Wow, what a decade.
We’ve experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
It forever will be remembered for the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory, along with a pair of titles each from the Storm and Sounders.
But it also will be remembered for the agonizing pain of the Super Bowl loss, a Sounders loss in the MLS Cup final and the dull ache of the Mariners not making the postseason even once.
Even for Mariners fans, some moments were unforgettable for the right reasons, such as Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in 2012 and the Hall of Fame inductions of Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez.
There was the awarding of an NHL team and a deal to rebuild KeyArena.
The decade was full of big stories in Seattle sports, and we have come up with our top 10. As with any list, you can quibble with the selections, but that’s half the fun because there are no right or wrong answers.
So without further ado, here are our 10 biggest stories of the decade.
10. Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez enshrined in Cooperstown
There was never a doubt that Mariners icon Ken Griffey Jr. would become a Hall of Famer. In 2016, he received 99.3 percent of votes from the baseball writers, a record at the time.
The fate of the man who hit behind him for much of his time with Seattle, Edgar Martinez, was not nearly as clear. In 2010, Martinez’s first year on the ballot, he received 36.2 percent of the vote (75 percent is needed for induction). It went down to 32.9 percent in 2011 and it did not look good.
But with an increased acceptance of analytics, Martinez’s candidacy got a boost. Griffey Jr. lobbied for him, and so did the Mariners and respected voters. And in Martinez’s 10th and final time on the writers’ ballot, he was on 85.4 percent of the ballots. He was enshrined in 2019, joining buddy Griffey Jr. as the only two players in the Hall of Fame to go in as Mariners.
“Seattle fans, thank you for always being there for me,” Martinez said in his speech at the packed Cooperstown, N.Y., ceremony, which included many fans from Seattle. “Since 1987 you gave me your unconditional support, and it was even more prevalent in the last 10 years. The support you gave me over social media really helped me to get here today. Thank you, Mariners fans. You are the best fans I could ever hope for.”
9. Megan Rapinoe: Soccer star and social justice/equality advocate
Rapinoe joined Reign FC in 2013. She helped lead the Reign (based in Seattle until moving to Tacoma last season) to the National Women’s Soccer League title game in 2014 and 2015, but it’s her play with the U.S. national team and important efforts off the field that earn her a spot on this list.
Rapinoe led the U.S. to an Olympic gold medal in 2012, scoring a pair of goals in the 4-3 semifinal win over Canada and getting an assist in the 2-1 over Japan for gold medal. She also played a key role on the U.S. team that won the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
She was at her best in this year’s Women’s World Cup, leading the Americans to the title. She scored six goals in the tournament, tied for the most, including one in the 2-0 win over the Netherlands in the title game, and received the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament.
Her social activism has also been in the spotlight, from her kneeling during national anthems in 2016 in support of Colin Kaepernick’s stance on social injustice, to joining a lawsuit this year against the U.S. Soccer Federation, accusing it of gender discrimination because of unequal pay for the men’s and women’s teams.
8. The U.S. Open comes to Chambers Bay
For decades, U.S. Opens had been played at some of the oldest and most historic golf courses in the country. So it was big news when in 2008, the United States Golf Association announced that the U.S. Open was coming in 2015 to Chambers Bay, the links course on Puget Sound in University Place that had been open for just a year.
Tickets were sold out nearly a year in advance for the first U.S. Open in the Northwest, and the first golf major in the area since the PGA Championship in 1998. The greens were far from pristine, and that was the biggest story through three rounds.
Jordan Spieth finished his final round with a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson while playing in the next-to-last group. Johnson, playing in the final group, had a 12-foot, 4-inch eagle putt on the 18th to win the tournament. He hit it four feet past, and when he missed that, Spieth at 21 became the youngest winner of the tournament since 1923. It was also a huge moment for Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller, a former University Place middle school teacher who had caddied on the side at Chambers Bay.
7. The NHL is coming, and will play in new digs
We don’t know the team’s name yet, but we do know Seattle will have an NHL team in the 2021-22 season after the league approved an expansion franchise bid from Seattle Hockey Partners, a group headed by David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer.
The team will play in an almost entirely rebuilt KeyArena. The city rejected a proposal to build a new arena in the Sodo District, and instead went with the Oak View Group’s plan to redevelop KeyArena. The arena will retain its roof but be completely redone inside.
Meanwhile, preparations for the NHL team are well under way, with general manager Ron Francis being hired in July.
6. Kelsey Plum leads UW women to Final Four, sets NCAA scoring record
Plum not only elevated the Huskies to their greatest heights as a team during her four seasons, she scored more points than any woman in NCAA history, for a season and for a career.
As a junior she averaged 26.2 points en route to being an All-American and led the Huskies to the Final Four for the first time, in 2016. What she did the next season was one for the ages. Plum scored a record 1,109 points and averaged 31.7 points per game. Needing 54 points late in the season to set the scoring record, Plum did it with one of the greatest basketball performances seen in this city, scoring 57 in UW’s 84-77 win over Utah on 19-of-28 shooting from the field. She made 6 of 11 three-pointers and was 13 of 16 free throws.
She finished with 3,527 career points and scored at least 21 points in all 35 games her senior season. It was no wonder she was the top overall pick in the 2017 WNBA draft.
5. Sounders win two MLS Cups
Even though the Sounders had no shots on goal against host Toronto through regulation and 30 minutes of overtime, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei made one great save after another and the 2016 MLS Cup went to a shootout with neither team having scored.
In the sixth round Toronto missed, and when Roman Torres knocked his in, Sounders fans celebrated the greatest moment in franchise history.
The Sounders lost in Toronto the next season in the title match, and the two teams squared off again this year in the MLS Cup final. This time it was at CenturyLink Field, and the Sounders gave their fans something to never forget, a 3-1 victory in front of 69,274 fans.
4. The Storm wins two WNBA titles
Seattle has won three WNBA titles, with two coming in this decade. The Storm opened the decade with a dominant club led by MVP Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, going 28-6 in the regular season before sweeping seven games in the playoffs. That was capped by winning three consecutive games over Atlanta.
Eight years later in 2018, the names had all changed except one: Bird, who was also on the Storm’s 2004 title team.
Still the team’s starting point guard and still one of the best in the league in her 16th year with the team, Bird and MVP Breanna Stewart helped the Storm sweep Washington in three games in the title series.
3. UW football coach Chris Petersen: His hiring, success and exit
Several teams before had tried to pry Petersen from Boise State after his amazing success there, but he stayed until taking the Husky job on Dec. 6, 2013. UW fans had been taken by surprise when Steve Sarkisian left to take the USC job, but the hiring of Petersen seemed like an upgrade. That feeling was only heightened when Petersen led the Huskies into the College Football Playoff in his third season.
A second Pac-12 title came in the 2018 season, followed by the team’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 18 years.
It seemed Petersen would be around for years before surprising just about everyone when announcing Dec. 2 that he was stepping away at the end of the season, which concluded with UW’s blowout win in the Las Vegas Bowl.
2. Seahawks lose a gut-wrencher in Super Bowl XLIX
Seattle was on the verge of winning the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, trailing 28-24 with 26 seconds left when the Seahawks had the ball on second and goal at the New England 1-yard line.
Marshawn Lynch had just run four yards before being stopped a yard short, and the Seahawks certainly would give the ball to him again. Only, as we all know, they didn’t — and the Patriots picked off a Russell Wilson pass.
If it wasn’t the worst ending in Seattle sports history, it certainly was the worst few seconds, and it will take a lot longer than a decade for the pain to subside.
1. Seahawks’ 43-8 Super Bowl win after the 2013 season
The move that owner Paul Allen made in 2010 started the Seahawks on the path to the Super Bowl: hiring Pete Carroll as his coach.
A strong case can be made that the Seahawks’ throttling of Denver was the greatest 3 1/2 hours, and the greatest week, in Seattle sports history.
The Broncos were favored by two points in Super Bowl XLVIII, but there was little doubt who the best team was from the first play from scrimmage, when Seattle scored on a safety. The Seahawks led 22-0 at halftime and 36-0 before the Broncos finally scored. Their vaunted offense, led by Peyton Manning, was dominated by the Seahawks and their Legion of Boom defense.
The party started in Seattle well before the game ended, and it continued into the week with an estimated 700,000 people attending a downtown victory parade three days later.
… And don’t forget
There were many stories that could have been added to the list.
The Huskies fired longtime men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar in 2017 and hired Mike Hopkins, who not only has won Pac-12 coach of the year in both of his seasons at UW, but got the team back into the NCAA tournament.
The UW men’s crew won a record five consecutive national titles (2011-15), and the UW women’s crew won a pair of national titles. The Husky women’s golf team won the national title in 2016 in dramatic fashion on national TV.
The Bellevue High School football team was stripped of two state titles and banned from the postseason for two years after an investigation by The Seattle Times uncovered violations regarding recruiting and out-of-season coaching.
The Nathan Hale High School boys basketball team went undefeated in 2016-17 en route to the state 3A and No. 1 national ranking as new coach Brandon Roy, the former UW star, transformed the team with several talented transfers.
There were many more contenders, of course.
But now it’s time to look ahead. What will be the top stories of the next decade? Will the NBA come back to Seattle, will the Mariners get back to the postseason for the first time since 2001, will the Seahawks, Storm or Sounders add another title, and could our new NHL team win a Stanley Cup?
If the past decade is any indication, there will be a lot to watch.