The year 2012 is winding down, so let’s take a look at its top 10 college and professional sports stories.
Then-unknown point guard Jeremy Lin exploded on to the scene in February by leading the reeling New York Knicks to seven consecutive wins. Lin, a Harvard grad who went undrafted in 2010, stunned Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers with 38 points in a 92-85 Knicks victory. Lin averaged more than 20 points and eight assists in February, but injured his knee in March and missed the rest of the 2011-2012 season.
In this April 21, 2012, file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field for their spring NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind.
9. Notre Dame football
Notre Dame is back. The Fighting Irish went a perfect 12-0 in 2012 to clinch a berth in the BCS National Championship game opposite Alabama. Notre Dame, one of the most famous football teams in the nation, hadn’t won 12 games in a season since 1989. Its last national title came in 1988.
8. Miguel Cabrera
In 2012, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera became the first baseball player to win the Triple Crown since 1967. Cabrera became the 15th player to win the prestigious honor, finishing with the season with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs. He helped the Tigers to the World Series, where they were swept by the San Francisco Giants.
7. The New York Giants win the Super Bowl
The New England Patriots have been the class of the NFL for the last decade. Their Kryptonite? The New York Giants. Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning led New York to a 21-17 win over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI — its second championship in five seasons. The Patriots took a 17-15 lead in the fourth quarter, but with 3:46 remaining, Manning led his boys down the field for the eventual go-ahead score.
6. NFL comebacks
Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson, both back from major injuries, are in the thick of the NFL MVP race. Manning, who missed the entire 2011 with a neck injury, is one of the league’s top statistical passers and his Denver Broncos are 11-3. Peterson tore his ACL in Week 16 of 2011. This year, he leads the league in rushing (1,812 yards) and is threatening Eric Dickerson’s single-season record of 2,105 yards.
LeBron James celebrates on the bench late in the fourth quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Five of the 2012 NBA Finals.
5. The Miami Heat win the 2012 NBA title
The Miami Heat has been at the center of the basketball universe since LeBron James joined the team in 2010. After an embarrassing loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals, James & Co. defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to win the 2012 NBA Championship. James, who had a reputation for coming up short in big games, was dominant en route to claiming his first ring and Finals MVP.
4. 2012 Summer Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London captivated the nation for two weeks, and there were several highlights. Swimmer Michael Phelps cemented his legacy as one of the all-time great Olympians by winning four gold medals and two silver medals. Usain Bolt tore up the track again, winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Gabby Douglas won the gold medal in all-around gymnastics. The United States men’s basketball team edged out Spain for the gold medal.
In March, the NFL unearthed what’s been referred to as BountyGate, a bounty program run by New Orleans Saints coaches and players that rewarded Saints players for injuring opponents. The NFL suspended New Orleans head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. A couple of his assistants were suspended, too, as were several key players. The Saints, who went 13-3 in 2011, are a disappointing 6-8 this season.
2. Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong was an American icon. A cancer survivor, Armstrong inspired many with seven consecutive Tour de France victories in the early 2000s. But Armstrong’s name is now disgraced. Armstrong, who had fought doping allegations for years, gave up the battle in August. Armstrong was barred from Olympic competition for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in October.
1. Penn State scandal
Fallout from the Penn State sex abuse scandal continued throughout 2012. In June, former Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted on charges of sexual assault. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. In the meantime, the NCAA came down on Penn State with unprecedented sanctions. The school was fined $60 million, banned from post-season play for four years and forced to vacate all wins from 1998 to 2011.
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