The 2022 calendar year produced some of the most special, memorable, iconic, headline-worthy, and best sports moments of all-time. It included everything from records being broken, unlikely champions being named, and some of the greatest athletes of all-time announcing their retirement (sort of).
From January to December, fans had no shortage of enticing sports moments. Not only did we get our usual taste of the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and Stanley Cup, but we were also pampered with the 2022 Winter Olympics and the 2022 FIFA World Cup – two events that happen every four years.
Of course, that doesn’t even touch on all the major sporting events that happen across the world – the four major championships in golf and tennis, horse racing’s Triple Crown series, NASCAR and Formula 1 races, and so much more. Every single day, sports fans are blessed with something worth witnessing.
2022 Sports Moments We’ll Remember Forever
With all the incredible sports moments that happen throughout the year, it’s hard to narrow them down to just 20 – but we’re going to try. Since we’re bound to leave a few spectacular sports moments off the list, let’s go over some of the few honorable mentions that are noteworthy, but not listed in our coveted top-20.
For example, we’d be remiss not to mention the farewell tours we witnessed for Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles – two of the WNBA’s all-time greats. We also saw Zdeno Chara (NHL), Ben Roethlisberger (NFL), Shaun White (snowboarding), Roger Federer (tennis), and Serena Williams (tennis) retire.
The NBA community is celebrating the life of Bill Russell, the MLB community celebrated the life of Vin Scully, the Minnesota Vikings made the largest comeback in NFL history after being down 33-0 at half, and Tiger Woods made his return to golf at the 2022 Masters after his near-death experience in 2021.
All of those were memorable sports moments, but let’s take a look at our top-20 sports moments of 2022 (in order of date).
20. Lionel Messi Leads Argentina to World Cup Victory
The 2022 World Cup, which commenced on November 20th and concluded a month later on December 18th, featured a lot of incredible sports moments. For example, it was the last World Cup appearance for Cristiano Ronaldo and it saw plenty of upsets as African nations were represented well throughout.
Of course, nothing beats that exciting World Cup Final between Argentina (which features Lionel Messi) and France (which features Kylian Mbappe). The score was 3-3 at the end of regulation before Argentina won it in penalties – Messi scored two goals in the win and was given the Golden Ball as the MVP.
19. Alex Ovechkin Joins the Elite 800 Club
On December 13th, Alex Ovechkin did what only two other NHL players have done in their career – that being Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky. In a 7-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, Ovechkin scored his 800th goal and he did it in style – scoring a hat-trick after entering the game with 797 career goals.
Ovechkin would score his first two goals of the game rather quickly – the first coming just 24 seconds in and the second coming around the eight-minute mark. He had an assist early in the second period and came back in the third period to complete the hat-trick just 6:34 in. As of January 12th, he has 809 goals.
18. Brittney Griner Returns Home After Russian Detainment
On February 17th, Brittney Griner was arrested and detained in Russia after airport customs found cannabis oil and vape cartridges in her bag. She spends most of her offseasons in Russia playing basketball to earn extra income. Unfortunately, many people believed she was being targeted.
On December 8th, we finally received the news we had been waiting to hear all year long – Griner was free. After spending nearly 10 months in Russian detainment, Griner was released in a 1-for-1 prisoner exchange that sent Viktor Bout back to Russia. A week later, she said she’ll return to the WNBA in 2023.
17. Aaron Judge Breaks AL Single Season Home Run Record
On October 4th, Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees were preparing for a doubleheader against the Texas Rangers – a game at 1:05 p.m. and another at 7:05 p.m.. Judge was entering the day with 61 home runs on the season, which was tied for the most home runs hit in a single season in AL history.
Judge finished Game 1 with just one hit in five at-bats and while he scored a run, it wasn’t a home run. During Game 2, he finally did it – and he did it in style. It was a leadoff home run in the top of the 1st inning, which couldn’t have been scripted any better – there were just 2 games left in the season.
16. Albert Pujols Joins Elite 700 Club
Speaking of home runs, let’s not forget about the man himself – Albert Pujols. He entered the 2022 season with 679 career home runs and was looking to become just the fourth player in MLB history to hit 700 home runs in his career. With Pujols retiring at the end of the season, this was his last opportunity.
He had just 7 of his needed 21 home runs entering August, but that’s when he kicked it into high gear. He had 8 home runs (two multi-HR games) in August. On Sept. 16, he hit his 698th HR and one week later (Sept. 23), he hit two home runs against the Dodgers to officially join the 700 club – he retired with 703.
15. Las Vegas Aces Win the WNBA Championship
The Las Vegas Aces finished the WNBA regular season as the No. 1 seed with a 26-10 record – which was tied with the Chicago Sky and one game ahead of the Connecticut Sun. To nobody’s surprise, those three teams were the favorites throughout the playoffs, with the Aces and Sun making it to the Finals.
Game 1 was a tight three-point win for the Aces and they followed that up with a convincing 14-point win in Game 2 – A’ja Wilson had a double-double in each game. While the Aces got blown out in Game 3, they came back with a 7-point win in Game 4 to bring the first ever championship to the city of Las Vegas. Becky Hammon was in her first season as head coach.
14. Carlos Alcaraz Becomes Youngest Ever Year-End No. 1 Tennis Player
Carlos Alcaraz rose to prominence in 2021, becoming the youngest player to debut in the top 35 towards the end of the year. In 2022, he took the tennis world by storm and established himself as the man to beat moving forward. By July 25th, he made his debut at No. 5 in the world and was playing his best tennis.
He entered the 2022 US Open with an opportunity to become No. 1 in the world with a win – which he did against Casper Ruud in the final, becoming the youngest player to be named No. 1 in the world. He went on to finish as the year-end No. 1 player, becoming the youngest player and first teenager to do so – he turns 20 in May.
13. Amanda Nunes is BACK!
In December 2021, Amanda Nunes lost her first fight in 7 years after a submission defeat to Julianna Peña at UFC 269. It was a massive upset that saw Nunes lose her bantamweight title, which she held since July 9, 2016 – when she defeated Miesha Tate with the same rear-naked choke that Peña won with.
On July 30, 2022, Nunes and Peña stepped into the octagon for a rematch with the bantamweight title up for grabs. Unlike the first fight, this one went all five rounds and ended in a decision – which Nunes won unanimously. She improved to 22-5 in her MMA career and became the first fighter to be named a double champion twice – she’s also the featherweight champion.
12. Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe Receive Medal of Freedom
On July 7th, gymnastics legend Simone Biles and women’s football icon Megan Rapinoe received the highest civilian honor in the United States when President Joe Biden awarded them the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They’re two of the biggest icons in female sports and deserve their recognition.
They received the honor for their ‘”exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.’ Biles is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, while Rapinoe has won two World Cups and a gold medal at the Olympics.
11. Iga Swiatek Has a Historic Year
Where Carlos Alcatraz established himself as a top-dog on the men’s side, Iga Swiatek was doing the same on the women’s side. Like Alcatraz, she not only made her debut as world No. 1 in 2022, but she ended the year as the world No. 1 player and set a slew of records in the process – at just 21 years old.
Perhaps her most astonishing accomplishment in 2022 was her 37-match unbeaten streak, which was the longest such streak in 32 years. It came to an end on July 2nd when she lost to Alize Cornet in the third round at Wimbledon. Still, she managed to win the French Open and US Open – her second and third major wins.
10. Stephen Curry is BACK!
Stephen Curry was on top of the world following the 2018-19 season – having just won his second title in four years and appeared in his fifth-straight NBA Finals. Unfortunately, he would only play in 5 games the following season due to injury and his team failed to make the postseason during the 2020-21 season.
With that said, the 2020-21 season saw him lead the league with a career-high 32.0 points per game and he was poised to get his team back to the playoffs in 2021-22 – which he did. The Warriors went on to win the title and Curry was named Finals MVP for the first time in his career – and they said he couldn’t do it.
9. LIV Golf Steals PGA Tour Talent
Perhaps one of the most interesting and long-lasting sports moments of 2022 was the continued rift between the newly-formed LIV Golf and the prominent PGA Tour. By May, LIV Golf had already taken Dustin Johnson from the PGA. By June, they also had Phil Mickelson aboard and many followed.
The first LIV Golf event took place on June 9th at the Centurion Club in London, England. Dustin Johnson and his team, 4 Aces GC, stole the show in the 2022 season. Johnson was named Individual Champion with 135 points and Money Winner – winning more than $35.5 million – and his team was also champion.
8. Rafael Nadal Wins Record 21st and 2nd Grand Slam
Rafael Nadal began the 2022 calendar year in a tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for most Grand Slam wins at 20 a piece. That didn’t last very long as Nadal opened the year with a win at the Australian Open – his 21st major – in January and a win at the French Open – his 22nd major – in June.
While Djokovic would win his 21st major in July, Nadal still ended the year with the most men’s Grand Slam singles titles all-time. He also ended the year as the No. 2 player in the world, becoming the oldest player to achieve that ranking in ATP history – Nadal will be turning 37 years old on June 3rd.
7. Miguel Cabrera Joins Elite 3,000 Club
In 2021, Miguel Cabrera became just the 28th player to hit 500 home runs in their career and while he hit only 5 home runs in 2022, he once again made history when he became just the 33rd player to record at least 3,000 hits in their career. He’s now the seventh player in history to have 3,000 hits and 500 HRs.
The milestone came on April 23rd in the first game of a doubleheader against the Colorado Rockies. He entered the game with 2,999 hits, but it didn’t take long for him to make it 3,000 – hitting a single to right field in the first inning on a 1-1 fastball by Antonio Senzatela. His team went on to win 13-0 that game.
6. Kansas Makes Large Comeback to Win National Championship
The 2022 NCAA Division I men’s basketball National Championship game was one for the ages – capping off an exciting and thrilling 2022 March Madness. The Kansas Jayhawks were seeking their fourth title, while the North Carolina Tar Heels were in search of their seventh title – only one would win.
The game started heavily in the Tar Heels’ favor – taking a massive 40-25 lead into halftime. Bill Self must’ve given his Jayhawks’ squad quite the halftime speech, as they outscored the Tar Heels 47-29 in the second half to complete the largest comeback in title game history – they won the game 72-69.
5. Tom Brady Retires, Then Unretires – Tyson Fury Follows Suit
On February 1st, Tom Brady broke the internet when he announced his retirement after 22 seasons in the NFL. Six weeks later, he broke the internet again when he un-retired and announced his return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He has since led them to an 8-9 record and is now preparing for the playoffs.
Believe it or not, Brady wasn’t the only star athlete to retire and un-retire in 2022. Tyson Fury retired in August after defeating Dillian Whyte in April. He then announced his return to the ring on October 20 for a bout against Derek Chisora in December – which he won. He’s now 33-0-1 since turning pro in 2008.
4. Gregg Popovich Sets All-Time Record for Wins By a Head Coach
Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history – that was evident well before the start of the 2022 season. Of course, he continued to cement himself in the history books on February 16th when he recorded his 1,333rd win, which surpassed Lenny Wilkens for the second-most in NBA history.
The history-making continued on March 11th, when Popovich won his 1,336th game – which surpassed Don Nelson for the most in NBA history. Of course, Nelson needed a full 370 games more to achieve what Popovich did. He went on to finish the season with 1,344 wins and is 13-29 with the Spurs this year.
ALSO READ: 20 of the Best Coaches of All Time
3. Coach K Coaches Final College Basketball Game
Among the many retirements we saw in 2022, none were as special as Mike Krzyzewski – who coached Duke for more than 40 years and had a coaching career that spanned from 1974 to 2022. He went out with a bang, coaching his team to a 32-7 record before losing in the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.
Krzyzewski coached his final Duke home game on March 5, 2022 – an 81-94 loss to rival North Carolina. They then lost in the ACC Championship a week later before Coach K coached his final game in a 77-81 loss to North Carolina in the Final Four – missing out on an opportunity to play in the championship game.
2. Matthew Stafford Wins First Super Bowl
In March 2021, the Los Angeles Rams made a trade with the Detroit Lions that sent Matthew Stafford to LA in hopes of winning it all. It turned out to be the right move for the Rams, who saw Stafford lead them to a 12-5 record and playoff berth, throwing for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season.
In the playoffs, Stafford led the Rams to three consecutive wins en route to a Super Bowl berth. On February 13th, the Rams defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI and Matthew Stafford was named Super Bowl MVP with 283 yards and 3 TDs. He proved all the doubters wrong in his first season in LA.
1. Nathan Chen Has an Incredible 2022 Winter Olympics
Nathan Chen had one word on his mind entering the 2022 Winter Olympics – redemption. His 2018 Olympic appearance didn’t quite go as planned, earning a bronze in the mixed team event and placing fifth in the men’s singles (despite being a favorite for gold). He had a chance at redemption in 2022.
And that’s exactly what he achieved. Not only did he win a silver medal in the team event (better than his bronze in 2018), but he masterfully won the gold medal in the men’s singles – setting a new world record in the men’s short by more than 2.00 points. He dazzled viewers with a near-flawless performance.
What About the Best Sports Moments of 2023 (So Far)?
The 2023 calendar year is still very young, but we’ve already been spoiled with some incredible sports moments that will likely be talked about for a long time. It’s just a small sample size of what the rest of 2023 has in store for the sports community as we make our way into the second half of January.
Just a few days ago, we witnessed the Georgia Bulldogs put on a show against the TCU Horned Frogs in the CFP National Championship. The Bulldogs won 65-7 behind their superstar quarterback, Stetson Bennett – who finished with 304 yards passing, 4 passing touchdowns, and 2 rushing touchdowns.
We also saw Donovan Mitchell score 71 points against the Chicago Bulls on January 2nd, becoming the seventh player in NBA history to score at least 70 points in a single game, and most recently learned that Naomi Osaka, a four-time major tennis champion, is expecting her first child with boyfriend Cordrae.
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