Sure, the year still has eight days in it -- and if we've learned anything from 2016, it's that the whole planet can be irrevocably altered forever in eight days, or, say, one -- but with the holidays almost here, it's clear that most of us are just about done with this calendar year. All the year-end lists are out, all the Person of the Year awards have been distributed, the businesses are closing up shop. So we're comfortable wrapping up the year in sports, while allotting for the fact that it's always possible Tiger Woods wins an MMA title in the last few days or something.
Thus, here are our picks for the 10 biggest sports stories of 2016.
10. Peyton Manning's career ends in the weirdest way possible. In the span of 40 days, Peyton Manning:
• Was accused of using PEDs.
• Won his old job back from a guy who, one year later, would be benched in favor of someone named Tom Savage.
• Played pretty terribly.
• Won a Super Bowl anyway, allowing him to have the John Elway walk-off despite barely being able to throw a ball farther than 10 yards.
• Retired a champion.
For a supposedly non-nonsense, aw-shucks guy, he sure was constantly engulfed in drama.
9. Kevin Durant chooses the Warriors. One of the best five players in the game decides to join the best team in the game rather than trying to beat them, leading to all sorts of angry old white men having all sorts of thoughts about "loyalty" and "competitiveness" and "Michael Jordan wouldn't have!" What Durant's decision, which might end up being bigger than LeBron's big decision ever was, did was assert more than ever that this is a players' league, and that superstars rule the world. So much so, in fact, that the CBA, signed in December, might have been in large part a direct result of Durant's July 4th move. Plus: The Warriors are pretty amazing to watch now!
8. Jose Fernandez is killed in a boat crash. Fernandez wasn't just an amazing pitcher; he was a bridge to the next generation of baseball fandom, a player who had an unabashed exuberance and joy for the game and wasn't afraid to express it. When you thought of baseball at its best, and what it still could be, you thought of Fernandez. His loss remains inexplicable. And Dee Gordon's home run in the Marlins' first game after Fernandez's death, with the whole team wearing his number, is one of the game's more emotional moments in recent memory.
7. Leicester City pulls off the most amazing upset championship ever. It's difficult to overstate how unlikely their Premier League title was, and it's only this high up the list because there was no Big Dramatic Moment that clinched it for them. But I don't think those Leicester fans minded.
6. Villanova wins the best title game ever. This, however, is a Big Dramatic Moment.
5. Muhammad Ali dies. There were many legends to die this year (Arnold Palmer, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe), but Ali might have been the most influential, important American athlete since Babe Ruth.
4. The Rio Olympic heroes. Everybody has their favorite. Usain Bolt. Simone Biles. Michael Phelps and his victorious scowl. But for my money, the most amazing athlete was Katie Ledecky, who was so dominant that she made all her opponents look like they were playing a different, more rudimentary sport all together.
3. Colin Kaepernick Starts a Conversation. What might end up being forgotten about the 49ers quarterback's anthem protest is that no one even noticed it for a couple of games, until NFL.com reporter Steve Wyche happened to see Kaepernick sitting on the sidelines of an exhibition game and decided to ask him about it. Thus was a political movement born, and a million hot takes ignited. The election of Donald Trump two months later did little to quell the fire. Expect more of this in the coming years, not less.
2. LeBron brings a title to Cleveland. Even though he's one of the five greatest basketball players of all time, LeBron James, until June, never had his signature moment, his defining play, his crowning achievement. Now he does.
Only in this particular year would what LeBron did not be the top sports story of the year. Only one story could top that.
1. The Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Seriously: The Chicago Cubs won the World Series.
Nothing's gonna top that, and nothing's gonna top that for a long time.