Sports is the ultimate reality show, and it serves to constantly provide real-time happiness and sadness for fans of all things sports. For every made three-pointer or knockout blow, there’s another beautiful touchdown being scored or catastrophic injury being suffered somewhere, making up for it.
The result? Sports gives us winners and losers – both on the field and off it. This year was no different, so we round up who finished on top and who at the bottom in 2015.
Winner: Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have officially taken over the world, as Golden State dominated 2015 to the tune of their first NBA world championship in over 40 years. With the greatest shooter in basketball history and 2014-15 MVP named Steph Curry on their roster, a 23-game (and counting) winning streak to start off the 2015-16 season and a roster that keeps getting better and better, the Dubs can’t lose.
Loser: Philadelphia 76ers
You almost can’t help but to feel bad for the Sixers. Once one of the pillar franchises of the NBA, this iteration of the 76ers is nothing short of a laughingstock. They finished last season with the third-worst record in the league with just 18 wins, and this season they’ve found a way to carry their nine-game losing streak from last season to 19 more consecutive losses. Thankfully, Kobe Bryant (more to come on him) and his decrepit Los Angeles Lakers bowed to Philly to give them their first win of the year. Will they win a second game this season? Probably not.
Winner: New England Patriots
The Patriots somehow found a way to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the war of attrition against injuries to their roster and even Roger Goodell in their ability to overcome deflate game. Coming into December, the Patriots once again have one of the best records in the NFL and have cobbled together another opportunity to make a run at a championship. It helps when Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are masterminding their way through the league for their 15th season.
Loser: Geno Smith
Poor Geno. The former second-round pick out of West Virginia was slated to be the New York Jets starting quarterback with a revamped offensive roster that featured Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker at wide receiver. Instead, an altercation with fellow teammate and linebacker IK Enemkpali over money owed during the offseason turned into a scuffle. That scuffle ended with Smith fracturing his jaw and Enemkpali being cut from the Jets. The linebacker was signed by the Buffalo Bills while the QB was out for two months and lost his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick. A reminder to Geno, always pay your debts.
Winner: Kansas City Royals
The Royals were determined to prove to the world that their 2014 season was no fluke, and with a tweaked roster and increased expectations, Kansas City would show their true blue colors by winning the whole thing in 2015. Backed by elite defense, exceptional pitching and timely hitting, the Royals overwhelmed the New York Mets in the World Series and brought home a world championship for the first time in three decades.
Loser: Hulk Hogan
Who knew that a few random comments at the end of a sex tape could ruin everyone’s childhood? Hulk Hogan’s racist and insensitive comments regarding his daughter’s relations with a black man lit the world on fire. The result? The WWE severed all ties with its most famous superstar of all time, putting Hogan’s legacy into question. Here’s a reminder, kids, don’t say racist things, especially at the end of sex tapes.
Winner: Serena Williams
Williams gutted her way to another Grand Slam victory by defeating Garbine Muguruza at Wimbledon in straight sets. Even in defeat later in the year in a shocking upset versus Roberta Vinci at the US Open, Serena’s 2015 was mighty impressive. Not only did she claim her 21st Grand Slam title, but at age 34, she now has a definitive case for being one of America’s most dominate athletes, male or female. Well done. Serena. Keep dancing your way into our hearts.
Loser: Kobe Bryant
Kobe’s swan song in his final season in the NBA has been by far the most tumultuous. The Black Mamba only played 35 games in the 2014-15 season after suffering a rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder while driving baseline for a two-handed dunk against the New Orleans Pelicans. In returning for the 2015-16 season, his 20th in the NBA, Kobe struggled mightily, to the point where many wondered if he was a being a detriment to the youth on the roster. On November 29th, Kobe decided to announce his retirement with a poem, saying this season would be his last. At the time of his announcement, he was leading the team with 16.7 field goal attempts per game, while averaging just 15.7 points and shooting a career-low 31.5 percent. We’ll always remember Kobe as an all-time great, even if his last season is a very forgettable one.
Winner: Stephen Curry
While the Golden State Warriors have reached the mountaintop in the NBA’s hierarchy, it must also be noted that Steph Curry is now challenging his peers as arguably the league’s best player. The reigning MVP led his team through the 2014-15 NBA Playoffs with stellar shooting, tremendous handle and eye-popping playmaking ability. In kicking off the 2015-16 season, Curry’s shooting more threes and making more of them, as he’s now leading the league in scoring with 32 points a game. At the ripe age of 27, is Steph actually getting… better?
Loser: Ronda Rousey
Some people thought this moment would never happen, but alas, in UFC 193 the world was officially shocked! Ronda Rousey’s streak of 12 consecutive wins ended because of the boxing extraordinaire Holly Holm. Holm, ranked No. 7 in her weight class, bludgeoned Rousey for two rounds before knocking her out to end the streak. Holm was crowned the UFC’s new women’s bantamweight champion while Rousey received the meme treatment on social media. Is this the end of the Ronda Rousey era in the UFC? Only time will tell as Dana White has already stated that a Holm-Rousey rematch could go down for UFC 200 this summer.
Winners: Bat Flips and The Dab
What a time to be alive! 2015 saw the bat flip quickly evolve from one of the most disrespectful acts imaginable to baseball’s equivalent of spiking the football or…the dab? From Jose Bautista’s epic bat flip in the American League playoffs to Cam Newton’s post-touchdown scoring theatrics in the endzone, the game feels more fun when players hurl their bats in the air after achieving success at the plate or feel like rejoicing after a touchdown. Dab on ’em folk.
Loser: Wladimir Klitschko
Boxing had a big run this year with big fights up and down the calendar. From Floyd Mayweather’s summertime checkmate of Manny Pacquiao in a clash awaited with baited breath and Canelo Alvarez’s November triumphance over Miguel Cotto, the only big fight left on the calendar was to be held in Germany as the 39-year old Wladimir Klitschko faced off against Tyson Fury. Dr. Steelhammer lost his world heavyweight titles in late November with an admittedly pitiful performance against Fury. Yes, the younger Klitschko will use his rematch clause to try and reclaim his belts, but the Klitschko era is probably over in the heavyweight division.
Winner: US Women’s National Team
It had been four World Cup tournaments since the United States had won their last world championship, as the US women’s national team came in ready to take care of business in the 2015 edition of the Women’s World Cup Final against Japan. Played at BC Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, the United States thumped Japan 5-2 to win the national team’s third World Cup title. Carli Lloyd’s golden boots continued to score goals as her incredible first-half hat trick helped bring the gold home to the U.S.
Loser: Jon Jones
Jon “Bones” Jones set history in April for all the wrong reasons. Bones became the first fighter to have his title belt stripped by the UFC for disciplinary reasons. Dana White’s organization stripped Jones of his light heavyweight title and suspended him indefinitely, which meant the viewing public missed out on a big fight between him and Anthony Johnson at UFC 187 in May. This, after he was charged with felonies related to a hit-and-run accident that took place Sunday in Albuquerque. At the end of the year, Jones looks in better shape and seems to have added some bulk to his lean frame in an attempt to fight at heavyweight. Let’s hope Bones gets back on track in 2016.
Winner: American Pharoah
American Pharoah accomplished one of the rare feats in sports this June as he became the 12th horse ever (and the first in 37 years) to win the Triple Crown. American Pharoah was heavily favored to win at the Belmont Stakes after dusting all competition in May after winning a rainy sprint in the Preakness and a gutty victory in the Kentucky Derby. Pharoah’s name now belongs next to legendary horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Citation and War Admiral in the history books, as horse racing has its first star colt in a long time.
Loser: Bo Ryan
After losing a national championship game, it is understandable that a coaches emotions would flow over. When Bo Ryan lost the national championship game against Duke in April, the Wisconsin men’s basketball coach was not happy. After the 68-63 defeat to the Blue Devils, the 67-year-old coach was very passive-aggressive with the media. First, there was the complaint about the officiating. Then he took shots at Duke’s roster, which featured three one-and-done players and future first-round draft picks in Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones. Ryan’s “we don’t do rent-a-player” quote came off as sour grapes and downplayed the efforts of Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker and the rest of his team.
Winner: Geno Auriemma
It was a special season for the UConn women’s basketball team, one that culminated into the ultimate victory for the Huskies in April. UConn defeated Notre Dame 63-53 to earn their third straight NCAA Tournament championship and to solidify another dynastic reign for Geno Auriemma. For the long-time head coach, the win earned him title No. 10, tying UCLA’s John Wooden for the most in college basketball. Auriemma’s place atop college hoops coaching history is unquestioned, and now the wonder is whether he’ll break Wooden’s all-time mark.
Loser: Seth Rollins
Rollins won the WWE World Heavyweight Title at Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara this year, and his authoritative reign was rolling along throughout the year until a freak injury in a house show versus Kane, in which he blew his knee out. Rollins will be out for 6 to 9 months following reconstructive knee surgery on his torn right ACL, MCL and medial meniscus. Rollins was a champion for 221 days, but the WWE fanbase is the losers in this one, as the former champion held the title in a gloriously evil fashion. Get well soon Seth, and bring your heel-ish ways back with you.
Winner: Jordan Spieth
At the ripe-old age of 22, Spieth ended the year as the world’s No. 1 golfer, having won both the Masters (where he finished a record-tying 18-under) and the US Open, where he became the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923. Oh, and Spieth won a total of $12,030,485 in prize money during 2015, a PGA Tour record for a single year. Did we mention he’s only 22?
Loser: Tony Romo
The Dallas Cowboys began the 2015 season as possible Super Bowl contenders, as a slew of talented draft picks and free agent acquisitions made for fun times for Tony Romo in leading the offense. Against the Philadelphia Eagles in September, Romo suffered a broken left collarbone. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett announced that Romo would not require surgery on his broken collarbone, and he expected Romo to miss about eight weeks. Unfortunately, after returning to the lineup, Romo suffered a season-ending hairline fracture of the left clavicle in November. Get healthy Tony, Cowboys nation is counting on you.
Winner: Novak Djokovic
We are in the prime of “The Joker”, as Djokovic’s 2015 will go down as one of the all-time great tennis campaigns. Djokovic went 82-6 in all of his 2015 matches, with a winning percentage of 93 percent. Djokovic also became just the third man in the Open era (since 1968) to reach the final of each Grand Slam. The Serbian star won the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and US Open en route to thoroughly dominating the tennis season. In fact, his 16,585 A.T.P. ranking points easily made him the No. 1 player in the world and were the most ever accumulated, more than the No. 2 and No. 3 players (Andy Murray and Roger Federer, respectively) combined. All hail Novak.
Loser: Peyton Manning
The Denver Broncos are one of the best teams in the NFL this season and Peyton Manning might have little to do with their success. The future hall of famer had been dealing with injuries throughout the year while struggling to find his All-Pro form, then midway through the season it was revealed that Manning has a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Manning was forced to secede his starting job to second-year quarterback Brock Osweiler, and the Broncos have continued to improve with Osweiler under center. Is the elder Manning brother done? Is this the last time we get to see Peyton? The Broncos have one of the best records in the AFC this season, and unless Osweiler goes down due to injury, the days of #18 under center might be over.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”