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theScore's 50 favorite moments of 2023: GOATs, kings, and the year's very best

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. The five-part series wraps up below with our 10 favorite moments from our latest trip around the sun.

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10. All aboard the Bedard hype train 🚂

Connor Bedard solidified his superstar status in our earliest highlight of the year. Tied 3-3 in overtime against Slovakia in the World Junior Championship quarterfinal, Bedard deked three defensemen and the goalie to score the game-winning goal. The crucial tally only added to his already impressive stats, finishing the tournament with nine goals and 14 assists.

The hype was through the roof. The subsequent NHL draft was considered the Bedard lottery, and the 17-year-old was selected first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. He lived up to the praise, scoring his first NHL goal in just his second game, and has over 30 points in under three months of play. Almost exactly one year from that pivotal goal at the world juniors, Bedard has all but exceeded the mounting expectations. - Sarah Wallace

9. Biles destroys the field in return 🥇


The GOAT of gymnastics returned with a bang in 2023. Two years after her infamous case of the "twisties" at the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles started her comeback at the U.S. Classic, winning gold in the all-around, beam, and floor events. She didn't just win; she steamrolled her competition, finishing five points clear of second place in apparatuses usually separated by tenths or hundredths.

On vault, she completed an incredibly difficult ​​Yurchenko double pike, the only female gymnast to ever land the skill successfully in competition. She later went on to win gold in all-around, beam, floor, and team at the World Championships in October. - Wallace

8. Wild finish to Canadian Open 🍁

Nick Taylor became the first Canadian golfer to win the RBC Canadian Open since 1954 when he drained a 72-foot eagle putt to defeat Tommy Fleetwood on the fourth hole of a playoff. The celebration was one for the ages, with the crowd going wild before fellow Canadian TOUR member Adam Hadwin tried to join the festivities on the 18th green. Security, not recognizing Hadwin, proceeded to tackle him to the ground, thinking he was a threat.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and Taylor received a celebration fit for such a momentous occasion. - Josh Goldberg

7. Darts?? Darts!! 🎯

A nine-darter is, in sports terms, rarer than a no-hitter. It has only been caught on television a few times. But it happened again in January 2023, in the World Darts Championship, no less. Michael Smith was trailing famous Dutch player Michael van Gerwen when he duly reeled off the mystical nine-darter, scoring 501 points, the maximum available on the board, in an incredible 61-second flurry of action at Alexandra Palace in London.

Van Gerwen was on a similar pace, matching Smith dart for dart as the 3,200 people in attendance lost their minds. Van Gerwen narrowly missed his ninth shot, going just wide of double 12 and allowing Smith to produce the finish of a lifetime. "That is the most amazing leg of darts you will ever see in your entire life," Sky Sports commentator Wayne Mardle shouted to the world. - Anthony Lopopolo

6. Alcaraz dethrones Nole at Wimbledon 🍿

Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

Carlos Alcaraz was staring down the barrel in the Wimbledon final. The Spaniard, anointed as tennis' next icon, already had one Grand Slam title in his pocket, but this was another level of adversity and tension. After being blown away in the opening set of the championship match, the 20-year-old found himself just one point away from a demoralizing two-set deficit. That would've been daunting against anyone, let alone Novak Djokovic, who hadn't lost on Centre Court in a decade. The Serbian was chasing his fifth consecutive crown at the All England Club - and record-tying eighth overall - while also pursuing a rare calendar slam. On this surface, on this stage, he was nearly unbeatable. Nearly.

Alcaraz, unlike the many others who've been dispatched by Djokovic over the years, didn't cower. He kept going for big, bold shots. The end result was an epic five-set victory that took nearly five hours and included an unforgettable 26-minute game in the third set that helped propel Alcaraz to victory and make good on the promise that he's the next dominant force in men's tennis. "I haven't played a player like him. Ever," said Djokovic, who's spent the bulk of his career battling fellow GOAT candidates Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Praise doesn't come any higher. - Gianluca Nesci

5. Welcome to Wemby's world 🤩

Brian Babineau / National Basketball Association / Getty

Players like Victor Wembanyama, a 19-year-old, 7-foot-4 rookie from France, are an anomaly. His playmaking abilities are far beyond what's expected for someone his size - he's tied for tallest active NBA player - making him a generational talent. In his time in the French pro league, he was the youngest to win MVP after leading in rebounds and blocks per game. During his first two friendlies on U.S. soil with his French club, he dropped a combined 73 points on the G League Ignite, a team full of NBA prospects.

His performances attracted global attention - and the San Antonio Spurs struck gold by winning the NBA lottery and the right to draft him first overall. Arguably the best prospect since LeBron James, the rookie's been tres bien despite the Spurs struggling this season. He punctuated his arrival with a 38-point performance against the Phoenix Suns in his fifth career start, joining James and Kevin Durant as the only teenagers to score at least 38 points in a game. - Wallace

4. Ohtani's dream matchup vs. Trout 🦄

Before the greatest free-agent chase of all time and winning the second MLB MVP of his already illustrious career, Shohei Ohtani made waves at the 2023 World Baseball Classic when he helped "Samurai Japan" take down a stacked Team USA in the gold-medal final to capture the nation's third event title.

With Japan holding a slim 3-2 lead and two outs in the ninth, "ShoTime" squared off against (now former) Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout with the game on the line. As fans stood on their feet and sweat beaded the faces of the two legendary baseball combatants, Ohtani proved victorious, firing 100-mph fastballs past Trout before ending their showdown with a filthy slider in a 3-2 count to clinch the win and secure tournament MVP honors in the process. The storybook moment felt like a passing of the torch, with Trout's strikeout signaling that Ohtani had become the world's best player. - Bryan Mcwilliam

3. Messi's magical Miami debut 🐐

Some of the biggest sports stars and celebrities had gathered in Fort Lauderdale to witness Lionel Messi's debut for Inter Miami. LeBron James and Serena Williams, two of the greatest in their own disciplines, came with entourages in tow, and Kim Kardashian brought one of her sons. "He's so excited to see Messi," Kardashian said at the time. Fans had paid thousands of dollars just to catch a glimpse of the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner, and everyone got their wish when he trotted onto the pitch midway through the second half.

What followed was classic Messi: Standing in front of a free-kick deep into second-half stoppage time, the Argentine arrowed a magnificent left-footed shot into the top left corner to win the game. Inter Miami agreed to pay Messi upwards of $100 million over the next two-and-a-half seasons precisely for moments like these. - Lopopolo

2. LeBron is crowned 👑

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA scoring record had long been considered unbreakable until a kid from Akron began to exceed every expectation placed on him. On Feb. 7, with Abdul-Jabbar in attendance at Arena, James swished a fadeaway from the top of the key for his 38,388th career point to pass his fellow Lakers great as the NBA's scoring king.

LeBron pointing to the heavens immediately became an iconic basketball image and one that should stand the test of time - just like his scoring record. - Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb

1. Bills do it for Damar 🫶

Can a moment precipitated by an NFL player's heart stopping be considered great?

Six days after safety Damar Hamlin's brush with death, the Buffalo Bills stepped onto the field with the eyes of the sports world on them - including a stadium vibrating with Bills Mafia members ready to explode with pride and love for Hamlin, gratitude for the heroism of the first responders who saved his life, and a desire to return to normal and play some late-season football. It took only 14 seconds from the opening kickoff for all that pent-up emotion to be released. The swell as Nyheim Hines raced down the sideline, past every New England Patriot, and into the arms of the deafening crowd was pure football catharsis.

Hines did it again in the second half because why not?

Hamlin's remarkable resilience and eventual return to the field help make this a moment that'll endure far beyond 2023. But it's also the sort of moment we all hope never to see again. - David P. Woods

What was your favorite sports moment of 2023? Let us know in the comments!

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