Nationals post monumental victory: The top 9 sports stories of 2019

9. Roman Reigns returns to the ring after being diagnosed with leukemia. 8. Bryce Harper signs with the Philadelphia Phillies. 7. The U.S. women’s soccer team wins third World Cup. 6. NOLA no-call dooms the New Orleans Saints in NFL playoffs . 5. The Washington Nationals win the World Series. 4. Tiger Woods wins The Masters. 3. Clemson crushes Alabama to win the national college football championship. 2. The Atlanta Braves win the NL East. 1. The New England Patriots win Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta.

2019 was a year of triumph. And tragedy. One of hope. And heartbreak. Before we embark on 2020, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s content curation desk is taking a look back at the biggest stories of 2019 and their effects on Georgia and the rest of the nation. Today’s topic: Sports.

Roman Reigns

Credit: Rich Fury

Credit: Rich Fury

9. ‘The Big Dog’ returns to the ring

After being diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, professional wrestling star Roman Reigns announced the disease was in remission and then returned to the ring. Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, played college football at Georgia Tech and briefly played professional football in the NFL and CFL. He signed with WWE in 2010. Besides being a top WWE draw, Reigns has become a visible spokesman for those afflicted with the disease and efforts to find a cure.


Bryce Harper

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Credit: Kevin C. Cox

8. Bryce Harper signs with Phillies 

One of the Atlanta Braves’ biggest adversaries decided he’d stick around in the NL East for another decade. The offseason’s most notable free agent, Bryce Harper signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Until 2019, Harper had spent his major league career with another division rival, the Washington Nationals. On paper, Harper’s signing made the Phillies the most improved team in baseball. On paper.


The U.S. women's soccer team won the FIFA World Cup in 2019.

7. U.S. women’s soccer team wins third World Cup 

The U.S. Women’s soccer team captured the world’s attention after defeating the Netherlands 2-0 in the FIFA 2019 Women’s World Cup final. Metro Atlanta’s  Emily Sonnett and Kelley O’Hara were on the team, along with Morgan Brian of St. Simons Island, Georgia. After their victory, members of the team called for equal pay for male and female athletes.


Saints coach Sean Payton reacts after the no-call during the NFC Championship Game.

Credit: Chris Graythen

Credit: Chris Graythen

6. NOLA no-call dooms New Orleans Saints in playoffs 

Atlanta Falcons fans breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Los Angeles Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship. The hated Saints lost the game after a hugely controversial no-call on what was clearly a pass interference penalty against the Rams. If the Saints had won, the Falcons’ longtime bitter NFL rival would have played in Super Bowl 53 ... in Atlanta.


Adam Eaton holds the Commissioners Trophy.

Credit: Bob Levey

Credit: Bob Levey

5. Washington Nationals win World Series 

A team that finished four games behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East became a world champion in 2019. The Washington Nationals, a team the Braves dominated for much of the season, won the World Series in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. This was the same team that Bryce Harper departed, to sign one of the biggest contracts in MLB history with the Philadelphia Phillies. Meanwhile, the Nationals won their first title in franchise history.


Tiger Woods celebrates after winning the Masters.

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

4. Tiger Woods wins Masters

Professional golf’s most recognized athlete became a major champion once again. Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters in 2019. The win also became Woods’ 15th major. Woods returned to championship form after an 11-year hiatus, a period that saw Woods overcome widely publicized injuries, professional upheaval and personal issues.


Sean Pollard celebrates Clemson’s victory.

Credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Credit: Thearon W. Henderson

3. Clemson crushes Alabama for title 

The Clemson Tigers became the kings of college football. In January, Clemson put the finishing touch on its perfect 15-0 season with a 44-16 victory against Alabama in the College Football Playoff National Championship in Santa Clara, California. It was the second national title in the last three years for the Tigers, who defeated Alabama 35-31 in the championship game after the 2016 season.


Atlanta Braves players celebrate their 6-0 win against the San Francisco Giants to clinch the NL East.

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

2. Braves win NL East 

Predicted by many pundits to finish ahead of only the lowly Miami Marlins in the division, the Braves won their second consecutive NL East title in 2019. Led by a combination of dynamic young players including Ronald Acuna Jr., solid pitching from rookie Mike Soroka and veteran leadership from All-Star Freddie Freeman, the Braves were nonetheless eliminated from postseason contention in a five-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.


The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams to win Super Bowl LIII.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

1. Patriots win Super Bowl in Atlanta 

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won a record sixth NFL championship at Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. Coach Bill Belichick’s Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams and coach Sean McVay, who attended metro Atlanta’s Marist School, in history’s lowest-scoring Super Bowl, 13-3. This was Atlanta’s third Super Bowl and the first hosted in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Check out the other stories in our year-end project:

9 for 2019: Top Georgia stories

9 for 2019: Top business stories

9 for 2019: Top national stories

9 for 2019: Top weather stories

9 for 2019: Top world stories9 for 2019: Notable deaths

9 for 2019: Top political stories

Explore9 for 2019: Top arts and entertainment stories

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