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Top local sports stories of the 2000s

There's a lot to think about as you try to rank the biggest headline-grabbers of the past 10 years. One issue debated among Post staffers recently: what ranks higher as a news story, Maryland winning the national championship in men's basketball, or George Mason simply making the Final Four?

You can rank them all on the jump -- and if you feel especially passionate about one story, state your case in the comments or email us. We'll publish the best reader takes as separate Bog posts as long as you include your full name and city and state in the comment/email.

A few explanatory notes follow at the bottom.

Notes: "Wizards beat Bulls," "Caps beat Rangers" and "Redskins beat Bucs" refer to playoff victories in 2005, 2009 and 2005, respectively. ... "Ovechkin's extension" refers to the 13113-year, $124 million deal the Caps' star signed in 2008 ... "Redskins '07 streak" refers to the four-game, season-ending winning streak that lifted the team into the playoffs.

By Jon DeNunzio  |  December 9, 2009; 3:10 AM ET
Categories:  Decade's Best  
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Next: Best of the decade: local sports

Comments

I'm probably one of the biggest Terps basketball homers there is but can't quite figure out why their National Championship would be a bigger story than the death of Sean Taylor.

But hey, to each their own.

Posted by: fushezzi | December 9, 2009 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Ovi got ripped off in that contract... the caps have him wrapped up for the next century at less than a mil. a year.

Posted by: catalogbohemian | December 9, 2009 8:21 AM | Report abuse

catalog,
no doubt ovie at 80 will still be able to snap off a few one-timers. i'm a litle concerned about the last 10 years of that deal, what with the brittle bones and all...

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | December 9, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

No love for GW? 27-3 season in 2006? How about American making their first ever NCAA tourney appearance?

Posted by: gwdawgs | December 9, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

C'mon - I didn't hear any comparisons to Miracle on Ice when Maryland won the championship...

Posted by: jhorstma | December 9, 2009 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Mason Final 4 over a championship? Really? Must have a fee people rallying the troops.

Posted by: EricS2 | December 9, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks re: Ovechkin typo. Fixed.

Jon DeNunzio

Posted by: Jon DeNunzio | December 9, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

If you don't think the Mason final four was a bigger story, locally and nationally, than the Maryland championship, your memory's not very good.

Posted by: HowdyDCU | December 9, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I guess it could be encapsulated in the "Redskins beat the Bucs" entry, but the Skins 2005 run to the playoffs is a glaring omission IMO. Not only was it a longer winning streak, but was truly the beginnings of a return to prominence that the hiring of Gibbs promised.

Alas, we would see the meddling effects of theDanny and his brain trust, and it would all go to crap, but at the time...

Posted by: CapsFan771 | December 9, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a big basketball fan or a follower of the Skins but I voted the death of Sean Taylor #1 and GMU's Final Four Run #2 and argue they're the top two by a HUGE margin (or should be). Here's why (besides the fact they involve local stories that are very unique).

1. Sean Taylor had so much baggage around him, despite his unwillingness to talk to the press, he got coverage for a variety of reasons. His death was so bizarre (in some ways, like the death of Len Bias). In the middle of the season, how the team dealt with it, dealing with the funeral during mid-week. And then Greg Williams sending out 10 men for the opening snap--man that says it all. And this story still won't go away as we see LaRon Guidry try to play Taylor's position unsuccessful.

2. GMU--something like this may NEVER happen again in the history of college basketball. And this wasn't just some fluke--if you've followed the career of Jim Larranaga, you know he's a great coach and teacher with his principles and values all in order. And that GMU wasn't impressive from a distance but you could see they had the pieces to cause problems for people. Then the suspension of a starter after the CAA tournament (that could have hurt GMU's at-large big options). And then how Larranaga handled the run, making the Bon Jovi music the team theme, playing baseball with the team using rolled up tape. Doc Nix and the pep band. One of the all-time feel-good stories even outside of sports: good guys win, giants fall, hard work and intelligence pays off, good sports triumph--what's not to like?

And you know what--all the other stories are good options. But to me, Sean Taylor and GMU dwarf them all.

Posted by: JoeW1 | December 9, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Ranking a Final Four run (while it was fun) over a National Championship is sad. A bunch of haters around here.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 9, 2009 11:20 AM | Report abuse

And seriously, how many major sport (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, Major College Football and Major College Basketball) championships has the direct DC Metro area won lately?

2002 Terps NCAA Men's Basketball ->
1991 Washington Redskins

Wow the real story is how average our teams are.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 9, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

No love for GW? 27-3 season in 2006? How about American making their first ever NCAA tourney appearance?

Posted by: gwdawgs | December 9, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

This was a joke right?

Posted by: Barno1 | December 9, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Sean Taylor is not a sports story.

Posted by: butcherbaker | December 9, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I would agree with the comment about GW. And Mensah-Bonsu should be on the list of best athletes. Total F up by Steinberg here.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 9, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

I don't recall Ovechkin's extension really being that much of a story. Certainly not as much a story as the Caps playoff run last year.

Posted by: DCUMD | December 9, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Steinz, I know you're trying to be diverse and all, but including the DC United stuff is just too funny. If you look at number of stories written about DC United winning the cup, I don't think it would rate in the top 100. Maybe not top 200. And I'm being totally serious. Now if you want to talk about Freddy Adu signing--that's another story. That may rank in top 100.

As for Arenas signing--that really wasn't that big of a story at the time. Wizards were so bad back then that no one cared except us die hard Wiz fans. No one knew he'd become Agent Zero, a 30 pt per game guy, at the time. So that one shouldn't be on the list.

Other notes:

The Redskins 07 streak and the Sean Taylor death should be combined into one story.

The "Redskins beat Bucs" should be called the Redskins 05 streak.

3 Nationals headlines is a bit much. Maybe combine Nats return and new stadium into one.

Arenas's knee injury has been a national story for about 2 1/2 years...and since there's no injury stories on the list, I think that one tops the list.

Terps bball winning 2004 ACC tourney, beating the 3, 2, and 1 seeds...ending Duke's run of 5 straight championships...HAS to be on this list.

Sadly, Kwame Brown should be on this list. Wiz winning lottery and first high school player picked number 1--that was a big story.

Without question, Joe Gibbs return to football was the number 1 local sports story of this decade. Without any question.

On the court/field, the Terps winning the national championship is my number 1--but can see why it wouldn't be tops for others (if you didn't go to MD, etc).

Posted by: Barno1 | December 9, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Hey all, thanks for the thoughts.

A few comments. On the Arenas and Ovie stories, we kind of needed one pithy way to summarize the impact they've made. For Ovie, it could be The Shot, the back-to-back MVPs, the drafting, the extension, whatever. It's more like "The Rise of Ovie," as crystallized by that contract.

Same thing with Gilbert. Sure, it wasn't a massive story at the time, but what one moment symbolized Gil: The launch of his blog, the all-star game, the (not) max contract......we're just using his signing to stand for all of that.

I did think about GW, but with the size of that fan base, the Colonials needed to go into the second weekend for it to really resonate locally. Imo.

I hear ya on the Nats stadium and arrival, Barno, but those were years apart. The stadium will be a part of our lives for 25 years, in a different way from merely having a team.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | December 9, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

If you don't think the Mason final four was a bigger story, locally and nationally, than the Maryland championship, your memory's not very good.

Posted by: HowdyDCU | December 9, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

-----------------------------

Internationally even! I remember going down to Australia in July 2006. I was wearing a GMU Law School shirt when I arrived and some Aussie commented on it (with respect to the Final Four appearance) in the Sydney airport. I honestly doubt that if, in 2002, I wore a UMD Law School t-shirt in the same situation, I'd get the same attention.

That Final Four appearance essentially put George Mason - both the basketball program and the university - on the map. And if you compare teams, Mason had nobody from that 2005 team in even remote consideration for the NBA draft, while Maryland had four players drafted (Dixon, Baxter, Wilcox and Blake), two of whom still play in the NBA (Wilcox and Blake).

Finally, adding to the local importance of Mason's appearance was the fact that all starting five were essentially local kids:

Will Thomas - Baltimore
Jai Lewis - Aberdeen
Folarin Campbell - Silver Spring
Tony Skinn - Takoma Park
Jamar Butler - Oxon Hill

I think Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter were the only local guys on the Terps 2002 starting five.

Posted by: combedge | December 9, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Mason's Final Four WAS a bigger story than MD's national championship because it was so unexpected.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 9, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Championships are more important then losing runs! Especially in an area where WE DON'T WIN THEM OFTEN.

I'm also one of the few people who think the Mason team benefited from the Maryland National Championship, which then encouraged GW and co to recruit more nationally then locally...I don't think it's a coincidence.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 9, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

It was expected that Maryland wins their first national championship that year? Nope - fans knew there was a chance but in the NCAA tourney there are no guarantees.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Lest anyone forget there was another National Championship squad this decade - the Catholic University Men's Basketball team in 2001. Dismiss Division III if you like, but it got the Post's front page story on shows like Regis and Kelly, etc.

Posted by: dcjumpshot | December 9, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I suppose the Maryland 2002 championship could be considered a bigger news story because of all of the fires set (and other chaos) in College Park that night!

http://espn.go.com/media/ncb/2002/0402/photo/a_merryfans_hi.jpg

Posted by: combedge | December 9, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised the Caps run from last in the NHL to division champions in 2007-2008 under come-from-nowhere Boudreau is not on this list. It is that kind of unexpected, improbable and feel good runs that make the biggest STORIES in the Washington DC area over the last decade. That is also why the GMU run to the final four in 2006 is bigger than the UMD championship in 2002.

Sean Taylor's death is still at the top of this list, though. He was by far the best athlete on the Washington Redskins and his sudden death in the middle of a season and the funeral w/ his daughter on the stage and all the emotion etc makes it by far the biggest story of the decade.

The DCU run to the MLS Cup championship was also really cool for the people who actually followed it. The 2004 playoff game against NE was one of the most exciting games in Washington sports history.

Posted by: rademaar | December 9, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Just have to back up everyone who says that the Terps national title in 2002 HAS to be above the GMU final four run. No question. That Terps title had so many local aspects to it more than just the first non-DC United championship in the area since 1991. Gary leading his alma mater to its first title, local boys/recruiting afterthoughts Juan Dixon (he of the tragic background story) and Lonny Baxter making good. GMU simply wasn't as big a story, and you can't penalize the Terps because they were a top contender or that everyone knew their story going in.

The GMU runs also wasn't as big as Gibbs's return and Taylor's death (and while I wouldn't put those above the Terps personally, I understand people doing it because of the larger hold the Redskins have than the Terps).

Posted by: gmAndAguinness. | December 9, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Ask ten guys from outside of the DC area where they were when MD won the championship and where they were when Mason beat UConn and far far more will recall the Mason game. It was the story of the decade, bigger than the return of baseball.

The United game against Beckham was a much bigger story than their Cup win. Only soccer fans cared about the title while Becks first appearence was a major event.

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | December 9, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

The GMU Final Four run was unprecedented and captured the attention of the country. Far and away the #1 story. Sean Taylor's death was #2 because he and the Redskins are far important to the area than the Terps.

Posted by: RapmasterAC | December 9, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Actually now that I think about it, D.C. getting a baseball team, Jordan joining the Wizards, and Joe Gibbs returning were also bigger stories than the Maryland title.

Posted by: RapmasterAC | December 9, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

"Ovi got ripped off in that contract... the caps have him wrapped up for the next century at less than a mil. a year."

Um, I think your math is a bit off. 124/13=9.54 mil per year.

Also, I hope "Arenas signs" refers to his extension because it wasn't a big story when the Wiz first signed him because nobody knew who he was.

Posted by: mja712 | December 9, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Living in Arizona, and telling people I went to James Madison, the first thing I hear is about how we did in the NCAA tournament - of course confusing us with Mason. Face it, no one outside of Maryland alums remembers the Terps winning the title - everyone outside DC knows what the bigger story between the two is.

Posted by: Josh86 | December 9, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

I hate to call out a fellow Duke, but you're embarrassing as far as your knowledge of sports if you don't think anyone remembers the fact that the Terps won the championship in 2002. Mason was a remarkable run, a great feel-good personal interest story, and a good trivia answer, but come on, it was a Final Four, not a championship. Several other "mid-majors" have done the same thing, least we forget: UNLV actually WON the thing, and Indiana St. and Penn both went to the Final Four in 1979. But I guess only sports fans know these things -- the fact that the people you interact with don't even know the name of the school (confusing it with JMU) shows that it is really not anywhere near on the scale of a title.


Living in Arizona, and telling people I went to James Madison, the first thing I hear is about how we did in the NCAA tournament - of course confusing us with Mason. Face it, no one outside of Maryland alums remembers the Terps winning the title - everyone outside DC knows what the bigger story between the two is.

Posted by: Josh86 | December 9, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | December 9, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Md beating Stanford to get to their first ever Final Four, the chaos on route 1 in college park, the bon fires, the matchup against duke (their 4th of the year)....all happened in one week. That HAS to be on the list.

Posted by: Barno1 | December 9, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

UNLV isn't a mid-major program...and it wasn't considered one back in the late-80s and early-90s when they won their title. And the fact that you have to go back to 1979 to come up with truly comparable event (even though the Indiana State appearance is distinguishable by the fact that they had some guy named Larry Bird playing on their team), shows how remarkable a story it truly was. Both UPenn and Mason are the only teams in the history of the tournament to defeat four higher seeded teams. That, likewise, is remarkable.

Don't get me wrong, Maryland winning the NCAA championship is definitely a big local news story. But big basketball programs win the NCAA title every year. That's why Mason's Final Four run was/is more remarkable and newsworthy.

Posted by: combedge | December 9, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

And seriously, how many major sport (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, Major College Football and Major College Basketball) championships has the direct DC Metro area won lately?

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | December 9, 2009 11:23 AM
__________________________________________

I wonder whether you would consider the NBA in the mid-60s (with Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, etc.) or the NHL of the same era (Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, etc.) as major sports. If you do, then it so happens that MLS is bigger than those leagues were at that time, and hence DC United's several championships should be included.

Posted by: universityandpark | December 9, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

you missed the Caps 2008 streak to get into the playoffs. I'd rank that in the top 5.

Posted by: jesstyr | December 9, 2009 5:43 PM | Report abuse

"If you don't think the Mason final four was a bigger story, locally and nationally, than the Maryland championship, your memory's not very good."
_________

I don't think Mason's run was that much bigger a story than the Maryland women winning it all that same time. The discrepancy between the two in the voting doesn't make much sense.

But the #1 story was indeed the Nats' arrival. It was the final piece in the Washington sporting puzzle, proof that this isn't a one=sport town anymore, no matter how much some in the media may wish it would stay that way..

Posted by: VPaterno | December 9, 2009 7:10 PM | Report abuse

As an alumnus of George Mason who happened to be a senior during the Final Four run, I'll be the first to say that I'm biased when it comes to this.

Did Good Morning America show up at College Park to broadcast live from UMD after their championship? Did Maryland make the front page of the New York Times after their championship run? Was Maryland's championship in '02 really a compelling story for anyone who didn't attend UMD at some point? No, it was not. That's because there was no story involved in Maryland's run, rather it was just another rank-and-file case of a dominant team full of NBA futures winning a championship. Congrats.

Mason's run to the Final Four is the bigger story because it actually IS a story - one that's considered to be one of the greatest and most memorable underdog stories in the history of American sports. It's a story that could one day even be worthy of a Hollywood script.

People remember names like Valparaiso, and Davidson, and George Mason long after they remember the name of the school who actually won those tournaments.

Posted by: jmorrisa | December 9, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

My Duke boys beating the Twerps after they were down 10 in the final minute should be top story of the decade! Hehehe

Posted by: Poopy-McPoop | December 9, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Dan Steinberg,

If you have to provide asterisks to explain why an event is on this list it obviously should not be on the list, especially since the MURDER of Sean Taylor is included.

Your colleague Michael Wilbon was "not surprised" immediately after his passing, so why should this be considered a "top-headline grabber of the 2000s?" The most talented, promising, entertaining and explosive Washington Redskin was murdered in his home, protecting his family, and this professional journalist is not surprised? Unbelievable.

I'm just a fan, but his passing truly stunned me, and I still get chills down my spine when I see his highlights, and see #21 Redskins jerseys. I can't imagine how his family must have felt, especially after the media's attempt to portray him as a thug. A thug armed simply with a gangsta machete in his bedroom, protecting his family from intruders.

The death of an 85 year old man, contract signings, playoff victories that did not result in a championship, women's titles, acquisition of over-the-hill athletes, etc. do not compare to the tragic murder of #21.

You might as well extend your list of choices to include the Austin Kearns genocide of Nats rallies, the day Tony Kornheiser gave up on journalism, the day the Washington Post hired Gene Wang (Cowboys fan) to do a column on the Redskins, the day Boswell ditched his Nats season tickets after a few short years, the day Dan Snyder really crossed the line, the O'Connell High School girls WCAC field hockey championship...


Posted by: dannychap | December 10, 2009 12:24 AM | Report abuse

I'm loving all the Terps fans saying "Wait a minute! We're bigger than Mason! We're bigger than Mason!"

Good stuff.

LOL!!!

Posted by: PrinceBuster21 | December 10, 2009 2:58 AM | Report abuse

No way Maryland's '02 Title should be top of the list. Laughable. Don't remember there being much of a "story" there. #1 is definitely Sean Taylor's death. And Jordan coming back to play for the Wiz is right up near the top as far as stories go..

Posted by: Witter | December 10, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

looking at that list - it kind of pains me to think of what a poor decade this has been for DC sports.

come on caps, give me that stanley cup i've always wanted........


Posted by: CF11555 | December 10, 2009 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I am surprised I put Gibbs return as number one. Very few stories in this list were the sorts of events that caused you to call your family to tell them they were happening. Gibbs' return was one of them. I had Jordan going to the Wiz at number two because that was a monster story. The greatest player ever coming to run our moribund struggling franchise and (at the time we thought) turn it into a winner.

Posted by: templetontherat1978 | December 10, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

One of the biggest sports stories of the decade was the CAPS 2007-2008 season with Bruce Boudreau and the southeast division title. Why is this not an option?

Posted by: philip9 | December 10, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

The fight for the playoffs by the Caps in 2007-08 is a heck of a lot more important than the acqusition of Jagr, who was a complete bust and helped consign the Caps to the NHL basement for several years.

Posted by: StevefromSacto | December 10, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

No one cares about the terps women's title, aka women's layup competetion. George mason sucks. Gibbs return was the biggest story ever. Horrible outcome for this poll

Posted by: awaxfc | December 10, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

No one cares about the terps women's title...
__________________________________________

Don't they play before packed houses?

Posted by: universityandpark | December 10, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I went to Maryland and never missed a home game (got out in 1999 so I was still quite emotionally invested when they won the title) -- and yet George Mason reaching the Final Four is the craziest, most thrilling thing I've witnessed in sports.

Posted by: scrappledog | December 10, 2009 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Umd won the only championship in the area besides United this decade. Their story is number 1. No doubt.

Posted by: aviscardo | December 11, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Tiger's golf tournament coming to DC, latest stories aside, should be included as one of the top stories. It gave instant legitimacy to golf in the DC area.

Also, should have included the Washington Freedom and Washington Kastles championships - yeah, they're both minor sports, but these are 2 champions, something that's become as rare as a Ivory-Billed woodpecker siting for us suffering DC fans!

Go Nationals!

Posted by: sonshinefcc | December 12, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

I have no particular allegiance to either Mason or Maryland, but I would place the GMU final four as the FAR bigger story. It certainly was nationally, and I would say locally as well. Maryland had some talented seniors back and were in the final four the prior year if memory serves. They were expected to compete for a national championship. Mason was the ultimate Cinderella story. The unknown school in Fairfax beating the likes of Michigan State, Connecticut, Carolina. Everyone loves stories about the underdog beating up on the bullies. Still boggles my mind. Probably the biggest local college basketball story EVER. Sorry Terps fans. That's just the way it is.

Posted by: poguesmahone | December 13, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

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