2015 was full of big moments and big events in the sports world. We got an amazing Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. Jordan Spieth put the golf world on notice by winning the first two major championships of the year. We finally got another Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah. The Golden State Warriors ended a 40-year championship drought by knocking off LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Stanley Cup in six years. Serena Williams made a run at the Grand Slam. The Kansas City Royals ended their own drought of 30 years by winning the World Series. These were all great sports stories and a few of these actually carry over into 2016 as you'll see below.
What we don't want or need is another Deflategate, a ridiculous story that dominated the headlines for way too long in 2015. Gambling was another big issue in 2015 as sites like FanDuel and DraftKings were put under the microscope and Pete Rose's attempt to get back into baseball was denied and likely puts an end to the argument if he'll ever get into the Hall of Fame. ESPN upset a lot of people by naming Caitlyn "don't call me Bruce" Jenner the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award when many, including myself, thought it should have gone to Lauren Hill, the courageous 19-year-old college basketball player that raised more than $2 million for cancer research.
All in all, I'd say that 2015 was full of interesting stories. Let's take a look at what people will be talking about in 2016.
15 CM Punk's UFC Debut
The original plan for the former WWE champion was for him to make his long-awaited debut in late 2015, but a shoulder injury suffered in training camp squashed that. UFC President Dana White is confident that this fight will take place in 2016, saying “He’ll fight – I’m going to say before summer, probably before summer.” Nobody is quite certain who Punk's opponent will be, but a 1-0 fighter has reportedly caught White's attention recently.
14 The Chicago Blackhawks Look To Repeat
13 Will Tiger Woods Return To Golf?
One of the most recognizable and popular athletes on the planet for the past 20 years has been Tiger Woods. That much we know. What we don't know is whether or not we'll see the 14-time major champion back on the golf course in 2016. After two back surgeries in 2015, the future of the 79-time winner on the PGA Tour is in jeopardy. No timetable has been set for his return, as Woods himself has stated that the only golf activity he can really do is walk.
12 Can Serena Williams Win The Grand Slam?
Serena Williams came so close to winning the Grand Slam in 2015, so it stands to reason that we'll be watching with great interest to see if she can complete the feat in 2016. Last year, she won the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon before being upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Open by Roberta Vinci, ending her quest to become the first woman since 1988 to win all four tournaments in a calendar year.
11 David Ortiz's Retirement
On his 40th birthday this past November, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz announced that the 2016 season will be his last. This may not sound like that big of a story, but as one of baseball's good guys (and playing in a big market like Boston), it will certainly get a lot of coverage and I'm alright with that. I've enjoyed watching the fun-loving antics of Big Papi for years and his farewell tour should be a blast.
10 Kevin Durant Free Agency
Easily the biggest free agent watch of the past decade for any player not named LeBron James, the bidding war for current Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant will be insanity. Rumors have been circling for a while now, some of which seem to have a little validity and some that Durant has personally shot down himself, the biggest one being that the Lakers were his team of choice. Washington is said to be in the mix, as that is Durant's hometown, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors have recently come up in the conversation. There's also the obvious possibility that Durant will remain in OKC.
9 Ronda Rousey/Holly Holm Rematch
While the first MMA story I mentioned will draw a nice audience, the Ronda Rousey redemption fight against the woman that destroyed her a couple of months ago, Holly Holm, will probably break UFC pay-per-view records. The rematch is expected to take place at UFC 200 in July, but Holm has gone on record saying that she would like to defend her bantamweight championship before then, possibly at UFC 197 against Miesha Tate, who has lost to Rousey twice.
8 The Masters
7 Will Peyton Manning Retire?
There have been reports saying that under no circumstances will Peyton Manning retire following the Denver Broncos run in this year's NFL Playoffs, however long that will be. However, let's get real with it. The 39-year-old had the worst season of his NFL career since his rookie year and was at one point replaced by 25-year-old Brock Osweiler.
6 Is 2016 Finally The Year For the Chicago Cubs?
If 2015 was any indication about what's in store for the Chicago Cubs, the baseball world is about to get turned upside down. With all due respect to the defending champion Kansas City Royals, the North Siders are going to be the story in MLB come spring training. The additions of Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to an already stacked lineup that includes Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell lets us know that the Cubs will score a lot of runs.
5 Kobe Bryant's Farewell
Whether you love him or you hate him, there's no denying that Kobe Bryant is one of the best players the NBA has ever seen. In a beautiful goodbye letter, Kobe wrote that his body just couldn't take it anymore and that this season, his 20th in the league (a record for the most with one team), would be his last. Since the announcement in late November, fans and other players have been savoring every moment. The Lakers have always been a good road attraction, but ticket prices are through the roof when Kobe's in town for the final time.
4 NFL to Los Angeles
It's been more than 20 years since professional football was played in Los Angeles, which has always seemed odd given that it's the country's second-largest media market. After the Rams and Raiders left, there was talk of a franchise moving there at some point, but now, things are finally moving in the right direction for L.A. However, it's three teams that have put in relocation bids.
3 Will the Golden State Warriors Get To 73 Wins?
2 Super Bowl 50
The Super Bowl is always one of the most-watched events of the year, and that doesn't pertain just to sports, so it stands to reason that it would be on this list. Throw in the fact that it's Super Bowl 50 (I still wish they would have gone with Super Bowl L) and this year's could be the biggest ever. I've already come across articles such as the 50 greatest players or moments or catches in Super Bowl history and I'm sure there's more to come.
1 Rio Olympics
Speaking of television viewership, the 2016 Olympics in Brazil could end up being the most-watched event in North American history. Part of the reason will be the star power these games will bring. In many instances, we have to acquaint ourselves with athletes we're unfamiliar with, but not in this case. Usain Bolt will be there. Michael Phelps will be there. Serena Williams will be there. Gabby Douglas is back. The NBA stars, which actually may end up including Kobe Bryant, will be there. Golf returns after 112 years and Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy will be competing. The time zone issue is helpful as well.
While the London Olympics caused a live event issue, especially in prime time, Rio is only an hour ahead of the eastern time zone and two hours ahead of the central time zone. That means more people will tune in because the results haven't been ruined for them on the internet. And it's the Olympics. It's always a big deal.
What did I miss? Please feel free to tell me what you're looking forward to in 2016. Happy New Year.
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