For all the crazy things that have happened around the world, 2016 has undoubtedly been a great inspiring year for sport and myself.
Leicester City’s Premier League triumph is one of the greatest sporting stories of all time. It’s a story as beautiful as it is absurd. Relegation favourites led by a new manager who had been sacked by Greece after losing to the Faroe Islands. Gary Lineker famously tweeted “Claudio Ranieri? Really?” after the appointment and that probably reflected the thoughts of many people.
9 incredible months later Ranieri was parading around the King Power stadium with a Premier League winners’ medal, Jamie Vardy was the Premier League’s 2nd top scorer and Mahrez was the PFA player of the year. The underdogs had gone head to head with the likes of Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Man Utd and come out on top.
Cristiano Ronaldo has also had an amazing year. Everyone said he could never win a big trophy with Portugal because his national team wasn’t good enough. But he won the Champions League with Real Madrid and then the European Cup in dramatic style. He scored the winning penalty against Atletico Madrid in the UCL final and then guided Portugal to the Euro final in France. His influence was clear, and even when we went off injured you could see the impact he had on the game from the sidelines.
It was obviously an emotional night for Cristiano but it finished with him lifting the trophy with his strapped up leg. And his year has been topped off by winning his 4th Ballon d’Or and the Club World Cup this month. He’s the first player to win all four awards in a season.
Lebron James also had a fairytale year in the NBA. Some people argued that he only became a champion at Miami because he played with champions and on his own you could never have done what he achieved in Miami. But his tears of joy were unstoppable after he lead the Cleveland Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to beat the Golden State Warriors, who had won an NBA-record 73 games on the road for the NBA championship.
James scored 27 points, collected 11 rebounds, delivered 11 assists, blocked three shots and had two steals as the Cavaliers defeated the Warriors 93-89 in Game 7.
So many people had doubted him, but James cemented himself as one of the best NBA players of history. It’s the first time a team has won the title after falling behind 3-1 in a Finals series, and it took one of the best performances in Finals history from James to deliver Cleveland its first sports championship since 1964.
Connor McGregor is another man that made history in 2016. People say he’s all talk but he does the walking too. The fastest-ever knockout in a UFC title fight was just the start, as he went on to be the first fighter to hold two UFC belts at the same time after beating Eddie Alvarez.
After losing to Nate Diaz everyone said he could never win again because now his stardom was taken away and people started joking about him. But look what happened! He’s since been stripped of the featherweight due to inactivity, but as he says: “Don’t mind that – I’m still the two-weight world champ!”
And finally Serena Williams caps off the best sporting moments of 2016 for me. People said she’s all power and she would be beaten one day by someone with pure technique, and that person would win more trophies than her. But in 2016 she won her 7th Wimbledon title and her 22nd Grand Slam title. Later that same day she won her 6th Wimbledon doubles title with her sister Venus.
Williams had tried and failed three times to win her 22nd major singles title but she finally got over the line in London. She’s a gift to all sport fans who get to continue to watch her add to an already amazing career.