Sports have the ability to bring us closer together, but also to pull people further apart.
The 2010s brought sports fans incredible moments from all sporting arenas. There have been plenty of upsets and things that had never been seen before. Some droughts were ended and new champions were crowned. And as the world got more politicized, so did the sports universe.
Here are some of the biggest moments that defined the last 10 years.
LeBron James joined the Miami Heat in 2010. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
On July 8, 2010, LeBron James created his own spectacle announcing which team he was going to sign with during NBA free agency. James decided to join the Miami Heat and form a super team — one of the first that was formed with free agents collaborating on a landing spot. James was widely criticized as Cleveland Cavaliers fans notoriously burned his jersey.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would win two NBA championships during the “Big Three” era in Miami. James’ program raised millions for various charities but his reputation was tarnished over the announcement. His decision to join with Wade and Bosh was the beginning of the NBA empowerment era.
COLIN KAEPERNICK KNEELS DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM
Colin Kaepernick began to kneel for the anthem during the 2016 season. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Colin Kaepernick started a firestorm across all professional sports when he decided to protest during the national anthem. He first sat on the bench while “The Star-Spangled Banner” blared during a preseason game in 2016 then he kneeled during the anthem the following week.
He knelt during the anthem to raise awareness for perceived social injustices across the U.S. His protest sparked other players in the NFL to follow and other players in several other sports to use their platform to raise awareness for social justice causes.
However, Kaepernick was seeking a new team after the 2016 season and has yet to find one. Despite a major marketing push from Nike and plenty of quarterback injuries from 2017 to 2019, Kaepernick has yet to find a home. He had filed a grievance against the NFL accusing owners of blackballing him from the league, which was later settled. He hosted a workout in 2019 to showcase his talents but no team has picked up the phone to sign him.
Kaepernick’s fight to get back to the NFL continues while his activism is ongoing off the field.
TIGER WOODS WINS THE MASTERS AFTER LONG DROUGHT
In 2019, Tiger Woods won his 15th major title. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
In 2019, Tiger Woods won the Masters for the first time since 2005 and captured his first major victory since 2008 — his 15th overall. He inched closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record for most major victories in a career. He also put himself back on top of the sport he dominated for so long before falling off because of scandal and injuries.
CHICAGO CUBS WIN THE WORLD SERIES
Chicago Cubs celebrate after Game 7 of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Cleveland Indians Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016, in Cleveland. The Cubs won 8-7 in 10 innings to win the series 4-3. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
The Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year drought in 2016 when they defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series. The Cubs beat the Indians in seven games — coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the series itself. The Cubs held a victory parade in Chicago. The city estimated that more than 5 million people attended the parade.
UMBC PULLS OFF THE GREATEST UPSET
UMBC became the first No. 16 seed in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament to defeat a No. 1 seed in 2018.
Until the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, a No. 16 seed had not beaten a No. 1 seed. The UMBC Retrievers broke the spell beating Virginia 74-54 for the biggest upset in men’s college basketball history. UMBC would go on to lose in the second round but history remains intact.
Virginia would have redemption a season later, coming back to win their first national championship.
ODELL BECKHAM JR AND ‘THE CATCH’
Odell Beckham Jr. will forever live in the annals of NFL history forever thanks to the incredible catch he made as a member of the New York Giants playing against the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Beckham somehow made a one-handed touchdown grab while diving backward and getting interfered with.
Whatever Beckham does with his career from here on out, he will be remembered for one of the greatest catches in the history of the NFL.
SIMONE BILES DOMINATES
Simone Biles of the United States shows her five gold medals at the Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. (Marijan Murat/dpa via AP)
Simone Biles is arguably the most dominant athlete of the decade. While Biles is thrust into the national spotlight once every four years, she makes the most of it. In the 2010s, Biles became the most decorated American gymnast and third-most decorated gymnast of all-time.
Biles took home four gold medals and one bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Games. From 2013 to 2019, she’s won 19 gold medals at the World Championships and two gold medals at the Pacific Rim championships. She also became the most decorated gymnast at the world championships with 25 total medals.
LEBRON JAMES BRINGS TITLE HOME
LeBron James brought the Cavaliers back from 3-1 to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. It was the first NBA title for the Cleveland Cavaliers. (BECK DIEFENBACH/AFP/Getty Images)
LeBron James might have been enemy No. 1 for a lot of NBA fans when he signed with the Miami Heat but he redeemed himself in many eyes when he returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers and led them to an NBA title.
James helped the Cavaliers to an NBA title in 2016 – the franchise’s first. Cleveland overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors. He also had an iconic moment in Game 7 of the series with his run-down block of Warriors guard Andre Iguodala. James captured his third ring. He would later sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
ALEX MORGAN AND THE TEA SIP
Alex Morgan’s ‘tea sip’ at the height of the Women’s World Cup drew a ton of backlash and vitriol. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)
The U.S. women’s soccer team ran through the 2019 Women’s World Cup en route to their second consecutive tournament title. However, it didn’t come without controversy.
At the height of it was Alex Morgan scoring a goal against England and pretending to sip a cup of tea. The celebration caused a firestorm throughout the sport and put the U.S. under fire. Morgan defended herself saying there was a “double standard” for female athletes celebrating.
“You see men celebrating all around the world in big tournaments, grabbing their sacks or whatever it is and when I look at sipping a cup of tea, I’m a little taken aback and kind of … You have to laugh about it, to see all the criticism,” she told The Guardian.
Even with the scathing criticism, the U.S. defeated the Netherlands in the World Cup final.
LEICESTER CITY WINS THE PREMIER LEAGUE
Leicester City did the nearly impossible in 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
Leicester City’s run through the English Premier League during the 2015-16 season proved to be one of the biggest upsets in any professional sports league ever. The club was 5,000-1 odds to start the season and ended up finishing in first place in the Premier League and earning their first-ever spot in the UEFA Champions League.
At that point, the club had not finished better than second since 1929 and it was the first time the league had seen a first-time champion since Nottingham Forest in 1978. The Premier League trophy had not left its London clubs in two decades before the Foxes won.