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Top 25 NY metropolitan-area sports stories of the 2010s

Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates the 21-17

Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) celebrates the 21-17 victory against the New England Patriots during the NFL Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana on Feb 5, 2012.  Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS/Ben Liebenberg

Sure, the 2010s were the worst decade in New York sports in a century, at least in terms of championships. But plenty of stuff happened — good, bad and ugly.

So before we look to better times in the 2020s — how could they be worse? — here is our list of 25 metropolitan-area stories, games and moments that will stick with us even after a decade that otherwise is best forgotten.

No. 1: We Are Not the Champions

Hey, it could be worse. In the 1910s there were no major New York pro championships. At least in the 2010s we had one, when the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI. But in fairness, while there were three baseball teams in New York in the 1910s, there were none in football, basketball or hockey as we know those sports today. The title drought since SB46, on Feb. 5, 2012, is the area’s longest since 1905-21.

No. 2: Isles Be Seeing You, Somewhere

The Islanders announced in 2012 that they were leaving Nassau Coliseum for Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, then did so in 2015, then returned to the renovated Coliseum part-time in 2018, splitting their schedule with Brooklyn, then broke ground on a new arena near Belmont Park in 2019, with a projected 2021 opening. The uncertainty was head-spinning for fans and cause for concern among potential free agents. At least they didn’t move to Kansas City.

No. 3: Giants Paste Pats Again

It was not an upset the magnitude of Super Bowl XLII, but the Giants did it to the Patriots of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady again, winning Super Bowl XLVI, 21-17, in Indianapolis. Ahmad Bradshaw scored the winning touchdown accidentally. With 57 seconds left, he tried unsuccessfully to stop short of the end zone from 6 yards out as the Patriots sought to let him score to get the ball back. Strange, but effective.

No. 4: Dark Night for Mets in World Series

The Mets swept the Cubs behind NLCS MVP Daniel Murphy, clinching the 2015 pennant at Wrigley Field. Down 3-1 in the World Series to the Royals, they were about to make a series of it in Game 5 at Citi Field, leading 2-0 after eight. Terry Collins was set to remove starter Matt “Dark Knight of Gotham” Harvey, who talked him out of it. The Royals tied it in the ninth and won in 12, 7-2.

No. 5: Jeter Rises to Two Occasions

They happened three years apart, but represented a theme that marked Derek Jeter’s career: a flair for the dramatic. On July 9, 2011, he secured his 3,000th hit with a home run at Yankee Stadium — part of a five-hit day. On Sept. 25, 2014, in the final home at-bat of his career, he drove home Antoan Richardson from second base in the ninth with a Jeter-ian single to right, beating the Orioles, 6-5.

No. 6: Linsanity

It began the night before the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, with an obscure guard named Jeremy Lin scoring 25 points in the Knicks’ victory over the Nets. Over the next three weeks, Lin sparked a craze dubbed “Linsanity,” leading a 9-3 surge and blazing a trail as a Chinese-American star. A revised style under new coach Mike Woodson and a knee injury ended the fun in March. The next season, Lin was a Rocket.

No. 7: Blueshirts’ Overtime Work Doesn’t Pay

The Rangers of the 2010s were consistent winners, an era that peaked with a 2014 Stanley Cup Final berth. After winning seven-game series against the Flyers and Penguins and beating the Canadiens in six, the Blueshirts faced the Kings and lost in a five-game series that was much more competitive than its short length suggests. Three of the Rangers’ losses came in overtime – two in double OT, including the Kings’ 3-2 clincher.

No. 8: A-Rod the Lightning Rod

Alex Rodriguez’s on- and off-field exploits were a saga that spanned much of the decade, which began in 2010 with him hitting his 600th home run but veered off course amid a cloud of performance enhancing drug problems, notably the Biogenesis scandal. That one eventually got him suspended for all of 2014. He came back to play before leaving for good in the summer of ’16 – and launching a successful career as a TV analyst.

No. 9: Triple Crown Double

Belmont Park had hosted a tantalizing number of Triple Crown near-misses in the 37 years since Affirmed won all three spring races in 1978. Then American Pharoah came through in 2015, giving the sport a strong, if brief, jolt of attention. Pharoah bested Frosted by 5 ½ lengths, finishing the 1 ½ miles in 2:26.65. Three years later, Justify matched the feat, again putting the big track near the Queens-Long Island border in the spotlight.

No. 10: Bash Brothers Take New York

Aaron Judge wowed Yankees fans in 2017, a young slugger who set a rookie record with 52 home runs and was named American League Rookie of the Year. Pete Alonso wowed Mets fans in 2019, a young slugger who set a rookie record with 53 home runs and was named National League Rookie of the Year. If they stay healthy, they could be a towering tater tandem for much of the 2020s.

No. 11: Mo Gets a Visit from His Friends

Mariano Rivera made his last appearance at Yankee Stadium in a late-season loss to the Rays in 2013, and when it came time to remove him from the game, manager Joe Girardi sent out his longtime teammates, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, to do the honors. Pettitte and Jeter each hugged him. Rivera cried in their arms. Five years later, he became the first player unanimously voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

No. 12: Nets Cross the Hudson Again

After a geographically complicated history — including two ABA titles while based at Nassau Coliseum in the 1970s — the Nets left their temporary home in Newark in 2012 and moved into the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a project nearly a decade in the making and promoted heavily by part-owner Jay-Z. Their new merchandise was a hit, and a year later a blockbuster trade with the Celtics brought short-term success and long-term trouble.

No. 13: Eli Manning Takes a Seat

Eli Manning had started 210 consecutive games for the Giants when coach Ben McAdoo benched him in favor of Geno Smith for a Dec. 3, 2017, game against the Raiders, unleashing a storm of criticism. The Giants lost, 24-17, to fall to 2-10. The next day, they fired McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese. Two games into the 2019 season, coach Pat Shurmur benched Manning for Daniel Jones. This time the only stir was excitement about Jones.

No. 14: Don’t Touch that Dial on WFAN Soap Opera

The WFAN drama and controversy that marked the sports station in the 2000s did not abate in the new decade. In 2017, morning co-host Craig Carton was arrested and eventually landed in prison for his role in a complex ticket-selling scheme. Three months later, longtime afternoon host Mike Francesa left the station. Four months after that, he returned. Twenty months after that, he left again, moving to a smaller role on Radio.com.

No. 15: Beckham Raises His Hand

Odell Beckham Jr. spent five productive, tumultuous seasons with the Giants, but he forever will be remembered most for a reception against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 23, 2014. He made a one-handed catch while falling backward into the end zone, despite being interfered with. The fact the game was on “Sunday Night Football” added to the attention. But as happened too often during his time with the Giants, they lost, 31-28.

No. 16: Steinbrenner Dies at 80

New York-area sports fans said goodbye to many memorable figures in the 2010s, including Yogi Berra, the Yankees’ iconic catcher, who died in 2015. But no personality loomed larger in life than George Steinbrenner, who ruled the Yankees — and often the New York sports agenda — starting in 1973 and continuing into the 21st century. He died on July 13, 2010, at age 80, not long after the Yankees’ most recent World Series title in 2009.

No. 17: Serena’s U.S. Open Ups and Downs

No one put on more of a show at the U.S. Open than Serena Williams, who reached the final six of the eight times she participated, winning three. In 2015, she lost a semifinal to Roberta Vinci in an upset that cost her a Grand Slam. She lost the last two finals of the decade, including in 2018, a controversial loss to Naomi Osaka during which she had a confrontation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos.

No. 18: Melo, Jackson Fail to Put Knicks Over Top

The Knicks did not have much success in the 2010s, other than a 54-win season in 2012-13. But as usual, they sought big names to change their fortunes. In early 2011, they traded for Carmelo Anthony, a marriage that lasted 6 ½ so-so years. But that was a huge success compared with the signing of Phil Jackson as team president in 2014. He left three years and $60 million later, and with his reputation damaged.

No. 19: Jets Twice Knock on Super Bowl Door

It might seem like more than a decade ago to fans, but there was a time the Jets were a playoff factor, reaching the AFC Championship Game in 2010 and ’11. The 2009 team did it with an upset of the Chargers before losing to the Colts in the conference final, 30-17, three weeks into the new decade. The following year they upset the Patriots, 28-21, then lost to the Steelers, 24-19.

No. 20: Nets Net Huge Free Agents

The decade began with LeBron James not choosing the Knicks in his “Decision,” and it ended with another whiff on big-name free agents in 2019. This time it was even worse because the crosstown Nets secured both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Even though the latter is not expected to play until 2020-21 after Achilles tendon surgery earlier this year, the signings made the franchise immediately more relevant, and more interesting.

No. 21: DeGrom Goes Back-to-Back

Jacob deGrom of the Mets became only the 11th pitcher to win back-to-back Cy Young Awards, following up a historic 2018 season in which his ERA was 1.70, with another stellar 2019, after re-signing a five-year, $137.5 million contract. He accomplished his feat in a manner that would have been inconceivable in the pre-analytics era. He won only 21 games combined (and lost 17) in his two Cy Young years, thanks to woeful run support.

No. 22: New York Legalizes MMA

In 2016, New York became the 50th and final state to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts events, opening a huge new source of revenue and attention for the sport. It led to events at Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, Nassau Coliseum and elsewhere, starting with UFC 205, which set records for largest attendance and gate for a sports event at the Garden. At $17.7 million, it remains the largest gate in UFC history.

No. 23: Coldest Super Bowl? Not So Much

For nearly four years, NFL officials planned for winter weather at the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold-weather area, set for Feb. 2, 2014, at MetLife Stadium. Then came the big day, and . . . It was nice, actually: 49 degrees at kickoff, after which the Seahawks routed the Broncos, 43-8. The biggest logistical glitch was mobs at trains from and to Secaucus. Come Monday morning, New York was hit with a major snowstorm.

No. 24: Tebowmania

It was brief, but it was intense. In 2012, the Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the Jets, bringing the massive swirl of attention that follows him everywhere. ESPN showed up at training camp to cover the event live. Tebow ended up completing 6 of 8 passes for 39 yards and rushing 32 times for 102 yards that season, then was released. By the end of the decade, he was playing baseball in the Mets organization.

No. 25: Wilpons to sell Mets

The first big story of the 2020s broke in the final month of the 2010s, when Great Neck-raised multi-billionaire Steve Cohen reportedly was set to gain an 80 percent interest in the Mets in the coming years, portending an era of big-market-style spending. Or so Mets fans hope . . . 

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