kid dreams of, but don’t discount the furious UNC rally that led to that one shining moment.
4) Tiger Woods wins the 2019 Masters
It wasn’t the best golf tournament this decade – that probably belongs to the duel between Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson at the 2016 British Open or Europe’s “Miracle at Medinah” comeback at the 2012 Ryder Cup. However, for everything it symbolized and meant to the sport, Tiger Woods’ victory in the 2019 Masters will forever be one of the most memorable golf tournaments in history… perhaps even right up there with his 1997 triumph. After a decade of public shame, injury, and a fall to 1,199th in the world golf rankings, Woods somehow came back to beat all the odds and win his 15th major at Augusta. The one-stroke victory was Woods’ first major since 2008, and one couldn’t help but note the circle of life being complete when he hugged his son stepping off the 18th green as his father did for him 22 years prior.
3) Patriots-Falcons, Super Bowl LI
In the entire history of the NFL, there have only ever been four comebacks greater than what the New England Patriots accomplished in Super Bowl LI. What was going to be the crowning moment of the Atlanta Falcons franchise turned into one of the most (in)famous collapses/comebacks in sports. Leading 28-3 midway through the third quarter, the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points for the first overtime in Super Bowl history. Naturally, the Pats took the opening drive of overtime all the way to the endzone for James White’s game-winner and yet another classic victory.
2) Cavaliers-Warriors, 2016 NBA Finals Game 7
When LeBron James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, the kid from Northeast Ohio inherited Cleveland’s long search for a major professional sports championship that went back to 1964. James infamously left the Cavaliers to win titles with the Miami Heat. When he shockingly returned to the Cavaliers, he chose to bear the burden of Cleveland’s championship hopes all over again. Although the Cavaliers were often on the short end of their battles with the Warriors dynasty in four straight NBA Finals appearances, their win is the one every basketball fan remembers. James led the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit against the record-setting 73 win Warriors and won Game 7 on the road. While James’ chasedown block is the enduring highlight, it was Kyrie Irving’s three-pointer that was the game-winner in the final minute.
1) Cubs-Indians, 2016 World Series Game 7
The Cubs winning the World Series would be the defining sports moment of any decade, bringing an end to the most notorious streak in sports. But the way they did it was all the more historic – extra innings, Game 7, on the road against the Cleveland Indians, looking to end a long championship drought of their own. When veteran catcher David Ross homered off star reliever Andrew Miller in the sixth inning, the Cubs led 6-3. Rajai Davis then homerd off Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the eighth to tie it at 6-6, sending Progressive Field into a frenzy. As the game went to extras, the Cubs scored two in the top of the 10th thanks to RBIs from Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero. They would hold on in the bottom half of the inning for the epic 8-7 victory in the defining game, series, and championship of the decade.
2011 – USA vs Brazil, Women’s World Cup Semifinal
2013 – Bruins vs Blackhawks, Stanley Cup Final Game 6
2014 – Brazil vs Germany, World Cup Semifinal
2016 – British Open
2016 – Ohio State vs Michigan
2017 – Nadal vs Federer, Australian Open Final
2017 – Dodgers vs Astros, World Series Game 5
2018 – UMBC vs Virginia, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament First Round
2018 – Chiefs vs Rams
2019 – Virginia vs Purdue, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Elite Eight
2019 – Raptors vs Sixers, Eastern Conference Semifinal Game 7