The Top 10 Sports Moments Of 2014

LeBron James

Happy New Year’s Eve, sports fans. Before we spend the last day of 2014 watching college football bowl games and preparing to pop champagne at midnight, let’s take a look back at the year that was 2014 and all of the amazing sports moments it encompassed.

A year ago, the year got underway with the Seahawks’ dominant run to the Super Bowl, which culminated in a rout of Peyton Manning‘s Broncos. And would anyone be surprised if that’s the case to start 2015 again? Then we dipped into the NFL draft, the NBA playoffs, and the World Cup, with plenty of news in between.

Here’s a look back at the top 10 sports moments from the past year, beginning with a very controversial homecoming:

1. LeBron Says He’s Coming Home

In the midst of NBA free agency, we all awaited the Decision 2.0, when LeBron James announced his run with the Miami Heat was over and he was heading back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers, where his Hall of Fame career began.

James’ return to Cleveland began the building of a championship-caliber squad, as the Cavs traded No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in exchange for Kevin Love to team up with James and Kyrie Irving. Fast forward five months, the Cavaliers are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference having lost two straight games. Now we’re wondering whether James will opt out of his contract at the end of this season.

Aren’t sports great?

2. Rice, Peterson Headline Scandals Across The NFL

Both Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson were at the forefront of one of — if not, the — NFL’s biggest scandals in league history.

Rice was arrested and charged with assault after a physical altercation with his fiancee in an Atlantic City casino in February. As a result, the NFL slapped the back with a two-game suspension. And it was over with, right?

Not so fast. In September, TMZ released a video of the assault, which the NFL apparently had viewed prior to giving Rice the minor suspension. The coverup shed a black light on commission Roger Goodell and the Ravens.

The NFL’s best running back of the past decade, Peterson, was also in the midst of a domestic issue. Peterson was suspended indefinitely following Week 1 after being accused of child abuse and eventually received a season-long ban from Goodell. Of course, the commissioner made his decision after the Rice incident transpired.

Rice’s and Peterson’s scandals have set the stage for a new personal-conduct policy in the league, one that’ll be harsher because of these recent events.

3. Sterling Outed As A Racist

Right as the Clippers were gearing up for a playoff run, audio recordings of team owner Donald Sterling spewing racist slurs to his girlfriend were released for the whole nation to hear. Instantly, Sterling became one of the most hated men in America, resulting in a lifetime ban from the NBA.

That was the first big decision made by first-year commissioner Adam Silver, who acted swiftly and harshly, and consequently correctly. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer replaced Sterling, who will probably never be mentioned again in a positive light.

4. Finally, A College Football Playoff

The complaints about the BCS and its inexplicable ranking system are finally over with. The 2014 season marked the first year of the new college football playoff system, which makes its official debut on Jan. 1, when Alabama faces Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon battles Florida State in the Rose Bowl to decide the championship game.

This is a four-team playoff, which provided us with a fun ride throughout the college football season, one that seemed much more just and explainable than the previous BCS system. One complaint, though, is that college coaches and ADs wanted to see more teams in the playoffs.

Too soon. Just too soon.

5. Sam Becomes NFL’s First Gay Player

Michael Sam didn’t get to make many highlight-reel plays this NFL season, but his impact was felt and is still lasting.

Sam was drafted in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player in the league’s history. Video footage of Sam sitting at home and hearing his name called showed Sam rejoicing with his boyfriend as the two shared a kiss to celebrate the historic moment.

Sam did not make the Rams’ 53-man roster despite a solid preseason rushing the passer. He signed on with the Cowboys, but never made the active roster. There’s still a lot to be written in Sam’s career.

6. The Ups And Downs Of Winston

From capping off an undefeated season with a BCS title to stealing crab legs in a Publix to getting a suspension for screaming offensive comments at the student union, it’s been a roller-coaster of a year for Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, to say the least.

Winston was cleared of a rape charge stemming from last year and has navigated through all of these off-the-field issues, and once again the Seminoles are in contention for a national championship. He’s also being touted as one of the top two quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL draft.

He hasn’t had a Heisman Trophy-worthy 2014 season, but he hasn’t lost yet and has perfected the art of the comeback. We cannot wait to see how Winston rounds out his Florida State career.

7. Howard Becomes Meme Sensation; Suarez Has A Biting Issue

Team USA could not fulfill the role of Cinderella during this summer’s World Cup, but the heroics of goalie Tim Howard did leave us with more than enough memes. Howard became an Internet sensation with such “saves” as these:

On the other end of the spectrum, Luis Suarez made headlines, but for the wrong reasons. America was made aware of Suarez’s biting issue, as it came up multiple times during the World Cup.

8. Spurs Get Revenge, Send James Packing

After a fantastic six-game series in 2013 NBA Finals, the Heat and Spurs met up once more in the 2014 version and did not disappoint. The results, however, were reversed as Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Patty Mills helped out the Big Three as they downed the Heat quickly and re-captured the title.

Not only did it feel like it was the Spurs vs. LeBron, apparently James felt it, too. Months later, it led to James fleeing South Beach for Cleveland.

9. Sherman Goes On An Unforgettable Rant

Richard Sherman became one of sports’ most polarizing figures this past season, and not just because of his reputation as the NFL’s top cornerback.

Sherman provided us with an unforgettable post-game speech following the Seahawks’ defeat of Michael Crabtree and the 49ers. Yes, Crabtree apparently tried to talk trash to Sherman, who made it a point to prove he’s the best in the game.

That rant has gone down in the history books and propelled Seattle to a 2013 Lombardi Trophy. Sherman and the Seahawks aim to repeat again in 2014.

10. Durant’s ‘You’re The Real MVP’ Speech

Kevin Durant was named the NBA’s 2013-14 Most Valuable Player, but he refused to accept the award. Not literally, but he did credit his his mother for his success.

An emotional Durant finally earned the hardware over James, and the 25-year-old — battling tears — called mom, Wanda Pratt, “the real MVP.” It was a fantastic speech by a fantastic player, and left us with a heartwarming moment between mother and son.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.