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Sports 2015: A Year In Review


OK, it's time for sports.


WERTHEIMER: 2015 is on its way out, but not before NPR's Tom Goldman joins us to talk about sports highlights from the past year. Hey, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hey, happy day after Christmas.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you. Boxing Day, we call it.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

WERTHEIMER: And we'll get to those highlights, of course, but first let's talk about the Cavaliers facing the Warriors yesterday.

GOLDMAN: One of the last highlights of the year, the highly anticipated rematch between teams in last season's finals. Yesterday, the Warriors picked up where they left off in June when they beat Cleveland for the championship. Golden State won 89-83, showed again what a complete team it is. Celebrated for offense, the Warriors won mainly because of good defense. So they are now 28-1, after a gaudy record 24-0 start.

And they're a serious threat, Linda, to top the all-time best record of 72-10 by Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1996. You add up what they're doing now with last season's title - I would certainly have to say they're the team of the year for 2015.

WERTHEIMER: OK, but are you maybe forgetting another team, a little thing like a World Cup?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) How could we forget the U.S. women's national soccer team? Definitely, they deserve some votes, winning that World Cup, especially the unforgettable finals victory over Japan, Carli Lloyd's three goals in the first 16 minutes, which energized the nation and killed the drama for the rest of the game (laughter). The women's team, as it did in the 1990s, inspired a generation of young female athletes and made a significant breakthrough in another way. The wildly popular FIFA soccer video game from EA Sports included women's teams for the first time this year. The U.S. women's national team was the 23rd most-played team around the world among 600 possible teams. An EA sports executive called that a stunning statistic.

WERTHEIMER: 2015 was notable for some amazing athletes as well. Three, in particular, got close to or captured the coveted grand slam, winning four tournaments in a row.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah, it was a rare confluence of great performances all in the same year. American Pharaoh, of course, with jockey Victor Espinoza, became the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown. Months later, the first ever to win the Triple Crown and the prestigious Breeders' Cup Classic all in the same year. So this horse really captivated racing and non-racing fans everywhere.

Golf's four major tournaments - Jordan Spieth finished, in order -first, first, tied for fourth and second. Now, winning all four of the Grand Slam, that's only been done once, in 1930. Spieth got close. It was a phenomenal performance considering how competitive the men's tour is.

Serena Williams, on the other hand, didn't have much competition. She's become so dominant on the women's tennis tour. Still, what she did in 2015, extraordinary. She won the first three majors, lost in the semis of the fourth. She was this close to a tennis Grand Slam. And for all the stunned fans who wanted to see history, the silver lining of Serena's loss at the U.S. Open in New York was the woman who beat her, Italy's Roberta Vinci, giving one of the all-time great post-match interviews. Her disbelief and giddiness charmed the crowd in New York. Here she is.


ROBERTA VINCI: ...Don't think about this. Serena is in the other court. And run, you know, when you put the ball and run. Don't think and run, and then I won (laughter).


GOLDMAN: That's great.

WERTHEIMER: She was terrific. We don't have any time left for you to talk about football. What does that mean?

GOLDMAN: That means that we'll just have to keep watching football and also think about concussions because the big movie "Concussion" opened in theaters yesterday, with the NFL again under scrutiny on the issue of head injuries.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Tom Goldman, thank you very much for being with us. Happy New Year, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Same to you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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