SportsLooking back at winners in the 2010s

Opinion: These are the best champions of the decade in sports
Brian YancelsonNovember 19, 2019634 min
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Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

If you haven’t checked your calendar lately, it may come as a surprise that we have reached the end of the decade. While it may seem like the decade flew by, 10 years is a lifetime in the world of sports. From super teams like the Golden State Warriors to underdog champions like the Kansas City Royals, the 2010s gave us a little bit of everything. We even wonderfully got the first decade with no New York Yankees in the World Series since the 1910s, which is how you know it has been a great 10 years. As 2020 approaches, let’s look back at the best sports champion from every year of the past decade.

2010: Spanish Men’s National Team (FIFA World Cup)

It was a historic World Cup from the get-go, as it was the first World Cup ever held on the African continent. Spain made sure to cap off the tournament with even more history, winning their first-ever World Cup to become just the eighth nation to win the global championship. Midfielder Andres Iniesta scored the unforgettable goal in the 116th minute — well into overtime — to push Spain over the Netherlands and into the record books.

2011: Auburn Tigers Football

In quarterback Cam Newton’s final game as a college athlete, he led his Tigers to an undefeated season capped by a victory over the Oregon Ducks. Fresh off his Heisman win, this was the season to remember for Newton and is what most people think of when looking back at his career. Auburn’s title also gave the Tigers some brief bragging rights in the state of Alabama that the Crimson Tide would soon steal with five championships in the decade.

2012: New York Giants

In an epic rematch of the monumental 2008 Super Bowl that ended the New England Patriots’ perfect season, quarterback Eli Manning and the New York Giants once again stymied the Patriots to claim Manning’s second Super Bowl championship and the franchise’s fourth overall. Both teams have since gone in opposite directions, with the Patriots winning three more Super Bowls across the decade and the Giants stumbling so much that they ended up with the number one pick in the NFL draft in 2018.

2013: Baltimore Ravens

This Super Bowl will forever be remembered as the Beyoncé blackout game, but the city of Baltimore will cherish it is their most recent world championship. Quarterback Joe Flacco throughout the playoffs engineered miraculous wins, including the “Mile High Miracle” over the Broncos in Denver. The Super Bowl win over the San Francisco 49ers cemented Flacco as an elite quarterback in the category that matters most: winning a championship.

2014: San Antonio Spurs

There is no other better choice than the hometown Spurs, who defeated the “Big 3” of the Miami Heat to clinch the fifth championship in franchise history. This was not only a sweet victory over forward LeBron James and company but also marked the last title for the Spurs’ very own “Big 3” with now-Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Fast forward to 2019 and those three names now hang down from the rafters at the AT&T Center, as they have all retired over the past few years, marking the end of an era in San Antonio.

2015: Golden State Warriors

With LeBron James returning to Cleveland and breaking up the Heat, in came the Warriors to claim their spot atop the NBA and begin their dynasty. Guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, better known as the “Splash Brothers,” carried the Warriors to their first championship since 1975 as they defeated the revamped Cleveland Cavaliers in six games.

2016: U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas won the gold medal in the team all-around while also bringing in nine medals collectively — the most ever in U.S. gymnastics. These five brought more than just medals, however; they brought a nation together to cheer on both their dominance and vibrant personalities. The U.S. won the most total medals at these 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but no team represented the U.S. better than the “Final Five.”

2017: Houston Astros

On their way to their first-ever World Series title, the Astros had to march past the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, three of baseball’s biggest powerhouses. Second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and World Series Most Valuable Player George Springer helped the Astros bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to a revitalized Houston fanbase after a dominating postseason run.

2018: Notre Dame Women’s Basketball

It’s hard to find two more dramatic finishes than what Notre Dame pulled off in the Final Four of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Guard Arike Ogunbowale first helped the Fighting Irish dethrone the perennial champion University of Connecticut Huskies with her buzzer-beater in the national semifinal. As if that wasn’t enough, Ogunbowale again stunned the sports world with yet another buzzer-beater, this time to beat Mississippi State and give Notre Dame, led by head coach Muffet McGraw, their first championship since 2001. If you want to see and hear an epic broadcast call, do yourself a favor and watch the reaction by the ESPN crew to the final Ogunbowale shot.

2019: U.S. Women’s National Team (FIFA World Cup)

Many words could describe the back-to-back world champions, but the first to come to mind is dominant. From Megan Rapinoe’s flurry of goals and Alex Morgan’s continuing strength to Rose Lavelle’s emergence as a star, this summer was dominated by the U.S. Women’s National Team. They stepped up under all the pressure in the world to win another championship, as countries consistently gave the U.S. their best shot, but no one could stand up to the task of knocking off the champs.

As exciting it is to know the calendar soon turns to 2020, it is bittersweet to know the decade is coming to an end because sports have made the 2010s a decade to remember. Before Jan. 1, 2020, rolls around, make sure to look back and soak in all the great sports moments of the last 10 years.

Brian Yancelson

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