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Tom Brady to Simone Biles: We're thankful for these 2021 sports moments


It has been nearly two years since the sports world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So this Thanksgiving, perhaps a list of the 2021 sports moments we’re thankful for can't even be contained to five, 10 or 20 selections.

In the once-in-a-lifetime period we’re all still experiencing, pro athletes merely playing games is something to be thankful for in and of itself. But the compelling drama and incredible stories produced in the athletic arena have given us even more reason to give thanks, with incredible firsts and historic accomplishments seemingly achieved every other week in 2021. There were quite a few inspiring stories that occurred off the field and courts, too.   

Tom Brady holds the Lombardi Trophy during the parade. © Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Tom Brady holds the Lombardi Trophy during the parade.

With that in mind, here are just some of the best moments of 2021:

From NFL plays to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo brings NBA title to Milwaukee (livestreams trip to Chick-Fil-A)

The Bucks star became the youngest NBA Finals MVP winner since Kawhi Leonard as Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee to its first championship since 1971. He scored 50 points in the clinching game of a classic series against the Phoenix Suns. He followed that up the next day by going through the drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A and livestreamed himself on Instagram ordering 50 (not 49 or 51) nuggets (and then tried to get free Chick-Fil-A for life). 

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2. Braves win the World Series

It was a team put together by some front-office mastery at the trade deadline and it actually … worked. Freddie Freeman helped send the Houston Astros home in what might have been his last at-bat for the Braves. Atlanta beat Houston in six games to take home its first title in 26 years. And Joc Pederson made a memorable fashion statement with a pearl necklace that is headed to the Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Fashion: Joc Pederson's pearls are going to Cooperstown

Oh, and before that in the playoffs, Randy Arozarena stole home against Boston, which was just magical.

3. Juan Soto vs. Shoehi Ohtani in Home Run Derby

It was the first round of the Home Run Derby, but it should have been the finals. Nationals star Soto outlasted Ohtani through two tiebreakers with a final tally of 31 to 28. 

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4. Suni Lee wins gold at the Olympics

Lee became the fifth consecutive American woman to take gold in the Olympic gymnastics all-around at the Tokyo Games.

5. Sportsmanship at Tokyo Olympics

In Tokyo, Olympic high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy opted to share the gold medal instead of competing in tiebreakers.

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6. Athletes take the lead on mental health

Two examples: Simone Biles, the best gymnast in the world, withdrew from team competition and the all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics after suffering from a case of “twisties.” She continued the discussion about mental health by talking about challenges she had been facing: pressure to perform while simultaneously dealing with the pandemic and being the face of the Games. "We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day, we're human, too," Biles said, via The Associated Press. "We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do."

In tennis, Naomi Osaka, the highest-paid female athlete in the world, withdrew from competitions over the summer to protect her mental health, posting on Instagram about her battle with anxiety and depression.

And those are just two examples. Even this month, Titans receiver A.J. Brown spoke about his battle with depression in hopes that it could help others.

7. Candace Parker brings WNBA title to hometown

After 13 seasons with the L.A. Sparks, Parker in February signed with her hometown team, the Chicago Sky, and months later brought the championship trophy to the Windy City. 

“This one is so sweet,” a champagne-soaked Parker said (via the Associated Press). “To do it with this group. I love this group, I love this team. And to do it here at home, it was just supposed to be.”

8. Tom Brady almost drops Lombardi Trophy in river

Brady, 44, and Rob Gronkowski, 32, won another Super Bowl trophy - this time in Bucs uniforms, beating the Chiefs, 31-9. Days later, during the boat parade celebration on the Hillsborough River in Tampa, Brady stole the show when he threw the Lombardi Trophy from his boat to another.

He later admitted on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" that he was pretty drunk. When asked what he was thinking, he said not much. "It was, 'This seems like really fun to do,' " he said.  

9. NCAA tournaments return

A year after March Madness was canceled, the NCAA men's tournament came back with a classic. Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs hit a game-winning buzzer-beater in overtime in the Final Four. “There are onions,” broadcaster Bill Raftery said. “And then there are major onions with a kiss.”

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Gonzaga's bid at the first undefeated season since 1976 was upended, though, as the Bulldogs were handily beaten by Baylor in the national title game. 

On the women’s side, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer won her third title when Stanford beat Arizona 54-53, after Arizona’s last-second shot hit the back of the rim and bounced off. 

10. Great moments on the PGA Tour

Phil Mickelson, at 50, became the oldest major champion in history when he won at Kiawah Island in May. And at the Masters, Hideki Matsuyama made history when he became the first Japanese man to put on the green jacket.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Brady to Simone Biles: We're thankful for these 2021 sports moments


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