What a year it was in New York sports.
No, we didn’t get to see any championships — although we got pretty close — but history was made and there was as much drama as ever.
There were also plenty of “wait, what?” headlines. But that comes with the territory.
Without further ado, the top 15 stories of 2015:
Mets Go On Magical Run, Advance To First Fall Classic Since 2000
They were the darlings of the city in 2015. Thanks in no small part to general manager Sandy Alderson’s shrewd acquisitions before, at and after the trade deadline, the Mets went on a tear in the season’s second half and beat out the Nationals for their first National League East title since 2006.
Then came October. Despite four combined starts from aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Mets beat the Dodgers in a deciding Game 5 to advance to the National League Championship Series.
To the surprise of just about everyone, the Amazins swept the Cubs in four games in the NLCS and appeared in their first World Series since 2000. It didn’t end the way we wanted, as the Mets lost to the Royals in five games, but it was undoubtedly one of the most magical seasons in recent memory.
United States Wins Women’s World Cup
Champions of the world!
The United States women’s national soccer team did our country proud by winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The U.S. beat Japan, 5-2, in the final for its third title and first since 1999.
There was plenty of local representation on the squad. Heather O’Reilly is from East Brunswick Township, New Jersey, and Carli Lloyd — who played at Rutgers and is a Delran Township, New Jersey, native — was awarded the Golden Ball Trophy as the best player of the tournament. Tobin Heath and Abby Wambach are also New Jersey and New York natives, respectively.
After winning it all, the team was celebrated with a ticker tape parade along the Canyon of Heroes.
American Pharoah Completes Triple Crown At Belmont Park
We waited what seemed like forever to see another horse enter the pantheon of the greats.
Bred and owned throughout his racing career by Ahmed Zayat of Zayat Stables, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden in most of his races by Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah — the thoroughbred with the oddly spelled name — became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978, and the 12th overall, to win the sport’s Triple Crown.
American Pharoah captured the Kentucky Derby on May 2, the Preakness Stakes on May 16 and the Belmont Stakes in Elmont, New York, on June 6. He closed his career on Oct. 31 with a 6 1/2-length victory at the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Classic in Kentucky, becoming the first horse to win all four legs of the “Grand Slam” of American horse racing.
A winner of nine of his 11 races, American Pharoah finished his career with $8,650,300 in earnings. Next up for the colt will be, hopefully, a long life as a breeding stallion for Coolmore Ashford Stud in Kentucky, where his stud fee will reportedly be $200,000.
National Treasure Yogi Berra Passes
He was, indeed, an American icon.
Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher renowned as much for his dizzying malapropisms as his unmatched 10 World Series championships with the New York Yankees, died of natural causes on Sept. 22 at the age of 90.
Berra helped the Yankees reach 14 World Series during his 18 seasons in the Bronx, and was a three-time American League Most Valuable Player. For many, though, he was even better known for all those amusing “Yogi-isms,” with his most famous being “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”
In recognition of his numerous charitable endeavors, civil rights work and service to his country in the military, Berra was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously on Nov. 25.
Serena’s Calendar Grand Slam Bid Shockingly Ends At US Open
She was on a collision course with immortality — until it all went wrong at the US Open.
Serena Williams entered the tournament in Flushing Meadows as the undisputed queen of women’s tennis, an unstoppable force of nature who seemed destined to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a calendar year.
Then, Roberta Vinci happened.
At age 32 and appearing in her first grand slam semifinal, the 43rd-ranked Italian stunned Williams, the owner of 21 major championships, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, a result that is considered one of the greatest upsets in the sport’s history.
Vinci went on to lose to countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in straight sets in the final.
Isles Leave Nassau Coliseum, Begin New Chapter In Brooklyn
For 43 years, Long Island had the unique distinction of being major league. That’s not the case anymore.
Once the greatest American-based NHL franchise, the New York Islanders relocated from the only home they had ever known, Nassau Coliseum, to the bright lights of Barclays Center in Brooklyn following the 2014-15 season. It was a decision that angered many, and was fueled as much by the condition of the aging coliseum as it was political dysfunction in Nassau County.
Ironically, the Islanders’ final season in Uniondale was their best in decades. They piled up 101 points during the regular season, their most since 1983-84, before losing to Washington in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Islanders’ final stat line in Nassau County reads: four Stanley Cup championships and a million memories. We’ll just have to wait and see if the ice is as smooth in Brooklyn.
Rex Ryan Takes Over Bills After Being Fired By Jets
Rex Ryan changed the culture of the Jets when he arrived in 2009.
The brash head coach ushered out an era of mediocrity, going 20-12 in the regular season and winning four playoff games in his first two seasons, with each ending in the AFC Championship game.
Then, Rex ushered in a new culture of mediocrity, going 26-38 with no playoff appearances over the next four seasons. He was fired, along with general manager John Idzik, after last season’s 4-12 disaster.
Ryan will always have a special place in the hearts of many fans, mostly due to his fiery and colorful personality, but he ultimately failed to lead the Jets to the championship he guaranteed on more than one occasion.
That didn’t stop the Bills from giving him a five-year, $27.5 million contract, however, and Ryan beat the Jets in the teams’ first meeting this season. They play again in Week 17, possibly with a playoff berth on the line. Oh, the drama.
Knicks Finish With Worst Record In Franchise History
Man, that was ugly. And it felt like it lasted forever.
In Phil Jackson’s first full season as Knicks president, the ‘Bockers hit absolute rock bottom. They went 17-65, good enough — or bad enough, we should say — for a .207 winning percentage.
Under first-year head coach Derek Fisher, Jackson traded away the Knicks’ veterans and Carmelo Anthony missed 42 games due to injury.
The good news? The Knicks’ miserable record helped them land rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis in the draft, and suddenly things are looking much brighter.
JPP Severely Injures Hand In Fourth Of July Fireworks Accident
It wasn’t his finest moment, and it ended up costing him a lot of money.
But thankfully, he still has a hand. There was plenty of doubt as to whether Pierre-Paul would ever play again, let alone this season.
Sure enough, after missing the first eight games of the season, the Giants’ defensive end made his season debut on Nov. 8. He had a massive bandage (pictured above) wrapped around his hand. He hasn’t exactly played up to a Pro Bowl level since returning, but he’s definitely improved Big Blue’s defense.
Geno Gets Punched By Teammate, Loses Starting Job
He was supposed to start the season as the guy, and finally take the next step in what had been — up to that point — an underwhelming career.
But Geno Smith never got the chance, thanks to a punch from a teammate.
When IK Enemkpali broke the third-year quarterback’s jaw in the locker room two days before the first preseason game, reportedly over a dispute of $600, the Jets had no choice but to hand the offense to journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Gang Green has since been a lot better than many predicted and Fitzpatrick has become a cult hero of sorts, enjoying perhaps the finest season of his 11-year career.
As for Smith, his future in New York appears tenuous at best.
CC Enters Alcohol Rehab Ahead Of Playoff Game
On October 5, just a day before the Yankees’ American League Wild Card Game against the Astros, Yankees lefty CC Sabathia abruptly ended his season when he announced that he was checking himself into an alcohol treatment center.
The news came as a complete surprise.
In November, the six-time All-Star admitted that he realized way back in 2012 that he was an alcoholic, but hid it.
“I was just tired of hiding,” Sabathia told ABC. “I just felt such a relief that everybody knows now … I can start the healing process and take the steps forward to get myself better.”
Sabathia’s future remains unclear, but he’s expected to be in the Yankees’ plans moving forward — assuming he courageously overcomes his demons.
Murphy Goes On Historic Run In Postseason
Bryce who? Trout who? Goldschmidt who?
For two weeks in October, Daniel Murphy was the hottest hitter on the planet. The Mets’ second baseman set a major league record by homering in six consecutive playoff games. With seven blasts total in the postseason. he fell one shy of the all-time mark.
And he didn’t exactly do his damage against scrubs.
In the NLDS against the Dodgers, Murphy homered twice off Kershaw and once off Greinke. In the NLCS against the Cubs, the smooth-swinging lefty hit bombs off Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. For his efforts, Murphy took home NLCS MVP honors.
Murph struggled in the World Series — both offensively and defensively — but the show he put on in the first two rounds won’t soon be forgotten.
A-Rod Returns From Suspension And Wins Back The Fans
He did everything right, both on the field and off.
After a season-long drug suspension cost Alex Rodriguez the 2014 season, the 14-time All-Star returned with a vengeance in 2015.
The three-time American League MVP hit .250 with 33 home runs and 86 RBIs in 151 games, and was arguably New York’s most dangerous hitter. He also reached some significant milestones, passing Willie Mays for fourth all-time in home runs and moving into third place on the RBI list. He also joined the 3,000-hit club.
More amazingly, the polarizing slugger steered clear of controversy. He laid low and went by his business, and by the middle of the season his return was a non-story. He was cheered loudly at Yankee Stadium and the boos started to dissipate in opposing cities.
He even served as a television analyst during the World Series.
A turnaround for the ages!
Rangers Get Shut Out At Home In Game 7 Of Eastern Conference Final
They just kept overcoming obstacles and moving on. This was a team that simply wouldn’t die.
Until it finally did.
After losing to the Kings in five games in the Stanley Cup Final, the Rangers entered the 2014-15 season on a mission to complete the job. They didn’t disappoint during the regular season, finishing first in the Metropolitan Division and taking home the Presidents’ Trophy.
They eased past the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, winning in five games. Next up were the rival Capitals. The Caps jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the resilient Rangers won the next three to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Down 3-2 in the series, the Rangers beat the Lightning in Game 6 at Amalie Arena. Heading back to the Garden, it looked as if the Blueshirts were headed to their second straight Stanley Cup Final.
So close, and so painful.
Chris Mullin Returns To St. John’s
Chris Mullin is thought of by many as the greatest player in the history of the St. John’s University men’s basketball program. A star during the mid-1980s, Mullin led the then-Redmen to one Final Four and finished his career with a program-record 2,440 points.
He then enjoyed a great 16-year career in the NBA and was later voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Now he’s the head coach at his alma mater, a move that seemingly came out of nowhere after Steve Lavin and the school parted ways following the loss in the first round of last season’s NCAA tournament.
Mullin has a long road ahead of him as the Red Storm are in the midst of a massive rebuilding effort, but there’s once again a buzz permeating through the New York City college hoops scene.
When St. John’s is good, the city is electric. Mullin has the name recognition and basketball know-how to get the program back to where it once was. Stay tuned.
The Mets acquire Yoenis Cespedes, who goes on an unbelievable run and turns the team’s season around.
Wilmer Flores, thinking he’s traded, cries on the field. He’s not traded, hits a huge walk-off homer just days later and ends up becoming a cult hero.
Kristaps Porzingis is selected fourth overall by the Knicks and exceeds all expectations early on, becoming an instant sensation.
Major League Soccer comes to New York City, as NYCFC debuts at Yankee Stadium.
The Red Bulls take home the Supporters’ Shield, but fall in the conference finals.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman takes on DraftKings and FanDuel.