ftw_yirsports2015

As 2015 rolls to an end, FTW looks back at the top 10 sports moments of 2015. Our list doesn’t necessarily contain every great moment (sorry USWNT) or every champion (apologies, Chicago Blackhawks), but the moments that best defined the year in sports or introduced us to the stars of tomorrow.

Click here for more Best of 2015 coverage.

10. The rip-off of the century

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

A fight seven years in the making turned out to be about five years past its expiration date, as massive hype and a bigger price tag led to sky-high expectations for Mayweather-Pacquiao, expectations that were clearly going to go unrealized the moment Floyd clinched his way to a less-than-thrilling first-round victory on points. Twelve rounds, 36 minutes, $99.95 to the viewer, $220 million (reportedly) to Mayweather and a unanimous decision of never again.

9. The Seahawks give away the Super Bowl

(AP)

(AP)

There are very few Super Bowl games remembered because of failure instead of success: Jackie Smith, Scott Norwood and the 1999 Tennessee Titans all come to mind. And in February, we added the Seattle Seahawks to that list, as the team infamously went for a game-winning pass instead of a game-winning Marshawn Lynch rumble and had the ball picked off by the Patriots, the NFL’s evilest empire. What’s so interesting about the interception becoming the defining play of Super Bowl XLIX was that it was set up by an insane Jermaine Kearse catch that would have gone down in the annals of Super Bowl history as one of the greatest plays ever, had Pete Carroll not handed the game away to give New England a game it had already lost.

8. Katie Ledecky dominates the pool

(AP)

(AP)

The Maryland teenager had her appetizer in 2015 and oh, how delicious it was. Ledecky, an 18-year-old Stanford student, became the first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle events at swimming’s World Championships,. In all, she pulled in five golds and set three world records, giving just a taste of what America can expect in Rio, when she will go from relative unknown to national superstar in the span of one week.

7. Wilmer Flores, Daniel Murphy and those Amazin’ Mets

Though it wasn’t a championship moment, this scene, from the night before MLB’s trade deadline, is one of the most indelible of the year. Wilmer Flores, the Mets shortstop who’d been with the team since he was a 16-year-old prospect, started bawling on the field after finding out he’d been traded (teams usually take out players who are on the block), then walked off the field to a rousing ovation.

Turns out Flores wasn’t actually traded (the deal was nixed after concern about the health of another player involved) and the Mets kept on keeping on, storming to the NL East title and watching Daniel Murphy turn into Babe Ruth (or Darryl Strawberry at least) in the playoffs, before the magic ran out in the World Series.

6. Royals bring a title back to Kansas City

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

Speaking of the Royals, the team, long the dregs of MLB, playing in front of a couple hundred fans on hot summer nights in seasons of 100 losses, roared back to life in 2014 after years of shrewd drafting (like the Washington Nationals had two years earlier) and then turned it into a championship in 2015 with great pitching, a small-ball style that supposedly was out of style and a rowdy fanbase that had been starved for a winner.

5. Steph Curry breaks a 40-year drought, brings Golden State a title

(AP)

(AP)

The return of LeBron James to Cleveland was quietly, and quickly, usurped by Steph Curry turning his Warriors turning into the NBA’s top attraction. Curry took home the MVP and won a title, then led the Warriors on a record 24-game winning streak to open the 2015-16 season. The team now stands at 28-1, Curry is scoring 30.8 ppg (2.4 points more than his next closest competitor) and for as long as Golden State keeps up its high level of play, every game is a must watch as that 72-10 record from the 1995-96 Bulls looks evermore in danger of falling.

4. Jordan Spieth wins The Masters and U.S. Open and just misses British Open title too

(Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

(Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Spieth made his long awaited (not really that long, I suppose) debut in the majors winner’s circle with a commanding win at The Masters, then hung tough on a fascinating U.S. Open track in the tournament’s debut in the Pacific Northwest, eventually winning after Dustin Johnson handed the tournament away at an errant shot on 17 and a missed putt on 18 (doing his best to become his generation’s Phil Mickelson). Then, at the British Open, when Spieth was trying to become the first man since Ben Hogan to win the first three legs of the Slam, he teed off on the Road Hole with a share of the lead, made bogey there and then left his birdie putt just wide on No. 18, missing a playoff, and history, by one stroke. In a year in which people finally realized the old Tiger Woods wasn’t walking through the door ever again, it was brilliant to see three youngsters — Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day — take the reins of a sport. Golf is in good hands (and, hey, if Tiger can come back and win a Slam or two, all the better).

3. Serena Williams comes within three sets of winning the Grand Slam

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

(USA TODAY Sports Images)

On paper, Novak Djokovic had the better tennis season than Serena Williams and not even the most strident member of ‘Rena’s Army could say otherwise. But the pressure fell off Djokovic in early June when he lost the French Open to Stan Wawrinka, thus ending his hope of a Grand Slam. Serena won that tournament and survived two scares at Wimbledon to take that one too (giving her four-straight Slams). Then the Grand Slam hype began. The women’s final at the U.S. Open sold out before the men’s. People who hadn’t discussed tennis in years were wondering if Serena could do it. And once the draw in front of her completely fell apart, it was all but assured she’d do it. But then, after winning her first set in a semifinal against Italian journeywoman Roberta Vinci, Serena choked it all away and all those people who had bought tickets for Serena’s finals coronation ended up seeing two players they’d probably never heard of (Vinci and her countrywoman Flavia Pennetta) battle it for our national championship.

2. Wisconsin downs Kentucky

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Just like Serena, Kentucky fell two games short of history. After surviving a scare against Notre Dame in the Elite Eight, the 38-0 Cats fell to Wisconsin in one of the tournament’s greatest games ever played. Every possession felt monumental. Every shot felt like the one that would turn the tide. Every blow of the whistle felt obtrusive. The adrenaline was pumping even for those watching at home. And, in the end, Wisconsin proved that the best team doesn’t always win the tournament. Alas, their victory would be short-lived. Forty-eight hours after pulling the upset of the year, the Badgers blew a nine-point lead with five minutes left and lost the championship to perennial power Duke.

1. American Pharoah wins Triple Crown

(Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

(Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

In a non-Olympic year, this was the true moment of national unification. (The women’s World Cup win was great, but it was a movie we’ve seen before.) A racehorse who entered the Kentucky Derby as the betting favorite but was hardly thought to be an all-time great took home the Run for the Roses and, like many horses before him, also won at the Preakness. But that had happened 13 times since the last Triple Crown winner (Affirmed in 1978 — 39 years ago) and nine times in the last 18 years. The longer distance of the Belmont and the fact that other horse owners rested their thoroughbreds at the Preakness to bombard Pharoah at the Belmont would prove to be his undoing. And then, magic. You don’t have to know a length from an exacta to get goosebumps while watching the best moment of a memorable sporting year.

Click here for more Best of 2015 coverage.