2018 highlighted by exciting firsts

There seemed to be a first time for everything in 2018. Eagles winning a Super Bowl behind the arm of Nick Foles? Check. Capitals not only reaching the Stanley Cup Finals, but winning it? Check. A 16-seed routing one of the most dominant 1-seeds of the past couple years in March Madness? Check. U.S. Curling shocking the world? Check. No, pigs haven’t flown yet, but 2018 offered us plenty of memories for the history books. This is the highlight reel for an action-packed 2018.

  1. Game 7 Heroics Ensure Warriors-Cavs Rematch

No 21st century rivalry has matched the Cavaliers-Warriors matchup that has assumed center stage in the NBA for the past half-decade, as the teams have faced off in the past four NBA Finals. But the streak was in jeopardy when both Cleveland and Golden State found themselves down 3-2 in their best-of-seven series against the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, respectively. These powerhouse teams suddenly appeared vulnerable, and it took everything from both teams to squeak back into the Finals. That was the last NBA fans saw of intrigue and drama that playoffs, as the Warriors swept the Cavs in four games to take their second consecutive title.

  1. Tiger Returns

Tiger Woods fell short of winning the PGA Championship, but he succeeded in signaling to the sports world that he is back as the big name in golf. Tiger’s return brought an energy back to golf that had been lacking since his fall from grace nearly a decade ago. Whether his rise back to the top will culminate in a major championship will be a major storyline in 2019.

  1. Harper Blasts Way to Home Run Crown

Behind ace Chris Sale and a pair of MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox won an astounding 108 games and defeated the Dodgers in the World Series. The real intrigue came during the All Star Break, when crowd favorite Bryce Harper defeated Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber to take the Home Run crown. The loaded field did not disappoint, as even eighth seeded Rhys Hopkins’s 20 home runs in the second round couldn’t top Kyle Schwarber, who in turn was outdone by Harper. After that spectacle, baseball phased back out of the spotlight.

  1. Tua’s Star is Born in CFP Spotlight

With college football’s dominant power, the Alabama Crimson Tide, down by multiple possessions at halftime to their SEC rival Georgia Bulldogs, Alabama coach Nick Saban opted to switch it up, benching SEC Offensive Player of the Year Jalen Hurts for the unproved Tua Tagovailoa. The tide turned, and Alabama sent the game into overtime. Once in the deciding period, Tua lofted a perfect pass on third and long to receiver Devonta Smith, giving the Crimson Tide yet another college football championship.

  1. Mahomes,  Mayfield, Jackson Take NFL by Storm

Step aside, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. A new generation of passers have infiltrated the league, and they are making their names known and teams feared. After starting just one game his rookie year, Patrick Mahomes has led the Chiefs to the top of the AFC and made highlight play after highlight play. His stats eclipse those of legendary quarterbacks, as he hit 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns (just the third player ever to do so) in just his first season as a starter. The Browns, who suffered a winless season in 2017, improved all the way to seven wins under Heisman winner and top overall pick Baker Mayfield, who may just be the quarterback that Cleveland has been looking for. And Lamar Jackson, another first round pick and former Heisman winner, has saved the Ravens’ season and led them to the AFC North title with historic rushing totals and electric playmaking ability. The NFL is in good hands.

  1. LeBron Heads to L.A.

LeBron’s move from Cleveland to Los Angeles was a seismic shift. Unlike his earlier signing with the Miami Heat, James’s relocation west was met with almost universal applause. James immediately turned the Lakers into contenders in the Western Conference, while his old Cavaliers have sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Watching James’s playoff performance with the younger Lakers will be a must-watch in 2019, as well as his ability to attract superstars to play with him in Los Angeles in the upcoming offseason.

  1. Mbappe, France Shine on World Cup Stage

Absent the United States, the World Cup was still tremendously fun to follow. 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe stole the show from superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup, leading France in an astounding run through the World Cup bracket. Against Croatia and fellow standout Luka Modric, France captured a 4-2 victory that put them atop the soccer world and christened Mbappe as one of the game’s premier players.

  1. Eagles Fans See Misery, Title Drought End

Eagles fans’ 2017 ended on a sour note, as quarterback and MVP hopeful Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury. But backup Nick Foles embraced the high pressure of the playoffs and directed the Eagles to upset wins over Atlanta, Minnesota, and New England. Philadelphia’s 41-33 win over the Patriots gave them their first Super Bowl in franchise history and set the City of Brotherly Love into a state of ecstasy and insanity.

  1. Ovechkin Delivers Caps to Promised Land

Imagine the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, but if the Eagles had made the playoffs for eight straight seasons, had not had a team in Philadelphia win a championship in the past two decades, and faced off against the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs. That was what it was like for the 2018 Washington Capitals, who exorcised their playoff demons and finally lived up to their potential as a title-winning squad. Wins against the Blue Jackets, Penguins, and Lightning set up a Stanley Cup Finals bout against the brand-new Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Caps took care of business in five games, reversing D.C.’s reputation as a factory of sadness and giving fans their long-awaited title.

  1. UMBC, Loyola-Chicago Capture March Madness

One of the surest tips for March Madness brackets is to pick against the 16 seeds, and for good reason. Prior to this year, no 16-seed in the men’s bracket had ever beaten a 1 seed. Virginia, arguably the best team in college basketball, looked like title favorites heading into their matchup against the UMBC Retrievers, but instead suffered a historic and unbelievable defeat in the opening round of the tournament. Though Kansas State knocked off UMBC in the next round, another underdog in the region, Loyola-Chicago, made it all the way to the Final Four with the iconic Sister Jean on the sidelines. Bottom line: history was made in 2018.

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