The 10 greatest sports moments of the decade

The Tens don’t quite have the same ring to them as other decades, do they? Perhaps it is because they’re still underway (for a few more hours at least), so fresh that there simply hasn’t been any time to get nostalgic about them.

Maybe it’s just a numbers hierarchy kind of thing: the Sixties, the Seventies, and the Eighties having a greater pull on our psyche just as a result of being bigger figures. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

Regardless, in sports, the 2010s allowed for a feast of moments that made us go “wow.” And because while we were watching sports, others were conceiving formerly unthinkable new technologies, we were able to follow our exclamations of surprise and wonder with a high-res photo taken on a smart phone and a social media post. Maybe we’d even watched the whole thing unfold on a tablet at a coffee shop, rather than the generational staple combo of couch and television.

It is possible that the biggest sports story of the past 10 years is how we consume the events and athletic accomplishments we love, but that is a different piece for a different time.

As the Twenties approach, FOX Sports has put together a list of top 10 sports moments from the decade about to disappear into the chronicles of human existence. It was a collective effort from the FOX Sports Digital team, and like all these things, far from an exact science. It sparked plenty of heated discussion and disagreement in our office, and if it doesn’t generate conjecture and counter-argument from the readers, well, that’s disappointing.

Read into it what you will. To me, it says that we love drama more than domination. Simone Biles made our list, but Serena Williams didn’t, possibly hurt by her own capacity to lap the field. If this was a roster of the greatest athletes of the decade, she’d be a lock.

Our list topper was really a combination of moments: Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals saw the block LeBron James will hold dear into eternity and Kyrie Irving’s absolute dagger of a trey, but we’ve seen huge blocks and great shots before.

The reason they mattered so much was entirely due to the context, the timing and the significance. Those two dramatic plays sealed the city of Cleveland’s first sporting glory for 52 years, it toppled a team for the ages in the record-breaking 73-9 Golden State Warriors, and it put the seal on a remarkable 3-1 series comeback.

James’ block turned history on its head in an instant, which seems to be what we think of when we refer to classic “moments.” Personally, I was fortunate to have been at five of the 10 events on this list and will never forget how the University of Phoenix Stadium froze for a split second of silence while figuring out Malcolm Butler had poached the ball to give Super Bowl XLIX an extraordinary last twist.

You couldn’t have seen it coming, just like the Kick Six, which would not have even happened if T.J. Yeldon had stepped out of bounds a fraction of a second later on the previous play, yet stripped Alabama of yet another national championship appearance in a way that rival Auburn will cherish forever.

Kris Jenkins’ buzzer beater for Villanova in the waning seconds of the 2016 NCAA championship game against North Carolina ripped up the script, though if we’re talking college basketball moments, my heart still lies with University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s 16 vs. 1 mangling of Virginia in 2018. I’m a sucker for schools with five words in their name.

Personally, I couldn’t get on board with the omission of Carli Lloyd’s incredible hat-trick in the final of the 2015 Women’s World Cup as the United States stormed to a resounding 5-2 triumph. And if moments are about the creation of memories let me tell you this: having been at both Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey Rousey-Holly Holm, I can recall very little of note about the former and almost everything of the latter.

We like the unexpected, but we are also sappy sentimentalists. Tiger Woods’ Masters triumph in the spring delivered on both counts, a courageous, dogged, ferocious turning back of a clock that had been jammed on 14 major wins for 11 years and seemed destined to never move again.

Tiger’s body is almost a barometer of the decade that just passed. Most of us feel creakier than we did at the start of the 2010s, but his frame had to be surgically rebuilt to give him a shot at April magic.

Leicester City’s “moment” was a little different in that it played out over an entire English Premier League season, a competition where parity is a laughable concept and the dominance of a few is a fact of life. At 5,000-to-1, Leicester was seen as being far more likely to finish bottom out of the 20 teams than to win it all and was regarded as a near-certainty to be relegated as one of the worst three.

There are no playoffs in English soccer, no Super Bowl-type final, just a grind over nine long months to see who has the best record. When Leicester clinched the title the players weren’t even on the field, but in the living room of forward Jamie Vardy, watching on television as Tottenham’s failure to defeat Chelsea meant they could not be caught.

How the 2015-16 Warriors would have liked a similar system, the ultimate reward of regular season excellence, to be in place.

But playoffs allow for unseen comebacks, and a few months after the Cavs rebounded from a 3-1 hole, the Chicago Cubs did the same thing. A bunch of fire-hurling pitchers ultimately proved strong enough to crush more than a century of dark Cubs history, but not without a few scares along the way.

In the heady moments of those celebrations it seemed like there would never be a bigger or greater tale, all the backstory of Steve Bartman and the black cat and the curse of the Billy Goat. It always feels that way, until the next time.

As the years go by, we are more grateful for the epic moments we witness but, if anything, perhaps a little less surprised by them. We are living in a golden era in sports where greatness isn’t and never will be normal, but must be eminently possible because we see so much of it.

The iconic moments continue, rare enough for us to go “wow,” frequent enough for us to crave more.

FOX Sports’ Greatest Moments of the 2010s:

10. Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor

9. Simone Biles’ 2016 Olympic dominance

8. Germany defeat Brazil 7-1

7. Villanova buzzer beater to win 2016 NCAA title

6. Tiger Woods wins the 2019 Masters

5. Leicester City win Premier League title

4. The Kick Six

3. Cubs win the 2016 World Series

2. Malcolm Butler INT to win Super Bowl XLIX

1. The Block/Cavaliers overcome 3-1 NBA Finals deficit