Photo Credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
2022 was a year to remember in the sports world. Every month, it felt like something amazing or unheard of was happening. Seriously - every month. Don’t believe me?
January 1 - The NHL’s annual Winter Classic is played between the St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild at Target Field in Minneapolis at -5.7 ℉ - the coldest outdoor game in NHL history, which was astonishing attended by 38,519
February 13 - Sean McVay becomes the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl after his Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals
March 25 - the 15th-seed St. Peter’s Peacocks defeat the Purdue Boilermakers in the Sweet Sixteen, becoming the first #15 seed to reach the Final Four in NCAA Tournament history
April 3 - In the Women’s College Basketball championship game, the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the UConn Huskies, marking the first time UConn had ever been defeated in the title game
May 17 - Rich Strike wins the Kentucky Derby at 80 - 1 odds, the second-longest long shot to win in the nearly 150-year history of the race
June 16 - the Golden State Warriors turned back the clock and returned to their championship ways by downing the upstart Boston Celtics in the 2022 NBA Finals, with star Steph Curry winning his first Finals MVP
July 24 - Tobi Amusan of Nigeria breaks the women’s world record in the 100-meter hurdles at the World Athletics Championship
August 20 - Ukraine heavyweight Oleksandr Usyk defeated England’s Anthony Joshua in the fight billed as Rage on the Red Sea, after which Usyk dedicated his win to the Ukrainians defending their homeland during the Russian Invasion
September 11 - Carlos Alcaraz of Spain wins the U.S. Open and becoming the youngest male in history to be ranked No. 1 in the world
October 4 - Aaron Judge hits his American League record 62nd home run of the season, cementing himself as a New York Yankee legend and the 2022 AL MVP
November 5 - Flightline wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic by 8 ¼ lengths, the longest in the history of the race
December 10 - Morocco defeats Portugal (1 - 0), becoming the very first African nation to advance to the Semi-Finals of the World Cup
That’s a lot of special packed into twelve months.
In honor of such a fabulous, action-packed year, I’ve painstakingly determined who had the most impactful, memorable, and overall excellent year in each of the major sports. Some are on this list for their personal achievements, the way they lead their teams to success, or for making history - and some are even a combination of all three.
There’s a lot to get into, so without further ado, enjoy the 2022 Sports Year in Review!
Soccer/Futbol: Kylian Mbappé, French National Team & Paris Saint-Germain
Lionel Messi may have won the 2022 World Cup, but there was no bigger winner in soccer than Mbappé. The 24-year-old has already established himself as one of the most dynamic goal scorers in the sport - and after another fabulous World Cup run, he might have an argument as the best player in the world, period.
Beyond his success in the World Cup, which now includes two finals appearances and a Golden Boot, Mbappé continued to dominate for his club Paris Saint-Germain. He won Player of the Year honors after becoming the first player in Ligue 1 history to lead in goals scored and assists. To top it off, Mbappé signed a contract-extension with PSG, reportedly earning as much as 4 million Euro per month with a 100 million signing bonus. Not bad for a guy who still can’t legally rent a car in America.
Honorable Mention: Lionel Messi, Argentinian National Team & Paris Saint-Germain
Formula One: Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
For years and years, Mercedes was king in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton won race after race and Mercedes was on top of the world. Red Bull Racing, though, wasn’t content to allow the status quo.
Enter Verstappen, who won the F1 championship in 2021 to finally break Hamilton and Mercedes’ stranglehold over the sport. In 2022, Verstappen was back in full force, winning 15 races and dominating the field. Not only would Verstappen win his second championship in two years, but he would also help Red Bull secure their first constructor’s championship since 2013, finally breaking Mercedes once and for all.
Baseball: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
There may not be a more obvious winner in all of sports. Going into the 2022 season, Judge was facing a career-crossroads. He was a couple years removed from being the force of nature he seemed to be as a rookie, and the Yankees had not signed him to a contract extension in the offseason. No matter - Judge would just have to prove the doubters wrong.
And prove them wrong he did. Judge would go on to hit an American League record 62 home runs, breaking former Yankee Roger Maris’s record of 61 set in 1961. Though Judge’s Yankees would fall short in the postseason, losing to the eventual World Series champion Houston Astros in the AL Championship Series, Judge was by far the story of the season, and his chase for the AL home run record was reminiscent of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire’s home run chase back in 1999 - only this time, we don’t have to feel slimy for getting excited about it!
After his spectacular season, Judge and the Yankees sat down to hammer out a new contract. The result was a nine-year, $360 million contract-extension, the richest in baseball history. Oh, and Judge became the sixteenth Yankee captain, joining the likes of legends Derek Jeter and Lou Gehrig. In the span of one season, Judge went from one of baseball’s most unique curiosities to the face of the sport. All rise for the honorable Judge.
Honorable Mentions: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros; Jeremy Peña, Houston Astros
American Football: Andrew Whitworth, Los Angeles Rams
That’s how you end a Hall of Fame career. After sixteen seasons in the NFL, Whitworth, the three-time All Pro left tackle, retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams. That alone is pretty special, but the circumstances of the game made it even more incredible.
For just the second time in Super Bowl history, Whitworth’s Rams played in their home stadium. If that wasn’t enough, Whitworth got to play against his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. It was a tremendous moment for one of the NFL’s most tremendous players. The 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year walked away from football in style.
Basketball: Luka Dončić, Dallas Mavericks
This may sound like hyperbole, but Dončić could very well be on his way to one of the greatest careers in NBA history after just four years in the league. That’s what happens when you so thoroughly dominate the sport from the moment you don an NBA uniform.
At the ripe age of 23, Dončić led his Mavericks to a shocking upset of the top seeded Phoenix Suns in a surprise run to the Western Conference Finals. He led the Mavericks in points, rebounds and assists ten times during their playoff run - a NBA playoff record. He joined Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to score 800 or more points in their first 25 playoff games. He was also named to his third All NBA First-Team, becoming just the third player to do so in their first four NBA seasons, along with Larry Bird and Tim Duncan.
Now entering his fifth season, Dončić looks poised to go even further. On December 23, Dončić joined Dirk Nowitzki as the only Mavericks players to record multiple 50-point games. Just a few days later, on December 27, Dončić became the first player in NBA history to record a 60-20-10 game, which he achieved against the New York Knicks. Dončić is special, and the limit to his success doesn’t seem to have a ceiling.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Golf: Scottie Scheffler, United States
Scheffler was a bit of an unknown going into the 2022 PGA season. He was coming off a solid year in 2021, in which he finished in the top ten in three different majors, but he was hardly a household name. That was all about to change.
Scheffler started the year with a bang, winning the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the WGC Match Play, taking the spot as the world’s top golfer. He wasn’t finished though, as Scheffler would go on to win his first Major, the Masters, giving him four tournament wins in six starts. Scheffler was surface-of-the-sun hot, and though he would not win another major in 2022, his second-place finish in the U.S. Open reminded everyone that Scheffler is here to stay.
Beyond his success on the golf course, Scheffler also proved to be a stand-up guy as well by refusing to participate in the LIV Golf Tour, the splinter golf league funded by Saudi Arabia that threatens to dismantle the PGA. Scheffler, along with fellow stars such as Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, put their reputations before money and kept golf’s integrity intact.
Tennis: Carlos Alcaraz, Spain
Rafael Nadal may have won two majors, but no one had a better year in tennis than Carlos Alcaraz. The 19-year-old Spaniard burst onto the scene in 2022, winning five titles - including the U.S. Open, his first major.
Alcaraz finished the year as the men’s World No. 1 player, the youngest player to ever do so. Alcaraz also won off the (hard) court as well, bringing in an eye-popping $10.1 million in winnings over the course of the season, not to mention endorsements with Nike, Rolex and BMW. The future is bright for Alcaraz, and he looks to be following in the footsteps of tennis legends Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Year to Forget: Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
Not everyone had a great 2022. In Wilson’s case, 2022 was a disaster of epic proportions - and it’s a disaster completely of his own creation.
For many years, Wilson was considered one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. His Seattle Seahawks teams were always in contention, and he even won a Super Bowl with the team back in 2014. Of course, the following year ended with Russ throwing that fateful, game-clinching interception in the Super Bowl to Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots, but his resume was still pretty impeccable. The Hall of Fame seemed like a foregone conclusion.
Fast-forward to December 31, and everything has changed. After forcing his way out of Seattle, Wilson ended up on a Broncos team that looked poised to compete with the Kansas City Chiefs for AFC West supremacy. So much for that. As of Week 17, the Broncos sit in last place in the AFC West with a 4 - 11 record, and Wilson is in the midst of by far the worst season of his career. It’s been so bad that Wilson’s Hall of Fame candidacy has taken a massive hit.