Welcome back to the 25 for 25 Series! G-Man is turning 25 on July 23rd and to celebrate, I am counting down each of the sporting years I have been alive for. Full rules on the 25 for 25 Main Page.
Stanley Cup Champion: Tampa Bay Lightning (46-22-8-6, #1 Eastern Conference) — Florida’s only Stanley Cup came from a young Tampa Bay that featured three of the NHL’s great scorers in the following decade: Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Brad Richards. St. Louis would lead the league in points and win the MVP Award while Richards would win the Conn Smythe for Playoff MVP. Tampa Bay edged the Flyers in seven in the Eastern Conference Finals and then rallied from a 3-2 games deficit against the Calgary Flames in seven games–including winning Game Six in Double OT.
NBA Champion: Detroit Pistons (54-28, #3 Eastern Conference) — The Pistons upended the heavily-favored Lakers who had signed Karl Malone and Gary Payton in the offseason to join Kobe and Shaq. Detroit, led by Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups, downed LA in five games as Billups would win the Finals MVP award averaged 21 points per game. 2004 also featured the debuts of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and 2004 Rookie of the Year Lebron James.
World Series Champion: Boston Red Sox (98-64, American League Wild Card) — The Curse is over. The Boston Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees three games to none in the ALCS, a deficit no baseball team had ever rallied from. In one of the most legendary comebacks in sports, including the “Bloody Sock Game” by Curt Schilling, the Red Sox came back to win the AL and used the momentum to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series Championship since 1918. Schilling led the American League with 21 wins in the regular season while Manny Ramirez, the World Series MVP, led the AL with 43 home runs.
Super Bowl Champion: New England Patriots (14-2, #2 AFC) — The Pats won their third Super Bowl in four seasons, rounding out their dynasty of the early 2000s. Tom Brady and Deion Branch were stars of the game (Branch would named MVP) but New England’s defense would force four turnovers from Donovan McNabb and the Eagles. New England’s 14-2 record was only second to the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers who were quarterbacked back Rookie of the Year Ben Roethlisberger.
NCAA Football National Champion: USC Trojans
NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion: Connecticut Huskies
Masters Champion: Phil Mickelson (1st Major)
US Open Champion: Retief Goosen (2nd Major)
British Open Champion: Todd Hamilton (1st Major)
PGA Champion: Vijay Singh (3rd Major)
Ryder Cup: Europe defeats USA 18 1/2 to 9 1/2
2004 Olympics in Athens — The beginning of Michael Phelps’ reign.
I’ll always remember 2004 more so because of the fall than any other point of that year, including the Flyers/Lightning series and Michael Phelps in the Olympics. Watching T.O. dominate the NFC with the Eagles and then to see their run to finally making the Super Bowl–they had lost the previous three NFC Championship games. Even more was the Red Sox rally over the Yankees; I, like many people, thought the Sox were done. When they overcame the Yanks and went to the World Series, they seemed so dominant that the Cards didn’t stand a chance. If you aren’t familiar (and aren’t a Yankee fan), go watch ESPN’s Four Days in October.