As 2018 comes to a close, looking back on this year has been nothing short of incredible. This is the year that gave us “The Snap” from Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, the false alarm of the Hawaiian ballistic missile threat, and even the insanely ludicrous Tide Pod challenge. Internet sensations like the In My Feelings challenge and these kids going nuts after getting tickets to see Black Panther warmed our hearts, but sports, once again, helps to bring everything home.
From an incredible showing by the United States at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to an incredible fake punt return that we’re still trying to figure out, 2018 taught us that no matter where we hail from, the best sports moments never fail to reach us. Here are the 25 best sports moments that we’ll always remember from 2018.
Unforgettable Olympic Performances
1. U.S. Women’s Hockey Beats Canada
The Canadian women’s team’s stranglehold on the Olympic games was no secret: they’d won every Olympic Gold Medal from 2002 to 2014. Despite beating the United States earlier in the tournament, the U.S. women defeated Canada in a shootout, 3-2, thanks to Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson’s game-winner to capture the U.S.’s first gold medal since 1998.
2. U.S. Wins First Cross-Country Skiing Medal in 42 Years
One of the most incredible finishes in Olympic history delivered the United States its first cross-country skiing medal ever. The United States’ only other medal was when Bill Koch won silver back in 1976 until American’s Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall combined to win the 2018 Team Sprint Freestyle gold medal in a shocking upset of Sweden, who won gold medals in 7 of the other 12 events.
3. U.S. Men’s Curling Does the Impossible
Sweden entered the 2018 Winter Olympics as the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament led by skip Niklas Edin, whose World Curling Tour team was ranked No. 1 for nearly the entire 2017-18 season. However, U.S. skip John Shuster and his team knocked off the Swedes to win 10-7 in a shocking upset that reminded us curling is one of the most electric Olympic sports to watch.
4. Mirai Nagasu Becomes First U.S. Woman to Land Triple Axel
Born in Montebello, California, Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman ever to land a triple axel in the Olympics during the free skate portion of the team event. She was just the third woman ever to pull off the incredible move at the Olympics, and she helped capture a bronze medal with her U.S. team at the games.
5. 17-Year-Old Chloe Kim Makes History
Despite being too young to compete at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, 17-year-old Chloe Kim returned in 2018 to become the youngest woman ever to win gold at the Olympics in the Snowboard Halfpipe event. Her 98.25 final score was nearly 10 points higher than the event’s silver medalist. She also landed two 1080-degree spins in a row, becoming the youngest woman ever to do that at the Olympics, too.
Single-Handed Domination for the Ages
6. Tua Tagovailoa Becomes a Legend
When Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa entered the College Football Playoff national championship game, it wasn’t really clear what head coach Nick Saban was up to. What happened, though, was Tagovailoa launched his way into the spotlight and forever made Georgia Bulldogs fans fear the phrase “2nd-and-26.”
7. Arike Ogunbowale Nails Back-to-Back Game Winners
First, Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Arike Ogunbowale hit a shot with 1.0 second remaining to knock off the then-undefeated UConn Huskies to make the NCAA Women’s National Championship. In the title game, she did it again to beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs with no time left. Some people never hit one game-winner, but two? Just incredible.
8. Nick Foles Becomes a Folk Hero
If you were living under a rock and didn’t see the Philadelphia Eagles pull off the greatest trick-play in Super Bowl history, it’s time to meet quarterback Nick Foles. The Eagles’ backup QB took over when MVP candidate Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury at the end of the regular season, and he led this team to its first-ever Super Bowl title over the New England Patriots.
9. Justify Wins Triple Crown
Only 12 horses had ever won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing prior to 2018. American Pharoah (2015) was the last, and Affirmed (1978) was the most recent before then. When Justify won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes this year, the undefeated Colt retired with a perfect 6-0 record and the historic title of Triple Crown winner.
10. Andre Ingram Debuts at 32-Years-Old
Most NBA players enter the league at a young age. Even if their dreams fizzle, they take their basketball talents overseas to play in professional leagues around the world. Not Andre Ingram, who tutored math to supplement his G League salary, and eventually earned the chance to play in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers after almost 10 years. In his NBA debut at 32 years old, which was the oldest by an American rookie since 1964, Ingram poured in 19 points and four 3-pointers. It’s never too late to chase your dreams. Just ask Andre Ingram.
11. 19-Year-Old Kylian Mbappe Arrives
After tearing up Ligue 1 for Paris Saint-Germain, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe burst onto the national stage by leading France to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He became the second youngest teenager to score in a World Cup Final since Pele, and he won the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award in the process.
Feel-Good Moments We Needed
12. Serena Williams Plays for Everybody’s Mom
After overcoming multiple issues following the birth of her child in September 2017, tennis superstar Serena Williams entered the 2018 Wimbledon tournament as the No. 25 seed. As she’d done so many times, she dominated on her way to the final, where she fell to German Angelique Kerber in straight sets. Afterwards, she told the crowd, “For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today.”
13. Vegas Golden Knights Debut at Perfect Moment
On October 1, 2017, a gunman opened fire on a crowd watching the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Five days later, the Vegas Golden Knights debuted in the NHL as the league’s 31st franchise. In an improbable run, the Golden Knights advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup finals in what should be considered the greatest inaugural season by any franchise in American sports history. Along the way, the team retired the No. 58 to honor the lives lost in that shooting, and they revived the Las Vegas, Nevada community in the process.
14. Cleveland Browns Unlock Victory Fridges
The Cleveland Browns hadn’t won a football game in 635 days. Then, during Week Three of the NFL season, they defeated the New York Jets with the help of No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, and finally unlocked the Bud Light Victory Fridges all around Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, the Browns resurrected themselves to set the table heading into the 2019 season.
15. Jalen Hurts Honored by University of Alabama
Jalen Hurts could have left the University of Alabama after Tua Tagovailoa took over the starting job, and he didn’t. When Tagovailoa went down with an injury in the SEC Championship game, Hurts entered to lead the Crimson Tide from behind and win the game. When he graduated a few days later, the university gave him a standing ovation for his dedication, professionalism, and commitment to their school both on and off the football field.
16. LeBron James Opens “I Promise” School
Despite being told he should just “shut up and dribble,” Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James gave back to the Akron, Ohio community with one of the most progressive public schools in the country. The I Promise School opened for 240 third- and fourth-graders in 2018, but will expand to house grades 1-8 by 2022. Designed to help the most challenged students in Akron, the school also gives educational and emotional support for parents to help build a complete education for their children. James called the endeavor, “One of the greatest moments of my life.”
Not-So-Good Moments in Sports
17. J.R. Smith Forgets the Score
The Cleveland Cavaliers were massive underdogs facing the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. With a chance to steal Game One, the score was tied 107-107 late in the game. After a missed free throw, Cavs guard J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound and, embarrassingly, dribbled AWAY from the basket to run out the clock. Cleveland lost in overtime, and ultimately lost the series, and Smith’s once-in-a-lifetime blunder will always be considered the reason why.
18. The Khalil Mack Trade
The first step in the implosion of the Oakland Raiders was trading away their best player, and arguably, the best defensive player in the NFL. Linebacker Khalil Mack was sent to the Chicago Bears for two first-round draft picks, and the Bears immediately signed him to a six-year, $141-million contract, making Mack the richest defensive player in NFL history. In 13 games with Chicago, Mack racked up almost as many sacks (12.5) as the entire Raiders team did in their first 15 games of 2018 (13.0).
19. Wesley Johnson Gets Immortalized by James Harden
Reigning NBA MVP James Harden dribbled down the court where Clippers small forward Wesley Johnson awaited him. Harden started in, stepped back, held the ball for a moment while he watched Johnson crumble like blue cheese, then nailed a 3-pointer to cap a moment that Johnson hopes we’ll eventually forget. Don’t worry Wesley, we won’t.
20. The Ohio State Scandal
When allegations against former Ohio State Buckeyes assistant coach Zach Smith came to light, the program watched as head coach Urban Meyer got caught in a lie, was suspended for three games, and nearly had the 2018 season fall apart before it even began. This entire saga is one that should stay in 2018, but it offered reminders that signs of domestic violence, no matter how small, should NEVER be ignored.
Iconic Viral Moments
21. Colin Kaepernick’s Nike Commericial
When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick resurfaced in Nike’s Just Do It campaign commercial, the advertisement was met with equal parts anger and pride, but it gave us a trending moment that gave everybody a unique voice along the way.
22. Tiger Woods’ Walk to the 18th Hole
On the verge of career win No. 80, and his first PGA Tour victory in almost five years, Tiger Woods walked to the 18th hole at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. With the Tour Championship on the line, an absolutely jaw-dropping crowd followed golf’s biggest star as he headed for victory in a scene that was downright breathtaking. No single person has done more for their sport than Tiger Woods has for golf, and his coronation to cap the 2018 golf season was fit for a king.
23. This Guy Hits Giancarlo Stanton With Home Run Ball
It’s no secret the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees hate each other. But when Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton launched a bomb over the Green Monster at Fenway Park, one Boston fan decided to send the ball back. What happened looked like a scene straight out of Rookie of the Year as the fan launched a rocket that actually HIT Stanton as he rounded second base. The Yankees slugger only smirked and saluted the fan, and New York had the last laugh, winning 8-5.
24. Sister Mary Jo Sobieck Delivers Epic First Pitch
Marian Catholic’s Sister Mary Jo Sobieck was given the honor of tossing a first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game this summer. When she was given the ball, a quick flick off her arm and an impressive toss later thrust her into the spotlight. Now, you can even check out the fitness routine that keeps her in such great shape.
25. Alex Ovechkin Captures Stanley Cup, Goes Wild
When the Washington Capitals captured the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup by beating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games, their captain, Alexander Ovechkin, went on a bender for the ages. From swimming in public fountains to sleeping with it in his bed, the Russian goal-scorer’s celebration was just incredible, and it reminded us of one major factor: 2018, no matter which was you dice it, was a ton of fun and deserves to be celebrated just like this.