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Defining Moments of the Decade: Rapinoe soars, Ortiz roars, and more


With the decade drawing to a close, theScore looked back and voted on 100 moments that defined the sports world in the 2010s. We're counting down every Monday in December, and below are moments 60-41.

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

60. Nole makes history Down Under 🎾

Jan. 29, 2012


There are few people who can outlast Rafael Nadal with his punishing style of play, but Novak Djokovic did just that, defeating the Spaniard 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-5 to win the 2012 Australian Open men's singles title. Their five hour and 53 minute showdown was the longest Grand Slam final match (by duration) in history. The war of attrition left both players bent over and clutching their knees as they waited for tournament organizers to finish their post-match speeches. Mercifully, Nadal and Djokovic were given a much-needed seat. - Chicco Nacion

59. Manti Te'o and the mind-blowing hoax

Jan. 16, 2013

It's a story you couldn't make up if you tried. During his final season at Notre Dame, Manti Te'o told media outlets that his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died in September. The next January, it was discovered that Kekua actually didn't exist and the Heisman contender appeared to be a victim of an online relationship hoax by family friend Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. In an even stranger twist, suspicions arose that Te'o was involved in the hoax after the linebacker claimed he never met Kekua. This conflicted with previous accounts of the two meeting after a football game. Add countless denials from Te'o and a confession by Tuiasosopo on "Dr. Phil," and it's safe to say we likely won't see something like this again. - Mike Alessandrini

58. Phelps goes out in style 👑

Aug. 13, 2016

Brazil Photo Press / LatinContent Editorial / Getty

Michael Phelps made it clear the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games would be his final hurrah, so naturally all eyes were on him. After already taking home four gold medals and one silver in Rio, Phelps suited up for his final race - the 4x100m medley relay. Swimming the butterfly in third, Phelps ended his historic Olympic career in style by helping the USA set a new Olympic record, edging out Great Britain and Australia with a time of 3:27.95. - Brandon Maron

57. Gordon's emotional home run 😢

Sept. 26, 2016

In the Marlins' first at-bat of their first game since Jose Fernandez's tragic death one day prior, Dee Gordon - a left-handed hitter - stepped into the right-handed batter's box to honor the late pitcher, mimicking Fernandez's bat waggle and leg kick while taking a ball from Bartolo Colon. After reverting to his customary stance, the light-hitting Gordon took a 2-0 pitch deep for his first homer of the season. There's definitely crying in baseball. - Michael Bradburn

56. Carli Lloyd from WAY out 😱

July 5, 2015

Carli Lloyd's goal from midfield capped a ridiculous four-goal blitz against Japan in the 2015 World Cup final. After just 16 minutes, it was all over. Sports Illustrated correspondent Grant Wahl called it "the most remarkable quarter-hour in the history of American soccer." Lloyd, however, stood out for her sheer audacity. Having already scored twice, she wheeled away from a defender and let fly from the center circle to complete the hat-trick. She had tried the feat before and missed, but she wasn't to be denied on this day. - Anthony Lopopolo

55. Tiger ends the drought 🐅

Sept. 23, 2018

Tiger Woods hadn't won a golf tournament since 2013. His career was considered over after multiple failed comebacks and four back surgeries forced him out of the game for years. However, Tiger pulled off the unimaginable by winning the 2018 Tour Championship despite, at one point, believing he'd never play competitive golf again. Pandemonium ensued on the 18th fairway as fans flooded East Lake Golf Club to catch a glimpse of history. Little did the sports world know, Tiger's 80th PGA Tour title was only a sign of bigger things to come. - Eric Patterson

54. Exit Sandman 👋

Sept. 26, 2013

The Sandman's swan song hits you right in the feels. Mariano Rivera's 1,115th and final appearance of his Hall of Fame career was captivating. MLB's all-time saves leader exited the game after his longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte pulled him with two outs in the ninth. Rivera was overcome with emotion, and there wasn't a single dry eye in Yankee Stadium. - Tom Ruminski

53. Kane's bizarre Cup winner 🏆

June 6, 2010

Patrick Kane had already begun hugging his goalie in celebration before anyone knew what on earth was going on. The Blackhawks winger deceived Michael Leighton with a seemingly harmless shot and left a Flyers crowd in utter shock as he ended a 47-year championship drought for his team while kick-starting his reputation as one of the most clutch playoff performers in NHL history. - Sean O'Leary

52. Dirk slays the Big Three

June 12, 2011

Dirk Nowitzki entered the 2011 Finals with a reputation for choking. His Mavs blew a 2-0 Finals lead against the Heat in 2006, followed by a first-round loss to the No. 8 seed "We Believe" Warriors in 2007. Facing the "Heatles" - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh - Dirk was expected to be denied his maiden title yet again. But 2011 was different, as the Mavericks proved greater than the sum of their parts. Dirk captured Finals MVP honors and, at long last, a ring, made even more meaningful by his commitment to making it work in Dallas. - Andrew Joe Potter

51. Baylor fires Briles amid scandal

May 26, 2016

On the field, Art Briles built Baylor's football program into a perennial powerhouse. But off it, the team was mired in controversy. Briles was fired in 2016 after a review of the university's handling of multiple sexual assault allegations, several of which were made against football players. Briles was found to have failed to adequately respond to the allegations against his players, which also led to the school's president and athletic director being dismissed. - Michael McClymont

50. Khabib vs. McGregor chaos 👊

Oct. 6, 2018

MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images / MediaNews Group / Getty

After months of trash talk, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor finally met in the Octagon at UFC 229. Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round, but that didn't mark the end of the night for the rivals. After the referee stopped the fight, Nurmagomedov jumped over the cage to confront McGregor's teammate Dillon Danis. An all-out brawl ensued in the Octagon as McGregor punched one of Nurmagomedov's teammates and two others fought back against the Irishman. The Nurmagomedov-McGregor rivalry had already escalated earlier that year when McGregor attacked a bus in Brooklyn before UFC 223. - Nick Baldwin

49. MadBum is untouchable 🔥

Oct. 29, 2014

Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Giants cruised to championships during their previous two World Series trips, so this was uncharted territory for baseball's most recent dynasty. In 2014, the Royals forced Game 7 in their home park, and the Giants' bullpen was the team's worst ever. Enter Madison Bumgarner, after earning two wins earlier in the series, including a complete-game effort two days prior in Game 5. The lefty came on in relief, tossing five shutout frames - and retiring 13 straight hitters at one point - to clinch the title. Over an unprecedented 52 2/3 innings that postseason, MadBum authored an otherworldly 1.03 ERA. - Bradburn

48. Pass interference?!?! 😠

Jan. 20, 2019

Saints fans hoped to see their team beat the Rams and return to the Super Bowl. With less than two minutes remaining, Drew Brees faced a third-and-10 at Los Angeles' 13-yard line, and a first down would've given New Orleans the chance to run the clock out and attempt a likely game-winning field goal. But a flag didn't fly following Brees' incomplete pass attempt to Tommylee Lewis, despite cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly committing defensive pass interference. After the Saints kicked a field goal, enough time remained in regulation for the Rams to respond with their own field goal to send the game to overtime, when New Orleans would eventually lose. During the following offseason, the NFL agreed to make all pass interference situations reviewable. - Caio Miari

47. The year of Zion 💪


Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Zion Williamson's dunks made him a viral sensation before he stepped foot on Duke's campus, but the hype surrounding the future No. 1 pick kicked into overdrive after a Wooden Award-winning campaign. Williamson's combination of speed and power was almost unheard of for players his size. However, his performances were just part of the conversation. Williamson reignited the debate over paying collegiate athletes after his shoe busted open during a nationally televised game, causing a knee sprain. His long-term durability has subsequently been one of the NBA's early-season headlines. - Nacion

46. Murray wins gold on Wimbledon's lawn 🏅

Aug. 5, 2012

Weeks earlier, Roger Federer prevented a national celebration, defeating Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. It was fair to wonder if Murray would ever win on the biggest stage. He had made four Grand Slam finals, but lost each time. When he returned to Wimbledon for the 2012 London Games, the Scot carved a path to the final where, once again, Federer waited. This time Murray prevailed, starting the most important chapter of his career. Great Britain's favorite son would go on to win three majors, another Olympic gold medal, and become No. 1 in the world. - Devang Desai

45. Lights out at the Super Bowl 🔦

Feb. 3, 2013

What was billed as the "Harbaugh Bowl" will be remembered as the "Blackout Bowl" instead, after the power went out in half the Superdome, causing a 34-minute delay smack dab in the middle of Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens had built a 28-6 lead that looked insurmountable, but after the most unexpected of momentum shifts, the 49ers rattled off 17 straight points to make a game of it. Baltimore held on for the win, however, and discussions immediately turned to whether halftime performer Beyonce is too big an icon for one stadium. - McClymont

44. LeBron gets on the board ☝️

June 21, 2012

Chris Elise / National Basketball Association / Getty

In 2010, "The Decision" took LeBron James' talents to South Beach, and it's hard to argue with the results. After falling short of a championship in Cleveland, the NBA's best player joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, where they appeared in four straight Finals. One year after his forgetful performance in a Finals loss to the Mavericks in 2011, James ended his run of title misses. The King was otherworldly during those playoffs, averaging 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists. He was unanimously voted Finals MVP and led the Heat to another title the following year. - Bryan Mcwilliam

43. Rapinoe shines brightest 🌟

Summer 2019


Few people, let alone athletes, captured our collective consciousness in 2019 like Megan Rapinoe. The outspoken American star, with her pink hair and quick wit, was spellbinding. On the pitch, she powered the USWNT to another World Cup title, scoring crucial goals and crafting instantly iconic celebrations before earning every individual accolade the soccer world has to offer. Off the field, the unabashedly gay advocate became the face of multiple movements - gender equality chief among them - while also locking horns with Donald Trump. Part player and part politician, Rapinoe was an indestructible tour de force this year. - Gianluca Nesci

42. Big Papi puts Boston on his back

October 2013

Months after telling the Fenway faithful "This is our f------ city" following the Boston Marathon bombing, David Ortiz put together one of the most dominant postseasons in the sport's history. No single moment from the 2013 World Series can show just how unreal Big Papi was, because, well, he owned everyone. The slugger went 11-for-16 with two homers and eight walks - including three free passes in the title-clinching Game 6 - because pitchers were simply done facing him. - Bradburn

41. Ray Allen ... BAAANG! 💥

June 18, 2013

Ray Allen's clutch three in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals saved more than just the Miami Heat's season, it arguably saved LeBron James' legacy. James had already been labeled as a choke artist and turned the ball over twice in the game's final minute. Another NBA Finals loss would've been LeBron's second in three years and third overall in four career appearances. With one fluid motion, Allen altered history. The Heat eventually prevailed in overtime, while the "Heatles" era officially became a success when Miami won its second straight title two days later. - Nacion

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

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