2022 was a fascinating year for fascinating sports moments.
Some of the stories that came from the sports world touched our hearts, while others made us cringe in disgust.
From the inspiration of Deion Sanders to the resilience of Brittney Griner, 2022 gave us a different perspective of the American athlete.
Instead of fixating on what our athletes were doing on their respective fields or courts, America began to focus on the beliefs of sports figures more than their accolades.
Folks also began to hold their favorite athletes accountable for the things they said and did.
Kyrie Irving missed almost an entire basketball season because of a tweet that was deemed anti-Semitic, Brett Farve was completely exposed for allegedly stealing money from welfare recipients and Ime Udoka lost his coaching job because of an alleged affair.
As wild and juicy as these stories were, the biggest sports story of the year has to be Brittney Griner’s fight for her freedom after she was arrested and convicted of a crime in Russia smack in the middle of the Ukraine and Russia war.
The WNBA star was released from a Russian prison on Dec. 8 as part of an international prisoner swap. Griner’s release following her questionable conviction for drug smuggling ended a horrific ordeal that lasted for about 10 months.
Before the surprise announcement of her release, Griner had begun serving a prison sentence in Mordovia, which is known as Russia’s “land of prisons.”
Russia’s penal colony in Mordovia is infamous for its harsh and horrific conditions.
According to The Nation’s Dave Zirin, the colony is notorious for racism and homophobia towards inmates, and Griner’s time there would have been brutal.
There is no word yet if Griner will ever play basketball again, but right now the former Olympic basketball star only seems concerned with spending quality time with her family.
In a statement posted to her Instagram earlier this month, Griner told fans that she did plan to return to the court in the near future, but a date has yet to be revealed.
“There’s no timeline on her return at this point. She’s reintegrating into a world that has changed for her now,” her agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas said at the time.
“From a pure security standpoint, she’s not going to be able to move in the world the way she did. It’s not a fate that she asked for, but I think she’s going to try to utilize her fame for good.”
Brittney Griner’s story was one of the most memorable sports moments of the year but there were so many more.
Check out the rest of our list of the most fascinating sports moments of 2022.
1. Deion Coach Prime Sanders Named Head Coach at University of ColoradoSource:Getty
After turning the Jackson State football program completely around, Deion Sanders decided to leave the HBCU and take his talents to the University of Colorado.
His decision caused a tremendous amount of hate and animosity from people who believed Sanders was a sellout and shouldn’t leave the Black College.
Sanders’ impact on HBCUs, HBCU athletics, and HBCU culture was undeniable and that deserves to be respected. He fought to provide new resources to his players at Jackson State, which included personal sacrifices like donating half his salary to that cause. His personality, bravado, and ability to win also brought extensive exposure to Jackson State and HBCUs across the country. Many major media outlets started creating HBCU verticals during Sanders’ time at Jackson State and networks like ESPN even sent College GameDay, their flagship college football show, to cover a couple of HBCU games during Sanders’s tenure including a game in Jackson this year against Southern University.
Colorado will be paying him a $5.9 million annual salary, which will be a significant increase from his reported $300k annual salary at Jackson State.
2. Brian Flores LawsuitSource:Getty
In February, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL claiming racial discrimination during his hiring process.
According to Flores’ suit, the former head coach had multiple incidents of racial discrimination that involved multiple teams, as well as coaches and executives around the league.
In the suit, he cites text messages from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who believed he was speaking with Brian Daboll, another coach interviewing for the Giants head coaching position. In the text, Belichick confirmed Daboll had already secured the job, but Flores had not yet interviewed for the position. This revelation meant Flores’ interview with the Giants was a sham because they had already hired their next head coach.
This wasn’t the only time Flores was subject to ‘sham interviews’ by NFL GMs. According to the suit, in 2019 Flores was scheduled to interview with the Denver Broncos. During his interview, then-General Manager, John Elway, President, Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis, and others, showed up an hour late. They also looked like they had spent the night prior drinking heavily. Flores believed the interview only happened so the Broncos could comply with the Rooney Rule and the team never had any intention of hiring Flores.
3. Kyrie Irving SuspensionSource:Getty
Kyrie Irving has had one of the wildest years of any human being on planet earth! At the beginning of the year, during last season playing half the games because of COVID protocol. At the start of this season, Irving was suspended again, just one week after he posted a link to a controversial movie that has been called antisemitic.
In December. Irving was dropped by Nike, a full year before his contract was expected to expire.
“Kyrie stepped over the line. It’s kind of that simple,” Nike co-founder Phil Knight told CNBC on Nov. 10. “He made some statements that we just can’t abide by, and that’s why we ended the relationship. I was fine with that.”
Although it seems like Kyrie and the Nets have put all their dram behind them for now, but only time will tell wit Kyrie.
4. Serena Williams RetiresSource:Getty
In August, Serena Williams retired from the game of tennis after spending the better part of three decades dominating the sport. The 39 Grand Slam champion made the announcement in an article she wrote for Vogue.
“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me,” Williams wrote. “I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”
She is to the tennis world what Michael Jordan is to basketball, what Wayne Gretzky is to hockey, what Tiger Woods is to golf and what Storm is to the X-men.
But life off the court will be just as exciting for Williams, who revealed in her cover story with Vogue earlier his month, that she’ll be spending her time raising her 5-year-old daughter Olympia and adding a new addition to the family.
“In the last year, Alexis and I have been trying to have another child, and we recently got some information from my doctor that put my mind at ease and made me feel that whenever we’re ready, we can add to our family,” Williams told the publication. “I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete. I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” Olympia has been praying for a sister, she revealed.
5. Ime Udoka ScandalSource:Getty
The Boston Celtics suspended Ime Udoka for the entire upcoming season following a report of misconduct in the workplace that violated the professional basketball organization’s code of conduct for employees.
As a result, Ime Udoka is expected to be away from the sidelines for the 2022-23 season just barely three months after he led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first year coaching the team.
Udoka is reported to have had a consensual relationship with an unidentified Celtics employee.
Udoka’s “intimate” relationship with an unspecified Celtics employee came while he was also in a longtime relationship with actress Nia Long.
The two have been together for more than a decade and she was even pictured smiling courtside in Boston with the couple’s son at an NBA Finals in June.
6. Brett Farve Welfare ScandalSource:Getty
In September, former director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, John Davis entered a plea deal with state and federal prosecutors for his involvement in a Mississippi welfare scam in which $70 million in welfare money was diverted to the rich. One of those rich recipients was Brett Farve.
$8.1 million was allegedly given to entities tied to Brett Favre. According to reports, Favre was paid $1.1 million in federal welfare funds in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches he allegedly never gave.
Text messages released Monday suggested former Gov. Phil Bryant helped channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds into a volleyball stadium project for Brett Favre and the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre’s daughter plays volleyball for the university and he received most of the fundraising credit for the project.
Farve allegedly denies he knew the money was intended for welfare recipients.