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: Detroit Red Wings (51-17-10-4, #1 Western Conference) — This Red Wings team absolutely DOMINATED then NHL. Detroit won the President’s Trophy by 15 points over the Boston Bruins and then cruised through the playoffs (aside from a seven-game series in the Western Conference Final against the Avalanche) en route to defeating the Hurricanes in five games in the Stanley Cup Finals. Nicklas Lidstrom was awarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy as Detroit was anchored by his play as well as from goaltender Dominik “The Dominator” Hasek.
NBA Champion: Los Angeles Lakers (58-24, #3 Western Conference) — Kobe, Shaq, and Phil Jackson completed L.A.’s three-peat as the Lakers proved to be dominant in the playoffs. Similarly to the above Red Wings, the only semi-bump LA ran into was a seven-game series in the Western Conference Finals (against the Kings) but the then cruised through the Finals sweeping the New Jersey Nets. Allen Iverson led the NBA in scoring by averaging 31.4 points per game.
World Series Champion: Anaheim Angels (99-63, AL Wild Card) — The first World Series to be played between two wild card teams was certainly a thriller with the Angels taking the title in seven games over the San Francisco Giants. The two teams grinded out long series in the playoffs over perenial powers as the Angels downed the Yankees and Twins, while the Giants took down the powerful Braves and the Cardinals. Barry Bonds took the NL MVP in 2002, the season that featured the infamous tied All Star Game.
Super Bowl Champion: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4, #2 NFC) — It may seem funny now with the Bucs having the #1 pick in this past May’s draft, but the 2002 Bucs were good–really good actually. Tampa Bay had the top-ranked defense in the NFL which proved to be too much for every team they faced in the playoffs, only allowing 37 points over the three games. Jon Gruden ended up having the last laugh over his former team, the Oakland Raiders, who had traded him to Tampa in exchange for draft picks in the previous offseason as the Bucs dominated the Raiders 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
NCAA Football National Champion: Ohio State Buckeyes — This would be the last Big Ten National Championship until the Buckeyes won this past season’s College Football Playoff.
NCAA Men’s Basketball National Champion: Maryland Terrapins
Masters Champion: Tiger Woods (7th Major)
US Open Champion: Tiger Woods (8th Major)
British Open Champion: Ernie Els (3rd Major)
PGA Champion: Rich Beem (1st Major)
Ryder Cup: Europe defeats USA 15 1/2 to 12 1/2
2002 was all about dominance. The ’02 Red Wings may be the best Stanley Cup Champion of the 25 on this list, the Lakers’ run proved Kobe and Shaq are one of the best duos in the modern era, and the Bucs’ dismantlement of the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game still gives me nightmares. And let’s not forget Tiger; until one month ago, Tiger Woods was the last person to win the Masters and US Open in the same year. If not for one of the worst rounds of his career–an 81 in the 3rd round–Tiger would have been close to competing with Ernie in the Open Championship. The only downside to 2002 was the MLB All Star Game. Not only did it end in a tie, but it also made Bud Selig implement the game deciding home-field advantage in the World Series–maybe one of the dumbest changes to an awesome event.