The Top Sports Moments of the 2010s

Allison Doyle, Staff Writer

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The 2010s have been packed full of iconic sports moments, bringing a plethora of history-making athletes, controversies, and epic snapshots along with them. As the decade comes to a close, let’s take a look back at the top sports moments of each year to appreciate all the wonders the sporting world has to offer.

The decade started off well with a Winter Olympics. The United States won 37 total medals at Vancouver 2010, and, on February 18, American figure skater Evan Lysacek won the gold in figure skating for the U.S. for the first time in 22 years. Breakout star and redhead Shaun White dominated the halfpipe, earning him the nickname “The Flying Tomato.”

Five months later, Spain took home its first ever World Cup trophy thanks to a goal from midfielder Andrés Iniesta in the last minutes of overtime. Over in England, a certain Wimbledon match between the U.S.’s John Isner and France’s Nicholas Mahut took an astounding 48 hours to finish as Isner finally defeated Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set!

The sports world in 2011 was mostly dominated by lockouts in both the NFL and NBA. While the NFL spent their time off pondering how to split their billions of dollars in revenue among teams, the NBA focused entirely on cutting player salaries to support teams who were struggling financially. 

These strikes heavily impacted the seasons of both leagues: NFL teams only missed pre-season camps and procedures, but the 2011-2012 NBA season did not start until December 25, 2011, cutting the amount of games played from 82 to 66. Nevertheless, before the NFL lockout began, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV as the NFC wild card and while facing an injury crisis. 

In college basketball, Butler University’s Bulldogs reached the NCAA Championship final for the second year in a row, but eventually fell to the University of Connecticut with a score of  53-41.

In 2012, the Summer Olympics in London took center stage. Again, Team USA took home the most medals, with 46 total. The “Fierce Five,” consisting of Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross, and McKayla Maroney, won the gold medal in the women’s team competition, along with a slew of individual medals. Michael Phelps became the most decorated swimmer and Olympian of all time after winning the gold in the 200m freestyle relay, bringing his total to 23 medals. 

Also, 2012 saw Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy rise to fame when, after failing to qualify for many major tournaments, he won the PGA Championship by 8 strokes. Perhaps the greatest individual feat of 2012 is that of Serena Williams, who, after winning the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon, won the gold medals in the same two competitions at the London Olympics! Both doubles victories were with her sister Venus, as well, solidifying their dominance in the tennis world for many years following.

The next year, 2013, saw a downturn in iconic sports moments, though there are still a few worthy mentions. At Super Bowl XLVII, a power outage in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome suspended play for 34 minutes, but the unfazed Baltimore Ravens kept their lead to beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, winning their first ever Lombardi Trophy. 

On April 15, two bombs detonated just seconds apart near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring hundreds more. Fortunately, this tragic incident only unified the city of Boston, and “Boston Strong” emerged as the city’s rallying cry during its recovery. On May 13, the Boston Bruins managed a 5-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, helping them progress into the Eastern Conference semifinals.  This was a miracle and just what Bostonians needed.

The Sochi Winter Olympics kicked off 2014, with 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin winning the gold medal in the women’s slalom (despite her left ski coming off in her second run). Unfortunately, the festivities were dampened by an ongoing doping scandal which saw dozens of Russian athletes under investigation, and some even forced to pack their bags. 

Another standout moment – still referenced today – is thanks to former Giants receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. who reached behind his head to make perhaps the most difficult catch of all time in a game against the Dallas Cowboys. NBC Sports penned it “The catch heard around the world.” 

Nonetheless, the most talked about moment globally in 2014 came in a World Cup semifinal:  On the verge of making it to the final on home soil, host nation Brazil was utterly humiliated by eventual champions Germany. They lost 1-7, making the game Brazil’s biggest-ever loss and their first loss at home since 1975. 

While men’s soccer was the hot topic of 2014, women’s soccer made headlines the following year. In a rematch of the 2011 final, the United States got revenge on Japan by deservedly winning 5-2. Carli Lloyd became the first female player to score a hat-trick (3 goals) in a World Cup final, making it one of the highest scoring finals to date. 

In other news, a goal-line interception from rookie cornerback Malcom Butler sealed the Patiot’s Super Bowl XLIX victory over the Seattle Seahawks. However, the Patriots’ run to the Super Bowl in 2015 did not come without controversy. In what was dubbed “Deflategate” by the media, Tom Brady and the Patriots were accused of tampering with the air pressure of footballs used in their game against the Colts, resulting in a year’s worth of investigating and legal wrangling. 

And for any horse-racing fans out there, American Pharoah became the first horse to win the coveted Triple Crown since 1978. He is just the 12th horse to ever earn the elusive title.

There are plenty of unforgettable sports moments to choose from in 2016. The 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest -which only meant to shed light on some of our nation’s underlying issues – quickly turned into heated arguments over racial inequality and patriotism. Even today, Kaepernick is still without an NFL team to play for, and his act of kneeling during the national anthem has inspired others to join in a similar fashion. 

Other inspiration stems from remarkable athletic feats at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Simone Biles’ dazzled audiences everywhere in her individual all-around triumph.  Also, 19-year-old Katie Ledecky broke her own world record in the 800m swim. Usain Bolt won his third straight gold medal in the 100m, making him the fastest man in the world for another four years. 

The award for most heartwarming feat of 2016 goes to the Chicago Cubs who won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.  Numerous outlets have deemed Game 7 a classic, and one of the greatest World Series of all time.

A little more mellow than past years, 2017 did have the much anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. The fight took place in Las Vegas on August 26, with Mayweather defeating McGregor in a 10th round TKO. 

Speaking of Las Vegas, the Vegas Golden Knights honored the 58 victims and first responders who lost their lives in the October 1 mass shooting with a special pre-game tribute before their NHL season opener. Similar to Boston in 2013, the city of Las Vegas used sports as a means to unify and recover from a tragic event.

Hands down, 2018 was a year for the new generation. At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, American teenagers Chloe Kim and Red Gerard both brought home gold medals in snowboarding.  Baker Mayfield began his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns. Also, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappé propelled France to a World Cup trophy in Russia. Meanwhile, young gymnasts across the country spoke out against their own doctors and coaches, helping to expose the biggest abuse scandal in sports history. 

Also a year of first, 2018 had Team USA winning its first ever medals in men’s curling and women’s cross country skiing, while also defeating archrivals Canada in women’s ice hockey. Colin Kaepernick also reappeared as the face of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign, spreading a message of activism and solidarity.

Although this year is not completely over, it’s safe to say 2019 is full of memorable moments. Super Bowl LIII will likely be remembered as one of the least entertaining (and lowest scoring) of our generation, but the victorious Patriots over the Los Angeles Rams became their sixth ever title, tying the league record. At 41, quarterback Tom Brady showed no signs of slowing down, while his teammate Rob Gronkowski announced his retirement not long after. 

Virginia won their first ever NCAA title, and seasoned golfer Tiger Woods did the unthinkable by winning the Masters in April.  This was his first win since 2008. On top of those historic wins, the Toronto Raptors became the first non-US team to win an NBA title. 

Last but certainly not least, the USWNT defended their World Cup title in France by drowning out final opponents, The Netherlands, 2-0. Player of the tournament, Megan Rapinoe, will go down in history for her bright pink hair and signature celebration.

So, a big thanks to the 2010s for providing us with the entertainment, emotions, and excitement we need to keep us going. Here’s to 2020 and many more years of unforgettable sports moments!