15 sports stories that defined 2015

Seahawks don’t run the ball

It seemed like the 2015 Seattle Seahawks were a team of destiny, and the Patriots were destined to be done in by another amazing catch.

After already being burned in previous Super Bowls by David Tyree pinning the ball to the side of his helmet, and Mario Manningham’s tightrope act along the sidelines, it only seemed fair that Jermaine Kearse’s incredible juggling catch would lead to a Seahawks touchdown and victory. With the ball at the one-yard line following Kearse’s amazing grab, and with the Seahawks trailing 28-24 with 26 seconds left in the game, everyone expected the ball to be handed off to Marshawn Lynch — who had been the focal point of the Seahawks’ offence all season.

Instead, Pete Carroll called a pass play, and Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler, who had been burned by Kearse on his amazing catch, intercepted the ball, giving the Patriots the improbable 28-24 win, and denying the Seahawks their chance to be two-time defending Super Bowl champs.

Oilers draft McDavid

You’d think that the NHL would have barred the Oilers from selecting first overall after they did so three times in a row between 2010-2012. But luck was on the Oilers side when the lottery balls were drawn and they were handed the golden ticket: franchise centre Connor McDavid.

The Buffalo Sabres had overwhelming odds to win the draft lottery and get the chance to draft Connor McDavid, thought of by many as the best player to appear in the draft since Sidney Crosby. This looked to be the Sabres’ reward for a lost season, where they finished last in the league, and had a 20 per cent chance to win the first overall pick. The fates decided against them however, and it was the Oilers who took home the first overall selection despite only have an 11.5 per cent chance to win.

While McDavid is currently injured, the sense of hope he’s given Oilers fans hasn’t been present in a very long time, and he will be looking to snap the copper and blue’s playoff drought sooner rather than later.

Pacquio-Mayweather dud

This was the fight everyone wanted, about five years too late.

Initial negotiations between Manny Pacquio and Floyd Mayweather started in late 2009, and Mayweather actually signed a contract so fight Pacquio in March of 2010, but Pacquio refused to sign. Negotiations continued between the two camps, but with each passing day, a fight between the two seemed more and more unlikely. Finally, the two met in May of 2015, and the fight was far from the epic contest that many people had envisioned.

Mayweather won easily using a conservative strategy, causing an outcry among fans that thought the fight hadn’t lived up to its “fight of the century” status. After the fight, rumours surfaced that Pacquio had fought with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, further causing people to think of how much better the fight could have been if it had taken place while both fighters were healthy and at their peak.

FIFA controversy

It seemed like Sepp Blatter was untouchable. Even after numerous allegations of corruption within the organization during his tenure, the much-maligned Blatter still managed to get reelected for a fifth term in office in May of 2015, thanks to the resignation of his only opponent in the race.

Just two days before Blatter’s re-election, seven FIFA officials were arrested on various charges. Outrage was directed towards Blatter and FIFA, and Blatter resigned shortly after, citing the fact that his “mandate wasn’t supported by everyone.”

Allegations of bribery and collusion between different football governing bodies surfaced from many different sources regarding the hosting of tournaments, with the 2010, 2018, and 2022 World Cup bidding processes all coming into question. 2015 was an ugly year for the sport that calls itself the beautiful game.

American Pharoah wins the Triple Crown

American Pharaoh made history in 2015 when he swept the Triple Crown becoming the 11th thoroughbred to achieve the title and the first horse to win a grand slam, which includes winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders Cup Classic.

The road to equestrian success was not clear-cut for Ahmed Zayat, the owner of American Pharaoh. Zayat has had three horses finish second at the Kentucky Derby before American Pharaoh’s victory, and even filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010. Zayat stables came agonizingly close to a Triple Crown in 2012 when their horses Bodemeister and Paynter finished second in each of the three legs. American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza finally helped Zayat realize his Triple Crown dream this year.

The oldest Jockey to win the Triple Crown, an owner with a tumultuous history in horse racing, and three failed attempts at the title make this story worthy of any Disney tear-jerker.

Emoji Extravaganza

The Los Angeles Clippers weren’t prepared to give up DeAndre Jordan without a fight. After verbally agreeing to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers sought to win back Jordan with various players making their way to his Houston home to convince him to stay.

Clippers players Blake Griffin, J.J. Redick, and Austin Rivers all chimed in over Twitter with various emojis, old man Paul Pierce chimed in as well, tweeting a .jpg of a rocket emoji, because he apparently didn’t know how his phone worked. The situation escalated further as the deadline for Jordan to make his decision drew closer, with Blake Griffin taking things to the next level by tweeting a picture of a chair blocking the door of Jordan’s home.

Clearly, the Clippers weren’t messing around, and they eventually won over Jordan, and convinced him to stay, much to the dismay of Chandler Parsons and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks. If this is how NBA free agency looks like now, bring it on.


In a year that saw both the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic abuse scandals, the NFL decided to suspend Tom Brady four games for supposedly letting the air out of footballs.

The scandal pertains to the first half of the New England Patriots AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts, where after Brady threw an interception, the ball was taken to the Colts’ sideline and measured for its air pressure. Supposedly, the ball was not inflated properly. Eventually, the NFL launched an investigation, and found that Brady had been largely aware of Patriots’ equipment staff deflating footballs.

NFL commissioner Roger Goddell suspended Brady four games following the release of the inquiry, and Brady immediately appealed. After the appeal was upheld, the NFLPA filed an injunction against the league, and the case was transferred to court. After the court proceedings, and some of the worst courtroom sketches you’ll ever see, the suspension was overturned, and Brady was cleared to start week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The word “circus” doesn’t even begin to do the situation justice.

Patrick Kane sexual assault case

Seemingly out of the blue in September, Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at his Hamburg, New York home. While accusations like these against athletes are sadly nothing new, the case was made unique by the strange chain of events that occurred after Kane was accused.

Soon after the accusation was made public, a bag of evidence was found on the doorstep of the accuser’s mother, leading their attorney to claim the evidence had been tampered. Soon after this, the accuser’s attorney quit the case, citing the fact he no longer believed the evidence against Kane was credible enough.

Kane was eventually cleared of all charges, but the story was a huge distraction for both him and his team during training camp. Clearly undeterred by the allegations, Kane went on to record a 26-game point streak early in the regular season, and currently leads the NHL in scoring.

Serena Williams dominating the tennis world

Serena Williams had a historical 2015 season: a 50-2 record, five major title wins, and a number one world ranking solidifying her place in women’s tennis history. She’s seemingly reached her peak at the age of 33, almost completing the season grand slam with victories at the Australian Open, French Open, and Wimdeldon. She looked to be on pace for the season slam until she was upset in the US Open semifinals by Roberta Vinci.

Her continuing dominance has put her in a position this upcoming season to pass Margaret Court for the most women’s singles Grand Slam titles of all time. Court holds the record at 24, while Williams currently sits at 21, and is almost a lock to grab the record within the next couple of years.

Williams was also the first woman to win Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsperson of the Year” award since Mary Decker in 1983. (The entire U.S. women’s soccer team won the award collectively in 1999.) With the way Williams is trending right now, she may be making a few “best of” lists at the end of 2016 as well.

The Blue Jays’ playoff run

It had been a long 22 years, but this past season the Toronto Blue Jays finally brought playoff baseball north of the 49th parallel once again.

The Jays started much like any other season, hovering around the .500 mark through July, a few games back of a wildcard spot, without much hope that things would change. Except this time, things did change in a major way.

General Manager Alex Anthopolous made several huge deals at the trade deadline, acquiring David Price, Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, and others who would finally push the Jays over the top. The team went 39-15 in August and September, finishing with a 93-69 record, winning the AL East by six games over the New York Yankees.

After falling behind 0-2 in their division series against the Texas Rangers, the Jays proved that their magic hadn’t run out, winning the next three games, including a historic game five that featured one of the strangest errors ever, and the biggest home run in the history of the franchise since Joe Carter’s World Series winning blast in 1993.

The Jays would be eliminated by Kansas City in the ALCS, but the joy they brought to their fanbase will live on forever.

Draftkings and Fanduel controversies

We could be witnessing the slow death of daily fantasy sports betting.

The controversy started in October, when it was revealed that a DraftKings employee had won $350,000 on rival daily sports betting site Fanduel. This caused an outcry from fans, who believed the employee had an unfair advantage due to his access to insider information. Soon after that, the New York State attorney general declared that daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings and Fanduel should be considered illegal in the state of New York.

For their part, both sites maintained that they were fully legal operations, due to the amount of skill needed to succeed in each. Supporters of both sites marched outside of the attorney general’s office chanting “game of skill.” Recently, the New York State attorney general has ordered both sites to pay back all the earnings they’ve made in New York State, which could be a huge blow to both of the sites if they’re forced to do so.

Holly Holm knocks out Ronda Rousey

Undefeated UFC Champion Rhonda Rousey suffered her first defeat on Nov. 7 in her UFC Bantamweight Title Match against Holly Holm. The outcome was unlike anyone expected, with the fight lasting only one and a half rounds. It was the first time that an opponent had taken Rousey past the first round, let alone knocked her out. Holm’s southpaw technique and heavy background in boxing was perplexing for Rousey, setting her behind Holm’s agile execution.

Concluding the fight, Rousey was put on a six-month suspension from the UFC, due to medical reasons stemming from the knockout. However, she immediately took to Twitter, thanking her fans for the support and vowed that she will be backv— with a vengeance. There was much criticism directed towards Rousey for her overly aggressive demeanor before the fight — as she refused to knock gloves with Holm before the fight began. The recent defeat may help Rousey’s battle for redemption, or it may sequentially level the playing field for the UFC women’s division.

Warriors win the championship, and keep on winning

To say the Golden State Warriors had a good year would be the understatement of the century.

Stephen Curry and co. rolled through the NBA in the regular season, finishing with a 67-15 record, the best in the league since the 1975-76 season. They rode their explosive offence all the way to the NBA finals, where they faced LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavilers in a dream matchup.

After falling behind 2-1 in the series, the Warriors roared back, winning the next three games in convincing fashion, capturing their first NBA championship in 40 years.

Instead of resting on their laurels, the Warriors got off to an even better start in 2015-16, winning the first 24 games of the season, eclipsing the 1884 St. Louis Maroons baseball team for the best start to a season in the history of professional sports. Pegged by many as the team that has the best shot to equal or pass the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72-10 regular season record, only time will tell if the Warriors ultimately hit that mark, and if they’re able to translate their regular season success to the postseason once again.

UBC wins the Vanier Cup

UBC’s Vanier Cup victory came at a tumultuous period for a program dealing with rumors of a possible shutdown in 2013, and a new head coach coming into their 2015 campaign.

Despite these questions surrounding the program, the Thunderbirds had an excellent regular season. Led by quarterback Michael O’Connor, a former backup to top quarterback prospect and 2016 NFL Draft eligible Christian Hackenberg at Penn State, the Thunderbirds finished second in Canada West with a 6-2 record, before upsetting the top ranked Calgary Dinos in the Hardy Cup to earn the opportunity to face the University of Montreal Carabins in the Vanier Cup.

The Carabins statistically outmatched the Thunderbirds defensively, coming into the Vanier Cup allowing fewer rushing and passing yards than the Thunderbirds, which meant the Thunderbirds’ defence had to play their best football. They did exactly that by shutting out Montreal’s offence in the first half, taking a 16-0 lead into the half. The Carabins pulled themselves back into the game in the second half, but the Thunderbirds were able secure the victory on a last second field goal, winning their first Vanier Cup since 1997.

Kobe Bryant announces retirement

The real question is whether the Los Angeles Lakers will retire #8 or #24 in the Staples Center rafters.

The Black Mamba, who helped one of the most storied sports franchises in the world to five NBA championships over an illustrious 20-year career, announced in November that this season was “all he had left to give.” And man, was it a lot.

Kobe Bryant owns 17-NBA All-Star selectios, an NBA MVP and two Olympic Gold Medals. But Bryant is bigger than his on-court accomplishents. The global superstar transcended the game of basketball. From his 81-point game against the Raptors, to him leading to “reedem team” to gold in 2008, Bryant has no shortage of great moments over the course of his career.

No players have more than one entry in the NBA HOF and their team’s rafters. Kobe deserves to be that exception.

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