LeBron James had the last laugh in 2012.
Photo: Getty Images
THE LOWDOWN: LeBron silences his critics, Jeremy Lin takes the NBA by storm and the college football finale that had an Aussie flavour...
LeBron finally gets his ring
It took nine long years, a move to South Beach and a lockout-shortened season, but LeBron James finally put a ring on it in 2012. The superstar basketballer and 'most disliked sportsman' in America got his championship - haters be damned – with the Miami Heat, who defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in June's NBA finals. As much as everybody hates LeBron for leaving Cleveland in the lurch there's no denying the king deserves his ring. He showed it in the finals series too, putting up the kind of numbers that few else can – in five games, he averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists and was named the unanimous series' MVP. Now that LeBron is no longer the best player to never win a championship, fans can go back to being indifferent about him; or at least redirect their anger at the Lakers, who out-Miami'd Miami by signing Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in the off-season.
Linsanity grips New York City
Nobody loves an underdog story like Australians, so it was of little surprise that Jeremy Lin became big news down under as he rode a wave of sudden fame in the city that never sleeps. Lin, a 23-year-old Taiwanese-American living on his brother's couch, went from being a backup guy on the Knicks' roster to their starting guard thanks to a perfect storm of injuries, a form slump and "desperation," according to then-coach Mike D'Antoni. He led the struggling Knicks on a 7-0 run, with personal highlights including a career-high 38 points against the Lakers and a buzzer-beating three-pointer to knock off the Toronto Raptors. By this time D'Antoni was riding Lin "like freakin' Secretariat," and so was New York. His rags-to-riches story re-energised the Knicks fanbase, his jersey sold more than any bar Derrick Rose's and the New York Times called him the "most popular [Knicks] player in a decade." Sadly this fairytale had an unhappy ending, as Lin ended up being shipped off to Houston. The sudden star had accepted a deal-in-principle from the Rockets in an attempt to squeeze more cash out of New York, but the Knicks baulked and walked away.
Aussies take sides in college football finale
Australia had an unusual reason to tune in to the BCS championship game between Louisiana State University and Alabama in January. Curiously, both sides - the top-two in college football - had an Australian on the field. There was Brad Wing, a Melburnian who traded footy for punting and wound up at LSU, and Jesse Williams, a hulking indigenous Australian and a rock on 'Bama's defensive line. The uncanny coincidence, one likely to never be repeated, got great press in the lead-up to college football's showpiece game. In the end it was Williams who took bragging rights over his fellow Aussie as the Crimson Tide smashed LSU 21-0. But the best part of the game – from an Australian perspective, anyway – was a throwaway comment about Wing by Erin Andrews, ESPN's glamour sideline reporter. Noting the unusually large Australian audience, Andrews claimed the lucky country was besotted with the LSU punter because he can kick with both feet. Hmm.
Miggy snags baseball's Triple Crown
Detroit Tigers fans may have suffered through a dismal World Series, but at least they got to witness greatness all season long. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit's adopted Venezuelan, joined an elite group that includes Lou Gehrig and Mickey Mantle with a triple crown. The Tigers slugger finished the regular season leading the MLB in three statistical categories: batting average (.330), home runs (44) and RBIs (139). The feat hadn't been achieved since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and has occurred just 16 times in total since 1878. Cabrera's honour is also noteworthy in that it may be the last time that the Triple Crown is widely celebrated. As the field of sabermetrics refines the traditional statistics that make baseball baseball, the day may soon come when batting's highest individual achievement is considered secondary to other, less obvious measures of greatness.
Ryan Lochte: America's favourite bro
As Michael Phelps said goodbye at the London Olympics, a new swimming superstar emerged in the form of unapologetic frat boy Ryan Lochte. Feats in the water aside, Americans took great delight in simultaneously sneering at and revelling in Lochte's 'pretty fly for a white guy' act. Famously, he tried to wear a diamond-encrusted grill on the podium after winning gold, prompting Jezebel.com to label him 'America's sexiest douchebag'. Other Lochte tidbits of note include his signature catchphrase ("Jeah!"), his 130 pairs of shoes (including the green rhinestone sneakers he designed for Speedos), his 'sex idiot' cameo on 30 Rock, his penchant for peeing in pools and his mum outing him for one-night stands on national television.
Next up: Verbals (part 1)
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