I’m a bit of a “decade truther.” There was no “Year Zero.” We went from 1 BC to 1 AD. So a decade starts when the final number is “1,” not “0.” But like so many things in society, facts tend not to matter when it comes to #content, so everyone is doing their decade-end retrospectives this year. Since everyone knows I’m a fun guy (like Kawhi Leonard!), I figured I’d play along with the “Best Of” theme and look at some Best Ofs for the decade.
For example, Best Athlete of the decade is easy. His greatest accomplishments came in 2008, but Baltimore’s Michael Phelps still won NINE gold medals and 12 Olympic medals overall this decade. The best female athlete of the decade is either Baltimore native Angel McCoughtry — she of two WNBA scoring titles, five All-Star appearances and two Olympic golds this decade — or if you’d prefer it be someone who competed locally, it’d be McDonogh and Maryland lacrosse legend Taylor Cummings, who won four IAAM championships, two national titles and three Tewaaraton Awards.
If you wanted to remain specific, a Best Male College Athlete would either be former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds or former Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer. Since this is my column, I don’t have to choose one specifically. There’s plenty of internet for you to make your own selections, Steve. (And I’m already starting to wonder if I should have considered former Towson running back Terrance West, too.) The Best Phenomenon would be former Patterson point guard Aquille “The Crimestopper” Carr, whose story seems destined to be a future “30 For 30.”
The Best Baltimore Sports Moment of the decade was obviously the Ravens winning Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Joe Flacco’s playoff run would probably go down as Best Month, and “I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best,” would be Best Quote. The Best Moment IN BALTIMORE was either the night the Orioles clinched the AL East title in 2014 or the Delmon Young game against the Tigers in the ALDS. They’re both correct answers.
The Best Event of the decade came all the way back in 2011, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul headlined an incredible summer league game at Morgan State’s Hill Field House. It was the single most electric atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in local sports — hell, in all sports. (The Gervonta Davis fight at Royal Farms Arena last summer might be second, honestly).
The Best Underdogs were, of course, the 2017-18 UMBC men’s basketball team. The Retrievers inspired the country with their historic win against Virginia, the only 16-over-1 upset in NCAA men’s tournament history. It’s truly the most significant moment of the decade. Other teams won Super Bowl titles and AL East championships, but the Retrievers were in a class of their own. The bummer is that if it hadn’t been for that win, the Best Underdogs would have been another UMBC team — Pete Caringi’s legendary 2014 soccer squad that made an improbable run to the Final Four.
The Best Play of the decade? With all due respect to all of Lamar Jackson’s magical runs this season, that remains “The Mile High Miracle” in Denver. BUT if you wanted to make an argument for Manny Machado’s fake throw to first and toss behind to third against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, I’d certainly be willing to listen.
The Best End Of A Drought was, of course, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s 2017 national championship, while the Best Breakthrough was the Loyola men’s lacrosse squad claiming its first-ever title back in 2012 (with a nod to Stevenson winning its first D-III title in 2013 as well). Maryland women’s lacrosse (five championships) edges out the Baltimore Blast for Best Dynasty.
Best Athlete Off The Field is, of course, Adam Jones, who rewrote the standards for being equal parts superstar athlete and exemplary citizen here. Legends like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have remained incredibly committed to the city, but Jones played here for nearly the entirety of the decade while also doing the right thing at every turn.
But as far as Local Sportsperson of the Decade is concerned? There was quite the battle throughout these 10 years. At times, Jones, Flacco, Phelps, Machado, Terrell Suggs or Buck Showalter would have been the leader in the clubhouse. But considering he started the decade contending for championships, won one, survived a downturn, led a complete overhaul and is now contending for another title to end the decade, the answer is easy.
The Local Sportsperson of the Decade is John Harbaugh. What a remarkable run.
Photo Credits: Kenya Allen/PressBox
Originally published Dec. 18, 2019