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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Neil Best's top 10 New York sports stories of 2010

Amar'e Stoudemire helped revitalize the Knicks when he

Amar'e Stoudemire helped revitalize the Knicks when he signed a free-agent contract this summer. Photo Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

None of the New York area's major pro teams won a championship in 2010; none even reached the final round of it league's playoffs.

Yet there was no shortage of big news. It's just that some of the year's biggest stories occurred off the field. Here are 10 to remember:

1. George Steinbrenner dies at age 80

By the time The Boss died after suffering a heart attack in July, he was several years removed from day-to-day control of the Yankees.

But his passing marked the end of an era for the team and for Major League Baseball, and was a chance to reflect on his complex legacy over 38 seasons at the helm of an iconic franchise.

It included winning seven World Championships, 11 pennants and 16 division titles, getting suspended from baseball twice and revolutionizing both free agency and local sports television.

He also ruled the back pages of New York's tabloids for decades, securing his status as a one-of-a-kind sports personality.

Steinbrenner photosA monument for "The Boss"

2. LeBron's 'Decision': No to New York

In retrospect, James never seriously considered coming to New York. Why attempt something as risky as resurrecting a great franchise in a great city in a great building?

But until close to the finish line of his free agency saga - when Newsday reported the morning of "The Decision'' that the Heat topped his list - most fans and the Knicks themselves held out hope.

Why else would he be making his announcement in nearby Greenwich, Conn.?

Soon, though, he was gone, handling it all so badly he tarnished his brand for the foreseeable future. He also sent the Knicks (and several other teams) on to Plan B.

LeBron joins the Heat | Fan frenzy | LeBron-athon

3. Jets reach AFC Championship game

Five weeks after Rex Ryan mistakenly declared the Jets out of the playoffs, the rookie coach and his rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, found themselves facing the Colts for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Getting there required late-regular-season help from the disinterested Bengals and Colts, who had nothing to play for, and consecutive road playoff victories over the Bengals and Chargers.

In the conference final, the Jets led 17-13 at halftime, but Indianapolis responded with 17 unanswered points, denying Gang Green its first Super Bowl berth in 41 years.

The dramatic run launched a year of colorful, sometimes controversial, on- and off-field headlines for the Jets, including a memorable star turn for Ryan on HBO's "Hard Knocks.''

Jets-Colts AFC championship photos

4. Islanders go from bad to worst

The Islanders have been in decline for many years, but Long Island's only major pro franchise reached new depths early in the 2010-11 season.

On the ice, they lost 14 games in a row and 20 of 21.

Off the ice, their attendance declined to alarming, four-figure levels, their push for an arena to replace their 1970s-era relic remained in limbo, they jettisoned a popular television analyst and they revoked the credentials of a widely read blogger.

Suddenly, the end of their lease in 2015 does not seem so far off, and it seems more and more like it might be the end of the road.

Scott Gordon firedArthur Staple | Former Islanders coaches

5. Amar'e Stoudemire's decision: Yes to NY

Before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, Stoudemire took his to Midtown Manhattan, signing a contract worth nearly $100 million.

There was much disappointment when the Knicks failed to land a second big-money free agent, and many worried whether Stoudemire was up to being the main man.

It did not take long for those worries to fade as he led an early season surge that included an eight-game winning streak for the team and a nine-game streak of 30-point games for Stoudemire.

The former ended with a narrow loss to the Celtics that had Madison Square Garden rocking, but the streak seemed to promise better days ahead.

Season trackerVideo | The Knicks Fix

6. New stadium opens, lands Super Bowl

Before the first football game was played at New Meadowlands Stadium, the facility landed the 2014 Super Bowl, which will be the first ever played outdoors in a cold-weather region.

That will give the most expensive stadium ever built in America plenty of time to work out its kinks after a rookie season that got mixed reviews from fans.

Dire signs of the economic times included the clunky name of the building, still without a sponsor, and empty club seats, unsold in the face of stiff prices for personal seat licenses and game tickets.

Complete Super Bowl 2014 coverage

7. Derek Jeter, Yankees spar publicly

No one seriously doubted Derek Jeter would be a Yankee in 2011, but no one anticipated that the path he took would be so rocky.

El Capitan got into a public spat with the team, during which general manager Brian Cashman invited him to explore his market value elsewhere. Ouch!

When it was over, Jeter uncharacteristically admitted he was angered by the public debate over his contract, which included blunt talk among fans about how much he has left as a player.

Derek Jeter photos | Cashman rappels down office building

8. Mets lose games, customers

The Mets were less bad than in 2009, but their second season at Citi Field resulted in another losing record and a shocking number of empty seats by late summer.

Things weren't much better off the field, lowlighted by pitcher Francisco Rodriguez roughing up his girlfriend's father, in the process suffering a season-ending hand injury.

The debacle resulted in the removals of GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel. They were replaced by Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins, who will open a new Mets era in 2011.

Mets hire Terry Collins | Alderson's Top 20 moves

9. Steve Lavin jump-starts St. John's

After a mostly lost decade for St. John's basketball, part of a drastic overall decline for New York-area college programs, Steve Lavin left TV and came to Queens to try to reverse the trend.

The early results have been impressive. The Red Storm won both the Great Alaska Shootout and the Holiday Festival, but the real excitement is for next season and beyond.

Lavin extended the school's recruiting reach beyond its traditional territory and landed one of the most highly regarded classes in the nation.

10. Nets take giant step to Brooklyn

Russian oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov purchased 80 percent of the Nets, giving the NBA a colorful new personality and essentially guaranteeing the team's long-planned move to Brooklyn.

With construction well underway, the goal is to move from a temporary home in Newark for the 2012-13 season, giving the borough its first major pro franchise since the Dodgers left in 1957 - and giving the Knicks a new natural rival.


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