It is so hard to pick a defining Utah Sports moment when there are so many to choose from. And how do you define a sports moment? Does it have to be positive? Should it be negative? Should it be recent or should it have happened months ago? Maybe, but in most eyes it simply has to capture a moment in time like no other moment did that year. The Utah Jazz, Utah Utes and BYU all did that to some degree. From a national perspective, Sports Illustrated has you covered–but this article is all about the state of Utah, thanks.
One thing was certain about 2014. In these five Utah sports moments, you may never see them again in your lifetime. And in many ways, that is probably a good thing. The other thing is that it’s hard to say that one moment was better than another. And so in this top 5, just know that there is no clear cut No. 1–there simply were too many moments worthy of consideration. Some that were just as worthy, including Real Salt Lake stars Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando playing at the World Cup in Brazil, were left off the list due to some worthy last-minute moments. In that local professional soccer vein, you could have included Javier Morales’ amazing hat trick against Houston or Luis Gil’s sublime double nutmeg against the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference playoffs.
Utah Jazz star Trey Burke had a few moments, too. His ex-girlfriend’s re-tweeting of his private parts went viral for all the wrong reasons and so did his social media mockery of a handicapped man. By the same token, he splashed a game-winning dagger in NYC at MSG. Jazz center Enes Kanter showed wisdom beyond his years by helping a fellow NBA player understand what it means to be Islam. Then he showed he was still young by throwing a tantrum and his mouthpiece into the stands in Sacramento.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, himself a rising star, got tons of publicity, both positive and negative, for claiming he was the best in the game–at a video game, not in basketball. He also got schooled by NBA wheelchair Jazz player Jeff Griffin during a hitting competition at the Champions Tennis Challenge. This from Hayward, a guy who was a very good tennis player in high school.
2014 had it all: good moments, bad ones, crazy ones and everything in between. If you missed a moment, well, it is not too late. Here then, are your top 5 Utah sports moments in 2014.
Chris Paul has been State Farm’s spokesperson for as long as anyone can remember. But, when Paul and his twin brother Cliff hear a knock at the door, you aren’t sure as to what will happen next. When Paul opened the door though, even he would be as shocked as everyone else watching the TV spot on Christmas Day.
Because standing at that door with his trademark scowl and aviator sunglasses would be none other than Utah Jazz legend John Stockton, who for all intents and purposes was actually John’s fake twin brother, Don Stockton.
Without uttering a single word (per usual), Don ushers Chris to his van–then they drive to some secret State Farm lab, where Stephen Curry, former Weber State star Damian Lillard and WNBA legend Sue Bird await. All are part of the National Bureau of Assists and Stockton is well, the Chief Assists Officer–as he has always been.
Gordon Hayward’s dagger
Collecting the inbounds pass from Aussie Joe Ingles, Hayward sprinted to his right with 3.4 seconds on the clock, dribbling the basketball with such fury that LeBron himself didn’t see the pick Derrick Favors set for the former Butler star. The King fell to the floor as Hayward bounded around the top of the key, stepping off of his back foot as he shot before the buzzer sounded.
Hayward, who already had went a long way towards proving he wasn’t the same player as before, splashed the game-winner over LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers, sending EnergySolutions Arena into bedlam. Fans were so stunned by Hayward’s dagger that they stuck around for a few minutes more, soaking it all in.
Utah Utes upset UCLA at the Rose Bowl
No game captured the hearts of a fan base more than the Utes unlikely 30-28 win at the Rose Bowl over UCLA. Despite oddmakers saying that the Utes had no chance to knock off the Bruins, they did get a victory–even after a slow start. When quarterback Travis Wilson couldn’t get the offense going, the coaching staff inserted Kendal Thompson, who proceeded to play the game of his life, completing 10-of-13 passes for 95 yards and one highlight reel touchdown heave, a 42-yard bomb to wide receiver Dres Anderson.
Other than that, running back Devontae Booker–a likely early NFL Draft entrant–ran for 162 yards and a TD and kicker Andy Phillips chopped through three field goals, including the game-winner with 34 ticks left to give Utah the upset W over then-No. 8 UCLA.
The Kaelin Clay fumble
Something funny happened on the way to the end zone for Utah Utes wide receiver Kaelin Clay. Ahead 7-0 in surprise fashion over the top-ranked Oregon Ducks, Clay was on his way to scoring a 78-yard touchdown reception inside the Ducks’ 5-yard line and started high-stepping like he was Neon Deion. Soon enough, dude lost the handle on the ball he was holding–he dropped it on the one-yard line.
Problem was, nobody was sure if Clay had already crossed the goal line. After the referee hadn’t signaled for a touchdown though, the Ducks players and Utes players converged on the ball in the end zone. A Ducks player pounced on the ball and followed a convoy of Ducks towards Utah’s end zone for a 100-yard fumble return TD, completing the most bizarre play you’ll ever see. It naturally went viral and Taiwanese animators got in on the fun, putting together a video of Clay celebrating prematurely and urinating champagne on Ducks players.
Miami Beach Brawl
BYU had already had an up and down football season that it would like to forget. For a team looking at making the College Football Playoff, the Miami Beach Bowl was a major disappointment. Yet without Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, the Cougars were probably fortunate to go 8-4, this after they won their first four, lost Taysom, lost their next four, lost Jamaal, and won their last four.
And so after the Cougars fell to Memphis in double overtime, well, emotions would be high. Memphis didn’t help matters by being complete jerks after the game, taunting BYU players, who in turn had been reportedly taunting Memphis players during the game. When Memphis players inched towards BYU’s sideline afterwards though, BYU players and Memphis players engaged in an all-out brawl.
After BYU safety Kai Nacua sucker punched a Memphis tight end, and a Memphis player used his helmet as a weapon, well, BYU was back in all the headlines for all the wrong reasons–unlike the beginning of the season when they had a Heisman Trophy candidate a manageable schedule, and a legitimate shot at a national title.
Nasty Brawl Breaks Out After Miami Beach Bowl
Memphis beat BYU in the Miami Beach Bowl with an interception in the second overtime. But just moments later, a celebration turned into a free-for-all with both teams engaging in a brawl that included dozens of players.