Skip to content

theScore's 50 favorite moments of 2023: Fights, phenoms, and buzzer-beaters

Julian Catalfo / theScore

This year in sports was defined by inspiring stories, historic achievements, and surreal events that not even Hollywood could script. We loved them all. With 2023 drawing to a close, theScore is looking back on 50 moments that resonated most with us over the past 12 months. Our five-part series, which counts down every Friday in December, continues below with moments 40-31.

Dec. 1 Dec. 8 Dec. 15 Dec. 22 Dec. 29
50-41 40-31 30-21 20-11 10-1

40. Ngannou rocks Fury's world 🥊

The first round went about as expected. The second was more competitive. But the third round is when everyone realized they had gotten it wrong. Former UFC champion Francis Ngannou hadn't just showed up to collect a huge paycheck in his boxing debut against lineal heavyweight champ Tyson Fury. He intended to - and could - win. Ngannou knocked Fury down with a left hand, nearly authoring an upset that would have rivaled Buster Douglas' 1990 win over Mike Tyson. Fury went on to win a split decision, but Ngannou being competitive in all 10 rounds - and winning the fight on one scorecard - is still one of the most impressive feats in combat sports. - Nick Baldwin

39. Angel Reese mimics Caitlin Clark 👋

The trash-talker got trash-talked. In the dying minutes of LSU's 102-85 victory over Iowa in the NCAA women's basketball title game, LSU's Angel Reese taunted Iowa's Caitlin Clark, making John Cena's famous "You can't see me" hand gesture, and pointing at her ring finger in light of her impending championship. The exchange went viral, with many condemning Reese, who is Black, for being unsportsmanlike, even though Clark, who is white, used the same gesture to widespread praise in the Elite Eight. Clark later said that Reese shouldn't have been criticized "at all," while Reese said there's "no bad blood" between the generational talents before the 2024 season. This was simply two stars going toe-to-toe and engaging in some healthy - and wildly entertaining - banter on the big stage. That's the good stuff. - Sarah Wallace

38. 'What's an isolation retreat?' 🤔

No NFL player stole headlines in the 2023 offseason as often - and as uniquely - as Aaron Rodgers. He left his future with the Packers open-ended in January after Green Bay failed to make the playoffs, and before deciding what was next for him, the four-time NFL MVP went on a "darkness retreat" seeking clarity to help with his decision-making. It worked, as he went from being "90%" retired to locked in on returning for a 19th NFL season. After leaving his multi-day isolation, Rodgers said he felt the Packers wanted a change at quarterback and decided to join the Jets, who acquired the veteran signal-caller in April in one of the biggest trades in league history. - Caio Miari

37. Club pro dunks ace at PGA Championship 🏌️

Southern California club professional Michael Block took the golfing world by storm in May at the PGA Championship when he shockingly made the cut. Block took things to another level on the weekend at Oak Hill, playing with Rory McIlroy in the final round and making an electrifying hole-in-one on the 15th hole. Block finished in a tie for 15th, earning an invitation into the field for the 2024 PGA Championship as well as a number of sponsor exemptions. Not bad for a 47-year-old father of two. - Josh Goldberg

36. Historic buzzer-beater for SDSU 🚨

A March Madness buzzer-beater is guaranteed to be memorable, but deciding a game between two Cinderella teams makes it a classic moment. San Diego State and Florida Atlantic, a pair of unlikely squads, battled it out for a spot in the title game. After being down seven points at the half, the Aztecs stormed back on a 16-4 run to keep the game close. SDSU forced an FAU miss with 10 seconds left and that allowed Aztecs guard Lamont Butler to drain a step-back mid-range shot at the buzzer, sending the program to its first appearance in the collegiate championship game. - Donald Higney

35. Jon Jones back with a bang 💥

One of the greatest fighters in MMA history, Jon Jones finally returned to the Octagon in March after three years away - and, boy, was it triumphant. There was a lot of doubt about whether he would be the same guy and how he would perform as a heavyweight. But in the end, it was as if Jones had never left. The former longtime UFC light heavyweight champion manhandled Ciryl Gane en route to a submission victory in just over two minutes at UFC 285, claiming the vacant heavyweight title and strengthening the argument he's the very best to ever do it. - Baldwin

34. Phenom Lopusanova steals the show 👶

If you thought Connor Bedard's run at the men's world juniors was phenomenal, meet 14-year-old Nela Lopusanova. The Slovakian wunderkind competed at the U18 Women's World Championship a week after Bedard and pulled off the first successful "Michigan" in a women's IIHF event, raising the puck on her stick's blade and lofting it lacrosse-style past the goalie. Lopusanova's idol, Patrick Kane, said she was "the best player on the ice" and there was "no chance" he attempted any of the moves she did when he was her age. Lopusanova finished atop the tournament field with nine goals and 12 points and was named tourney MVP despite her team's sixth-place finish. - Wallace

33. Jags entertain us, but not Al Michaels 😅

Al Michaels' lifeless call at the end of the chaotic Chargers-Jaguars wild-card game didn't illustrate what had just happened on the field: Riley Patterson drilled a 36-yard field goal to help Jacksonville stun the football world and win 31-30 after the Jaguars trailed by 27 at one point in the second quarter. It was the third-largest comeback in NFL postseason history. It was quite the night for Trevor Lawrence too, as the 2021 No. 1 overall pick - in his first NFL playoff start - tossed four touchdowns after opening the matchup with four first-half interceptions. - Miari

32. Luis Diaz's emotional goal 🙏

We all needed a bit of good news during the final months of the year. That was especially true for Liverpool winger Luis Diaz, whose parents were kidnapped in his native Colombia at gunpoint in late October. His mother was released within hours, but his father remained in the custody of a notorious rebel group for over a week before Diaz returned to the field. After Diaz's dramatic equalizing goal in his first game back for Liverpool - after which he revealed a message on his shirt calling for his father's freedom - there was an encouraging breakthrough in negotiations which quickly led to the elder Diaz's release. The two reunited in November. - Gordon Brunt

31. Harden blasts 'liar' Morey 👀

With five words, James Harden's once mutually beneficial relationship with Daryl Morey ended in divorce: "Daryl Morey is a liar," the three-time scoring champ said in August after the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly ended talks trying to fulfill his request for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers. Harden's diatribe about the Sixers executive earned him a hefty $100,000 fine, although he eventually got what he wanted. It also ended a dramatic feud between the pair, who had changed the trajectory of each other's careers. Morey's Houston Rockets acquired Harden and helped him transform from a Sixth Man of the Year into an MVP, while Harden's performance helped validate Morey's basketball philosophy. What once appeared to be the most solid of bridges between player and executive crumbled. - Bryan Mcwilliam

Let us know what your favorite sports moments were in the comments!

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox