In 2017 we saw thrilling comebacks, emotional farewells and the emergence of a new wave of stars. We also saw athletes from all over the world of sports who were finding their voice — standing tall and sharing their stories with the world. A number of them even ventured into the political arena, challenging the notion that players should just “stick to sports.” Athletes and their families gave photographers from The Players’ Tribune extraordinary access in 2017. Below are our 17 favorite images of the year.
February 4, Boston Clippers forward Paul Pierce tours the city he called home for 15 NBA seasons the day before his final game in TD Garden as an active player. Pierce officially retired from basketball after L.A.’s first-round playoff loss to the Jazz last April. He now works as an analyst for ESPN.
February 7, Boston Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates with suds at the victory parade following New England’s defeat of the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots trailed Atlanta 28–3 late in the third quarter, but came roaring back to win 34–28 in overtime.
February 19, New Orleans Warriors forward Kevin Durant travels from his hotel to Smoothie King Center for the NBA All-Star Game. In his first season with Golden State, Durant won the first championship of his 10-year career and was voted MVP of the Finals.
April 24, New York Former Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who retired in 2016 after 20 seasons in Los Angeles, leaves a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival of his short film, Dear Basketball. Based on his Players’ Tribune poem of the same name, the film was short-listed for an Oscar (official nominations will be announced in January). Bryant rounded out the year at Staples Center, on December 18, in an emotional double-jersey retirement ceremony.
May 11, Miami Five years after he underwent open-heart surgery to repair a life-threatening aortic aneurysm, Magic forward Jeff Green shows his surgical scar. Green, who described his journey back to the NBA in an essay for The Players’ Tribune, is currently thriving off the bench for the Cavaliers.
May 14, Bronx, New York Former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter unveils his uniform number, which was retired during a ceremony in which he was also immortalized in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park. Five months later, Jeter became a part owner of the Marlins.
May 18, Orlando In April, Brazilian soccer star Marta — the five-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year — signed to play for the Orlando Pride of the NWSL. In a “Letter to My Younger Self” that she wrote for The Players’ Tribune, she detailed her journey from Dois Riachos, Brazil, to the pinnacle of women’s soccer.
June 15, San Diego Jazz forward Gordon Hayward gets in a workout one month before he signs a free-agent deal with the Celtics. Four months later, in Boston’s first game of the 2017–18 season, he suffered a dislocated left ankle and a fractured fibula. He is currently rehabbing in hopes of returning to the NBA in the spring.
July 22, Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart heads to the court during introductions at the WNBA All-Star Game in Seattle. Three months later, in a moving essay for The Players’ Tribune, the second-year pro went public with the story of the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child.
August 9, New York Seven weeks after the Knicks selected 18-year-old Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick in the NBA draft, the French point guard climbs out of a yellow cab in Midtown Manhattan. Ntilikina has been a key contributor on a New York team that has defied expectations so far in 2017–18.
August 19, Miami Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas relaxes in the ocean while on vacation with his wife in South Florida. Just a few days later, Boston GM Danny Ainge shocked the NBA by trading Thomas — who had led the Celtics to the 2017 Eastern Conference finals — to the Cavaliers. The 28-year-old, six-year veteran is scheduled to return to action from a hip injury early in 2018.
August 25, Lexington, Kentucky Two weeks after violent protests broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns plays in an exhibition game with a message on his sneakers. Towns further addressed the violence in Charlottesville — as well as the country’s political climate — in an essay for The Players’ Tribune titled, “There Are More of Us Than There Are of Them.”
September 2, New Orleans Shortly before he signed with the Pelicans after having spent the previous seven season with the Grizzlies, veteran NBA swingman Tony Allen spends a day meeting fans in the Big Easy. He also wrote a letter to his fans in Memphis for The Players’ Tribune.
October 13, Talladega, Alabama NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. meets the media two days before his final race at Talledega Motor Speedway. Earnhardt retired from racing in 2017.
November 3, Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa holds the Commissioner’s Trophy aloft during the victory parade celebrating Houston’s first World Series win. Correa hit .276 with two homers to help lift the Astros to a seven-game victory over the Dodgers in the Fall Classic.
November 5, New York Meb Keflezighi collapses at the finish line after finishing 11th in his final New York City Marathon. The 42-year-old Keflezighi made his marathon debut in New York in 2002, and went on to run 25 more in his remarkable career. He is the only runner to have won both the New York City and Boston marathons (in 2009 and 2014, respectively), as well as a medal in the Olympic marathon (silver, 2004).
November 18, Miami NASCAR driver Danica Patrick walks between haulers in the pit area at Homestead-Miami Speedway before the final race of the 2017 season — one day after she announced that she was retiring from full-time racing. She says that she intends to finish her career in 2018 by racing in the Daytona 500 in February and the Indianapolis 500 in May.