Wow! How fast did this decade go? It seems like yesterday when we were talking about Y2K and gathering all the water a we can muster. Remember a young Kobe and Shaq winning an NBA championship for the first time in 2000 while Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees earned ring number four? How about the dominance of the Baltimore Ravens’ defense we witnessed in Super Bowl XXXV(35)? The City of Baltimore was jumping, while Cleveland Browns fans were saying…”That’s our team! We should be the ones celebrating!” (For those who don’t know, the original Cleveland Browns franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996). We marveled at the play of Mateen Cleaves as he guided Michigan State over the Florida Gators in the 2000 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I title game and no one could have predicted that the Florida State Football program would win its last National Championship on January 4, 2000.
The opening decade of the 2000s brought about greatness in the world of sports. For starters, lets look at the play of Roger Federer. In this decade, Federer won 15 Grand Slams (a Men’s tennis record). They include the Australian Open (2004, 2006-2007); French Open (2009); Wimbledon (2003-2007, 2009); and the US Open (2004-2008). Federer has been so dominant that at one point he held the number one ranking a record 237 consecutive weeks. What about the dominance of the Williams sisters in the 2000’s? Venus and Serena have a combined 21 Grand Slams in the decade, which gives them a firm grip on women’s tennis. The world of cycling in this decade is owned by Lance Armstrong, winning seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005. Speaking of greatness, how about swimmer Michael Phelps? Fourteen gold medals in two Olympics and 40 gold medals overall in this decade. Need I say more? Who in the NFL was better than Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at the quarterback position? Man, these dudes were sick in the 2000’s. Four Super Bowl titles, three Super Bowls MVP awards, four NFL MVP awards, 14 Pro Bowls between the two of them and the list goes on and on. The “King of the NBA” thus far in the new millenium has got to be Kobe Bryant. With four championships, two scoring titles, All-Star appearances every year, NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, NBA ALL-Team and All-Defensive Team 9 times and dropping 81 on the Toronto Raptors on January 22 2006; the “Black Mamba” is an easy choice.
Of all the achievements gathered in the decade of 2000, no other athlete did it better than Tiger Woods. Woods would rule over the sport of golf as if he were Caesar himself. In this decade alone, Tiger has won 12 majors; the Masters, US Open, Open championship and the PGA championship 3 times each. In addition, Woods was PGA player of the year and PGA Tour player of the year 8 times, PGA money leader 9 times, Vardon Trophy (Scoring leader) 7 times, and Fed Ex champion twice and just recently Woods was voted athlete of the decade by the Associated Press.
- Derrick Thomas: Hall of Fame linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs died February 8, 2000 of complications from an automobile accident.
- Tom Landry: Hall of Fame and legendary head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, taking his team to 20 straight winning seasons died on February 12, 2000.
- Malik Sealy: Former St. John’s University basketball star and 8 year NBA veteran died in an automobile accident on May 20, 2000.
- Dale Earnhardt Sr.: Nicknamed “The Intimidator” in the NASCAR world, died February 18, 2001 in a car crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
- Korey Stringer: Pro Bowl offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings died August 1, 2001 of a heat stroke during practice.
- Darryl Kile: Right-handed starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals died June 22, 2002 of a heart attack in his hotel room. At the time of his death, Kile and the Cardinals were in Chicago for a regular series stint with the rival Cubs.
- Ted Williams: The last hitter to bat .400 and arguably the greatest hitter in Major League Baseball history. The Hall of Fame left fielder for the Boston Red Sox died on July 5, 2002.
- Chick Hearn: Legendary NBA announcer and longtime play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers inventor of just about every basketball phrase such as “Air Ball”, “Slam Dunk”, “Triple-Double”, and “Garbage Time” died on August 5, 2002 after suffering a fall three days earlier.
- Johnny Unitas: Hall of Fame quarterback for the Baltimore Colts nicknamed “The Golden Arm” and one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to be under center in the NFL died on September 11, 2002 of a heart attack while working out.
- Marge Schott: Controversial Major League Baseball owner of the Cincinnati Reds who was banned from the league from 1996-1998 for sympathizing with the Nazi party died on March 2, 2004.
- Ken Caminiti: Former third baseman, National League MVP and steroids abuser died on October 10, 2004 of a drug overdose.
- Reggie White: Great Hall of Fame defensive end nicknamed “The Minister of Defense” died on December 26, 2004 of a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
- George Mikan: NBA Hall of Fame center for the Minneapolis Lakers and considered the “Original Big Man” died on June 1, 2005 of complications from diabetes.
- Corey Lidle: American League pitcher for the New Yankees died on October 11, 2006 when he crashed his plane into a New York City building.
- Darrent Williams: NFL cornerback for the Denver Broncos died on January 1, 2007 from a gun shot in a drive-by shooting.
- Dennis Johnson: Boston Celtics floor general of the 1980’s died on February 22, 2007 of a heart attack while coaching his NBA Development team, Austin Toros in a practice session.
- Eddie Robinson: Grambling Football’s legendary head coach winner of over 400 games in 56 years of coaching died on April 3, 2007 after a long bout with Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Diego Corrales: Former super featherweight and lightweight world boxing champion noted for his heroic battles with Jose Luis Castillo died on May 7, 2007 in a motorcycle accident.
- Bill Walsh: Hall of Famer and one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time. The creator of the “West Coast Offense” and leader of the San Francisco 49ers in the 80’s died on July 30, 2007 of leukemia.
- Sean Taylor: Two time Pro Bowl free safety of the Washington Redskins. Hands down one of the most feared hitters in the NFL died on November 27, 2007 of gunshots from intruders in his home in Miami.
- Myron Cope: Color commentator known as “the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers” died on February 27, 2008 of respiratory failure.
- Larry Miller: Fan favorite and owner of the Utah Jazz died on February 20, 2009 after a long battle with diabetes.
- Nick Adenhart: 22 year old rookie pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels died on April 9, 2009 in an automobile accident hours after pitching a game.
- Chuck Daly: NBA Hall of Fame head coach leading the Detroit Pistons to back to back titles in 1989 and 1990 as well as the original head coach of the “Dream Team” died on May 9, 2009 of pancreatic cancer.
- Wayman Tisdale: Former NBA power forward and popular jazz guitarist died on May 15, 2009 after a two year battle with cancer in his knee.
- Steve McNair: Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback leading the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl died on July 4, 2009 of multiple gunshot wounds along with his girlfriend from a murder-suicide.
- Arturo Gatti: Future Hall of Fame boxer remembered for his epic bouts with boxer Micky Ward died on July 11, 2009 in his hotel room of a suicide.
- Vernon Forrest: World champion boxer recognized by defeating Shane Mosley died on July 25, 2009 of a homicide.
- Abe Pollin: Legendary owner of the Washington Wizards (NBA), Mystics (WNBA) and Capitals (NHL) died on November 24, 2009 of a rare brain disease.
- Chris Henry: Troubled NFL wide receiver of the Cincinnati Bengals died on December 17, 2009 in an automobile accident.
- Let’s start with the biggest story of all, BALCO. Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) became a house hold name in 2003 when its founder, Victor Conte was investigated by journalists and eventually the federal government, for the company’s involvement with sports doping. It was concluded that BALCO provided performance enhancing drugs to athletes in major sports. Top athletes, including home run slugger Barry Bonds and Olympic sprinter Marion Jones would be the faces of the scandal. The issues with BALCO would lead to the infamous Mitchell Report and Major League Baseball doping. Former US Senator George Mitchell led a two year investigation into steroid and human growth hormone (HGH) use. The report implicated players such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez and will forever have a stain the legacy of Major League Baseball.
- Disgraced NBA referee Tim Donaghy and his illegal gambling on NBA games in 2007 gave the league a black eye.
- Michael Vick’s destroyed his credibility in 2007 when it was discovered that he was the master-mind of an illegal dog fighting operation. These findings created a world-wide disapproval of the once celebrated NFL quarterback. Vick’s actions put the Pro Bowl QB behind bars for a year and a half.
- With the good sometimes comes the bad. For 99 percent of the decade, the world got the good from one Eldrick Tont Woods; you may know him as “Tiger”. Arguably the most famous athlete ever, Tiger got himself involved with the most widely publicized extramarital affair scandal in recent time over the 2009 Thanksgiving holiday.Woods has been vilified so much that he’s currently in hiding.
- In 2007, Eric Mangini ratted his former mentor Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, out to the NFL and “Spygate” was formed. Mangini, then head coach of the New Jets told NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, that the Patriots led by Belichick, were illegally videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals. This led to an investigation, which brought about tapes, as well as an admission from Belichick, that the tapings date back to 2000. The end result: confiscated film, a $500,000 fine for Belichick and the organization being fined $250,000.
As we enter the second decade of the 2000s, we can only imagine if it will top the first. All I can say…we’ll see soon enough. Happy New Year all!!!
By Keith S. Madyun