Top 15 sports stories of 2012: Olympics, Penn State scandal among top sports buzz in 2012

Another memorable year of sports is in the books and it couldn't have been any better.

From Eli Manning guiding the New York Giants to a thrilling Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots to the unprecedented Stanley Cup run from the Los Angeles Kings, this year left everyone talking.

But all of those feats just miss the list of the top sport stories of the year as we begin with magical moments from the 2012 Olympic Games.

1. London Olympics – For two weeks you raced home from work to see who won the gold in badminton. Only the Olympics could have that type of power. Michael Phelps retired from the sport of swimming as he after setting an Olympic record with 22 medals. Also, swimmer Missy Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze. Jamaican sprinter Usian Bolt won became the first man to defend his 100 and 200 meter titles. Lastly, gymnast Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the all-around Olympic gymnastic title.

2. Penn State Football Scandal – Happy Valley was never the same as former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse and was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. Former football head coach Joe Paterno died in January and the NCAA handed down Penn State a 4-year bowl ban.

3. Denver Broncos sign Peyton Manning, trade Tim Tebow to the Big Apple – In one of the biggest free agent signings in NFL history Peyton Manning chose to continue his playing career with the Denver Broncos. Soon after, the Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets. As the start of the season began two questions persisted, would Manning ever return to his four-time MVP form and how well would the duo of Tebow and Mark Sanchez work together?

Well, Manning has guided his new teammates to a second consecutive AFC West title as he bids for a fifth MVP trophy, while Tebow has rarely played, becoming the league's most decorated punt protector.

4. Lance Armstrong stripped of titles - The symbol of strength was stripped of his record-setting seven Tour de France titles by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Lance Armstrong was also barred for life from the sport of cycling.

On October 22 the International Cycling Union officially took away Armstrong's titles and banned him from the sport. UCI President Pat McQuiad said that Armstrong, "deserves to be forgotten."

5. LeBron's Magical Season – The player who took his talents to South Beach finally got his ring. LeBron James led the Miami Heat to the NBA Championship, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games.

James also won his third league MVP, was NBA Finals MVP and won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA in the same year.

6. Miguel Cabrera's Triple Crown – What could top three perfect games in one season? Only something that hasn't been accomplished since 1967 as Detroit Tigers outfielder Miguel Cabrera hit for the American League Triple Crown. Cabrera led the AL in batting average (.330), home runs (44), and RBI's (139). Not to mention that he also won the AL MVP over Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

But it was the one-team award that he couldn't capture that meant the most, as the San Francisco Giants swept Cabrera's Tigers in the World Series.

7. Bountygate Scandal - The NFL conducted an investigation on the New Orleans Saints from 2010 and found that coaches and players were involved in a bounty system that gave cash rewards for knocking out opponents out of games from 2009-2011. As a result, the league suspended Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely, head coach Sean Payton and linebacker Jonathon Vilma for the entire 2012 season. Three other players and two other Saints personnel suffered lower suspensions.

The players appealed the ruling and it wasn't settled until former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue vacated all the player suspensions and fines levied by current league commissioner Roger Goodell.

8. Junior Seau's Death – On May 3, NFL legend Junior Seau was found dead inside his California home with a gunshot wound to his chest. His death was ruled a suicide and Seau's family donated some of his brain tissue for research to see if his football career contributed to his deadly act.

Seau's death brought more attention to the possible long-term effects of how repeated concussions can affect the brain.

9. College Football Approves Playoff Format - It was the move college football fans have been waiting for as a four-team playoff was approved. Beginning in 2014, a selection committee will choose the top four teams to be in the semifinals game, which will be played at current bowl site. The national championship game will be played a week later and the site of the game  will be awarded to the highest bidder.

10. NFL's Replacement Referees – It was the play that shook the NFL, especially the Green Bay Packers. On the final play of the Packers matchup against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a Hail Mary

pass into the end zone. The ball looked to be intercepted by Packers cornerback M.D. Jennings but it was given to Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate when he reached around Jennings to put his hand on the ball out of desperation. The botched call from the referees was worse because one official signaled an interception, while the other called a touchdown for Seattle.

The result of the play forced NFL into settling its labor dispute with the regular officials who were back on the field for week four of the season. 

11. Los Angeles Lakers land Dwight Howard and Steve Nash - The Los Angeles made the trade of the year in the NBA. All-Star center Dwight Howard was traded from the Orlando Magic to the Lakers, fellow center Andrew Bynum was shipped to the Philadelphia 76ers and Andre Iguodala was moved to the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers also acquired two-time MVP guard Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns in a sign-and-trade.

12. Pat Summitt steps down from coaching ranks – Longtime Tennessee Volunteers coach Pat Summitt left Tennessee as head coach due to early-onset Alzheimer disease. A basketball legend, Summitt racked up eight national titles and won 1,098 games which are the most in major college basketball history.

13. NHL Lockout - For the fourth time since 1992 the NHL went into a lockout. One of the key positions on the bargaining table is that NHL owners want players to accept salary cuts and place limits on free agency.

The league has suspended all games through January 14.

14. Linsanity - Who knew a Harvard graduate could shake up Madison Square Garden so much? With the New York Knicks slumping with injuries to the point guard position, Jeremy Lin was inserted into the lineup. He would reel off 25 points and seven assists off the bench against the New Jersey Nets and "linsanity" took flight. Lin would lead the Knicks to seven straight wins taking New York by storm.

15. Augusta National Admits Women – For the first time in almost 80 years of its existence, women became members of the Augusta National Golf Club. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financer Darla Moore were the two chosen to wear wore the iconic green jackets. Augusta National is where the Masters Golf Tournament is held.

Taking home the title in 2012 was Bubba Watson in a dramatic two-hole playoff victory.

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Honorable Mentions:

Los Angeles Kings win Stanley Cup – For the first time in NHL history an 8th seed won the Stanley Cup. This was the Kings' first title in 45 years as they beat the New Jersey Devils in six games in the Stanley Cup Final.

Eli Manning beats Tom Brady…Again – For the second time in five years Eli Manning and the New York Giants rally past Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. This time it was a 21-17 victory in Super Bowl XLVI, highlighted by Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham's tiptoe sideline catch in the fourth quarter.

Manny Pacquiao controversial loss to Timothy Bradley – One of the most anticipated fights of the year ended in controversy. Bradley beat Pacquiao in a split decision as two of the three judges scored the fight 115-113 in Bradley's favor.

Johnny Manziel wins the Heisman Trophy – Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel threw for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 1,181 yards with 19 scores.

Big East Conference Realignment – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova all agreed to leave the Big East in 2015, leaving only Connecticut, South Florida and Cincinnati remaining.

Spain defeats Italy in Euro 2012 – The world of soccer was treated to possibly one of the best teams in its history as Spain dominated Italy 4-0 in the European Cup Final.

Brooklyn acquires 2 major sports teams – The New Jersey Nets changed their name and address to become the Brooklyn Nets and play in the state-of-the-air Barclays Center.

The New York Islanders will move into the new arena in the 2015-16 season, that's if the NHL can end their current lockout by then.

Injury forces I'll Have Another out of Belmont Stakes – I'll Have Another had a shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, but a swollen tendon forced the colt to be scratched from the Belmont Stakes one day before the race.

Baylor Bears achieve perfection – The Baylor Bears beat Notre Dame 80-61 in the NCAA women's basketball Final to become the first basketball team, men's or women's, to finish with a perfect 40-0 record.

Kentucky Wildcats win National Championship – Jim Calipari's bunch of freshmen defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 67-59 to take home their eighth NCAA basketball title. Kentucky would later tie the an all-time record for players drafted NBA in one year with six Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who were the first two picks in the draft.

Alabama gets their revenge against LSU – It was supposed to be the sequel to the "Game of the Century." What it turned

out to be was an old fashioned blowout. Alabama cemented Louisiana State 21-0 to capture their second BCS National Championship in three years. Earlier in the season, LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime.

NFL Rookie quarterback class of 2012 – Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts), Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) and Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks) are all leading their teams to surprising runs towards the playoffs.

How good is this rookie class? Before they were drafted, their teams held a combined 14-36 record. This year's combined record is 29-16 with one game left to go in the regular season.

Time will tell this years' rookie class of quarterback's ranks up with the 1983 class of hall of famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly.

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