See the rest of TIME’s Top 10 of Everything 2013 lists here
10. Baylor Bounced
During the 2011-2012 season, the Baylor Bears finished 40-0; Brittney Griner, the dunking machine of women’s basketball, led Baylor to a championship. All five starters returned for the following season, and though Baylor lost one regular season game when point guard Odyssey Sims was injured, the Bears won their first two games of the NCAA Tournament by 42 and 38 points, respectively. So no one saw what was coming: in the Sweet Sixteen, fifth-seeded Louisville hit 16 of 25 three-pointers, and Monique Reid hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds left to give Louisville an 82-81 win over Baylor; it was arguably the biggest upset in women’s hoops history. “We heard that the only way we were going to win is if Baylor’s bus didn’t show up,” Reid told ESPN afterwards. “We didn’t care about any of that.” Louisville reached the national title game, before losing to UConn, 93-60.
9. Bruin Strong
After the Toronto Maple Leafs opened a 4-1 lead against the Boston Bruins, in the third period of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the Bruins looked cooked. After all, no team in NHL history had ever won a Game 7 after trailing by three goals in the third period. Things looked even bleaker with under 90 seconds left in the game, with Boston still trailing by two goals. But then another miracle on ice broke out: the Bruins scored twice in the span of 31 seconds. Milan Lucic punched in a shot that deflected off Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer, then Patrice Bergeron rifled in the game-tying goal from in front of the blue line. Bergeron also scored the game-winner in overtime. Boston’s TD Garden – and pubs – exploded. It was another great moment in Boston sports’ history, and a month after the marathon bombings, a celebration the city sorely needed. The Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup finals, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
8. Brazil’s Big Stand
A year before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the host country made the loudest soccer statement of the year. Spain entered the final of this year’s Confederations Cup, in many ways a dress rehearsal for the World Cup, having gone 29 straight matches without losing, dating back three years. But ninety seconds into the championship game, Spain gave up a goal to Brazil; later in the half, Brazilian phenom Neymar sent a perfectly-placed left-footed rocket into the corner of the net, giving Brazil a 2-0 lead over the defending World Cup champs. It was Neymar’s seventh goal in nine matches. Brazil won the game, played in Rio, 3-0. Neymar has said “it’s almost obligation” for Brazil to win the World Cup.
7. Nyad’s Swim For The Ages
On four separate occasions, Diana Nyad had tried to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Miami without a protective shark cage. On three of those attempts, she was over 60 years old. Rough seas and jellyfish stings and asthma attacks had thwarted her prior trips; so in September, she said she was giving it one last shot. This time, 53 hours after leaping into the ocean in Havana, she arrived safely on shore in Key West, an inspiration to people of all ages. It wasn’t easy; Nyad started vomiting along the way, and sang lullabies to help her relax. “I decided this year to use a mantra,” Nyad told Good Morning America after it was over. “And the phrase I decided to use was ‘Find a way.’”
6. Dandy Andy
It’s a scene Great Britain will never forget: Novak Djokovic striking a backhand into the net to end Wimbledon, Andy Murray dropping his racquet, then his white hat, in the grass, then pumping his fists about twenty times, while roaring. Finally, the most notorious drought in tennis had ended. Murray, a Scot, became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years. Murray took the final in three tight sets, winning 6-4, 7-5, 6-4. The last game wracked a country’s nerves: Murray let three match points slip away, but also fended off three Djokovic break points. The year before, Murray shed tears on Centre Court after losing the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer. A few months later, he won Olympic gold on home soil. Now, he was Wimbledon champ. “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” said Murray. His home country knew the answer, and couldn’t stop celebrating its prized new champion.
5. Ray Saves the Heat’s Day
San Antonio’s old guard – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili – were each just 20 seconds away from what might have been their last chance at an NBA title (Duncan has won 4 championships with the Spurs; Parker and Ginobili have each won three). The Spurs led Game 6 of the NBA finals, 95-92. If they could just stop the Heat from hitting a three-pointer, they could be raising the championship banner in Miami, and abruptly end LeBron James’ dream season, in which he won his second straight MVP award. James missed a three, but Chris Bosh jumped over two Spurs to grab the offensive rebound. (Duncan, one of the greatest rebounders of all-time, wasn’t in the game). Bosh dished the ball out to Ray Allen, the man who has hit more three-pointers than any other player in NBA history. Allen backpedaled behind the three-point line, and hit the corner shot, tying the game. The Heat won in overtime, and took the deciding game seven to clinch its second straight championship.
4. Lance’s Big Lie
For many fans, Lance Armstrong was stating the obvious in January, when he admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he did indeed use performance-enhancing drugs during his seven Tour de France victories. Still, hearing the truth from Armstrong himself was shocking: after years and years of strident denials and bullying of accusers, he came clean to Oprah: yes, he took banned substances, yes, he took EPO, yes, he used blood transfusions, yes, he took testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone and yes, he cheated during all seven Tour de France wins.
3. Darkness in the Dome
The Super Bowl blackout, which delayed the game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers for 34 minutes at the start of the third quarter, was at first somewhat scary, then confusing, then totally surreal, as the players stretched out on the darkened Superdome field, waiting for the game to resume. Would we have to pick things up on Monday?
Finally, the lights came back on, and then the lopsided game got electric.
Before the blackout, Baltimore had taken a 28-6 lead after Jacoby Jones ran a kickoff back a record 108 yards for a touchdown. Afterwards, the 49ers roared back, at one point scoring 17 unanswered points in four minutes. The delay seemed to faze Baltimore, while giving the Niners new life. “Honestly, for myself, I was a little stiff when I got back out there,” Baltimore running back Ray Rice said afterwards. The Ravens finally prevailed, 34-31, but not before a stirring red-zone stand that will forever be second-guessed. Late in the game, the Niners had three chances to put the ball in the end zone from the five-yard line, and take the lead. But three times, Colin Kaepernick couldn’t connect with receiver Michael Crabtree (Was Crabtree held on the fourth-down play? Niners fans will be saying yes! for eternity).
What caused the blackout? Some kind of design defect, according to an independent analysis. But in retrospect, it was a small price to pay for turning a ho-hum Super Bowl into one for the ages.
2. Fenway Flourish
Rarely does one single home run produce four different stars. First, there’s the obvious standout: when David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox clubbed a game-tying Grand Slam into the bullpen at Fenway Park, during the eighth inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, he changed the course of this year’s postseason. Boston was in danger of falling behind 2-0, at home, to Detroit in the series; instead, the Red Sox won that game, that series, and the World Series, in which Ortiz hit a ridiculous .688 and slugged two home runs.
Second, there’s Torii Hunter, the Detroit right fielder. He may not have robbed Ortiz of his grand slam, but his effort was unreal. Hunter tumbled head first over the wall, his legs flailing above the fence, shaped like a wishbone. At the same time, Boston police office Steve Horgan raised his arms in the bullpen, and Stan Grossfeld, veteran photographer for the Boston Globe, captured an iconic moment; Hunter and Hogan, and their V-shaped limbs in the air. For Boston fans it was, indeed, V for victory.
1. Astounding Iron Bowl
Alabama coach Nick Saban won’t try 57-yard field goals any time soon. The Crimson Tide was tied with arch-rival Auburn, 28-28, with one second left in this year’s Iron Bowl. Alabama, two-time defending national champs, sat atop the rankings once again, and was riding a 15-game winning streak. The game seemed destined for overtime, but Saban decided to let a freshman backup kicker, Adam Griffith, try a 57-yarder for the win, rather than go for a Hail Mary. Or just take a knee for overtime.
Griffith’s kick – just the third field goal attempt of his college career –fell short, right into the hands of Auburn’s Chris Davis, who was parked in the end zone. As Davis made his way up the sideline, it seemed as if Saban and the team had forgotten that missed field goals can be returned. Alabama’s burly offensive lineman could certainly have prevented a blocked kick, but they hardly got near Davis. His dash–more than 100 yards–into the end zone won the game for Auburn, crushed Alabama’s hopes for a three-peat, sent the stadium into hysterics, and had fans calling it the greatest second in college football history.