As 2016 winds down, it’s time to reflect on what the year offered us sports-wise. Overall, there was more good than bad this year. 2016 saw a handful of promising athletes break out onto the national stage for the first time, while also experiencing notable veterans keeping pace historically. In the end, 2016 became a year of firsts, as it finally snapped championship droughts for cities that were 60, even 100 years in the making. Without hesitation, here is 2016’s biggest sports moments.
Chicago Cubs Break The Curse
The longest championship drought for an American sports franchise was finally put to bed this year. After 108 years of agony, heartache and resentment the Chicago Cubs reached baseball’s mountaintop as World Series champions. They did it in exhilarating style, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit and being part of the most-watched baseball Game 7 in 25 years. It’s one of those sporting events that you’ll remember exactly where you were when the Cubs broke the curse.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Joe Madden will probably have children named after them in the near future, by banding together the once laughingstock of baseball into a championship club that possessed very few weaknesses all-around this season. The Cubs’ front office was able to take advantage of multiple high draft picks several years ago –selecting 2016’s NL MVP Kris Bryant second overall in the 2013 MLB draft, second baseman Javier Baez ninth overall in the 2011 draft, as well as Kyle Schwarber fourth overall in the 2014 draft. Schwarber remarkably recovered from a torn ACL that he suffered in the third game of the season and eventually became an X factor for Chicago in the World Series, initiating a Cubs rally in extra innings of Game 7.
It’s one thing to get the high draft picks, but it’s another thing to make productive use out of it, and to say the least the Cubs have struck gold over their last few selections. In the process, Chicago achieved its championship pedigree with the surplus of keen trades along the way. The biggest trade came when the Cubs lured shortstop Addison Russell away from the Oakland A’s in July 2014. Russell has since turned himself into one of Chicago’s burgeoning stars and a part of the team’s young nucleus that Epstein has pieced together.
Believeland: A Championship Finally Comes Home To Cleveland
LeBron James fulfilled his promise to the city of Cleveland, bringing home an NBA title to his hometown. James was at the forefront of the Cavaliers’ breathtaking Finals run, overcoming a 3-1 deficit against the record-breaking Golden State Warriors. The championship was considered a historic milestone in Cleveland professional sports, considering the last time a Cleveland pro championship occurred was when Jim Brown donned a Browns uniform in 1964.
The road to the NBA championship was a bit tumultuous, not just because they were the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit, but they also fired their head coach David Blatt midseason and were forced to implement an entirely new offensive scheme. Furthermore, the Cavaliers were also without the service of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving the majority of the season, as he recovered from knee surgery.
All in all it was a year full of obstacles, but also a year of individual dominance. Throughout the peaks and valleys of the postseason, LeBron flashed his ruthless athleticism, charisma and grit, leading the Cavs to an average of 27.1 points, 9.5 rebounds and 7.6 assists per game. He put his team, his legacy, and the city of Cleveland on his back to ensure a championship would be won. Last summer’s title could have potentially opened up the floodgates for Cleveland as they’re once again the best team in the Eastern Conference. And last time I checked they still have LeBron and Kyrie Irving, who have quickly become Golden State’s kryptonite.
Coastal Carolina’s Unprecedented Omaha Run
It’s something that all sports fans root for. A magical Cinderella run that seemingly comes out of nowhere, knocking off perennial programs round after round. Coastal Carolina did just that in 2016, shocking the college baseball landscape this summer en route to winning the school’s first ever team National Championship.
The small school in Conway, SC, entered the NCAA tournament as a 5th seed and a virtual afterthought. Despite that, the Chanticleers played their game and took advantage of every opportunity and misstep by their opponents along the way.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention head coach Gary Gilmore and his long journey with the university. Gilmore joined the Coastal Carolina staff back in 1979 and has held the head coaching position since 1996. Stories like these that involves love and passion to a school is why Gilmore provides a life lesson to all college baseball players wanting to experience a championship.