2016 in sports: A year of comebacks
MANILA, Philippines – From clawing out of a 0-3 series deficit to climbing back up from 3-1 to break a 108-year curse, 2016 was a year of historic comebacks in sports both in the Philippines and internationally.
Here, Rappler takes a look back at the biggest, most memorable comebacks that made the year.
1. Chicago Cubs break the curse
This is the mother of all comebacks, probably not just for 2016.
The Chicago Cubs overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the best-of-7 World Series to defeat the Cleveland Indians and finally become champions after 108 years, the longest title drought in American sports.
The thrill of victory did not come easy for the Cubs with an 8-7 dramatic ending to the series in Game 7, where they squandered a 4-run lead and endured a 17-minute rain delay in the 10th inning.
This championship has been quite an emotional one for sports fans in Chicago, where on the day of Game 7, many paid tribute to the longtime Cubs fans who had died waiting for that winning moment and could no longer witness and celebrate the end of the curse.
2. Cleveland is a city of champions once again
Just like Chicago, the city of Cleveland became a city of champions after a long wait as the Cavaliers likewise rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take down the favored Gloden State Warriors and win the NBA title for the first time.
Its own hometown hero LeBron James spearheaded the Cavs’ epic comeback to dethrone the defending champions and become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit and win the best-of-7 title series. It was also only the fourth time in 19 NBA Finals that went to Game 7 that a road time went on to win the championship. James completed his comeback as well from villain to promise-keeper in 2016.
All of Cleveland’s old sports lore that haunted its major sports teams since 1964 were replaced with new, happier memories in Kyrie Irving’s clutch, series-clinching three-pointer over Stephen Curry, and James’ huge block on Andre Iguodala.
What makes the victory even sweeter is the fact they defeated a Warriors team that not only had back-to-back and reigning unanimous MVP Curry, but also went a record-breaking 73-9 in the regular season.
3. San Miguel Beermen make history
Here in the basketball-crazy Philippines, there was likewise a comeback for the ages that occured early in the year.
The San Miguel Beermen became the first team in PBA history to overturn a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-7 series and go on to win the title when they stunned the Alaska Aces in the 2016 Philippine Cup.
They accomplished the feat mostly playing without then two-time MVP and big man June Mar Fajardo, who was down with a knee injury. Coming back from such a deficit has also never been done in the NBA.
It was the franchise’s 22nd PBA championship.
4. Ara Galang’s return from knee injury
On an individual front, you can’t count out Ara Galang's impressive comeback from a horrible knee injury.
The De La Salle University Lady Spikers hitter weathered devastating ACL and MCL tears in her knee late in UAAP Season 77 and came back strong a year later to play in her final year in Season 78, helping La Salle all the way to the women's volleyball championship.
The Lady Spikers finally defeated rivals Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles in 3 games, following two straight years of falling short against the same foe.
Galang came a long way since she stood on crutches, head down and in tears after her team lost to Ateneo in the Season 77 finals.
She used her setback as motivation in the offseason on her road to recovery, and by the end of Season 78 she had accomplished her mission.
5. Leicester City tops Premier League
Leicester City rose to the top of the Premier League, becoming England’s champion for the first time in its 132-year existence.
The rag-tag team made up of players other big clubs had let go of wrote their own story of beating the odds – 5,000-1 to be exact – to reach the summit.
A season prior the squad escaped relegation and began picking up momentum. But that was briefly halted with then manager Nigel Pearson getting the boot. His sacking came after his son, a Leicester youth player, was accused along with two other players of being involved in a racist sex tape in Thailand, hometown of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
But the unheralded team powered through with manager Claudio Ranieri, a former Chelsea manager, leading the way.
Honorable mention: Manny Pacquiao comes out of retirement
The country’s own boxing icon Manny Pacquiao came out of retirement this year and won his fight against Jessie Vargas to claim the WBO welterweight title in November.
The 38-year-old 8-division champion had a successful ring return – with many praises saying he still hasn’t lost his speed – but his comeback was mired by criticism as he opted to juggle boxing with his new role as senator.
Pacquiao won a Senate seat in the May national elections and, after likewise getting criticized for his absences when he was a congressman, was expected to focus solely on his duties in government.
Pacquiao has since given assurances that he won’t let boxing get in the way of his job as senator. But his fight against Vargas drew little fanfare compared to his past bouts.
What other notable sports comebacks from the past year do you recall? Share them in the comments section below! – Rappler.com