Protests, historic firsts, and player autonomy dominated a decade that won’t be forgotten
With 2019 and another decade officially behind us, it’s time to not only look back on the biggest sports stories of the past 365 days, but of the previous 10 years. Here are the biggest sports stories from the 2010s.
10: Canadian firsts in 2019
At the beginning of 2019, not many Canadians knew the names of either Bianca Andreescu or Kawhi Leonard. By the end of the year, however, both athletes played a massive role in Canada’s record-breaking year in sports.
On Jan. 6, 2019 18-year-old Andreescu, from Ontario, placed 107th in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings, and entered the BNP Paribas Open in California as a wild-card entry. But after winning six matches in a row, Andreescu advanced to the finals of the prestigious tournament and defeated former world number one Angelique Kerber for her first WTA title. Andreescu’s rise didn’t end there, though, as the Canadian teen would continue to shock the tennis world by winning the US Open in September — becoming the first Canadian tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title — and advanced to a career-high number five ranking in the WTA.
Meanwhile, on the hardwood, Canada’s only NBA team was en route to their first ever championship. The Toronto Raptors, led by Leonard, who would go on to become NBA Finals MVP, defeated the defending champion Golden State Warriors in six games to become the first team outside of the United States to win the NBA title.
9: UMBC becomes first NCAA team to win as 16-seed
Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, a 16-seeded team had never taken down a one-seed. But history was thrown out the window in 2018, when the 16-seed Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers knocked off the one-seed Virginia Cavaliers in the opening round.
8: American Pharoah wins Triple Crown
Only 13 horses have won the Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing, which is awarded for winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes races consecutively in the same year. In 2015, the Triple Crown had not been won since 1978.
In the middle of the decade, American Pharoah captured the attention of not only horse racing fans, but casual sports fans who wanted to witness history. After American Pharoah won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, over 90 000 fans packed Belmont Park to watch the horse make history.
American Pharoah completed the one and a half mile race in two minutes 26 seconds, the sixth fastest time in Belmont history, and in first place — becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown.
7: New England Patriots win three Super Bowls
After not winning the NFL’s Super Bowl for 10 years, Tom Brady cemented his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time by leading the New England Patriots to Super Bowl victories in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
In 2014, Brady overcame a 10-point deficit to the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter to win, and two years later the Patriots had a historic 25-point comeback to shock the football world and defeat the Atlanta Falcons.
6: Leicester City wins the Premier League
At the beginning of the 2015/16 English Premier League season, Leicester City Football Club were 5 000 to one betting underdogs to win the title. After almost being relegated to a lower division in the previous year, nobody expected Leicester to compete with the dominant Manchester United or Manchester City soccer teams in the Premier League. However, lead by striker Jamie Vardy, who scored a Premier League record 13 goals over 11 straight matches at one point in the season, Leicester would go on to win 23 games in the 38-game regular season — topping the league standings with 81 points.
5: LeBron James “The Decision”
In the summer of 2010, NBA superstar LeBron James hit free agency, and the entire basketball world sat on pins and needles awaiting his decision. After leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to the playoffs in five straight seasons, James announced his decision to join the Miami Heat in a television special — forming the decade’s first “superteam” with fellow all-stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh — and would go onto win two championships in Miami.
4: Cleveland Cavaliers defeat record-breaking Golden State Warriors
LeBron returned to Cleveland in 2014, with the promise of delivering his hometown team their first NBA championship. James delivered on that promise in 2016, defeating the Golden State Warriors, who won a NBA-record 73 wins in the regular season, in a seven game series.
3: Colin Kaepernick sparks anthem protests
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in the summer of 2016, refusing to stand for the song in protest of his country’s treatment against minority citizens. The decision sparked a discussion around police brutality, as athletes across various sports joined Kaepernick by taking a knee during the anthem.
Kaepernick also gained support from public figures outside the sports world — including actors Nick Cannon and Jennifer Lewis, along with rapper Chamillionaire. However, he has received plenty of backlash from those who see his movement as disrespectful to military members who fought for the United States, highlighted by President Donald Trump calling players who kneel “sons of bitches” at one point. After opting out of his contract with the 49ers to become a free agent in the spring of 2017, less than a year after he started protesting, no team in the NFL has signed Kaepernick — with many fearing the potential backlash for signing the controversial quarterback.
2: Chicago Cubs win World Series
Chicago cruised to 103 wins in the regular season, their first 100-win season since 1935, and advanced to the playoffs by winning their division. The record-breaking season rolled into the postseason, as the Cubs knocked off the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers en route to the World Series.
Having not won the World Series in 108 years, fittingly, the Cubs squared off against the Cleveland Indians in the championship round, who had a 68-year World Series drought of their own. Chicago fell behind three-games-to-one in the final series, before storming back to take a decisive game seven in Cleveland to clinch the World Series.
1: Sidney Crosby’s Golden Goal
Ten years ago, the decade kicked off with Sidney Crosby putting an exclamation point on the Vancouver Olympics on the final day of competition by clinching Canada’s record-breaking 14th gold medal with an overtime goal over the United States in the men’s ice hockey finals.
Although this moment occurred just two months into the 2010s, it’s one that is hard to top. In 2017, Sportsnet called the goal “Canada’s most iconic sports moment.”