Whether you’ve blissfully ignored sports since New Year’s, missed several of the most pivotal moments of the last few months, or simply want to relive 2019 in sports, this gallery is for you. Covering every sport—and then some—since Jan. 1, Stacker looks back at all the major sports headlines and news that have defined the year.
We dug through Google News archives for every week to answer the question: What was the biggest sports story? While great plays, buzzer-beaters, or injuries may have stolen the momentary spotlight, Stacker opted for weeks symbolized by broken records, landscape-changing trades, gender boundary firsts, historic comebacks, and anything else that shifted culture and transcended athletic achievement.
Yes, Russell Westbrook is the triple-double king, but do you know what he pulled off the week after the Super Bowl? You probably heard Tiger Woods won the Masters in April after an 11-year major drought, but do you know the extreme rarity that Brooks Koepka’s PGA Championship victory in May at Bethpage represented? Can you name the Irishman who, in July, won the first Open Championship held in Northern Ireland in 68 years?
For the patriotic, the Women's World Cup was must-watch television—sports fans or not—and the U.S. victory following Independence Day is arguably the sports headline of the year. But why was a member of that team in NFL preseason headlines in August?
No different from the rest of domestic and world news headlines, the 2019 sports year has not lacked scandal: College coaches transformed into co-conspirators in an ignominious admissions scam, and an NBA general manager sent shock waves through China with one since-deleted tweet.
Read through the following list to refresh your memory, relive moments of 2019 glory and sports history, learn something new, or, if you or a loved one is a Chicago Bears fan, to open old wounds.
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Who besides Stephen Curry would have broken a three-point record? His 10th make with three minutes left in the fourth quarter was also the 41st combined three-pointer from his Warriors and the Kings, setting a new single-game record. Golden State went 21-of-47 from three, while Sacramento went 20-of-36.
With a chance to send the beleaguered Bears to the NFC divisional round of the playoffs against the defending champion Eagles, kicker Cody Parkey instead delivered the “double doink” heard ‘round the world. Hitting not only the upright but also the crossbar, Parkey’s missed kick was his final in a season of poor accuracy.
In the divisional playoff game between the Patriots and Chargers, Sarah Thomas became the first on-field female official in NFL postseason history. Beginning her NFL officiating career in 2015, Thomas had already held the distinction of the first full-time female ref in the league.
Spaniard Sergio Garcia—who won his maiden major after capturing the 2017 Masters—is famous for his often ill temperament. Playing in the Saudi International, Garcia allegedly took his frustrations out on the putting surfaces of several holes, as other players accused him of damaging several greens (i.e. slamming his clubs). He was disqualified before finishing all four rounds.
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After an NFL season best remembered for explosive offense pitted the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl 53, we, of course,were rewarded with a 13-3 contest—the lowest-scoring championship in history. To make matters worse (for non-Boston residents), the dynastic front-runner Patriots won their sixth Lombardi Trophy, all of which have come under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
If we’re playing a quick word association, “triple-double” may be the first phrase that comes to mind for generational player Russell Westbrook. After becoming the first to average a triple-double (10-plus points, rebounds, assists) for two consecutive seasons in 2017–18, he broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record of nine straight games with a triple-double when he recorded his 10th on a 21-point, 14-rebound, 11-assist performance.
Major League Baseball’s lack of a salary cap has accounted for mega-contracts for many years. But in February, infielder Manny Machado signed the largest free-agent deal in history—among all American sports at the time—when the San Diego Padres offered him $300 million over 10 years.
With a combined 329 points, the Bulls’ 168-161 victory over the Hawks in four overtimes became the third-highest-scoring game in league history. It marked the first time in more than a decade that a team lost despite scoring 155 or more, as well as the first time a Chicago and Atlanta player (Zach LaVine, 47, and Trae Young, 49) each scored 40 in the same game since Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins.
Historic NBA occasions typically invoke names like Michael Jordan; in early March, the Lakers’ LeBron James passed MJ for fourth on the all-time scoring list when he converted a layup for his 32,293rd career point. The 34-year-old James, who has worn #23 since high school to honor Jordan, trails only Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
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Odell Beckham Jr.’s time with the New York Giants was marked as much by drama as it was by his spectacular catches. That tumultuous time ended in blockbuster fashion when the star wide receiver was traded to Cleveland for a first- and third-round pick and safety Jabrill Peppers. While the Giants appeared barer than ever, Cleveland seemed to have entered the championship-contender conversation.
Longtime Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki further cemented his Hall of Fame career in mid-March when he passed Wilt Chamberlain for sixth on the NBA’s all-time points list. Dirk, the 41-year-old German legend who retired at season’s end, now trails only five one-namers: Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, Malone, and Kareem.
The 2019 MLB season was the year of the home run, and the Dodgers foreshadowed that trend when they clubbed an Opening Day record eight long balls en route to a 12-5 win. The total also tied a single-game team record set in 2002 and, for the live-ball era, was the first time six different players homered for one team in the opener.
Though they were ultimately swept by Columbus in the first round of the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning made history in the regular season when they won their 62nd game. Tampa went 10-3 in March to tie the mark set by the Red Wings in 1996.
In back-to-back years as a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball program made history—and headlines—for polar opposite reasons. In 2018 they became the first to ever lose to a #16 seed when they were upset by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the opening round. In April, they brought home the program’s first title by beating Texas Tech in the championship game.
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Having not won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open, plus undergoing and recovering from too many surgeries to count and a massive fall from grace, many believed Tiger Woods’ winning days were over or close to that point. With Tiger sitting on 14 majors for 11 years, Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 appeared distant as well. In April, however, he came from two strokes back in the final round at Augusta to win his fifth green jacket and 15th major for one of the greatest career comebacks in sports history.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard is known for his long-range three-pointers, clutch shooting in “Dame Time,” and his stoic, been-there-done-that reactions. In response to the chirping of Thunder players throughout their Western Conference first-round postseason matchup, Lillard pulled up from 37 feet to clinch the series. As soon as it went in, he waved “goodbye” to the Oklahoma City bench, was mobbed by teammates, and delivered the most meme-able straight face in memory.
The 2019 NBA Western Finals—considered appointment viewing by even the most casual fans—pitted rivals Golden State and Houston in a heavyweight rematch previously only won by Golden State. The Rockets entered the series hoping to avoid a fourth playoff exit in five years all at the hands of the Warriors but lost a very winnable, and heavily scrutinized, Game 1 that was overshadowed by the officials. Many felt the home team Warriors received the better end of lopsided calls—or lack thereof. Refs reportedly apologized a halftime to Houston coach Mike D’Antoni, and James Harden chimed in afterward that he “just wants a fair chance.”
Champions League soccer is the most prestigious international club competition fought among Europe’s best. The much-anticipated two-legged, aggregate-goal semifinal first saw Mohamed Salah’s Liverpool buried 3-0 in Spain by Lionel Messi’s Barcelona. Despite having one foot in the final, Barca suffered one of the greatest soccer collapses when Liverpool won 4-0 at home to advance, the final goal coming with 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Liverpool won the final in June.
Among the alleged or guilty conspirators in the massive college admissions scandal were a Stanford sailing coach, Yale soccer coach, and USC soccer coach. Parents paid to inflate their children’s SAT scores or bribed schools to get their kids on sports teams despite insufficient grades.
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While the 2019 golf season may be remembered for Tiger’s Masters win, it also marked Brooks Koepka’s second straight year of dominance when he won his fourth major in eight starts. Following his win at New York’s demanding Bethpage Black, world #1 Koepka simultaneously held back-to-back U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles.
Legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback and NFL icon Bart Starr died at age 85. Over 16 seasons with Green Bay, the game-changing signal-caller won two Super Bowls, including MVP of both, a regular-season MVP award, made four Pro Bowls, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He influenced many of today’s recent greats like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
The King of Clay further cemented his Roland-Garros legacy, winning his 12th French Open, and 18th major overall, in June. Fairly low-stress, Rafael Nadal took out Dominic Thiem in four sets, the final two of which went 6-1, 6-1. Rafa is now just two majors back of Roger Federer’s 20.
Completing one of the most remarkable mid-season sports turnarounds, the St. Louis Blues went from dead-last in the NHL in January to first-time Stanley Cup champions in June. Surprising the favorite Boston Bruins—and beating them on their home ice in Game 7—the Blues, behind stellar play from the little-known goalie Jordan Binnington, reached hockey’s pinnacle.
The New Orleans Pelicans, after winning the NBA draft lottery, used their #1 pick on potential generational star Zion Williamson in June’s draft. The Wooden Award winner as college’s best player finished his freshman year at Duke averaging 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks—and one look at the left-hander’s unique combination of size and talent would tell you he is special.
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One year following the Supreme Court ruling that allowed for legalized sports gambling outside of Las Vegas, New Jersey made history when its sportsbooks took in more money in total bets than Sin City. Long confined to America’s dark underbelly, sports betting became further legitimized by both the decision and the headline.
The NFL has staged regular-season games in London for several years, but in June, MLB followed suit by sending over its best rivalry in the Yankees-Red Sox. Though the two-game series was absurdly high scoring, it was a cultural success for a country historically apathetic to America’s pastime.
After dominating the competition in France and ultimately beating the Netherlands 2-0 in the final, the U.S. women’s national soccer team won their fourth World Cup. Despite not scoring in the opening 45 minutes for the first time all tournament, the American women broke through in the 61st minute on a Megan Rapinoe penalty, and put the match away in the 69th when Rose Lavelle doubled the lead.
Searching for major #21 in London, Roger Federer was stopped in the fifth set by Novak Djokovic, who won his fifth Wimbledon title and 16th grand slam. Federer failed to convert two match points on serve, and went down 13-12 after just under five hours on Centre Court.
The 148th Open Championship returned to Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years, so it was only fitting that an Irishman took home the Claret Jug. Shane Lowry, 32, had won the Irish Open a decade prior, and as he walked up to the 18th green, he was showered with national pride and overcome with emotion wrapping up a six-shot win—the largest since 2010.
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The former Ohio State Buckeye Michael Thomas signed a five-year, $100 million extension in July that made him the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver. Well-deserving of the extension from his rookie contract, the pass-catcher set Saints records for yards and catches in 2018.
Soccer players are known for creative goal celebrations, but in August, veteran Alejandro Bedoya of the Philadelphia Union used the moment for activism. He grabbed a TV microphone from the field and said, “Hey, Congress, do something now! End gun violence!” The road game in the nation’s capital followed the horrific shootings in Texas and Ohio.
Remember the name Aristides Aquino not only because it is fantastic, but because the Cincinnati Reds 25-year-old Dominican outfielder is a future star. He caught fire at the plate early in his rookie campaign, hitting his 10th home run in only his 16th game—the fastest to reach double digits.
In one of the most surprising moments in recent NFL memory, the Colts’ 29-year-old franchise quarterback announced his retirement prior to the season. Citing the mental and emotional toll of his countless injuries and recoveries over a short period, Andrew Luck ended his career after seven seasons. He was a #1 pick from Stanford, had commandeered Indianapolis to the playoffs in his first three years, and was regarded as an archetypal leader.
Place-kicking has become a much-maligned duty in the NFL (sorry, Cody Parkey). After U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd drilled a 55-yarder at an Eagles practice, several teams reached out to her, with an unidentified team reportedly offering her a roster spot for a preseason game, according to her trainer.
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In tennis’ final major of the year, 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu sent shock waves through the sport when she upset Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final. Taking out the 23-time grand slam champion, and six-time U.S. Open winner, in straight sets, Andreescu went from losing in the qualifiers to winning the main bracket in Flushing in a year.
The Orioles finished what the Dodgers kick-started in March, when Jonathan Villar hit the 6,106th home run of the year, a new single-season league-wide mark. Typifying the offensive year for baseball, the historic home run came with more than two weeks of the season remaining.
FIFA President Gianni Infantino said the governing body is “firm and clear” that women must be allowed to attend soccer games in Iran. The ruling ended a ban which had been in place since 1979 and came on the heels of Sahar Khodayari’s death; she set herself on fire in protest when a Tehran stadium denied her entry.
The MLB home run records kept falling in 2019 when Mets rookie Pete Alonso broke the rookie record previously set by the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017. Alonso hit his 53rd homer in a lone bright spot from an otherwise lost season for the Mets, who missed the postseason.
A sign of things to come, the Washington Nationals beat the Brewers in the National League play-in game when they erased a two-run deficit in the eighth inning. Down to their final four outs of the season, the Nationals scored three to advance to the Division Series.
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Given the NBA’s standing as the major American sport with the biggest international following, influence, and sponsorship—particularly regarding China—a controversy and possible boycott would’ve been one of the most unexpected storylines in early October. But amidst Hong Kong’s ongoing fight for independence, Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted and deleted a show of support for anti-government protesters. Houston distanced itself from the tweet, the usually outspoken and socially forward league promptly condemned it, and Chinese business partners suspended ties.
Previously unbeaten #6 Wisconsin lost to Illinois, who had been 2-4 and 0-3 in the conference. The 30.5-point underdog Fighting Illini ended the Badgers’ title hopes early when they hit a game-winning 39-yard field goal in the college football upset of the year.
The NBA power landscape shifted dramatically over the summer when Anthony Davis joined the Lakers and Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teamed up on the in-building rival Clippers. Round 1 of the highly publicized “Battle of L.A.” went to the Clippers in opening week when they easily defeated the Lakers 112-102, winning the fourth quarter 27-17.
Following the Blues’ lead in hockey, the Washington Nationals capped off their 2019 season of comebacks with a road victory in Houston to capture Game 7 and the franchise’s first title. The Nats trailed in five different elimination games—including Game 7—and won each of them. This same team was also considered dead in the water after 50 regular-season games resulted in a 19-31 record.
North Carolina Tar Heels freshman Cole Anthony—the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony and one of the top prospects in the country—debuted amid supreme hype. In an early-season conference matchup against Notre Dame (which UNC won 76-65), Anthony dropped 34 points on 12-of-24 shooting (6-of-11 from three) to go along with 11 rebounds and five assists. His points were not only the most for a UNC freshman in his debut, but also for any ACC freshman debut all-time.
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In a much-anticipated NFC West rivalry game on Monday Night Football, the 7-2 Seattle Seahawks visited the 8-0 San Francisco 49ers—the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL. After jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first half, the Niners turned the ball over three times for 21 unanswered points. They scored 11 straight in the fourth to knot the score at 21-21, then the teams traded field goals to send the game to a 10-minute overtime at 24-24. With a chance to win, Seattle quarterback and MVP candidate Russell Wilson threw an interception in the red zone; San Francisco then missed a game-winning field goal; and Wilson, with one more chance, led a final clinching drive culminating in a field goal at the buzzer to drop the Niners to 8-1.
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