DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08: Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos motions to a receiver during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Sports Authority Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Mile High on January 8, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Steelers in overtime 23-29. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
2012's most surprising moments
Before the Summer Olympics, Jordyn Wieber was heavily promoted as this summer's American "it" girl, the face of gymnastics for the London Games. The world was stunned when the USA's young star didn't qualify for individual competition. Here's a look at other unexpected moments from 2012 . . .
Tebow wins playoff game, with his arm?!
Tim Tebow’s magical ride through the 2011 NFL regular season extended into the 2012 playoffs. Tebow’s Broncos faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC's wild-card round. The lefty had a whale of a game — throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 50 yards and another TD — but the teams played to a 23-23 tie at the end of regulation. On the first play of overtime, Tebow stunningly threw an 80-yard scoring pass to Demaryius Thomas and in a flash Tebow delivered one of the best sports moments of the year.
London was a coming-out party for gymnast Gabby Douglas, who helped the US women win the team all-around gold and then became the first African-American to win Olympic gold in the individual all-around competition.
Johnny Football wins the Heisman
Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the Davey O’Brien award for college football's top quarterback. "Johnny Football," who passed for 3,419 yards and 24 TDs and posted an SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense, led the Aggies to a 10-2 record and a Cotton Bowl berth. There was also that 29-24 upset victory at then-No. 1 Alabama on Nov. 10 that only adds to his lore.
US women win soccer gold
Hope Solo protected the goal, Alex Morgan got the US squad into the final game, but it was Carli Lloyd (back right) who played the role of surprise hero. Lloyd's two goals lifted the US over Japan 2-1 to earn another Olympic gold medal.
Normally, a team like the Miami Heat would dominate NBA headlines. But nothing captured the attention of hoops fans and the general public (remember the TIME magazine cover?) quite like the tale of Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American point guard from Harvard who saved the New York Knicks' 2011-12 season. It's been an incredible story for Lin. At the end of 2011, he was fighting for a roster spot on any NBA team. As 2012 comes to a close, he is the multi-million dollar point guard for the Houston Rockets.
Steve Nash is a Laker???
Word that the Phoenix Suns traded Steve Nash would have been newsworthy on its own. But that the Suns dealt the superstar point guard within their own division, and to a bitter rival at that? That was mind-blowing. The trade went down quickly during the summer and took most sports experts by surprise. Of course the blockbuster deal to a loaded Lakers team hasn’t worked out so well for Nash and the Lakers. Nash was sidelined with a broken leg as the Lakers struggled mightily on the court. However, he returned to the court Dec. 22 in a 118-115 overtime win over Golden State.
Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup
The 2011-12 LA Kings accomplished a feat that even The Great One Wayne Gretzky couldn’t pull off. The eighth-seeded Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games to capture the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. "Go Kings Go!" was the catchphrase of the summer in Los Angeles.
Magic buys the Dodgers
Nobody is synonymous with the city of LA like Magic Johnson. Dodger fans rejoiced when the Lakers great, along with former Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves executive Stan Kasten; financier Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners; and film executive Peter Guber formed a group called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Magic’s group submitted the winning bid for the Dodgers at $2.15 billion . . . and the Dodgers' spending (as well as LA fans' excitement) has skyrocketed.
James Harden traded from OKC
Many NBA fans expected to see Oklahoma City’s trio of young stars regroup following a difficult Finals loss to the Miami Heat to make another run at the title this season. That plan came to a screeching halt Oct. 28 when the Thunder dealt their crafty, young guard James Harden to the Houston Rockets in a stunning move. It seems to have worked out for both parties — Harden is tearing up the court in Houston and the Oklahoma City Thunder are again among the top teams in the NBA.
Miguel Cabrera wins MLB's Triple Crown
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera excited baseball fans in 2012 by winning the first Triple Crown in the sport since 1967. The Triple Crown goes to a player who leads the league in batting average, home runs and RBI. Cabrera led the AL in average/HR/RBI (.330/44/139). Oh, he also won the AL MVP Award, if the Triple Crown wasn’t enough.