The 10 Best Sports Moments of the Summer

  • Eli Manning, Michael Strahan
    2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class

    This year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class included linebacker Derrick Brooks, punter Ray Guy, defensive end Claude Humphrey, tackle Walter Jones, wide receiver Andre Reed, defensive end Michael Strahan, and cornerback/safety Aeneas Williams. It also featured two of the coolest moments in recent NFL history.

    Reed was the longtime favorite target of Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly, as the duo combined to hook up a then-record 663 times. Kelly has been battling cancer for the past 14 years and there were questions about whether the former Bill would even be able to show up to see his receiver get inducted. Instead, he not only showed up, but the two of them connected on one final pass, the highlight of the ceremony.

    To top it off during the Hall of Fame game between the Bills and Strahan’s Giants, Michael Strahan celebrated his induction by leading New York on a pregame “Stomp You Out” dance. Despite being retired for seven years, it felt like that whole team still looked up to their one-time defensive leader.

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  • LeBron James
    LeBron James Going Home

    Imagine being the Spurs. Imagine winning a title, and doing it while beating the best player in the world, and yet you get pushed aside almost immediately by the same guy you just beat in the NBA Finals.

    I’m sure San Antonio doesn’t really care — and I want to see someone ask Gregg Popovich about this — but there’s no denying that LeBron James returning to Cleveland was by far the biggest story out of the NBA this summer.

    Just four years after the Decision turned James into a nationwide villain and Public Enemy No. 1 in his home state of Ohio, the Cavs are once again the league’s headlining team and will reportedly be featured against San Antonio on opening night.

    Add in the expected Kevin Love trade, a rejuvenated Kyrie Irving, a new coach and new identity, and we’re looking at the NBA’s newest superteam.

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  • Derek Jeter's Last All-Star Game

    As The Drop‘s own Mike Petriello writes, “…it’s not only the Yankees who will feel Jeter’s absence next year. It’s all of baseball.”

    It will be a sad day when Derek Jeter hangs them up for good, and unfortunately with the Yanks six games back of Baltimore in the AL East, that day is fast approaching. The fans recognize it too, and during this summer’s All-Star Game in Minnesota, Jeter received numerous standing ovations. In his 14th and final ASG, Jeter then paid the fans back with a dramatic leadoff double.

    Jeter finished the game going 2-2 with a single and a double, becoming the oldest player in the game’s history to record two hits. He will also finish with a ridiculous .481 career batting average in the midseason classic.

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  • John Brooks

    The United States didn’t win this summer’s World Cup. We didn’t even come close. But we fared far better than anyone expected, and the country was swept up in the craze, the tournament dominating the first half of the summer.

    The most incredible moment actually came in our first group match when 21-year-old Brooks came off the bench as sub in his very first International match and scored the game-winning goal against Ghana in the 86th minute. The goal got the team three points in group play and was the key for getting Team USA into the single-elimination round.

    It was an incredible moment, and turned fans in the States into soccer fans for one night, at least. Brooks also dreamed about this one before it happened, which makes it even better.

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  • Clayton Kershaw No-Hitter

    Kershaw threw the 283rd no-hitter in MLB history this summer against Colorado, but there are a number of people already touting it as possibly the best one of all time.

    The 6-3 lefty was just so consistent, striking out 15 and not walking a single batter. That’s never happened before. He also threw just 107 pitches, whipping right through the Rockies lineup. Just one batter even made it to a 3-ball pitch count.

    And in the most impressive part of his night, Kershaw didn’t just make it to the finish line; he tore past it. The dude didn’t throw a single ball to any of the last six batters he faced.

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  • Michael Sam

    When St. Louis drafted Sam in the 7th round of the NFL Draft this summer (No. 249 overall), it marked a new era in sports. Sam became the first openly gay athlete to be drafted into the NFL, a sport known for keeping with tradition. The Rams weren’t afraid of Sam becoming a weekly distraction or some type of lightning rod — coach Jeff Fisher is sort of like the NFL’s equivalent of Gregg Popovich. If he thinks the team will be better off with Sam, even with the increased microscope that’ll surely come, you have to believe him. (And taking Sam this far down is the draft was a complete steal.)

    Sam still has work to do on the field. He’s a tweener. He still needs to make the team at a position where St. Louis is pretty deep. And he has to prove he can be an every-down player. But that can’t take anything away from this moment.

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  • Drake at the ESPYs

    Drake owned the ESPYs. Straight up owned them. From the outfits to the monologues to the cracking on Lance Stephenson to getting friendzoned by Skylar Diggins to his epic “Drake and Blake” joint with Blake Griffin, Aubrey put his own twist on the sporting spectacle. He even found time to drop a new track. The man just never stops working, huh?

     

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  • Kawhi Leonard
    San Antonio Spurs

    Speaking of the Spurs, they deserve some love for securing their fifth championship of the Duncan era, and doing it just as they always have: beating up on more talented teams through sheer precision, fundamentals, and teamwork. Corny, I know, but with new studs like Kawhi Leonard on the roster, San Antonio is at least watchable nowadays.

    To punctuate that “a group is better than a team of individuals” storyline we got going on, Leonard became just the sixth player in league history to win the Finals MVP without having been named to that season’s All-Star Game. It was a big turnaround for the man tasked with guarding LeBron. After two games, Popovich had to give him one of those “You are the man” speeches that only seem to work in Hollywood movies. But over the last three nights, Leonard exploded for 29, 20, and 22 points, punctuating three San Antonio blowouts.

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  • Usain Bolt
    Usain Bolt

    The best sprinter of all time returned to the limelight in a big way, adding a gold medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2014 Commonwealth Games to his long list of accomplishments. Bolt, who hadn’t competed for about a year and was coming off a hamstring injury, ran the final leg for Jamaica. They not only dusted the competition with a Commonwealth Games record of 37.58 seconds but Bolt literally walked the rest of the runners. It wasn’t even close.

    The crazy thing about Bolt — who plans to retire in 2017 — is he might be even better as an entertainer than as a sprinter. His presence alone gave this race the biggest audience, for BBC1, at the Commonwealth Games at more than eight million viewers.

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  • Mo'Ne Davis

    This year’s Little League World Series included the Taney Dragons of South Philadelphia after one of their pitchers struck out six on their way to a complete game shutout to send the team to the next level. On the surface, that’s cool, but it never would’ve made this list without this small fact: The pitcher in question is a girl.

    Mo’Ne Davis bucked the trend this year, becoming just the 18th girl to ever play in the LLWS. She has a nasty curveball and can somehow throw a fastball at 70 miles per hour. She has serious game, and was probably the best story to come out of the LLWS in 2014.

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  • Eli Manning, Michael Strahan
  • LeBron James
  • Derek Jeter
  • John Brooks
  • Clayton Kershaw
  • Michael Sam
  • Drake
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Usain Bolt
  • Mo

March is probably the best month for sports fans. I have to admit that. Even in August, I have to admit it. You have March Madness, and the NBA gearing up for the playoffs. You have baseball tipping off, and you even have the beginning of NFL free agency. But the summer months aren’t far behind.

This summer we saw everything from barriers being broken down in the NFL to new potential superstar blood in the NBA. The summer of 2014 doesn’t technically end until September 22, and it didn’t technically start until late June. But with tomorrow marking the start of September, we’re looking back at the best sporting moments from June, July, and August.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney