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2012 in sports: Key dates to remember

Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY)

Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY) Photo Credit: Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. (Danny Ghitis/amNY)

The Giants' stirring victory over the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Saturday was probably the last major sporting event of the tri-state calendar year, especially since both will be battling for their playoff lives again on New Year's Day. For New Yorkers interested in looking into the potential key moments of the 2012 sporting slate, here's a list of key dates to remember as we say goodbye to 2011:

Jan. 9: The Baseball Writers' Association of America will announce the inductees for the Hall of Fame Class of 2012. The most notable first-timer from our city is former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams, who hit .297 with 287 homers, 1,257 RBIs and 147 stolen bases in 16 seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Williams, who also won four World Series titles and the 1998 American League batting title, isn't likely to get many votes his first time out and is a long shot to ever gain serious consideration. His former teammate, Don Mattingly, has been on the ballot since 2001, but is destined to fall short of the necessary votes yet again. Is being a legendary Yankee really any less of an honor that being inducted into Cooperstown? Williams' No. 51 will probably wind up next to Mattingly's 23 in Monument Park someday soon.

Jan. 9: While you're waiting to find out who was elected to the Hall, get ready for a Bowl Championship Series title game for the ages later that night. In a rematch of Lousiana State's highly rated 9-6 overtime triumph over Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5., the Southeastern Conference rivals figure to battle right down to the wire to determine the national championship at the Superdome. Alabama will be vying for its second title in the Nick Saban era, while Les Miles will try to grab his second crown since replacing Saban at LSU. By the way, Saban won a national championship for the Tigers in 2003.

Jan. 20: Brooklyn's own Chris Mullin will have his No. 17 jersey retired in a special ceremony when the Warriors host the Indiana Pacers at Oakland's Oracle Arena. Making the occasion even more special, Mullin's former St. John's teammate and Brooklyn Catholic School rival, Mark Jackson, will be in on the Warriors' bench completing his first full month as Golden State's new head coach.

Jan. 23: With the Nets slated to bring major pro sports back to Brooklyn for the first time since the Dodgers were shanghaied to Los Angeles following the 1957 season, it seems appropriate that New Yorkers should commemorate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's election to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Robinson, who broke baseball's color line with the Dodgers in 1947, won the National League's Rookie of the Year award that same season and was named the NL MVP two years later, becoming the first African-American player so honored.

Jan. 25: Has it really been 25 years since Mark Bavaro genuflected in the end zone at the Rose Bowl? Phil Simms certainly doesn't look much older than he did the day he went a near-perfect 22-for-25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns against John Elway's Broncos in Pasadena, Calif. Simms, the Super Bowl MVP, and Hall of Fame linebackers Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson should get back together for a repeat of their trend-setting Gatorade bath of former coach Bill Parcells as time ran out on the Giants' 39-20 victory.

Feb. 5: Entering the weekend, we still had a shot -- albeit an astronomical one -- that the Giants and Jets would meet at Lucas Oil Field for Super Bowl XLI. Now, let's get back to reality. The defending champion Packers figure to get the most trouble from either New Orleans or upstart San Francisco in a potential NFC Championship game as they chase a repeat. Over in the AFC, Baltimore, New England, Pittsburgh and Houston are shaping up as the cream of the crop, though each would be an underdog against Green Bay on Super Sunday.

March 2: Remember Kobe Bryant's 81-point game in 2006. Well, the Lakers superstar fell 19 points shy of the NBA record, which Wilt Chamberlain established half a century ago for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa. Chamberlain, who actually averaged 50.4 points per game that season, got his 100 by goikng 36-for63 from the field and 28-of-32 from the line that night. The 7-footer also managed to rip down 25 rebounds while playing the full 48 minutes.

April 4: Jose! Jose! Jose! Has gone away. Bitter Mets fans will get their first look at the only batting champion in franchise history when he suits up for the Miami Marlins on Opening Day at brand new Marlins Ballpark against the defending champion and Albert Pujols-less St. Louis Cardinals. Reyes, who was considered a long shot to return to Citi Field in the wake of the Mets' financial woes, will make his return to Flushing on April 24.

April 26: The Colts may be out of Luck. Literally. Though it holds the lead for the top overall pick in next year's NFL Draft entering the final weekend of the regular season, Indianapolis might get edged out by the St. Louis Rams, who could then pick Luck and trade Sam Bradford or simply raid the remainder of the Colts' choices for the right to pick the Stanford quarterback. Whether four-time MVP Peyton Manning will be amenable to training Luck during his final years, or forces his way out of Indy, will ultimately get considerably more ink than the draft itself.

April 28: The new-look Knicks should be returning to the playoffs, hoping to post their first postseason win since 2001, when they took the opener of a best-of-5 against Toronto before dropping three in a row and watching their fortunes drop precipitously for the next decade. Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and newly signed center Tyson Chandler will be eager to stake their claim as the new "Big Three" come spring. Last year, the Celtics took the Knicks out in four straight.

June 8-July 10: Can't wait another two years for the World CUp? Don't have to. Euro 2012, to be staged in Poland/Ukraine this summer, features a soon-to-be-expanded 16-team field that will feature the greatest players in the world battling it out for the right to call themselves European champions for the next four years. Defending champion Spain, which also is the reigning World Cup and Champions League titleholder, figures to be the main attraction. The Spaniards topped Germany, 1-0, in the 2008 Final in Austria/Switzerland.

July 27- Aug. 12: Ok. So we didn't get the bid for the 2012 Olympics, but we can still enjoy the nearly three weeks of international competition from London. For the first time ever, women's boxing will be a part of the Games, with ladies duking it out for medals in three weight classes -- Flyweight, Lightweight and Middleweight. London last hosted the summer games in 1948. American Bob Mathias captured the gold in the decathlon that year at the age of 17, becoming the youngest male ever to capture the Olympics' top prize.

Sept. 10: It's been 50 years since Rod Laver completed his first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, though he managed to pull off the feat again in 1969. This year's men will have to stop Novak Djokovic from grabbing his second consecutive title, while the ladies can take heart in remembering Samantha Stosur's stunning straight set upset of Serena Williams in last year's final.

Sept. 28: Though the Nets aren't scheduled to hit the hardwood until November, Brooklynites will pack the brand new Barclays Center for one of their native sons when Jay-Z plays the first of several scheduled concerts to commemorate the opening of the state-of-the-art arena. The new Atlantic Avenue home of the Nets is expected to seat better than 18,000 for basketball, and don't be shocked if the hockey-ready facility lures the troubled Islanders Downtown eventually.

Nov. 25: It's not the Lombardi Trophy or the Stanley Cup, but the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup game will hold special meaning in 2012 as it is the 100th anniversary of the Great White North's championship game. Previous winners of NFL note include Warren Moon and Doug Flutie. Toronto has won a record 15 Grey Cups, but watched the BC Lions hoist the hardware last year after defeating Winnipeg.

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