12 Alabama wins national title
Nick “I’m not going to be the Alabama coach” Saban guided the Crimson Tide to its 14th national title with a 21-0 shutout of LSU in January in New Orleans.
wins NCAA men’s title
The Wildcats defeated Kansas for their eighth championship. It was the first NCAA Tournament in which two No. 2 seeds (Duke and Missouri) were beaten by two No. 15 seeds (Lehigh, Norfolk State).
14 Replacement referees
A labor dispute forced the NFL to use high-school and small-college referees the first three weeks of the season, eliciting a torrent of criticism over bad calls and non-calls. Not coincidentally, an agreement with the regular refs was reached two days after a highly questionable touchdown catch gave Seattle a win against Green Bay.
The former Marlin, traded to the Tigers in 2007 for a bowl of cream of wheat, became the first player to win it since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The first ever won by a freshman. The Texas A&M quarterback threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for 19.
17 Pat Summitt retires
The basketball coach with eight national titles and the most wins in NCAA history (1,098, compared with just 208 losses) retired from the Tennessee bench, eight months after disclosing she had early onset dementia.
18 Year of the rookie quarterback
Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden all started from opening day, and three of them had their teams in playoff position entering the final weekend of the season.
Juan Manuel Marquez’s sixth-round blow decked Manny Pacquiao, who hadn’t been knocked out since the last century (1999).
20 (Tie) Brad Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup title.
Jimmie Johnson blew his chance for a sixth because of gear failure in the Homestead race.
Serena Williams rebounded from injuries to win Wimbledon, an Olympic gold and the U.S. Open.
Roger Federer won a record-tying seventh Wimbledon.
Tiger Woods, who went winless in 2011, won three tournaments (but no majors) and $6 million in prize money.
Top 20 local stories
1 Heat championship and LeBron’s
The two go hand-in-hand and, appropriately, share the top spot on our list. Both James and the Heat silenced their critics with a marvelous May and jubilant June, ending in a 4-1 Finals vanquishing of Oklahoma City. James, who averaged 28.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in the championship series, won the Finals MVP a month after winning the regular-season MVP.
2 Marlins open
Could the first year of a new ballpark have gone any worse? The Marlins bombed, finishing 69-93, and drawing the fewest fans for any new stadium in the 21st century. At least the air conditioning worked.
3 LeBron leads Heat back from 3-2
deficit vs. Boston
Facing elimination in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron served up back-to-back performances for the ages: a 45-point, 15-rebound epic in Game 6 in Boston, and a 21-point, 12-rebound masterpiece in Game 7 in Miami.
4 Dolphins draft a quarterback in the first round