The 12 most disappointing teams and athletes from US sport in 2016
The 12 most disappointing teams and athletes from US sport in 2016
The year 2016 saw some incredible individual and team feats in the world of sports, including the Chicago Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series championship, Leicester City’s stunning Premier League title and Simone Biles’ thoroughly dominant gymnastics performance at the Rio Games.
... But not all went so well. Here are the biggest disappointments of 2016 in no particular order.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Golden State’s star point guard Steph Curry.
The Warriors’ failure to capture a title will go down as the memorable disappointment of 2016. One of the subplots during the Warriors’ incredible regular season run was whether the accomplishment would matter if it did not end with a championship. “I don’t look at this entire season as a failure because there’s been too many great things that happened to this team and to this group of guys, to this coaching staff, to this organisation” Draymond Green said after the Warriors blew their 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers. True, it’s no failure, but what appeared to be the greatest NBA team ever did not finish the season with confetti falling on their shoulders.
Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers.
The year 2016 started well for Carolina before the offence got swallowed by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Come September, the Josh Norman-less squad couldn’t spring free from the Super Bowl hangover; it certainly didn’t help that Cam Newton got drilled helmet-to-helmet in the opener against Denver. The Panthers then fell to 1-5 before the bye, failing to recapture the dabbing mojo of its 15-1 run last year. A let-down was somewhat predictable but this season, which included a 40-7 shellacking at Seattle and saw the defence allow an average 40.5 points in a pair of meetings with the Falcons, has been worse than expected.
UFC star Sage Northcutt.
The 20-year-old Northcutt looked primed for a big 2016 and was highly touted by the UFC but it wasn’t in the cards. Northcutt’s unanimous decision over Enrique Marin at UFC 200 was sandwiched by chokeouts in January and December. Bryan Barberena (filling in for Andrew Holbrook) handed Northcutt his first professional loss with an arm triangle choke, and then on December 17 Mickey Gall submitted him with a rear-naked choke in the second round. He’s still just 20, but this year certainly did not go as planned or expected for the Texan, who has since announced he will be returning to the lightweight division.
JORDAN SPIETH AT THE MASTERS TOURNAMENT
Jordan Spieth of the United States reacts after finishing on the 18th green during the final round of the 2016 Masters Tournament.
Although his putter wasn’t sharp at times, Spieth enjoyed a solid 2016 season with wins at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, and finished with eight total top-10 performances. But golf fans will remember the 23-year-old’s 2016 season for the absolutely stunning collapse on the back nine in the final round of the Masters, when he held a 5-shot advantage before bogeying on 10 and 11 and then hit two shots into the water on 12, taking a quadruple bogey that left jaws agape across Augusta. There would be no coronation for Spieth as a back-to-back Masters champion. He finished second and had to put a green jacket upon Danny Willett. “As you can imagine,” Spieth said, “I can’t think of anybody else who may have had a tougher ceremony to experience.”
Missy Franklin’s Rio Olympics did not go as planned.
After becoming the darling of the London 2012 Games at age 17, winning five gold medals (two individuals) and setting an Olympic record in the women’s 100 meter backstroke, the U.S. swimmer fell well short of expectations at Rio, including her own, with zero individual medals.
“I understand so very little about this past week, about how many sacrifices and endless hours of hard work would leave me so far behind where I thought I was capable of being,” the 21-year-old said after the Games. “But understanding will not bring me peace. People knowing that I did everything I possibly could have done, that something beautiful will come out of this and that I will come back stronger than ever before.”
Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans.
On the matrix of hopes and expectations, the 26-year-old quarterback’s 2016 season falls about an inch below and to the left of the bottom left square. The former Bronco benefited from the Texans’ desperation for a quarterback to the tune of 4 years, $72 million ($37M guaranteed) and in his first year as a starter, he posted a league-worst 5.75 yards per attempt, looking completely overmatched and overwhelmed at times as he sailed passes over DeAndre Hopkins’ head and failed to develop chemistry with the receiving corps. Owner Bob McNair called it a “gutsy” move, but by Week 15 head coach Bill O’Brien had no choice but to bench Osweiler in favour of backup Tom Savage after back-to-back Osweiler interceptions. His massive contract guarantees he’ll have one more season in Houston to prove he’s not a bust.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
One season after a pleasantly surprising 44-win campaign and a playoff series win over the hobbled Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers were poised to take another step forward. But as the new year approaches, Portland finds itself at 14-20, losers of six of their last seven. It’s largely the same roster as last year (get well soon, Festus Ezeli) but their defence has gone from mediocre to dead last in the league in efficiency, allowing 112.2 points per game.
HOPE SOLO AND THE UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM
USA goalkeeper Hope Solo.
Before the Rio Olympics even began, 35-year-old goalkeeper Hope Solo raised eyebrows with ill-conceived comments about the Zika virus. Once the tournament began, she allowed two goals on errors against Colombia during the group stage and had a very uneven tournament overall. Then, after a stunning quarterfinals loss to Sweden, she called the Swedes cowards, taking away the focus from the team and the tournament. U.S. Soccer then suspended Solo for the Sweden comments citing “conduct that is counter to the organisation’s principles” and terminated her contract. As for the USWNT, the team was a heavy favourite to win the gold and never before failed to win a medal at the Olympic Games.
MICHIGAN STATE MEN’S BASKETBALL
The Michigan State Spartans bench looks on late in the game against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders.
“I can’t believe this is happening right now,” senior captain Matt Costello said after the No. 2-seeded Spartans lost a stunner to No. 15 Middle Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in March. “Just like, ‘What the heck is happening?’” Almost a perennial Sweet 16 team under Tom Izzo, MSU entered the tourney after a strong 29-5 season and was considered by many a strong contender for a title. But the Blue Raiders got hot from behind the arc (and all over the court) and Sparty, with eventual 2016 NBA Draft picks Denzel Valentine (14th overall to Bulls) and Deyonta Davis (31st to the Celtics), couldn’t keep pace in the 90-81 loss. Middle Tennessee then got thumped 75-50 by Syracuse in the next round.
After landing the prize of the off-season — ace righty Zack Greinke — the Diamondbacks set pretty lofty expectations for the 2016 season and then stumbled out of the gate. By the All-Star break, the D-Backs were 38-52. It didn’t help that outfielder A.J. Pollock broke his elbow in April, but this was a total team failure. Starter Shelby Miller completely lost himself and eventually manager Chip Hale and general manager Dave Stewart got the axe at the end of the 69-93 season.