As we put a bow on 2019, it's always fun to look back at the those memorable sports moments from the calendar year that was. Spanning all sports, not just the four majors, there was plenty to marvel and celebrate — throughout the world.
Here's a look at the most notable sports moments from 2019 (in chronological order).
Seven days into the new year, and college football crowned its national champion for the 2018 season. Thanks to three touchdown passes from true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence and a lock-down defense, the Tigers scored 30 unanswered points to rout favored Alabama, 44-16, to win their second national title in three seasons.
It will be hard to top the excitement and controversy generated during both the AFC and NFC championship games on Jan. 20. New Orleans could not hold an early 13-0 lead and was victimized by one of the worst, no-call pass interference scenarios in NFL history. The Los Angeles Rams ended up winning 26-23 on Greg Zuerlein's 57-yard field in overtime. Later in the AFC, New England and Kansas City needed overtime after combining for 38 fourth-quarter points. The Patriots prevailed, 37-31, also in OT.
Super Bowl LIII will go down as one of the least entertaining title contests in NFL history — and lowest-scoring ever. However, New England's 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams resulted in plenty of historical significance. It was the sixth such title for the Patriots, tying Pittsburgh's record. At age 41, New England quarterback Tom Brady became the first player to win six Super Bowls. Coach Bill Belichick is now the oldest coach to do so, at 66.
A little more than a month after the death of Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs, JGR driver Denny Hamlin snapped a 47-race drought by winning the Daytona 500 in mid-February. In a two-lap, overtime dash, Hamlin held off JGR teammate Kyle Busch to win the premier NASCAR event. Fellow JGR racer Erik Jones finished third.
On Feb. 9, the Alliance of American Football made its debut. By April 2, the eight-team league, designed to give football fans more of the game to enjoy following the NFL season, was done . Operations were suspended, and the league ultimately filed for bankruptcy. An outfit with no kickoffs or extra points played mostly in front of half-empty stadiums was unable to sustain itself — even with former NFL big wigs like Bill Polian in charge.
The process was drawn out and tiring, but Manny Machado and Bryce Harper each finally found a place to play baseball in 2019. On Feb. 21, Machado signed a 10-year, $300 million deal with San Diego. Not to be outdone, Harper inked a 13-year contract with Philadelphia for a record $330 million in early March. Of course, neither player's new team reached the postseason, and the clubs they finished 2018 with enjoyed much success this year — one achieving the ultimate prize at the expense of the other.
Despite giving up a double-digit lead and losing star forward Lauren Cox to a knee injury, Baylor persevered to win its third national championship, 82-81, over Notre Dame on April 8. Bears guard Chloe Jackson scored the go-ahead bucket to make it 82-80 with 3.9 seconds left. Irish star Arike Ogunbowale was fouled with 1.9 seconds to play but made only one of two free throws, allowing Baylor to escape with the title.
One season removed from becoming the first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed to lose to a 16, Virginia made up for that unthinkable early exit by winning its first men's national basketball championship. After Kyle Guy made three free throws with 0.6 seconds left to beat Auburn, 63-62, in the national semifinals, the Cavaliers scored 17 points in overtime for an 86-77 title-game victory over Texas Tech.
It was certainly a long time coming for Tiger Woods, who outlasted a logjam of competitors atop the leaderboard to win the 2019 Masters . It was his 15th major victory and first since 2008. The 43-year-old Woods, who won by a stroke over Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele, never enjoyed the same caliber of success the rest of the season. But a fifth Green Jacket proved he's still capable of playing at a high level.
The end of the 2018-19 NBA regular season not only brought the anticipation of the playoffs but also the culmination of three great careers. Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker each retired at the end of the campaign. Wade did so after averaging a career 22.0 points and winning three NBA titles in 16 seasons. Nowitzki played 21 seasons, all with Dallas, and averaged 20.7 points while winning one championship. Parker won four NBA titles and made six All-Star teams while playing all but one of his 18 seasons in San Antonio.
The Kentucky Derby is usually filled with excitement, and that was certainly the case in 2019 — for something most viewers didn't even see happen in real time. Maximum Security was the first horse to cross the finish line on May 4 but was disqualified for swerving into the path of other horses, causing them a better finish. Second-place long shot, Country House, was awarded the win in the first Kentucky Derby ever to disqualify the winner for an on-track infraction.
Liverpool fell short of winning that elusive Premier League title in 2018-19, but the Reds did manage to bring another UEFA Champions League trophy to Anfield. Liverpool topped fellow EPL side Tottenham Hotspur, 2-0, on June 1, in the first all-English final since 2008 for its first such title in 14 years. It was the sixth Champions League (or European Cup) crown for Liverpool, which rank third all time.
Paced by a remarkable postseason from Kawhi Leonard (30.5 points, 9.1 rebounds per game in playoffs), the Toronto Raptors became the first non-U.S. team team to win an NBA title. The Raptors officially got it done on June 13 with a 114-110 road victory over the banged-up Golden State Warriors in Game 6. The loss ended the Warriors' quest for a third consecutive NBA title.
Paced by rookie netminder Jordan Binnington, the St Louis Blues surged from the bottom half of the Western Conference standings into the playoffs and then to the Stanley Cup. In the Finals, the Blues won three times on the road, including 4-1 behind 32 saves from Binnington in Game 7 at Boston on June 12. With eight goals and 15 assists, St. Louis' Ryan O'Reilly won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
In perhaps one of the biggest sports' surprises of 2019, Kansan Gary Woodland won his first major title, at the U.S. Open, topping defending champion and No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka by three shots at Pebble Beach. Woodland, whose best previous U.S. Open finish was a tie for 23rd in 2011, shot 13-under while going below 70 for each round.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the accidental death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher on July 1, what his teammates were able to accomplish in the wake of that tragedy was truly remarkable. On July 12, the same night the Angels paid tribute to their fallen teammate, Taylor Cole and Felix Peña combined to no-hit the Seattle Mariners during a 13-0 rout. The amazingly timed and emotionally charged feat was the second of four no-hitters thrown in 2019. Oakland's Mike Fiers no-hit Cincinnati (May 7), four Houston pitchers got the Mariners again (Aug. 3) and fellow Astro Justin Verlander did it to Toronto (Sept. 1).
While it was hardly a surprise that the U.S. women's national soccer team repeated as World Cup champions, the accomplishment was no less special. Led by Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe (six goals, three assists), the Americans outscored their opponents, 26-3, while winning all seven matches, concluding with a 2-0 triumph over the upstart Netherlands in the final on July 7.
Anthony Davis wanted to play with LeBron James in Los Angeles, and he got his wish by being traded from New Orleans. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving chose to join the Brooklyn Nets. And of course, Kawhi Leonard parlayed his playoff success into a huge payday by telling the Los Angeles Clippers that he wanted to play for them. Ask, and they all shall receive — the current trend of NBA player movement.
At age 15, Coco Gauff announced her presence with some serious authority at Wimbledon in 2019. After qualifying for the tournament's main draw, Gauff stunned Venus Williams in straight sets and then reached the fourth round with wins over Magdaléna Rybáriková and Polona Hercog. Gauff's run ultimately ended with a loss to eventual Wimbledon champ Simona Halep, but the tennis world saw a potential star in the making.
What would tennis fans expect when two of the worlds best, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, got together for a Wimbledon final? A memorable match, certainly, but one that lasted four hours and 57 minutes on July 14. In one for the ages, top-seeded Djokovic defeated No. 2 Federer 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12, to defend his Wimbledon title in which he came back from being down at championship point twice in the match.
If American swim fans are wondering who the next Michael Phelps is, we might have found him. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel won a record eight medals at the 2019 World Championships in South Korea, six of which were gold, including wins in the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle. In the the 100 butterfly, Dressel broke Phelps' 10-year-old world record with a time of 49.50 seconds
The saga of Antonio Brown dominated the NFL's preseason headlines and carried over into the start of the 2019 regular season. From frostbite on his feet to Helmetgate to issues with Oakland general manager Mike Mayock, Brown ended up never playing a game with the Raiders. After they released him, he landed with New England. Brown caught a touchdown pass in his only game with the Patriots in Week 2. But as allegations of sexual and personal misconduct mounted, he was let go by the Pats. As of mid-November, Brown was still out of a job.
Though Rory McIlroy failed to make the cut at the Open Championship on his home soil of Northern Ireland, he did make up for that by winning his second FedEx Cup title. McIlroy won the score-adjusted TOUR Championship to top Xander Schauffele by four strokes in the playoff's final event. McIloy also was named PGA Tour Player of the Year for a third time.
We should not expect anything less than dominance from American gymnast Simone Biles. During October's World Championships in Germany, Biles landed an amazing triple-twisting double backflip on the floor and dismounted the beam into a double-twisting double backflip. Oh yeah: Biles also won five gold medals (floor, beam, vault, all-around and team) at the event.
In the first World Series to feature the road team winning every game, the Washington Nationals scored all their runs in the final three innings to win the franchise's first championship with a 6-2 win at Houston on Oct. 30. Stephen Strasburg, an 18-game winner during the regular season, went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA in the postseason and was named World Series MVP.
Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.