Though the decade just wrapped up, the 2010s contained some of the greatest sports moments of all time
While some may accuse me of recency bias for saying the 2010s held some of the greatest sports moments ever, the 2010s truly did house a number of the best spectacles American sports fans have ever seen.
It is incredibly hard to pick just one moment from the big four leagues, and since we already wrote about the best NBA Finals and World Series ever, I’m going to choose two other moments for the NBA and MLB.
Here are the best sports moments of the 2010s:
As a die hard San Francisco Giants fan, this is a biased selection (though I also could have chosen when the Los Angeles Dodgers lost the World Series in 2017, or 2018). However, any baseball enthusiast could tell you that Madison Bumgarner’s postseason performance in 2014 was unparalleled. He did what Barry Bonds could not do in the 2002 World Series — carry his team to victory.
Let’s start off by looking at the stats. During the 2014 postseason, Bumgarner pitched a record-breaking 52.2 innings with a 1.03 ERA. This included a complete game shutout in the wild card round over the Pittsburgh Pirates and three quality starts where he only allowed five earned runs and struck out 18 batters in the NLDS and NLCS. But it was his performance during the 2014 fall classic against the Kansas City Royals that truly made Bumgarner “Mr. October.”
Bumgarner started Game 1, tossing seven innings and allowing just one run on three hits and a walk while fanning five. The Giants claimed victory 7-1 and held a 1-0 series lead. Then the Giants dropped Game 2, 7-2, and Game 3, 3-2, before drawing the series even at 2-2 with a 11-4 win in Game 4. Bumgarner started his second contest in Game 5, dominating the Royals with a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits while striking out eight. The Giants grabbed a 3-2 series lead, but the Royals crushed San Francisco 11-0 in Game 6, bringing it to a winner-take-all Game 7.
Both starters struggled early, as Tim Hudson only made it 1.2 innings after allowing two runs for the Giants, and Jeremy Guthrie was pulled after allowing three runs in 3.1 innings for the Royals. Jeremey Affeldt pitched 2.1 innings of shutout ball for the Giants, and that’s when the world’s eyes turned to the 6’4” southpaw coming out of the bullpen.
On just three days of rest after already pitching 16 innings in the series, Bumgarner was coming in.
It didn’t start out well, as he allowed a single and a sacrifice bunt, leaving a runner-in-scoring-position with no outs. But Bumgarner rallied, getting 13 straight outs before allowing a single which turned into a triple thanks to an error by Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco. With two outs and a man on third, Bumgarner went to work trying to get the final out of the World Series against Salvador Perez. Perez popped up a pitch in foul territory and Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval caught it, ending the series.
No pitcher has ever had a postseason performance like Bumgarner did in 2014. The Chicago Cubs World Series victory in 2016 was perhaps the biggest moment of the decade, but MadBum’s heroics were more memorable.
It seems like the New England Patriots own so many of the best moments in the NFL over the 2010s, and while their victory over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI was the better game, Malcolm Butler’s interception to beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX was the better moment.
To give some context, the Seahawks were the best team in the NFL at the time. They had dominated the past two seasons, going a combined 25-7 in the regular season, and destroyed the Denver Broncos 43-8 in the previous Super Bowl. Seattle’s “legion of boom” was perhaps the best defense in the history of the NFL, allowing just 14.25 points and 239.6 yards per game. Led by the NFL’s best cornerback (at the time) Richard Sherman and Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas III, the Seahawks held one of the strongest secondary groups in league history.
However, down 28-22 with less than a minute remaining, the Seahawks were counting on their offense to win the game. Though he’s surely a Hall of Famer now, quarterback Russell Wilson was still young and inexperienced then. But Wilson had ice in his veins, as he completed three passes for 75 yards to get the Seahawks to New England’s five-yard-line with just over a minute remaining. Star running back Marshawn Lynch, also known as “Beast Mode,” charged up the middle on the next play to the one-yard-line.
The whole world expected Lynch to finish the job on the next play, but head coach Pete Caroll decided to throw the ball (resulting in countless memes), and Wilson was picked off by Butler in the end zone, sealing the victory for New England. It was their first Super Bowl victory in a decade, and they would add two more titles in the next five years, while the Seahawks haven’t even been back to the NFC Championship since then.
Steph Curry’s dominance over the past five years from beyond the arc may make fans forget that he wasn’t always the three-point king. Ray Allen was the original, and still holds a fair amount of records (that Curry will likely break), but none of his triples were more significant than his game saving three-pointer against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013.
It was Game 6 of the NBA Finals and the Miami Heat were down 3-2 against the Spurs. The Spurs held onto a 10-point lead, 75-65, entering the fourth quarter and did everything they could to shut down the best player in the game, LeBron James. The Spurs were somewhat successful in this, holding James to 30 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds, but even they could not contain him forever.
James rallied the Heat and their defict was at three with under 20 seconds remaining. However, James’ three point attempt in the closing seconds was too strong, but Chris Bosch grabbed the rebound and slung it to Allen in the corner who drilled the three with five seconds remaining, tying the game at 95-95. The Heat would go on to win it in overtime, 103-100, and win the Finals in Game 7 by a score of 95-88, and giving Miami their second consecutive championship.
So what if this happened in the opening year of the decade? It was still a part of the 2010s. I was tempted to go with the Las Vegas Knights’ spectacular inaugural season, or with the St. Louis Blues’ first title in 2019, but this was the best moment of the decade.
The Chicago Blackhawks hadn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1961, a drought only trumped by the Cubs 108-year stretch between winning the World Series, at least in Chicago fans’ eyes. The Blackhawks put together a strong 2009-10 season, going 52-22-8 during the regular season, winning the Central Division and securing the second seed in the Western Conference. Then Chicago took out the Nashville Predators in the quarterfinals (4-2), then the Vancouver Canucks in the semifinals (4-2), and swept the San Jose Sharks (4-0) in the Western Conference Finals.
The Blackhawks squared off against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final. The Flyers weren’t as strong of a squad, but they still had a respectable 41-35-6 regular season record, before taking out the New Jersey Devils (4-1) in the quarterfinals, the Boston Bruins (4-3) in the semifinals—in which the Flyers came back from a 0-3 series deficit making them the third team in NHL history to do so—, and the Montreal Canadiens (4-1) in the Conference Finals.
The Blackhawks claimed Game 1 (6-5) and Game 2 (2-1), but dropped Game 3 (4-3) and Game 4 (5-3). Chicago rallied for a 7-4 victory in Game 5, setting the stage to end the 49-year-drought in Game 6. The Blackhawks struck first, scoring on a goal from Dustin Byfuglien, but Philadelphia tied it up.
In the second period, the Flyers grabbed the lead on a goal by Daniel Briere, but the Blackhawks tied it up and then grabbed the lead again on goals by Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd. The Flyers tied it up once more before the end of regulation.
Then, in overtime, winger Patrick Kane took a short angle shot and started celebrating. Kane was the only one cheering at first, since the puck got lost and no one knew if it was a goal, but then the entire team joined him when it was confirmed. Kane brought Chicago it’s first Stanley Cup in nearly half a century, and helped them win it again just two years later and again in 2015 making the Blackhawks the NHL dynasty of the 2010s.