The overarching theme in American sports in 2012 may have been shame — the shame of the greatest cyclist in history, the shame of a college football program even as it buried its icon, the shame of our most popular sports league as one of its broken heroes took his own life. And yet amidst the sadness came bursts of triumph and greatness, led by the NBA's "King" and his long-awaited coronation. The top stories of 2012:
1. The Fall of Lance Armstrong
The American cycling legend had been dogged by accusations for years, but public sentiment finally turned against him when some of his closest teammates testified, in vivid detail, of the doping operation he led. Armstrong lost his endorsements, his place at the top of the Livestrong Foundation and his seven Tour de France victories.
2. LeBron breaks through
LeBron James had been called a prodigy, a superstar, a choker and a villain. After the NBA Finals in June, he gained a new label: champion. James, Dwyane Wade and their Miami Heat teammates hushed the doubters with a five-game victory over Oklahoma City.
Now that Jeremy Lin has settled into being a decent guard with Houston, it's hard to recall the nationwide delirium and delight that he sparked with an incredible three-week run for the New York Knicks last spring. Pouring in points and hitting several buzzer-beaters, the Harvard grad became a hero for both Chinese-Americans and Ivy Leaguers everywhere.
Pro football has always been a violent game, but fans were stunned by revelations (complete with audio!) that New Orleans Saints coaches paid their players to injure opponents. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis for the season, and banned defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely.
5. Cabrera wins Triple Crown