Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The holidays are here, snow is beginning to fall (on most NFL games along the East Coast) and 2013 will soon be in the books — and what a year it was for sports in Los Angeles!
As 2014 quickly approaches, we take a look back at some of the greatest, dramatic, and popular moments on the field, on the court, and in the courtroom; moments that made us cheer, weep, or ask ourselves just what in the world this athlete or that athlete may have been thinking.
Here are the Top 10 Los Angeles sports stories from 2013:
From the USC Trojans, to the Los Angeles Clippers, to the Los Angeles Lakers, Nick Young has been creating a buzz around Los Angeles throughout his adult basketball life. The biggest buzz, however, didn’t have much to do with his effort on the court. The 6-foot-7 strong-forward found himself facing a lawsuit in March by a woman who alleged that he had drugged her at a West Hollywood bar and had become non-consensually physical with her.
Law enforcement sources later suggested that her story didn’t make sense, and a DNA test later showed that the DNA collected from the alleged victim did not match Young’s, according to documents.
On the evening of June 11, a routine National League West ball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium became anything but typical. Cody Ross, Yasiel Puig, Miguel Montero and Zack Greinke were among those who were beaned at the plate by a pitch in the game, eventually resulting in both benches clearing into what Red Barber used to call a “Rhubarb”. The brawl, which can be seen by clicking on the title above, features Ronald Belisario landing punches on various Diamondbacks and Puig bull-rushing into the melee.
And who can forget Mark McGwire practically lifting Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams off the ground by the jersey?
In late May and early June, the Dodgers, putting their most expensive product on the field ever, found themselves plummeting to last place in the National League West with a multitude of injured players. On June 1, shortly after outfielder Carl Crawford suffered one of his multiple hamstring injuries of the season, rookie pitching sensation Hyun Jin Ryu found himself dealing with a foot injury. With catcher A.J. Ellis out due to an oblique injury and Matt Kemp already on the 15-day disabled list with his own hamstring issues, the 2013 Dodgers — again, the most expensive in the club’s history — nearly ran out of healthy players.
It’s no secret that the second-largest market in the country is regularly mocked and ridiculed for its lack, and ultimate want, of a professional football franchise. Since 1995, when the Rams left a chasmal hole in the athletic hearts of Angelenos to settle in St. Louis, Los Angeles has turned its bereft eye on USC and UCLA to fill the void. In September, however, those loyal to the rich history and tradition of Los Angeles sports had their taste buds for the gridiron teased after a Los Angeles City Council committee backed a resolution to support bringing one, possibly two, NFL teams back to LA.
In the meantime, two College teams ranked in the Top 25 are not poor alternatives.
Former LA Laker and current LA Clipper Lamar Odom had already established himself as a fan-favorite for followers of both teams when reports came out in mid-August that he had gone missing. Reports that Odom had disappeared after his wife, TV personality Khloe Kardashian, had allegedly thrown him out of the house, resulted in everything short of a city-wide, organized search. It was later reported that Odom was in a Los Angeles hotel, receiving support from friends over an “unspecified drug problem”.
CBS Sports reports the 14-year NBA veteran could be ready to return to the court by mid-January.
When Kobe went down with a torn left Achilles tendon on April 12, there was a distinct fear in the hearts of most basketball fans, however mild, that we may have seen the last of one of the greatest ever to step onto a court. On May 30, just weeks after undergoing surgery, Bryant tweeted a picture of him running on an anti-gravity treadmill, specially designed to rehabilitate the tendon, without putting the demands of his weight on it.
Kobe Bryant returned to the Lakers on Dec. 8, 2013, with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes of play.
After months of physically grueling rehabilitation, Kobe had already started taking part in limited team practices when his newest Nike brand shoes were announced on November 21. After five straight models of his popular shoes were released with a mid-cut model, Nike and Bryant returned to a high-top model, called Nike Kobe 9’s, or “The Ninth”, to provide more ankle support.
Of course, No. 5 in our Top 10 would explain that decision.
One of the top sports topics of 2013 is undoubtedly the highly profiled, controversial, and ultimately brief career of big man Dwight Howard in Los Angeles. The acquisition of Howard did much to excite Laker fans and instantly returned the storied franchise to a mental state of contention. His performance was another story. Recovery from back surgery and a reported inability to work with Kobe Bryant resulted in an underwhelming start to the season. In a two-part interview with CBS2/KCAL9’s Kristine Leahy, Howard, exposed extensively to a major media market for the first time in his career, addressed a number of criticisms, rumors and the topic about his potential future in LA.
Many Laker fans have yet to forgive his ultimate choice of the Houston Rockets over the purple and gold, as they are forced to think of what may have been.
One thing the evolution of social media over recent years has proven is that the attitudes, lifestyles and overall character of professional athletes are, generally speaking, no longer as secretive. After the Clippers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-103 in Los Angeles on Wednesday, November 13, veteran forward Matt Barnes, who is known to have a limited temper on the court, unleashed a rant on his Twitter account that included a racial slur. Barnes, who was fined $25,000 by the NBA for the use of the word, responded to criticisms by saying “…you guys have to get used to it. This is a new day and age… that is how we talk.”
Barnes, who had been ejected in the game, acknowledged that it was his “mistake” to use the word in a social manner.
It is perhaps appropriate, even amusing, that the top Los Angeles sports story of 2013 would finalize our Top 10 list much in the way in nearly began. Two months to the day before the “Greinke-Ross-Puig-Montero Hit-By-Ball-Brawl”, there was the “Quentin-Quarrel”, in which the newly acquired Zack Greinke was lost to the Dodgers with a broken collarbone. Greinke, who already had a rough history with San Diego’s Carlos Quentin, plunked the undeniably greater physical specimen on the left shoulder, after the latter had crowded the plate. Eye contact was made, quick words were said, the mound was charged, the blow was taken, the benches were emptied, order was restored, the benches were emptied again, and, best of all…
…the entire affair was called live by Vin Scully!
There you have it, the Top 10 Los Angeles Sports Stories of 2013. Here’s to a safe, Happy New Year, and the prospect of 2014 bringing as many sports memories as its predecessor.