Sports around the world produced many memorable moments in 2018. From the “Philly Special,” to the greatest upset in the history of the NCAA tournament, to the arrival of new of stars at the World Cup in Russia, the year had something to offer for every sports fan. And for all the memorable moments and stories on the field, there were just as many off of it — and The Players’ Tribune’s
photographers embedded with athletes behind the scenes to document it. They captured farewells and arrivals, celebrations and losses — all with an eye on the enduring spirit that makes athletes tick. Below are our favorite images of the year.
Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen felt such a bond with Pittsburgh that when his wife, Maria, gave birth to a son on Nov. 27, 2017, the couple named him Steel. Two months later, the Pirates traded McCutchen to the Giants. In his farewell letter to Pittsburgh, McCutchen wrote, “I might be shipping out for the season — and I might be excited about this new beginning — but I’m not leaving. And I might be closing the door on this stage of my life … but it’s a glass door, I promise. I’m going to look back through it, fondly and often. And I’m going to walk back through it, when the time is right.
This team will always mean a lot to me. And this city will always mean everything."
In a video on The Players’ Tribune in February, former NFL wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi recounted the story of losing his left hand in an ATV accident in April 2017. “There’s an adjustment there to say, ’This part of me is no longer [there],’ but there’s a lot of other parts that are still there,” Massaquoi said. “This just gives you a perspective of how precious life is, how fast things can change. You go from joyriding to flying in a helicopter finding out your hand will be amputated.”
Danica Patrick drove in her last race on the NASCAR circuit on February 18 at Daytona. In an essay for The Players’ Tribune, Patrick wrote, “I don’t think humans are meant to be stationary. We’re
not meant to stay in one place and maintain the same perspective. This is definitely a time of transition in my life, but I’m embracing it because it’s the only way to continue to grow."
When figure skater Adam Rippon won a bronze medal in the team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he became the first openly gay athlete to win a medal for the U.S. at the Winter Games. Nine months later, Rippon announced his retirement from competition. In a video on The Players’ Tribune, Rippon paid tribute to his mother’s contributions to his skating career: “When I actually applied what my mom was saying I think that’s when I saw my greatest potential."
In March, we followed four-time sumo world champion Byamba behind the scenes at the Sumo+Sushi event at New York’s Playstation Theatre. Two months later, Byamba participated in the 2018 U.S. Sumo Open in Long Beach, Calif., where he won a silver medal in the men’s heavyweight division.
Belgian defender Thomas Meunier shared his life story ahead of the 2018 World Cup in an essay for The Players’ Tribune.“When I was 18 years old and struggling to make a living in football, I took a job with the postal service. I’d get up at 5 a.m. and start my route before the sun came up. If you’re a postman in London or New York, I imagine that it’s probably pretty fun, because all the apartments are close to each other. So you can just walk around with your big bag of mail, having a nice stroll. Well, I’m from a small village in Belgium where the houses are all spread out. Let me tell you, when it’s pouring rain and you’ve got to park the car and walk 50 meters to the mailbox all the time, you seriously get tired."
For Father’s Day, Houston Dynamo defender A.J. DeLaGarza penned a letter to his son,
Luca, who died from a rare heart defect in September 2014 when he was only seven days old. “Every now and then, Megan and I pull out the scrapbook that we made when she was pregnant with Luca. We look at all the early ultrasound images we paid for back then, and the photos of little outfits, and the pictures of him from the hospital and we … can be thankful. We are truly thankful for the time we were able to share with him.”
In July, TPT went behind the scenes with Kevin Durant and the Warriors as they celebrated their second straight NBA title. Our photographer caught Durant, who was fresh off of being named Finals MVP, in the moment when he was being fitted for his championship ring.
In 2018 A’ja Wilson was named both the National Player of the Year, and WNBA’s Rookie of the Year. In a personal essay for The Players’ Tribune she told the story of how she overcame dyslexia. “I remember being asked if I knew what a ’learning disability’ was. I said I didn’t. And that was the day I found out that I had something called dyslexia. Basically, my brain had a hard time comprehending big blocks of text. And that made reading difficult. I don’t know how I felt finding all that out. In a way, it was a relief, I guess, to be able to put a name to my struggles after so many years."
In October, the Jamaican women’s national team qualified for it’s first ever World Cup with a win against Panama during the third place match at the CONCACAF Women’s Championships. The Players’ Tribune was alongside the The Reggae Girlz during the championships, which would “Change Jamaica,” according to team captain Konya Plummer (pictured above.)
Defensive back Randy Russell Jr. entered 2018 as one of Florida’s most promising recruits, but the Gators held him out of football activities after their medical staff discovered an abnormality in an EKG test last January. In his TPT video,“Everything Changed in an Instant,” Russell said, “Even though I’m not playing right now, I just feel … I feel normal. I’m living life. I’m thanking God for identifying what I have. Not that I envisioned it to be this way, but I know that everything happens for a reason. And I’m glad it’s happened this way because it helps me become stronger.”
Darius Bazley, a 6’9”, 200-pound 17-year-old from Ohio, changed his mind about spending a year at
Syracuse in favor of a direct jump to the NBA’s G-League. He then passed on the G-League to sign with Klutch sports, which negotiated a $14 million internship for Bazely at New Balance, where he would, among other things, prepare for the 2019 NBA draft. “Since the NBA implemented the one-and-done rule, most prospects have followed the same path: College for one year, then the draft….,” Bazely wrote in his April Players’ Tribune story., “Going to college isn’t the wrong path by any means, but it’s also not always the perfect one. The way I see it, my GPS is set to the same destination as every other top recruit in the nation, I just picked a different route."
Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku’s essay,“I’ve Got Some Things to Say,” appeared on TPT in June and tapped into his frustrations with Dutch soccer fans. “If you don’t like the way I play, that’s fine. But I was born here. I grew up in Antwerp, and Liège and Brussels,” Lukaku confessed. “I dreamed of playing for Anderlecht. I dreamed of being Vincent Kompany. I’ll start a sentence in French and finish it in Dutch, and I’ll throw in some Spanish or Portuguese or Lingala, depending on what neighborhood we’re in. I’m Belgian. We’re all Belgian. That’s what makes this country cool, right? I don’t know why some people in my own country want to see me fail. I really don’t."
During the summer we used our annual Players’ Night Out event in L.A. to catch up with Nuggets guard Isaiah Thomas . In September Thomas shouted out the Seattle Storm and Seattle’s basketball culture in his essay “If You Know, You Know.” He wrote, “In Seattle, man, we ride for the Storm. The city has been filling KeyArena for years, before and after the Sonics left, so nobody has to worry about whether the city’s gonna come out for our games. We ready. We want another ’ship.” The Storm went
on to win the WNBA title.
“I look at my body as a tool. It’s the greatest tool I will ever own,” WWE star Ronda Rousey said in a July TPT video that captured her trip to San Diego to participate in the Jack Ryan Experience at Comic Con. “When I feel nervous, I trust myself and my own ability. I know that I can physically master any skill that I apply myself 100% to. But it’s hard to distinguish yourself just physically when everyone at the top is physically maxed out. What separates you is the mental aspect.”
Our photographer caught up with Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis over the summer in Madrid, Spain, where he was rehabbing his torn ACL. He updated his recovery in a video on The Players’ Tribune, saying, “I’ve seen the play 1,000 times. I know exactly how it felt and I’m not shying away from it."
Fencer Miles Chamley-Watson led the U.S. Men’s Foil Team to the Overall World Cup title. Chamley-Watson and his teammates became the first men’s foil team to sweep all five World Cup events in a season, and brought home the nation’s ’ third-ever overall title.
In November, NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen joined Knicks icon Charles Oakley and Michael Rapaport for our “’90s Hoops” event in New York City. Pippen said of his relationship with Oakley, “Oak was tough, really in my first year, but he was like a big brother to me. He showed me the ropes not only on the basketball court but off of it.”