2014 was an exciting year in the world of sports. From the Olympics to the World Cup to all the off-field drama — it was definitely one we won’t forget anytime soon. So without further ado, here is my list, ranked accordingly, of the top 10 sports stories of last year.
10) Gay athletes represented in sports
It was a huge year for gay rights activists and it was no different in sports. Two prominent athletes, Jason Collins and Michael Sam, became the first openly gay athletes to play in any of the four major professional leagues with Collins joining the Brooklyn Nets and Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Both players received heavy media coverage and Sam’s draft day kiss with his partner made national news. Collins played out the final three months of the season before announcing his retirement from the NBA after 13 seasons. His jersey was the top seller on NBA.com shortly after his season debut. Similarly, Sam’s jersey was the second most popular this NFL off-season, behind Johnny Manziel. Both Collins and Sam showed remarkable courage in 2014 and will hopefully pave the way for young athletes dealing with heteronormativity in sports in the coming years.
9) L.A. Kings’ miraculous run
The Los Angeles Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup run was truly remarkable. In the first round they were matched up against the San Jose Sharks and quickly found themselves down 3–0 in the series. Only three previous times in NHL history has a team comeback to win a series after being down 3–0 and the Kings became the fourth, with four straight impressive wins. In the next round, they were matched up with California rivals the Anaheim Ducks and again were forced to win in game seven. In the conference finals, the Kings took out the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in another seven-game series, setting up a showdown with the New York Rangers. It was the first time a team had reached the Stanley Cup Final by winning three straight game sevens. In game five, Alec Martinez scored the overtime winner to take the series 4–1 and give the Kings their second title in three years.
8) Seahawks bring the boom
On arguably the grandest stage in all of sports, it would be Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” that rose up. In a classic great offence versus great defence matchup, the legendary Peyton Manning was beaten in a 43–8 blowout that was the Seahawks first ever Super Bowl win. Led by loudmouth Richard Sherman, the rest of the ferocious Seahawks defence proved the saying “defence wins championships” as they completely shutdown what had been possibly the best offence of all-time.
7) Bumgarner’s unbelievable performance
This year’s MLB post-season appeared as if it was going to be a Cinderella story by the Kansas City Royals: enter Madison Bumgarner. In game one of the championship series “Mad Bum” threw seven strong innings in a 7–1 Giants win. With the series later tied at 2–2, Bumgarner pitched a four hit complete game shutout to pull the Giants to within one game of the title. Then again in game seven — on just two days rest — he threw the final five innings of the game in relief and allowed just two base runners and carried the Giants to a 3–2 victory and a World Series title. Bumgarner won the World Series MVP award as he posted a 2–0 record with one save and an E.R.A. of 0.43. He allowed just one run over his 23 innings pitched in the World Series and was named Sports Illustrated’s Athlete of the Year.
6) LeBron comes home
Four short years ago, LeBron James stunned the collective sporting world and broke the hearts of many when he decided to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat. In those four years, “The King” won two MVP awards, two NBA titles as well as two NBA Finals MVPs. Then, at the age of 29, James decided it was time to come home and rejoin the Cavaliers. Following his departure, the Cavs became the worst team in basketball and held the first overall pick in three of the last four drafts. James’ return reenergized a city that was beyond desperate for success, as they haven’t won a professional sports league since 1961. James later released an essay on why he chose to return to Cleveland, citing “it’s where he grew up” and the state of Ohio was “a part of him and much bigger than the game of basketball.” With an entire state behind him, can James lead his hometown team to the promise land in 2015?
5) Germany wins World Cup
With the biggest stage in soccer set in Brazil, it would be Germany that ruined the party with a 7–1 shellacking of the host Brazilians in the semifinals. International legend Miroslav Klose finished off his career in style as the Germans would knock off Lionel Messi and Argentina in the final 1–0 with an epic goal in extra time to seal the championship. Mario Göetze scored the winning goal for Germany in the 113th minute for the end of a great tournament full of upsets, excitement and drama featuring 32 of the best soccer nations in the world and also the best players on earth. It was a perfect showcase of “the beautiful game” and just in time to get everyone hyped for the 2015 Women’s World Cup being held in Canada.
4) Rise of Canadian tennis
If you talk about sports in Canada, chances are tennis is not one of the things you are talking about, but young stars Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard are trying to change that. Canada’s sweetheart, Bouchard, made the semifinal in the first three majors of the year— no other woman has done that since 2009. She also made the finals at Wimbledon, but it wasn’t meant to be as Petra Kvitovà defeated her in six straight sets. Her finals appearance was the first for a Canadian woman since 1992. Raonic reached a career high by making sixth in the world rankings and he also reached the quarter-finals at the French Open as well as his first ever semifinal appearance, at Wimbledon. Both Canadians are under the age of 25, so the future of tennis in Canada is bright.
3) Basketball in Canada takes off
Between the Raptors and young Canadian talent, it was a superb year for basketball in this country. In May, Andrew Wiggins became the second straight Canadian to be drafted first overall in the NBA rookie draft. Along with him, three other Canadian kids were selected in the draft — the most in history. At the NBA level, Canada’s lone professional team made waves and is now one of the top teams in the league. In the calendar year of 2014, the Raptors had the third best record in the entire league and this season have put themselves in great position to compete for the NBA title and have once again made basketball relevant in Toronto.
2) Sporting scandals
Scandals stretching across all the major leagues definitely dominated sports in 2014. Former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was banned for life from the NBA, NFL stars Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson sat out nearly the entire season with off-field legal issues, NHL players Slava Voynov and Semyon Varlamov were both arrested for domestic abuse and the MLB suspended Alex Rodriguez for the entire year due to steroid usage. TMZ was a big contributor to these scandals as they released the footage of Rice striking his fiancé in an elevator as well as the audio recording of Sterling’s racist rant. With the worst hopefully behind us, 2015 should be a much brighter year in the big leagues.
1) Sochi double gold
Both the men’s and women’s hockey teams entered the Sochi Olympics looking to defend their gold from four years ago and the whole country stood still and watched as they successfully did so. For the women, it was a smooth ride until the final, where they found themselves in a 2–0 hole to their rival Americans. A late U.S. shot off the post on an empty net would end up being huge as Marie-Philip Poulin tied the game at 2–2 with under a minute to go in the game. She would become a national hero when she scored the overtime winner to take gold. The men would have a much tougher road, but they managed to put on one of the best displays of hockey of all-time. Turns out their toughest test would be a quarter-final matchup with Latvia, which they came out with a 2–1 victory. They would then shut down the Americans in the semis before hammering Sweden 3–0 to claim gold for the second straight Winter Olympics. The game was such a big deal that the entire country allowed bars and pubs to open at 5 a.m. in time for the big game, which goes against Canadian law.
Graphic: Stephanie Mah/Graphics Editor