We have now moved into the top 10 in my best sports moments of the decade. There is a surprise in this trio of nominees, but I think it is valid. Without further ado, let’s keep counting down to 2020 with electric sports highlights.
9. David Ortiz’s Speech and Grand Slam (2013)
I admit I cheated on this event because it is two rolled into one, but they are both deserving of inclusion to encapsulate the miraculous 2013 season for the Boston Red Sox. Boston was plunged into terror in April of 2013 when two men detonated two bombs near the finish line of the Boston marathon. The city was broken, and once the Red Sox returned home for a series against the Royals, they held a ceremony honoring all the first responders following the capture of the second bombing suspect.
David Ortiz was asked to speak, and he gave a couple of moderate lines before proudly proclaiming, “This is our f***ing city. And nobody’s gonna dictate our freedom. Stay strong.” Boston made the most of the tragedy and rallied around their city to win the AL East and make it to the ALCS. However, their championship aspirations looked to be over as they trailed in Game 2 by a score of 5-1 to the Detroit Tigers, with Detroit leading the series, 1-0.
Ortiz stepped in against Joaquin Benoit with the bases loaded and two outs and didn’t wait around. He smoked the first pitch he got into right field, where it sneaked past the outstretched glove of Torii Hunter and went into the Red Sox bullpen along with Hunter as Fenway Park exploded. The Red Sox went on to walk it off and even the series, turning the tide and eventually winning the ALCS and World Series, both in six games, with Ortiz winning World Series MVP.
The 2013 Red Sox were a ragtag bunch of misfits that rallied around a broken city, and Ortiz led the charge, leading to a miraculous season and the first of two world championships for the Red Sox this decade.
8. Kris Jenkins’s Buzzer Beater to Beat North Carolina (2016)
Throughout my lifetime, until 2016, Villanova was a team that you didn’t bet on in college basketball. Despite missing the tournament just once from 2005 to 2015, ‘Nova only managed one Final Four appearance and zero championships. This came while the school secured at least a top-three seed in five of those years. Kris Jenkins helped change all of that.
Villanova got all the way to the national championship in 2016 against the team they had lost to in the Final Four in 2009 in North Carolina. The Cats held a late lead, but an acrobatic three by Marcus Paige brought the momentum back to North Carolina, and it was tied with 4.7 seconds left.
Jenkins inbounded the ball to Ryan Arcidiacono, who dribbled up the court and handed it back to Jenkins. He stepped into his shot over the outstretched arm of Justin Jackson and found bottom to give Villanova their first national title since 1985.
At least for me, whenever I filled out brackets, I could always count on Villanova choking early in the tourney. But March Madness has been turned on its head thanks to Jenkins as Villanova has won yet another national title since then, and the world was also introduced to the crying Jordan meme.
7. The Block (2016)
Some people felt this should have been higher on the list, but I’ll get to my reasoning soon. The 2016 NBA Finals was a five-star meal, and Game 7 of that series was the perfect dessert to top it off. Everyone knows the storylines. The 73-win Warriors, fresh off coming back from down 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder, wound up blowing a 3-1 lead to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The Block” refers to James’s rejection of Andre Iguodala down the stretch of Game 7. James finished with a triple-double, but he was only part of the reason the Cavs won. The reason this singular play isn’t as high is that the Cavs’ 2016 Finals win was also because of Kyrie Irving’s dagger three in Stephen Curry’s face with under a minute left.
This isn’t to take away from James’s block, as he came out of nowhere to make the play and help secure a title for the city he loved, but there are six plays higher on this list that single-handedly were more influential to a game or a title.