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From the Sidelines: Perusing the stories that made 2008

It is time to bring to a close 2008. It is a year whose sports landscape has been equal parts entertaining and perplexing.

So, as an annual rite, it seems a fitting time to look back at the year that has been in the world of sports.

Here they are, in no particular order, the sports stories that most defined 2008.

— Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson traded. Both are iconic figures and both are sure-fire Hall of Famers, but each changed zip codes in 08 with Shaq landing in Phoenix and Iverson landing in the Motor City.

— Instant replay in MLB. The sport that hates to change anything adopted instant replay for the review of home run balls.

— Ocho Cinco? Troublesome Bengals receiver Chad Johnson grabbed headlines when he legally changed his name to Chad Ocho Cinco.

— End of an era. The House that Ruth Built, Yankee Stadium, closed this year, ending its reign as baseball’s temple as the franchise it housed missed the playoffs.

— Giants win the Super Bowl. What could ruin the Patriots pursuit of perfection? How about Eli Manning and David Tyree?

— Jimmy Johnson’s trifecta. The best driver in the sport did what only Cale Yarborough was able to when he won his third straight Cup.

— Return to prominence. At least two seasons ahead of schedule, Alabama found itself in national title contention as season’s end.

— Will he or won’t he? He did and he didn’t. Brett Favre retired and unretired before being exiled to the Jets by Green Bay Packer brass.

— Hapless, winless Lions. Like it or not, 0-16 is a noteworthy headline and a milestone no NFL team ever wants to match.

— Boston Three Party. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen powered the Celtics back to the forefront of the NBA in the greatest single-season turnaround in league history.

— They call him “Tiger.” Golf’s greatest figure took the U.S. Open on one leg. Yeah. That’s more than memorable. It’s epic.

— Big Brown’s breakdown for the Triple Crown. Horse racing missed its next icon again. So what is more likely, a triple crown in baseball or horse racing?

— From worst to first. Baseball’s worst team in 2007, captivated the sport by besting the Red Sox in the ALCS to punch its ticket to the World Series.

— Tom Brady’s knee injury. New England’s hopes and the league’s highest-profile passer went down during the first quarter of the season’s first game. Now comes word that the knee injury may cost him all of the 2009 season too.

— Usain bolts to greatness. The aptly named Usain Bolt gave Olympic watchers a reason to care about sprinting again.

— Hall of Shamer. Sex, lies and Canseco’s party mixed with a healthy dose of performance enhancing drugs ensured the collapse of Roger Clemens legacy. But it made Mindy McCready relevant again.

— Sportsman of the Year. Michael Phelps won eight gold medals, seven world records and the etched is name forever in America’s sporting consciousness.

— Where’d that come from? The Dolphins, Falcons and Ravens went from horrendous records to the NFL playoffs. All three teams did it with rookie head coaches and two of them accomplished the feat with rookie quarterbacks.

— Blackballed. Believe it or not, Barry Bonds actually didn’t step onto the field one time in 2008.

— Golden boys. After years of disappointment, the United States reasserted itself as the basketball capitol of the world when the U.S. Olympic Basketball team brought back the gold.

— Chinese hospitality. The world’s largest and, perhaps, most standoffish nation opened itself up to host the 2008 Olympic games. The gesture was made complete with an opening ceremony that was filled with more pageantry than any other recent memory.

Now all that’s left to do is wonder what 2009 will hold.

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