Game of the Year (Round Ball)
Wild momentum swings. Breakneck pace. Spectacular, long-range, back-to-back goals from Angel di María and Benjamin Pavard. A breakout performance from Kylian Mbappé. More knockout-round misery for Lionel Messi. France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina in the World Cup round of 16 in Kazan, Russia, just about had it all, and it set France on the right course to win it all.
Game of the Year (Prolate Spheroid)
The Los Angeles Rams’ 54-51 regular-season victory over the Kansas City Chiefs was the ultimate expression of the new-age N.F.L., where rule changes have given offenses license to run — and above all, pass — wild. But even the defenses came up with three touchdowns in this free-for-all in which the Chiefs became the first N.F.L. team to score 50 points and lose. Super Bowl rematch, please.
Marathon of the Year (Road)
On the relatively flat course in Berlin, Eliud Kipchoge took the record-breaking to a new level, smashing the men’s marathon mark by 78 seconds. He won in 2 hours 1 minute 39 seconds: all the more remarkable considering that he ran the last 10 miles by himself.
Marathon of the Year (Field)
It was the longest game in World Series history, requiring 18 innings, 18 pitchers and seven hours and 20 minutes. Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers finally ended with a game-winning home run from the Dodgers’ Max Muncy that turned out to be a consolation prize. The Red Sox would win the Series 4-1.
Comeback of the Year (Individual)
Once more concerned with getting healthy enough to play with his children without pain, Tiger Woods was healthy enough to win again in 2018. His victory at the Tour Championship at age 42 was his first tour victory in five years, and he was a contender throughout the season as the sport and the public re-embraced him after all his private and public struggles.
Comeback of the Year (Team)
Down 2-0 early in the second half to Japan, it looked as if Belgium’s World Cup was about to be over. Instead, Belgium staged the biggest knockout-round comeback in 52 years. Its last goal, by the substitute Nacer Chadli, came in the final seconds to give the Red Devils a 3-2 victory.
Bounceback of the Year
In August, the French decathlete Kévin Mayer, the overwhelming favorite for gold at the European track and field championships, fouled out of the long jump and withdrew, despondent. In September, he returned to action at the Decastar meet and broke Ashton Eaton’s 2015 world record by 81 points.
Upset of the Year
The top skiers already had finished the women’s super-G at the Pyeongchang Olympics. NBC announced that Anna Veith had defended her title and shifted to other programming. But that was before Ester Ledecka, much better known as a snowboarder, stole the spotlight and snatched the gold, winning the race by one-hundredth of a second from the 26th start position. “It must be some mistake,” said a shocked Ledecka, who went on to complete a unique Winter Olympics double by winning the parallel giant slalom in snowboarding, too.
Race of the Year (on Land)
In frigid Pyeongchang, the French biathlon star Martin Fourcade took command early in the 15-kilometer mass start event, lost the lead, regained it and then required a photo finish to hold off Simon Schempp by less than the length of Fourcade’s foot. “If you don’t like biathlon today,” said Fourcade, “you never will.”
Race of the Year (at Sea)
After more than eight months and 45,000 nautical miles, the Volvo Ocean Race came down to the final few miles of the short final leg from Goteborg, Sweden, to The Hague. Dongfeng Race Team ended up the champions by winning the trophy by just 16 minutes, becoming the first Chinese-flagged team to win one of sailing’s most prestigious races.
Doubles Team of the Year
Europe routed the United States at another Ryder Cup, and the routers in chief were the first-time pairing of the friends Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. The English-Italian team made birdies and backslaps routine as they became the first European pairing to go 4-0 at a single Ryder Cup, beating Tiger Woods three times and celebrating with a morning-after video. “Moliwood forever,” Fleetwood said. The Americans surely disagree.
Innovation of the Year
Love it or loathe it, the video assistant referee system changed the game and the conversation in its first World Cup. Penalty kicks were way up. Red cards were way down. And by December, the Union of European Football Associations was announcing that it was fast-tracking the system to be used in the Champions League knockout round. The system is here to stay, and personally, I love it.
Goal of the Year (on Ice)
A phenomenal gold-medal women’s hockey game between the archrivals Canada and the United States was decided by a shootout goal worthy of the occasion from Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. She faked a wrist shot, feinted left, then darted right and slipped the puck past the lunging Canadian goalkeeper Shannon Szabados. The Americans were Olympic champions for the first time since 1988 and watched the goal on repeat at their late-night celebration.
Goal of the Year (on Grass)
Pavard’s half volley from 20 yards out against Argentina was a bolt-from-the-blue master strike from a French defender who had never scored a professional goal with his foot. It leveled the score at 2-2 and changed the course of France’s World Cup campaign (and Pavard’s life).
Goal of the Year (in Flight)
Overhead kick? Bicycle kick? Scissors kick? Whatever you call it, Cristiano Ronaldo’s second goal against Juventus in Real Madrid’s 3-0 victory in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal in April was a thing of pure beauty: just a shade more spectacular than Gareth Bale’s similar strike in the final. Come September, Ronaldo was playing for Juventus.
Meaningless Goal of the Year
Toni Kroos’s curving, precision-guided free kick gave Germany a last-gasp 2-1 victory over Sweden and new hope in round-robin play at the World Cup. But the Germans, the defending champions, still finished last in their group and failed to advance.
Save of the Year
Igor Akinfeev, Russia’s goalkeeper, guessed wrong on Iago Aspas’s penalty kick: diving right and a little early, if you’re a stickler for the rules. But there was no second-guessing his reflexes as he extended his left leg high and somehow deflected the down-the-middle shot to secure victory over Spain and one of the biggest knockout-round upsets in World Cup history.
Gaffe of the Year
Goalkeeper blunders were contagious in the Champions League, and Loris Karius made two that cost Liverpool goals in its 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in the final. But at least Karius had an excellent excuse: a potential concussion early in the second half after a collision with Sergio Ramos. The Bayern Munich goalkeeper Sven Ulreich was in apparently perfect health in the semifinals when he ventured out to collect a ball with the score tied at 1-1, only to realize that he could not grab it with his hands. His desperation kick turned into a whiff and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema scored one of the easiest goals of his life.
Pass of the Year
In March, when the Los Angeles Lakers were LeBron James’s adversary instead of his employer, James palmed the ball and feigned a throw to his Cleveland teammate Kyle Korver. Everyone took the bait but Ante Zizic, who caught James’s dazzler of a no-look pass and dunked. Even Laker fans applauded. Consider it foreshadowing.
Shot of the Year (With a Racket)
With the fifth set deadlocked at 24-24 between Kevin Anderson and John Isner, no end was in sight in the semifinals of Wimbledon. But then Anderson slipped on the grass, rose to his feet and slapped a forehand with his nondominant left hand to keep a rally alive. He won it and went on to break Isner’s serve before holding his own to reach his first final at the All England Club.
Shot of the year (With a Ball)
Even off balance and tightly guarded, Arike Ogunbowale of Notre Dame still found a way to make her last-second three pointer to defeat Mississippi State and win the N.C.A.A. women’s basketball title. Only two days earlier, she had made another game-winning shot to defeat UConn in the semifinals.
Meaningless Shot of the Year
Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors can work wonders from long range. But Curry’s impromptu, no-look backward, one-handed flip from half court was particularly magical, even in a practice session.
Celebration of the Year
Roma upset Barcelona 3-0 in the second leg in Rome to reach the Champions League semifinals and overcome a 4-1 first-leg deficit. It was a stunning comeback, and Roma’s owner, James Pallotta, marked the moment much later in the evening by jumping into a fountain in the Piazza del Popolo. “I have a history of going one step too far, going all the way back to college,” he told the BBC after being fined 450 euros, or $510, by the city of Rome for his illicit swim. Pallotta, an American who made a fortune as a hedge fund manager, had no problem paying up. He then pledged €230,000 to the restoration of a different fountain near the Pantheon. Site of a future late-night dip?
Premature Celebration of the Year
England’s World Cup run inspired Teddy Allen, a fan, to get a large tattoo of the striker Harry Kane along with the words “World Cup Winners 2018.” England lost in the semifinals.
Premature Celebration of a Celebration (of the Year)
When Hirving Lozano scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for Mexico over Germany, initial reports indicated that celebrations in Mexico City had set off an actual earthquake. That set off headlines and awe worldwide. Some scientists later debunked the claim, but there is no doubt that Mexico rocked Germany’s world.