No, the year hasn’t ended. George Michaels’ heart stopped beating this Christmas, and he joins the legion of superstars up there – most of them victims of 2016. Imagining Prince, David Bowie and Michaels in a concert is quite something. The year’s ‘In Memorium’ montage will be quite a film on its own. But, to be fair, 2016 will also be memorable for some overwhelmingly positive moments. Believe it or not, most of it will come from the sporting world. This has been the biggest season in a decade, given the sheer scale of events, and occasional miracles (of which there have been quite a few).
Let’s get on with it, then. Here are the six best sporting moments of the year:
The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James. That is all. 3-1 down in the NBA Finals against the defending champs Golden State Warriors, in the rematch of the 2015 finals, it looked like the Cavaliers would have to wait longer for their first-ever NBA title. No team had ever come back from this deficit. After Game 6, both teams had scored exactly 610 points. And the final game wasn’t in Cleveland; they’d have to do it on the road, again. The Warriors led by 7 points at half-time in Game 7, but the Cavaliers came back to win 93-89 in a stunning turnaround, typifying the tone and flow of perhaps the best NBA Championship in years. James secured his place as perhaps the greatest basketball player of this generation, winning his third Finals almost single-handedly, proving himself to be the big-match player everyone had doubted he was. The celebrations went long and hard, and Cleveland had done the impossible.
5. The World Series
Another American masterstroke, (almost) making up for the disastrous political elections happening simultaneously. The much-loved Cubs won their first World Series title since 1908, ending more than a century of despair and delusion. Wrigley Field was a sight to behold, after the momentous 8-7 victory in the final, themselves down 3-1 after the first four of the series. They blew a 6-3 lead in the final game, and did it in true Cubs style (if there were ever such a thing), losing their ‘lovable losers’ tag forever, giving them the most heartwarming American sporting victory of 2016.
4. Portugal Win Euro 2016
It had to be football. Cristiano Ronaldo got injured within the first 15 minutes of Portugal’s biggest football match since Euro 2004, and it all looked very bleak. Yet they eked out a tough, hard-fought 1-0 victory in extra time over favorites France in France, giving them their first-ever major title. It had looked to be Lionel Messi taking Argentina to their first title since 1986 only weeks before Ronaldo did, but Messi’s team flubbed up their third major final in the last four FIFA events, handing Ronaldo the chance to win his fourth Footballer of the Year title by topping it off with his country’s performance. Portugal had only one won single game in regulation time throughout the tournament, and they were dissed and criticized for their ‘defensive’ brand of football, but they won it ugly and they won it hard. Yet, this wasn’t the best moment of football this year.
3. Usain Bolt wins his Treble Treble
In his final Olympic Games of his shining career, the greatest sprinter of all time stormed through to win his 100m, 200m and 4x100m finals at age 30, sealing his legacy and accomplishing something perhaps no athlete ever will for a very, very long time. To win three of the toughest and most widely competed Olympic events across eight years and three editions is virtually unheard of – until, of course, a thunderbolt hits every dome once in a generation. This will be the last of Bolt in a major competition, and there was no better way for him to leave – upstaging everyone from Michael Phelps’ comeback to Mo Farah’s Mo Farah’s double double, giving us one of the most enduring images of 2016.
2. West Indies Once Again
Carlos Brathwaite, remember the name – screamed Ian Bishop into the microphone, as the tall big-hitter smashed Ben Stokes into the stands for four consecutive sixes, scoring the required 21 runs in the final over in four balls itself, winning the most inconsistent team in cricket their second World T20 title after 2012. It was a tremendous end to a final in which, once again, West Indies, propelled once again by Marlon Samuels, played second fiddle to a resurgent English limited-overs side, until that last over. They did it the Caribbean way, the only way West Indies could, only days after defeating a Kohli-propelled India in the semis at Mumbai. What a final, what a team!
1. Leicester pulls off a Miracle
Leicester City football club gave us the greatest sporting moment of 2016 in a year in which the Olympics took place, as well as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray created history in tennis. By winning the English Premier League over a long, grueling season, Claudio Ranieri and his team proved that fairies, and fairytales, do exist in this troubled world.