The sports activities world is getting into one other interval of uncertainty, with a surge in coronavirus cases, more game postponements and questions concerning the Beijing Olympics.

But 2021 was additionally an incredible yr in sports activities. There have been challenges and disruptions, however there have been additionally loads of memorable moments. Take a minute or two and scroll by this spotlight reel of a few of our favourite performs from the previous yr.

Most of the time, a floor ball to the third baseman with two outs ends an inning. Back to the dugout. On May 27, Jávier Baez of the Chicago Cubs hit a ball identical to that — however one way or the other, because of his daredevil baserunning and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ many blunders, he ended up at second base as a substitute and allowed a teammate to attain. It was the nuttiest play in Major League Baseball in 2021, if not of one of many wildest in baseball historical past.

— James Wagner

This play, through the Nets’ 2020-21 regular-season finale towards Cleveland on May 16, was a fantastically executed quick break. It began with Blake Griffin recovering a batted ball and twirling a one-handed, behind-the-back move to Kyrie Irving at midcourt. Irving touch-passed the ball to Mike James, who had an open lane to the ring. But as a substitute of taking the layup, he threw a move off the backboard for Kevin Durant to dunk residence. It was a mix of wonderful passing and showmanship, components usually on show when basketball is at its finest.

— Evan Easterling

Eugénie Le Sommer is France’s profession scoring chief and confirmed off her ability in a National Women’s Soccer League sport on July 31. With exact footwork, she made her approach into the penalty space, dropped Racing Louisville F.C. defender Emily Simon to the grass with two fast cutbacks and curled a shot into the far nook for her workforce, OL Reign.

— Evan Easterling

One of hockey’s rarities is the lacrosse aim, when a participant standing behind the opponent’s web bends low to the ice and makes use of the blade of the stick with scoop the puck, cradle it and tuck it previous the unsuspecting goaltender. It’s often known as the Michigan, as within the college, as a result of Mike Legg executed the maneuver in a 1996 N.C.A.A. match sport towards Minnesota through the Wolverines’ championship run.

Trevor Zegras, a rookie ahead for the Anaheim Ducks, put his personal twist on it this month towards the Buffalo Sabres. Instead of going for the aim, he lofted a move to Sonny Milano, who batted the puck previous goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen in hockey’s model of the alley-oop.

— Evan Easterling

One of essentially the most anticipated occasions of the Tokyo Olympics was the ladies’s 400-meter hurdles. Frequently, when Sydney McLaughlin and Dalilah Muhammad, each of the United States, meet on the monitor, the successful time units a world document. The development continued this summer time, when each McLaughlin and Muhammad broke the world document — which had belonged to McLaughlin — within the last of the occasion. McLaughlin won the race in 51.46 seconds, beating Muhammad by 12-hundredths of a second.

— Talya Minsberg

“I always say that the perfect race doesn’t exist, but this is the closest I’ve come to a perfect race,” Karsten Warholm of Norway said after the ultimate of the boys’s 400-meter hurdles in Tokyo. Warholm shattered his world document, winning in 45.94 seconds, to beat Rai Benjamin of the United States, who additionally broke the world document however was left with a silver medal. Five runners behind them set nationwide information.

— Talya Minsberg

Diego Schwartzman, one of many quickest males in tennis, made the tweener look passé in Paris final month with this fantastically disguised, no-look lob winner previous Marcos Giron of the United States.

— Christopher Clarey

Tampa Bay defenders swarmed him, and Patrick Mahomes fled. This occurred all all through the Super Bowl, and on a fourth-and-9 early within the fourth quarter, it was occurring once more. But nonetheless, he persevered, contorted, concocted. It was the very best throw of the game, of the N.F.L. playoffs, of darn close to the final calendar yr — and it fell incomplete. But it certain wasn’t Mahomes’s fault.

— Ben Shpigel

This second of brilliance on Oct. 27 began inauspiciously. Portland’s Santiago Moreno despatched a number one move forward of his teammate Dairon Asprilla however Asprilla couldn’t run down the ball. It bounded, seemingly harmlessly, off the turf on the Timbers’ Providence Park and headed for the palms of San Jose goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski. But as a substitute of amassing the ball, Marcinkowski mishandled it. That allowed Asprilla to realize management, pop the ball into the air along with his again to aim and rating an acrobatic shot from exterior the penalty space.

— Evan Easterling

No doubt, her waterfall of tears and shared pleasure after successful helped make this an Olympic second. But let’s pause and recognize Tamyra Mensah-Stock’s athleticism in changing into the primary Black girl to win gold in wrestling. The prime seed within the 68-kilogram freestyle last, she defeated the second seed, Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria, 4-1, after two takedowns within the first interval. (Oborududu turned the primary Nigerian to win a medal in wrestling.) Mensah-Stock’s efficiency, power and technique, all in highly effective concord, have been in line with her dominating march within the sport that solely appears more likely to proceed.

— Randal C. Archibold

The most luxurious aim scored through the 2021-22 N.H.L. season has already occurred. On Nov. 5, late within the third interval of a tie sport towards the Rangers, Connor McDavid, the middle and human spotlight reel for the Edmonton Oilers, collected a rebound off the boards, dipsy-doodled on the prime of the zone for a bit, then stick-handled his approach down the center by 4 Rangers gamers as in the event that they weren’t even on the ice earlier than slipping the puck previous goalie Alexandar Georgiev. It appeared to unfold in gradual movement, and demanded repeated viewings, every one revealing a nuanced little bit of innate hockey genius. Coming off a season for the ages, McDavid keeps outdoing himself. Oilers ahead Zach Hyman referred to as it the very best aim he had ever seen. Us too.

— Shawna Richer

Robert Finke’s uncanny means to discover a second gear within the pool resulted in two shock gold medals on the Tokyo Olympics. Finke, a first-time Olympian, won the men’s 800-meter freestyle with a surprising comeback within the final 50 meters. (Watch him in Lane 3 on the four-minute mark within the video.) Then he won the 1,500 free with one other surge on his last flip. The performances left everybody — his opponents, his coaches, even Finke himself — shocked. “I didn’t know I had these swims in me,” he stated.

— Andrew Keh

I like pace and energy as a lot as the following sports activities reporter, however I actually like smarts, fashion, poise and any proof {that a} participant is working on some increased cognitive aircraft. In April, Bruno Fernandes confirmed all of that with out touching the ball, as a substitute permitting it to move by his legs — a little bit of misdirection referred to as a dummy in soccer phrases — and thus free an onrushing teammate to attain a comparatively easy aim. I particularly preferred how, as Manchester United was celebrating, Mason Greenwood checked out Fernandes and tapped his head thrice in appreciation.

— Andrew Keh

Novak Djokovic won this epic U.S. Open semifinal, however Alexander Zverev gained the rally of the yr: going for it and changing on the 53rd shot.

— Christopher Clarey

Noteworthy moments in distance operating exist solely looking back. When the choice is made to set out at a world-record tempo, or to interrupt away from the pack, or to alternate surging with jogging to interrupt an opponent, success is measured many minutes and miles later.

Eugene, Ore., was so blistering scorching in late June that the organizers of the (*18*) moved the ladies’s 10,000-meter race to the morning, when it might be “only” 85 levels, and humid. No matter to Emily Sisson, who determined about six minutes into the race to maneuver to the entrance and break the sphere by slowly ramping up her tempo. She did so handily, successful by an unheard-of 1 minute 13 seconds. Sisson set a U.S. Olympic trials document in a race that was so brutal that 4 rivals didn’t even end and the third-place finisher needed to be hospitalized and did not remember the final few laps.

— Kevin Draper

This video, which accompanied my article in January about Kai Jones, a 14-year-old daredevil professional journey skier, was simply essentially the most jaw-dropping sports activities efficiency I noticed this yr (or final). Jones’s verve, athleticism and fortitude quantity to visible proof of the youth motion that’s rewriting the boundaries of what was referred to as out-of-bounds snowboarding. Don’t be shocked if you happen to generally have the urge to cowl your eyes as you watch.

— Bill Pennington

Trick performs are wonderful once they work. They are disastrous once they don’t. This one didn’t work.

Trailing by 5 factors inside the ultimate two minutes of the sport, Virginia wanted a landing to take the lead towards its in-state rival Virginia Tech of their showdown final month. On third-and-7, the Cavaliers went for a deep minimize within the playbook, a backward move to a lineman that ostensibly ought to have shocked the protection. The Hokies made the deal with for a loss, received a fourth-down cease, beat Virginia for the seventeenth time of their final 18 matchups and gained bowl eligibility.

— Evan Easterling

The most memorable spotlight isn’t all the time a great one. Anastasiia Galashina of Russia was one of many last two rivals in air rifle on the Tokyo Olympics. After a future of scoring 10.8s and 10.7s — 10.9 is the utmost — she had the lead with one shot remaining. That shot (at 1 minute 45 seconds within the video) was nowhere close to the middle of the goal: a horrible 8.9, her worst shot of the competitors. She fell from first to second instantly, with Yang Qian of China winning the gold.

— Victor Mather