The top stories of 2000

There was a Subway Series and an Olympics Down Under. Tiger won going away and the Rams won by a matter of inches. Needless to say, 2000 was an interesting start to the decade in sports.

10. Off his Rocker

In an interview with SI, Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker didn’t exactly embrace the diversity that exists in New York City. Asked if he’d ever consider playing for the Yankees or Mets, Rocker replied, "I’d retire first. It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you’re riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids." For his enlightened comments, Rocker received a 28-game suspension (later reduced to 14) and the everlasting hatred of most New York fans. Oh, yeah. He also received a 700-policeman strong security detail and a snazzy protective covering over the bullpen on his first business trip back to Queens.

9. Isn’t he Grand?

In the Wimbledon final against longtime nemesis Patrick Rafter, Pete Sampras was down a set, trailed in the second-set tiebreaker and was battling both a nagging injury and some very typical All-England Club weather. Not exactly the formula for making history. But then, Sampras wasn’t exactly your every-day tennis player. Sampras overcame both the tendonitis and rough hours of rain delays and rallied to defeat Rafter in four sets. In doing so, he tied one record — Willie Renshaw’s mark of seven Wimbledon titles — while claiming another for his own, breaking his deadlock with Roy Emerson with his 13th career Grand Slam.

8. McSorley was McNasty

Marty McSorley made a career out of being, for lack of a better word, a goon. But what happened on Feb. 21, 2000 was extreme, even by McSorley’s goonish standards. The Bruins enforcer hit Vancouver’s Donald Brashear from behind with his stick, knocking him unconscious and leaving him with a grade 3 concussion. McSorley was suspended for the final 23 games of the 1999-2000 season. But this tale of crime and punishment didn’t end there. In an unprecedented development, McSorley was later found guilty of assault and while he received no jail time as a result of the convinction, his suspension was extended and he never played in the NHL again.

7. The Sydney Olympics

One of the hallmark moments of the 2000 Summer Games — Marion Jones’ five track-and-field medals (three gold and two bronze — would later be tainted, as Jones was forced to surrender those medals after she was implicated in the BALCO scandal and admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. But nothing could taint the summer’s two other biggest stars, even if no one could have anticipated that an Aborigine woman and an American wrestler would have been the Games’ biggest stories. Australia’s Kathy Freeman became the first athlete to light the Olympic torch and win a gold medal in the same Games. After winning the 400 meters, just the second Australian Aboriginal Olympic champion took her victory lap carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags. While Freeman was one of the favorites in her event, the United States’ Rulon Gardner was a decided underdog when he faced Russia’s Alexander Karelin in the final of the Greco-Roman heavyweight division. After all, Karelin hadn’t lost once in the previous 13 years. In fact, Karelin hadn’t even given up a single point in six years of international competition. A single point, as it turned out, was all Gardner needed for the most shocking upset of the Games.

6. How the West was won

With 10 minutes left in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, it appeared as if the L.A. Lakers were en route to a historic collapse. After not losing three consecutive games all season, L.A. was on the verge of doing so at the worst possible time. The visiting Portland Trail Blazers held a 15-point lead and were well on their way to becoming just the seventh team to fight their way back from a 3-1 series deficit … and the first to do so in the conference finals. Instead, a very different sort of history was made. L.A. mounted the largest fourth-quarter Game 7 comeback in NBA history, erasing all of Portland’s lead in a 15-0 run (fueled in part by 13 consecutive Trail Blazer misses) and pulling out an 89-84 win. The Lakers would ride the momentum from that comeback all the way to the NBA championship — the franchise’s first title since the end of the Showtime era.

5. It was a miracle

Of all the postseason injustices suffered by the Buffalo Bills during the 1990s — and given that the franchise lost four straight Super Bowls in that era, there was plenty of postseason injustice to go around — none may have been as disheartening as being on the wrong end of the Music City Miracle. With 16 seconds remaining in a first-round playoff game vs. the Tennessee Titans, the Bills’ Steve Christie made what appeared to be a game-winning field goal. But the Titans weren’t done yet. Lorenzo Neal received the ensuing kickoff and handed the ball off to Frank Wycheck. The Titans tight end then threw a lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson, who ran down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown and — once replay officials were unable to determine conclusively that an illegal forward pass had been thrown — a 22-16 win.

4. Clemens-Piazza II

The first-ever Subway Series was a wee bit anticlimactic, with the Yankees beating the Mets in five games. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama. Earlier in the 2000 season, Roger Clemens had responded to Mike Piazza’s propensity for knocking the Yankees pitcher all over the park by hitting the Mets catcher squarely in the head. So when both the Mets and Yankees won their respective pennants, the looming confrontation between Clemens and Piazza was almost as heavily anticipated as the Series itself. And Clemens didn’t disappoint. On the third pitch of Piazza’s first at-bat vs. Clemens in Game 2, the Mets slugger fouled off a fastball, shattering his bat in the process. The largest shard landed in the general vicinity of Clemens, who promptly picked it up … and hurled it at Piazza. The bench clearing that resulted didn’t faze Clemens, who proceeded to throw eight shutout innings, or the Yankees, who made relatively short work of their crosstown rivals.

3. Indiana’s Knight-mare is over

In May of 2000, the Indiana University board of trustees issued a "zero-tolerance" policy for head basketball coach Bobby Knight, following a string of embarrassing incidents (including, but not limited to, the choking of one of his players). Knight lasted just four months before violating that policy, grabbing an IU freshman by the arm and berating him for speaking to him disrespectfully. Two days later, the most successful (albeit controversial) coach in IU history was gone. Knight had survived the chair toss and the bull whip, his nationally televised comments about rape ("relax and enjoy it") and assaulting a Puerto Rican police officer. And in the end, it was a lecture on civility — ironically from one of the least civil men in sports history — that cost him his job.

2. We can only pick one Tiger moment?

Tiger Woods really could have laid claim to two or three places on this list. After all, he did win three of the four Grand Slams, taking the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, all in record-setting fashion. But in the interest of a little diversity, we’re limiting Mr. Woods to just one entry — his lapping of the field at the U.S. Open. Woods wasn’t just the only player to break par at Pebble Beach, he did it by 12 strokes — or 15 strokes better than second-place finishers Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. When it was all said and done, Woods held tournament records for the largest lead after 36, 54 and 72 holes, the lowest 36- and 72-hole scores and the most strokes under par. And for good measure, he didn’t three-putt once in 72 holes of the toughest test in tournament golf.

1. Missed it by that much

The Greatest Show on Turf, aka the St. Louis Rams, was widely expected to win Super Bowl XXXIV behind the strength of Kurt Warner and its high-powered, record-setting offense. But instead, it was a defensive play that landed the Lombardi Trophy in the Show Me state. With the Rams holding onto a 23-16 lead and time running out, the Titans put together one last-ditch effort to force the game into overtime. But the Tennessee drive ended just short — one yard short, to be exact. On the final play of the game, Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson a mere three feet shy of the goal line to preserve the win.