2013 is here, but there were some things in 2012 that I still can’t shake. Honey Boo Boo, Nate Silver’s ’72 Dolphins performance, and a KimYe baby were all moments that rocked me to my core in 2012. We can all be thankful for the lack of a Mayan Apocalypse, and enough good health to make it to 2013. Last year was a productive one for myself and everyone involved with JLBSports, and it’s sad to see it go. A few sports figures are also disappointed to see 2012 slip away, but are surely excited with the prospects and future accomplishments that 2013 will undoubtedly bring. This bunch wasn’t in a great place at this time last year, but have now positioned themselves at the top for the year to come.
Robin van Persie
If not for Falcao, Robin van Persie would be regarded as the best striker in the world. He’s gone from being an injury-prone, trophy-less What-If type of player on Arsenal, to a healthy, in-form starter on first place Manchester United. He’s notched over 30 goals this calendar year, and has supplanted Wayne Rooney has Sir Alex Ferguson’s top option at forward. Here’s to the best striker in the EPL finally putting it all together at age 29, even if he is a Manc.
I’ve run out of superlatives to describe Adrian Peterson and his 2012 NFL campaign. He tore his ACL almost a year ago, and he’s come back better than before. A torn ACL at age 27 would end many running backs’ careers, or at the very least, limit explosiveness. Instead, Peterson came back from his injury 2-4 months ahead of schedule, and has gone on to light up scoreboards (and my fantasy team too. Taking him in the 4th round lead to a comfortable championship for me this year). His 6 yards per carry mark is the highest of his career, he’s already set career bests in rushing yards and all-purpose yards. With a 2,000 yard season in the back, AP has been an All-Day back, and the best player in football in 2012. Oh, and he’s doing it on a team that’s second to last in the NFL in passing yards. Christian Ponder has given Peterson no help at all, but he hasn’t needed it. History suggests that Peterson won’t be able to carry the Vikings to a Super Bowl, but at this point, nobody would be surprised if he did.
Peterson has received all of the SportsCenter attention for his tremendous 2012 season, but Jamaal Charles has turned in his best season as a pro after a torn ACL ended his season in 2011. Playing for the 2-14 Chiefs, he turned in 1,500 rushing yards, all while playing within the NFL’s WORST ranked passing offense. The Chiefs might’ve gone winless this year without him.
This time last year, nobody was sure if Peyton Manning was ever going to play football again. Manning, along with Peterson, are now the top two contenders for Comeback Player of the Year, and the NFL MVP award. Manning leads the league in QBR, set a career high in completion percentage, and has thrown for the most touchdowns since his (then) record breaking 49 touchdown season in 2004. The Broncos are undeniably the NFL’s best team right now, and are primed for a deep playoff run.
The Indianapolis Colts
From worst, to, well, the playoffs. Andrew Luck having a banner rookie year was expected, but the playoffs? Jim Mora definitely wouldn’t have picked these Colts to make the playoffs in 2012. They have, however, been extremely lucky. They had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL this year, only having to play three playoff bound teams, the Packers, Texans, and Patriots. The Colts have also had some immense luck (pun intended), as their -30 point differential is the worst of all playoff teams, and their -12 turnover differential is the 4th worst in the AFC. They may regress next year, but Chuck Pagano and Co. thoroughly deserve this magical ride.
2011 was one to forget for Carmelo Anthony. His Melodrama got him sent out of Denver, and into a Knicks cauldron that didn’t fit. In 2011, never gelled with Amare Stoudemire (the Knicks have a losing record with them in the starting lineup), and Mike D’Antoni never wanted him in the first place. 2012 has been a career revival for Anthony. Against the Miami Heat, he scored 41 points in the Knicks’ first playoff victory in over a decade, and followed that up a few months later by setting a single-game Team USA Olympic scoring record with 37 points against Nigeria. Those Team USA camps seem to do something to players—LeBron saw Kobe’s work ethic in 2008 and got better—it seems like Anthony saw LeBron’s leadership and do-it-all team mentality during the Olympics, and has applied it to his 2012 NBA regular season thus far. As the Knicks leading scorer and engine of the offense, he’s lead his team to the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, and a few “MVP, MVP!” chants from the Garden faithful as well.
In the span of one month, LeBron James exorcised all of his demons. He basically played every minute of the playoffs for the Heat, played one of the best games in playoff history against Celtics in Game 6, hit every clutch shot he needed to hit throughout the entire postseason, took a crap on the “Who’s the best player in the NBA? LeBron or Durant?” debate, and won his first NBA Championship with 60% of Dwayne Wade. He’s no longer the most hated player in the NBA, because it’s not fun to root against a guy who doesn’t fail anymore. As much as I loved hating on LeBron, it’s kind of nice now to sensibly sit back and enjoy the greatest basketball player of our generation do night-in and night-out what nobody else has done before. I still puke at all of his Samsung commercials though.
The Los Angeles Dodgers
This organization went from being torn apart and broken thanks to a divorce case to having the highest payroll in baseball and Magic Johnson in the stands. They’re being dubbed as the “Yankees West”—a term that would’ve been appropriate for the George Steinbrenner Yankees, but not for the suddenly tight-belted 2012 Yankees, who are dead-set on getting under the luxury tax. The Dodgers’ projected 2013 payroll stands at $207.9 million, and they’ve taken on nearly $500 million in total contracts within the past six months. Whether or not any of the spending will lead to winning baseball remains to be seen, but Dodgers fans can rest easy at night knowing that their team is serious about winning for the first time in years.
Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49