Behind The Scoreboard

Unsung heroes

Just about everybody knows who the sports superstars were in 2016.

Let’s start with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their first championship. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors nearly crushed that dream after finishing a record-breaking season. Or, how Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant broke an over- a- century-old curse in Chicago and gave the Cubs their first World Series.

But what about the players who flew under the radar while powering their teams to success? Here are a few who weren’t in the spotlight, but their accomplishments and contributions deserve far more recognition.

Venus Williams was quietly having a successful year too, while sister Serena made history by winning her 22nd Grand Slam title. Venus had advanced deep into several major tournaments, including the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the rounds of 16 of the U.S. Open and the French Open. Venus partnered with Serena to win doubles at Wimbledon to stay undefeated in the Grand Slam doubles finals. Venus’ WTA ranking fell from number seven to 17 in 2016, but showing that level of competitiveness at the Grand Slam and at age 36 is nothing short of remarkable.

Cole Beasley is a second string wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. While everyone was singing praises of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the two rookies who saved a seemingly doomed Cowboys season after Tony Romo got hurt again, very little has been said about Beasley who has supported them. Beasley has started five of 12 games so far this season and has become Prescott’s go-to target. Beasley has a career season for the Cowboys this year, catching 60 of 77 passes thrown his way for 670 yards and five touchdowns. His low-key excellence has been a big factor in how the Cowboys were able to turn the outlook of their season around to be the first team to clinch a playoff berth.

David Blatt was fired after 41 games into the Cavalier’s 2015-16 season, despite the fact that the team was sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record and coaching Cleveland to the NBA Finals the previous season. Blatt was cast aside. There were reports of locker room conflict. Blatt undoubtedly played a part in Cleveland’s rise to champions. Blatt accepted a championship ring as a token of the Cavaliers’ gratitude, but it was assistant-turned-head coach Tyronn Lue who got to celebrate the final win.

Now, over to college football - Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the 2016 Heisman Trophy. Jackson beat out Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma’s duo of QB Baker Mayfield and WR Dede Westbrook.

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