Welcome to the 2nd Annual Joey Awards, where I break down the best and worst of the 2012 sports world.

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Joey Awards! Who's going to take one of these home?
Welcome to the 2nd Annual Joey Awards! Who’s going to take one of these home?

 Most Outstanding Male Athlete: Miami Heat F, LeBron James (with Lionel Messi in second): LeBron has had one of the most incredible season any athlete has ever had. He led the Miami Heat to a victory in the NBA finals over the Thunder. LeBron was absolutely dominant during the playoffs, averaging 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. In Game Six of the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron scored 45 points and dished out 15 assists in a must-win game for the Heat.

After the finals, LeBron travelled to London with Team USA and showed the queen what King James is all about. James led the team off the court, and on the court, he did the thing he does best: dominate.

James has continued his success in the 2012-13 NBA season. As of December 26, 2012, LeBron is averaging 25.5 points, 6.9 assists, and 8.5 rebounds a game. The Heat are again the best team in the league, and it doesn’t even look like LeBron is close to playing his best basketball. It sure doesn’t seem like anyone (and definitely not the Lakers) will be able to stop LeBron in a 7 game playoff series this year.

By the way, LeBron bikes from his house to games, practices, and shoot-arounds instead of driving. I for one would not be able to play an NBA basketball game at full energy for forty minutes if I hadn’t done anything but sleep beforehand. Throw in a 40-minute bike ride to get to the stadium, and I wouldn’t make it through the 1st half. There’s only one way to explain how LBJ does it–he’s just a beast.

 Most Outstanding Female Athlete: Swimmer, Missy Franklin: The 17 year old swimmer burst on to the world scene at the London Olympics. She dominated the world competition, and she won gold in the 100 m backstroke, 200 m backstroke, 4×200 m freestyle, and 4×100 medley. Missy the Missile added a bronze medal in the 4×100 m freestyle. In the 200 m backstroke, she set a world record in the 200 m backstroke and was part of the relay team that set a world record for the 4×100 m medley. She also broke the American record for the 100 m backstroke. If Missy can do this at 17, imagine what she can do in the many years to come.

Missy will also swim for her high school team this season in Colorado. I bet that she laps everyone twice en route to winning state.

 Best Team: Los Angeles Kings: The Kings began the NHL season terribly. They played as individuals, not a team. When I went to a Kings vs. Blackhawks game, the Hawks easily won. The Kings looked so bad that at one point it became laughable.

In December of 2011, the Kings hired head coach Darryl Sutter. After he took over, the Kings traded for Jeff Carter. Then, the Kings started winning games and snuck into the playoffs as an 8 seed. They had to face the number one seed Vancouver Canucks, and nobody thought that LA could actually win.

The Kings went into Vancouver, won two straight, came back home, won one, lost another, went back to Canada and finished the series in overtime. Whoa.

LA’s second round opponent was the St. Louis Blues. Again, the Kings went into St. Louis and won both of the games by multiple goals. This time, the Kings wasted no time and swept the Blues in four games, never winning a game by less than two goals.

Anze Kopitar scores agoal in OT to give the Kings a win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Anze Kopitar scores a goal in OT to give the Kings a win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the Western Conference playoffs, the Kings faced the dirty Phoenix Coyotes. In a very chippy series, the Kings won in five, never losing on the road, and finishing the series with an overtime goal.

Impossibly, the Kings made it to the playoffs where Ilya Kovalchuck, Zach Parise, Marty Brouder, and the rest of the New Jersey Devils were waiting. The Kings won the first game in overtime due to an Anze Kopitar goal. Two days later, the Kings won again in New Jersey. Again, LA won both of their road games. Back in Los Angeles, the Kings won 4-0, then lost 3-1. So, back in New Jersey, the Kings needed just one game to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. For the first time all playoffs, the Kings lost a game on the road, but they never gave up. The Kings wasted little time getting ahead in Game Six. During a first period power play, the Kings scored 3 times. Early in the second period, Jeff Carter added a goal to make the Kings’ lead 4-0. The Devils responded with a goal, but never could come back. Two LA goals later, and the Kings were hoisting the Stanley Cup.

I watched every game, went to a few, and I still can’t explain what happened. Something or someone, be it Jeff Carter, Darryl Sutter, or something else, made the team click. They passed effortlessly. They skated as one unit. They knew what they were doing. They never gave up. I cannot count the number of times the Kings scored a goal less than five minutes after their opponents scored one. I’m pretty sure they scored more times while a penalty was against them than they did with an extra man. Quite simply, it was teamwork at its finest.

It wasn’t just the players that deserve credit though. In LA, most sports games are more like business meetings than games, because there aren’t many real sports fans in LA. These Kings games weren’t like that. Everyone was on their feet. Everyone cheered and booed. Everyone in Los Angeles was excited. Kids at my school who didn’t know what the blue line meant wore Kings gear to school. I was at dinner with my grandparents and cousins when the Kings won the Cup. The entire restaurant went crazy. I was jumping up and down, hugging everyone including a random waiter who didn’t seem to care. My 4 year old cousin was chanting, “Go! Kings, Go!” People were crying. People in LA cared about something other than themselves for once. I’ve never experienced anything like it.

So even though the Longhorns 2005 season had fewer ups and downs, and the Bears somehow won the NFC with Sexy Rexy Grossman at quarterback, no team has been and probably won’t be (until the Cubs win the World Series in 7 years. Mark it!) as fun to watch as these Kings.

 Most Impressive Performance: Skeet Shooter, Kim Rhode: Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens, and Michael Phelps. The three are normally considered the greatest American Olympians of all time, but the truly greatest American Olympian is Kim Rhode, the skeet shooter. Rhode has won a medal in every Olympics since 1996. That means that Rhode has been one of the best shooters in the world for 16 years straight (and counting). Lewis, Owens, and Phelps were only dominant for 8 years at most.

Now to the impressive performance:

In the first qualifying round, Rhode hit 25 of the 25 pigeons.

In the second qualifying round, she hit 25-25 again.

Not bad.

99/100 in the Olympics? Mckayla is not impressed.
99/100 in the Olympics? Mckayla is not impressed.

In the third, she hit 15 more.

65 hits in a row. Getting impressed?

Then, she missed one.

 She sighed off the disappointment and hit the remaining 9 of the round.

By the final round, Rhode had a 4-point lead.

So, to play it safe, she went a perfect 25-25 and won the gold.

That means that out of 100 shots, she only missed one. 99-100.

In the rain.

With all the pressure in the world on her.

I’m impressed.

 Best Breakthrough Athlete: Anaheim Angels’ OF, Mike Trout: Mike Trout had one of the best statistical seasons in baseball history and the best for a rookie. From the day he was called up on April 28, he contributed on offense, defense, and the basepaths. By the end of the season, Trout established himself as the most valuable player in baseball. Trout hit .326 with a .399 OBP and a .963 OPS. He stole 49 bases, the best in the AL. On defense, he only committed one error all season. The most impressive statistic about Trout is his wins above replacement or WAR. Trout’s 10.7 WAR was the best in baseball, and the 20th best ever. Considering he is only 20 years old, baseball fans everywhere should be getting ready for 20 years of watching a player who could be the best ever.

 Best Upset: Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs: See Best Team.

 Best Play: Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s goal against England: Bicycle kick goals are always awesome. A 30-yard bicycle kick? Best play of the year!

 The Bud Selig Memorial, Most Likely to be Caught to Have Taken Steroids Award:

That sure looks natural.
That sure looks natural.

Minnesota Vikings’ RB, Adrian Peterson: Over these past few week, I have been thoroughly disgusted by the stupidity of some Americans. They thought that the world would end on December 21 because of an 1000-year-old calendar. They praised Les Miserables as being an incredible movie, although it was one of the worst movies ever made (don’t get me started). Most pathetically (OK, 2nd most. How could people sit through Les Mis, let alone praise it?), they believe that Adrian Peterson’s spectacular season is all-natural. Let me tell you something. Peterson’s season has been as natural as a pack of Funyuns.

On Christmas Eve of 2011, Adrian Peterson tore both his ACL and MCL. He wasn’t expected to play again until late September at the earliest. So how was he able to be fully healthy by the season opener only 9 months later? And how was he able to have one of the most dominant seasons a running back has ever had? How could someone, less than a year removed from a knee-destroying injury, come within 9 yards of rushing for the most yards in history? Not naturally, that’s for sure.

 Until Adrian Peterson, the running back with the most rushing yards in the season following an ACL tear is Jamal Lewis in 2002. Lewis, however, tore his ACL in August, so he had 4 more months to recover. He only tore his ACL, unlike Peterson who also tore his MCL. Just for the heck of it, I would like to point this out. Nothing is proven, but Lewis has admitted to have gone to Dr. Anthony Galea. Galea is known to have provided athletes such as Alex Rodriguez with human growth hormone. So, Lewis, who had a less significant injury and a less impressive recover is likely to have take steroids, but Adrian Peterson, who suffered a possible career ending injury and had one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, didn’t? I don’t think so. Some things are just too good to be true. Just ask Lance Armstrong.

 Most Embarrassing Moment: Dodge City vs. Garden City Snap Intercepted for TD: As a center, this is my worst nightmare:

 Best NFL Player: Denver Broncos QB, Peyton Manning: Since I am disqualifying Adrian Peterson for being a Sooner and his alleged doping, the NFL player of the year goes to Peyton Manning. A year removed from 4 neck surgeries, Peyton is having the most impressive season of his prolific career. He has thrown for 4,659 yards, 41 yards short of his career best. He leads the league in pass completion (68.6%), net yards per pass attempt (7.49), and Total QBR (84.11). The true magic of Peyton’s season is how much better he has made his Denver teammates. With Peyton, the 2012 Broncos have 5 more wins than the 2011 Broncos. Everyone on the team has more confidence and swagger with Peyton. Look at this throw:

Do you think any other NFL quarterback could make that throw? Neither did I.

 Best NHL Player: Los Angeles Kings’ G, Jonathan Quick: Stanley Cup champions always rely heavily on their goalie, and there is no better goalie in the world than Jonathan Quick. The 26 year old had an NHL best 10 shutouts, along with a .929 save percentage. They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, so I present a ridiculous string of saves by Jonathan Quick against the Coyotes:

 Best NBA Player: Miami Heat F, LeBron James: See Most Outstanding Male Athlete.

 Best MLB Player: Anaheim Angels’ OF, Mike Trout: See Best Breakthrough Athlete.

Best Competitive Eater: Joey “Jaws” Chestnut: I really wanted this to go Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, but in the end, Joey Jaws is still the best eater on the planet. Everybody knows about the 68 hot dogs (and buns) he ate at the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, but that is really just the beginning of Joey’s dominance. He has eaten 9.8 lbs. of pork ribs in 12 minutes, 9 lbs. and 6 oz. of pulled pork in 10 minutes, 390 shrimp wontons in 8 minutes, 102 tamales in 12 minutes, 53 Taco Bell tacos in 10 minutes, 118 jalapenos in 10 minutes, 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes, and finally, 5.9 pounds of funnel cake in 10 minutes. Hard to argue with that.

Most Inspiring: Williamsport High School Baseball Team: I can’t write the story better than Chris Ballard, so I won’t try. It’s long but definitely worth the read:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1206189/index.htm

2013 has started off in a perfect way. Northwestern won their first bowl game since 1949. Maybe this trend can continue and end another Chicago curse: the Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908. Probably won’t happen, but there’s always next year. Until then:

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and Happy New Year!

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