It would be easy to look back at 2014’s major sports stories and conclude that athletes, owners, and league executives are terrible miscreants who don’t deserve another penny of our money or second of our time. But it would also be wrong.
Yes, sports in 2014 were dominated by a series of exhausting off-field embarrassments. But even those stories included memorably redemptive moments. If nothing else, they also started public dialogues about longstanding social issues including racism (thanks to Donald Sterling) and domestic violence (thanks to Ray Rice). “You’re looking at two major issues that very few people pay attention to despite the fact that they’ve existed for a very long time. What sports did was create a platform for a national conversation,” says Dan Lebowitz, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University.
It wasn’t all epithets and sucker punches in 2014, though. Plenty of moments stuck with us this year because they were inspirational, incredible, newsworthy, or just plain silly. Those stories, along with the positive side of a few ugly incidents, make up our list of the 15 best sports moments of 2014.