In a showcase of basketball excellence not seen since the glory days of the Chicago Bulls or L.A. Lakers in the 90’s, the Golden State Warriors have dominated basketball the last two seasons, winning an NBA championship and setting an NBA record for wins at the start of the 2015-16 season along the way. Powered by Steph Curry, the league’s reigning MVP, the Warriors seemingly have little in the way of winning a second straight championship. #SquadGoals for sure.
2. Deflate Gate
Tom Brady and The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl this year, but hardly had time to enjoy it before they were embroiled in controversy over, of all things, deflated footballs. The Indianapolis Colts accused the team of deflating balls during the playoffs to help Tom Brady. Brady soon became the center of the controversy when texts to Patriots equipment managers suggested his involvement. An NFL investigation discovered the balls involved did not meet standard inflation pressure and Brady was suspended for four games of the 2015-2016 season. But the suspension was overturned by a judge after Brady appealed and the Patriots went on to win not just their first four games, but their first eleven.
3. Cam Newton
Panthers QB Cam Newton had one of the greatest seasons of any NFL quarterback, racking up league-leading stats and 15 straight wins along the way. The team’s first loss came on December 27th, the same weekend Newton allegedly became a first-time father. (Was his rocking a football like a baby after a touchdown run a clue?) Newton has thrown for 33 touchdowns against only 10 picks, earning 3,544 yards and has an overall passer rating of 97.0. It’s been a career year for the 26-year-old, who’s been cheering on friend Steph Curry as both of them vie for almost certain MVP honors in their respective sports.
Serena Williams had such a great year that when she fell one win short of a calendar Grand Slam, she was still named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson Of The Year. Serena won every Grand Slam tournament she played in 2015, except for the U.S. Open, she returned to Indian Wells, where she’d been unceremoniously booed 13 years before, she retained her #1 ranking for the second year in a row and she did it all looking fabulous and at age 34, when most tennis players have burned out and are past their prime. Serena promises to be back just as strong in 2016, which opens with the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, in January.
5. Steph Curry
He did get a head start in basketball as his father, Dell, was an NBA player who spent 16 years in the league as a three-point specialist. And as his firstborn son and namesake, Wardell Stephen Curry II was obviously was born to greatness. But “Steph” Curry has made quite the name for himself surpassing even his father’s solid career with two golden seasons.
The current NBA MVP, the skinny kid out of lowly (in basketball terms) Davidson College wasn’t expected to be a star in the league. But Curry surprised everyone by becoming the NBA’s best player, on track in 2015 to break his own record for three-pointers made in a season.
He scored more points in his first ten games in 2015, when Golden State went 10-0, than Michael Jordan did in the 1996-97 season when the Bulls went 10-0. We’ll know better after this season is over, but so far, Curry is heading towards, statistically, the best basketball season of any player, ever. Of course, he’ll need a few more rings before he moves into best of all time contention…
Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao finally fought on May 2. It was promoted as “The Fight of the Century” and the hype around seeing two of the top fighters in their weight class finally compete made it exciting for fans of both. That excitement had both fighters set to receive the biggest payoff in boxing history given projected advance pay-per-view sales. However, the big matchup underwhelmed many boxing fans who found Mayweather’s win by unanimous decision to be decidedly lackluster. But they’d already paid to see it, which meant the fight made both fighters much wealthier men. Of course, everyone knows Mayweather could care less about critics, as long as his [huge] check cleared.
L.A. Clippers player DeAndre Jordan was set to go to the Dallas Mavericks this summer. He’d agreed in principle with Mavs owner Mark Cuban, but when it was revealed that he’d not yet signed his contract, he became the star of the funniest off-season NBA soap opera.
On July 8, The Clippers, including coach Doc Rivers, players Chris Paul, Chandler Parson, J.J. Reddick, Blake Griffin and others stormed Jordan’s Texas home and held him jokingly hostage until the midnight deadline to sign free agents passed to ensure he’d truly changed his mind and would remain an L.A. Clipper.
This saga played out on Twitter to the hilarity of everyone but presumably Mark Cuban. Jordan who wouldn’t respond to Cuban’s phone calls, said later that the pressure of the decision just got to him and he was overwhelmed. The Clippers’ full-court press has helped them remain in playoff contention in the competitive Western Conference.
8. Los Angeles Laker star and NBA icon Kobe Bryant announced he’d finally hang up his sneakers via a poem posted to The Player’s Tribune. Well, we didn’t necessarily expect a press conference or a TV show along the lines of LeBron James’ infamous “The Decision” did we? Bryant will leave the league with the very same team he started with as a starry-eyed 18-year-old with hoop dreams that became hoop realities to the tune of 20 NBA seasons and five championships.
Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury and Glory Johnson of the Tulsa Shock either gave the WNBA some much-needed publicity or showed that female ballplayers are every bit as messy as the men or maybe a little bit of both.
In the space of a couple of months, the two WNBA players were involved in a domestic violence incident, then got married, then Johnson announced her pregnancy, then Griner moved to have the marriage annulled.
Griner alleges that Johnson cheated on her with an ex-boyfriend. Johnson alleges that her pregnancy with Griner was planned and that Griner agreed to parent the children with her. Johnson, who had twin girls via IVF in October, and Griner are still working out paternity issues for the two girls so their divorce is not yet final.
As sports figures become more like entertainers, especially when they make appearances on reality TV, the lines blur between the two. Although he’s not a superstar player, NBA journeyman Matt Barnes has become a name via his entertaining Twitter account and his made-for-reality-TV relationship with his ex-wife, Basketball Wives star Gloria Govan, whose sister was once married to former NBA player Gilbert Arenas.
In October, when Barnes found out that former Laker and now New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher was hanging out with Govan, he allegedly drove to Fisher’s home 95 miles away and the two got into a fight. Whatever actually happened, Barnes, now with the Memphis Grizzlies, was suspended for two games by the NBA. Fisher, apparently wasn’t the aggressor, as he faced no punishment. The two men, who both played for the L.A. Lakers, were once good friends.
Honorable Mention to American Pharoah, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, and the U.S. Women’s World Cup team, the first U.S. women’s soccer team to win a World Cup since 1999.