Indians Beat Cowboys! Ledecky Beats World! Leicester Beats Premier League!

Jamie Vardy led Leicester City to the most unlikely championship in all of pro sports in 2016 REUTERS

Too much happened in sports in 2016. Put aside the Summer Olympics in Rio, and you still have the Cleveland Cavaliers ending a decades-long misery streak in basketball, the Chicago Cubs terminating one in baseball that extended for more than a century, and Leicester City stopping one that began in the 19th century. The Golden State Warriors splashed their way to regular-season history while Jordan Spieth splashed two in the drink at Augusta National.

We dared not cover all the glorious sports moments from 2016, but here are 16 of the best. Enjoy.

Onward, Christian Soldiers

January: After finishing second to Alabama's Derrick Henry in Heisman Trophy balloting despite setting a single-season NCAA record for all-purpose yardage (3,864), Stanford's Christian McCaffrey arrives at the Rose Bowl with a chip on his shoulder pads. On the game's first play from scrimmage, the Cardinal junior catches a short pass and scoots 75 yards untouched to score against Iowa. Later in the first half, McCaffrey scores on a 66-yard punt return. McCaffrey ends his afternoon in Pasadena with 368 all-purpose yards, a Rose Bowl record, as Stanford trounces the Hawkeyes, 45-10.

Fender Ender

February: At the Daytona 500, Denny Hamlin comes from fourth place in the final lap to win in the closest finish (0.01 of a second) in the history of the Great American Race. The 35-year-old Virginian passes two cars on the outside, and then cuts inside of Matt Kenseth on the penultimate turn before edging Martin Truex Jr. by the width of a fender.

Two Shining Moments

April: In the NCAA championship game between North Carolina and Villanova, the Tar Heels' Marcus Paige drains a ridiculous double-pump three-pointer with two defenders flanking him to even the score at 74, with 4.7 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, Villanova's Kris Jenkins inbounds it to Ryan Arcidiacano, who dribbles up court and then, approaching the center top of the three-point arc, flips it back to an uncontested Jenkins. Without dribbling the 6'6" junior launches the rainbow that swishes through the net as the buzzer sounds just the way you did on on your driveway when you were 10.

Kobe Gets 60; Golden State Gets 73

April: The final night of the NBA regular season was filled with drama in California. In Los Angeles, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was playing the last game of his 20-year Hall of Fame career. Up north, the Golden State Warriors sought to become the first team in NBA history to win 73 games in a season.

Golden State easily disposed of the Memphis Grizzlies, 125-104, in a record-setting yet anti-climactic contest. Their true drama came the weekend before, when they overcame Memphis and the San Antonio Spurs in back-to-back games on the road. The latter victory kept the Spurs from becoming the first NBA franchise to go undefeated at home for a season (San Antonio finished 40-1 in its arena).

Meanwhile in L.A., Bryant went Lin-Manuel Miranda ("I'm not throwing away my shot") in his farewell appearance, chucking up 50 attempts and making 22 of them against the Utah Jazz while scoring 60 points. In a game featuring two teams that would fail to make the playoffs, the Mamba rallied the Lakers from 10 points down in the final 2:35, scoring 13 unanswered points to seal the victory. The Staples Center faithful erupted as if the Lakers had won the NBA championship.

Err Jordan

April: On Sunday at Augusta National, 22-year-old Jordan Spieth arrived on the back nine with a five-stroke lead, having made four consecutive birdies. The defending Masters champion was poised to earn a second green jacket, but he bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes before achieving total meltdown on the 12th, dropping two balls into Rae's Creek for a quadruple bogey.

Spieth limped home three shots behind champion Danny Willett and then, adding insult to injury, had to observe the longstanding rule of placing the green jacket on the champion.

Leicester City Works a Miracle

May: In 2009, Leicester City played in the third tier of English football. In 2014, the Foxes at last had climbed back into the Premier League but found themselves at the bottom of the 20-team table on Christmas day. In the summer of 2015, Ladbrokes offered 5,000-to-1 odds on Leicester City winning the Premier League. On May 2nd, buoyed by Jamie Vardy's 24 goals during the season, Leicester City won the Premier League. Later that spring, nearly 250,000 fans of the Foxes would celebrate the club's first triumph in the top tier of English football since their 1883 inception.

Mudder of God

May: At the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes, Exaggerator came from 13 lengths back in a deluge of rain to overtake Kentucky Derby winner Nqyuist in the homestretch. There would be no repeat Triple Crown winner this year.

The Amazing Adventures of Cavaliers and Klay Thompson

May-June: Two takeaways from the NBA postseason: 1) Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference finals was a gut-check classic, and the impetus for a tectonic shift in the league. Aided by Klay Thompson's 41 points, the defending champion Golden State Warriors staved off elimination in Oklahoma City. Had the Thunder won that game and advanced to the NBA Finals, would Kevin Durant have departed after the season to join…Golden State? 2) LeBron James silenced any remaining doubters in the NBA Finals, leading the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit against the Warriors, and scoring 41 points in Game 7 on the road. His superhuman block of Andre Iguodala's fast-break lay-up in the waning moments illustrates why he's rightly called The King.

Viking Conquest

July: Portugal won Euro 2016, but Iceland won everyone's favor. The smallest nation (population: 330,000) ever to qualify for a major international tournament charmed everyone with their coach, who doubles as a dentist and a broadcaster who talked smack. "We are never going home!" crowed Gudmundur Benediktsson after Iceland knocked out England in the round of 16, a match that took place shortly after the Brexit vote. "Did you see that? You can go home. You can go out of Europe. You can go wherever the hell you want!"

In a sporting parallel to history, 10% of Iceland (33,000 or so) "invaded" Europe to cheer on their team, which played eventual champion Portugal to a draw in the group stage and advanced to the quarterfinals before host nation France eliminated them.

Katie Ledecky Leaves the World In Her Wake

August: Swimming against the sternest competition the planet had to offer, 19-year-old Katie Ledecky won Olympic gold in the 400-meter freestyle by five seconds and in the 800-meter freestyle by 11 seconds. The Bethesda, Maryland native set world records in both events and won two other golds while laying claim to be not only the world's, but perhaps Maryland's, most dominant swimmer in Rio (sorry, Michael). If you wanted to swim faster than Ledecky at any distance farther than 200 meters in 2016, you needed a pair of gills.

Ledecky was the Secretariat of swimmers in Rio Andrew Wermuth

Related: Jordan Spieth's Masters nightmare was even scarier for rest of field

Wayde's World

August: Making his Olympic debut, 24-year-old Wayde Van Niekerk of South Africa lined up in Lane 8 for the men's 400-meter final. No man had ever won gold in that race starting from the outside lane, a spot from which a sprinter must run blind. But van Niekerk, whose coach, Ans Botha, is a white-haired, 74-year-old grandmother of four, confounded history while making some himself. Not only did the Cape Town native break the tape, but he broke Michael Johnson's 17-year-old world record by doing so in 43.03.

Hello, Gary

Sanchez had a blast once the Yankees promoted him from the minors USA TODAY SPORTS

August: The New York Yankees called up rookie catcher Gary Sanchez on August 3, a few days after they had traded three of their top veterans and while they were negotiating an amicable divorce with a fourth, Alex Rodriguez. The franchise had already sent the 2016 season to the showers, but someone forgot to tell Sanchez. In less than two months, the Baby Bomber hit 20 home runs and drove in 42 runs, keeping Yankees playoff hopes alive until the season's final week.

Indians Defeat Cowboys!

September: On a play that began with 0:00 on the scoreboard clock and that should have not occurred anyway (the referees misapplied a rule on an intentional grounding call), the Central Michigan Chippewas defeated the Oklahoma State Cowboys on a 51-yard Hail Mary. Chippewa quarterback Cooper Rush tossed the ball 40 yards downfield, where wide receiver Jesse Kroll hauled it in near the right sideline at the 10. As Kroll was falling backward, he lateraled to Corey Willis, who sprinted toward the left pylon, eluding a tackle at the goal line for the 30-27 win.

Also, it would be a crime to forget the back-at-you Hail Mary in Athens in a game featuring SEC East rivals Tennessee and Georgia. Trailing 28-24, the Bulldogs scored on a 47-yard pass with 0:12 to play. Two Georgia penalties and one kickoff later, the Vols had the ball on the Bulldog 43 with 0:04 to play. Quarterback Josh Dobbs heaved a ball into the twilight that landed in the arms of teammate Jauan Jennings in the end zone. The Volunteers won, 34-31.

Kevin Sent

September: The NFL may be unwatchable, but it is not unlistenable, at least not if Kevin Harlan is on the call. When a fan sprinted onto the field during an execrable exhibition of football between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers on a Monday night, Harlan, working the game for Westwood One radio, provided the most spirited commentary the No Fun League has heard since John Madden retired. It's a wonder Harlan was not flagged for excessive celebration.

Auston Powers In Four Goals

October: Was it wise for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make a native of the Arizona desert the No. 1 overall pick in the National Hockey League draft last June? It took only one game to find out, as 19 year-old Auston Matthews scored four goals in the first two periods of his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators.

Cub Your Enthusiasm

Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win! USA TODAY SPORTS

October-November: In Chicago, 1908 is enough. The Cubs ended 108 years of misery by defeating the Cleveland Indians, who themselves had not won a World Series since 1948, in the Fall Classic. It wasn't easy. The Cubs overcame a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7, then squandered a three-run lead in the bottom of the eighth and then, as if the baseball gods were toying with them, had to endure a 17-minute rain delay before finally ending it in the 10th inning. General Manager Theo Epstein, only 42, has now overseen the termination of the two most infamous droughts in baseball lore, that of the Boston Red Sox and the Cubs.

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