The year of 2008 provided all sports fans with a profusion of memorable moments. Below are just a few of the greatest moments in sports for 2008.
1. NFL- Super Bowl: New York Giants defeat unbeaten New England Patriots In colossal upset
This was not in the script. After winning eighteen consecutive games, the New England Patriots were overwhelmingly favored to not only defeat the New York Giants, but destroy them. It seemed inevitable that the Patriots were to become the first undefeated team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Giants were just another bump in the road.
Led by the patchy quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants stunned the sports world as they defeated the Patriots 17 to 14. Usually as unflappable as they come, Tom Brady appeared shaky throughout the game and never seemed comfortable in the pocket against the suffocating Giants defense. However, a late touchdown in the fourth quarter gave the Patriots a 14 to 10 lead. On the Giants ensuing drive, wide receiver David Tyree made an incredible catch for a 33-yard gain with under a minute remaining. The remarkable play was a precursor to the game-clincher, as Manning found wide receiver Plaxico Burress in the end zone. It was the Cinderella Giants, not the mighty Patriots, who basked in Super Bowl glory on that February evening.
2. Olympics: Dominance of Michael Phelps
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, swimmer Michael Phelps redefined the word dominance. Prior to the Olympics, the name Michael Phelps was practically irrelevant in the world of sports. Nevertheless, eight gold medals for the United States Team vaulted Phelps into the limelight, earning him international glory. His eight gold medals broke the former record of seven gold medals held by Mark Spitz in the 1972 Olympics.
Phelps also holds seven world records. Swimming is not one of America’s preferred sports; however, what Michael Phelps accomplished in August of 2008 is awe-inspiring, and is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in sports history.
3. NBA Finals: Boston Celtics & Los Angeles Lakers Renew One of Sports’ Greatest Rivalries
The Celtics-Lakers rivalry, now half a century in the making, dates back to when the Lakers were located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prior to 2008, the Celtics and Lakers played in ten championship series. The Celtics won eight of the ten series; however, the Lakers won the last two in 1985 and 1987.
Even though there was no Larry Bird, Bill Russell, or Bob Cousy sporting Celtic green; or Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, or Magic Johnson dressed in gold and purple garb, the series had a personality of its own. The Lakers had one of the NBA’s most recognizable stars in Kobe Bryant as well as Pau Gasol. The Celtics had one of the most dangerous trios in all of sports in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
While the series was not decided by a game-seven buzzer beater, it renewed an old rivalry that all sports fans can appreciate. The Celtics 131-92 victory in game six was the series-clincher, and they celebrated their 17th championship.
4. NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson Wins Third Consecutive Sprint Cup Championship
Before NASCAR broke out of its regional following, South Carolinian Cale Yarborough became the only driver to win three consecutive championships from 1976 to 1978. Not even Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, or Jeff Gordon accomplished the three-peat.
However, the polished driver from El Cajon, California was able to achieve the impossible. Jimmie Johnson, far from the most popular driver in the garage, coasted to Sprint Cup championships in 2006 and 2007. However, prior to the Chase for the Championship (also known as NASCAR’s ten-race playoff) in 2008, Johnson lurked in the shadows while the brash Kyle Busch and the charismatic Carl Edwards surfaced as the championship favorites. While Johnson is neither brash nor charismatic, he was fast and consistent, as he won three of the final ten races, and finished no lower than fifteenth en route to his third consecutive championship.
5. PGA: Tiger Woods Wins U.S. Open…Then Calls It A Season
Pro Golf’s greatest player went from appearing invincible to overly exhausted in just a matter of 24 hours. Woods was clearly in agony due to an injured knee, as he grimaced while fending off Rocco Mediate for the U.S. Open title. However, Woods’ victory was far from easy. A tie between the two competitors following 72 holes led to an 18-hole over-time, so to speak, which was set for the following Monday. Woods and Mediate were still tied following the 18-hole tie-breaker, leading to a sudden death playoff. Woods finally won the tournament after 91 holes.
On the following day, Woods announced that his 2008 season would end due to reconstructive surgery on his knee. Woods added to his legacy by winning a major tournament despite a serious injury.
6. NFL- Brett Favre Sage: Brett Favre Retires, Unretires, And Is Traded To The Jets
It was a perplexing summer for Green Bay Packers loyalists, as well as Brett Favre supporters. In April, Favre announced his retirement from the NFL following one of his best seasons in which he led the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. Upon further review, Favre realized that he was not ready to hang up his helmet. Meanwhile, the Packers had committed to Favre’s former understudy, Aaron Rodgers. A rift between Favre and Packers management developed, and the three-time MVP made it clear that he was not going to stand on the sidelines with a clipboard. While there is more to the story than we will ever know, Favre was on his way out of Green Bay.
Eventually, the Packers traded the future Hall of Fame quarterback to the New York Jets.
7. NCAA Men’s Basketball: All Four Number One Seeds In Final Four, Kansas Wins
For the first time since the current seeding format was implemented in 1979, all four number one seeds from each region reached the Final Four. UCLA, Memphis, North Carolina, and Kansas entered the final weekend of the tournament in what was one of the most anticipated Final Four weekends in NCAA history.
Kansas, however, built a 28-point lead over North Carolina early in the game, leading to an 84 to 66 triumph. Memphis became the first team to win 38 games in a single season by defeating UCLA 78 to 63. In the championship game, Kansas rallied from a nine-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining in regulation to send the game into overtime. They defeated Memphis 75 to 68 in overtime.
8. College Football: LSU Becomes First Two-Loss National Champion
Despite two losses during the regular season, the BCS committee selected LSU to face Ohio State in the national championship showdown in New Orleans. LSU defeated Tennessee in the SEC championship game, and Ohio State was the Big Ten champion. While Ohio State was a logical choice to play in the championship game, controversy surrounded the LSU selection, as they recently lost to Arkansas.
LSU scored 21 points in the second quarter, as they built a 24 to 10 lead by halftime. Ohio State was unable to overcome the deficit, and ultimately lost to LSU 38 to 24.
9. Major League Baseball World Series: Philadelphia Phillies win first World Series since 1980
The Phillies captured their first World Series triumph since 1980 by defeating the Cinderella Tampa Bay Rays four games to one. It was the first championship of any kind for the city of Philadelphia since the 76ers won the NBA Finals in 1983.
Unless you are a diehard Phillies fans, the 2008 World Series will always remind fans of Bud Selig’s drastic decision to suspend a game due to inclement weather. Game 5 began on a Monday evening, but do to persistent rain, the game was delayed for nearly 48 hours. Finally, the Phillies clinched the title by defeating the Rays 4 to 3.
10. Formula One- Lewis Hamilton Becomes First Black Driver To Win F1 Title
In auto racing, successful back drivers are few and far between; however, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton broke the racial barriers in open wheel racing by conquering the 2008 Formula One championship while driving for McLaren. The second year driver capped off a remarkable season by finishing fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix. He won the title by one point over rival Felipe Massa.
Hamilton became the youngest Formula One champion at 23 years of age.
Other Top Sports Stories Include:
Tennis- All England Lawn Tennis Championships, Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal
Major League Baseball- Tampa Bay Rays Rise From Obscurity
PGA- United States Defeats Europeans In U.S. Ryder Cup
Indy Racing League- Danica Patrick Wins In Japan Becoming First Female To Win IRL Race
NFL- Tom Brady Injures His Knee In Season Opener, Will Not Return In 2008
Major League Baseball- New York Yankees Retire Yankee Stadium
NASCAR- Four-Time Champion Jeff Gordon Fails To Win A Race For The First Time Since 1993
NBA- Demise Of Former New York Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas (Sexual harassment accusations and possible drug overdose)
NFL- Kevin Everett’s Miraculous Recovery From Paralysis
NHL- Detroit Red Wings Defeat Pittsburgh Penguins In Stanley Cup Finals