Joao Sousa of Portugal serves to Feliciano Lopez of Spain during his second round Men's Singles match on Day Four of the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on Sept. 1, 2016.
Joao Sousa of Portugal serves to Feliciano Lopez of Spain during his second round Men's Singles match on Day Four of the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on Sept. 1, 2016.Al Bello—Getty Images
Joao Sousa of Portugal serves to Feliciano Lopez of Spain during his second round Men's Singles match on Day Four of the 2016 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City on Sept. 1, 2016.
*** BESTPIX *** Athletics - Olympics: Day 9
Sun Yating of China is challenged during the Women's Water Polo 7th - 8th Classification match between Brazil and China on Day 14 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Aug.19, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Horses clear a fence during the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Handicap Steeple Chase at Wetherby Racecourse on March 22, 2016 in Wetherby, England.
Juliet Itoya of Spain competes during the Women's Long Jump Qualifying Round on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug. 16, 2016.
An American Cocker Spaniel gets its fur blown by a hair dryer in the grooming area on the second day of the 140th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York City on Feb. 16, 2016.
Giniel De Villiers of South Africa and Dirk Von Zitzewitz of Germany in the Toyota Hilux for Toyota Gazoo Racing compete on day 11 stage ten between Belen and La Rioja during the 2016 Dakar Rally on Jan. 13, 2016 in near Fiambala, Argentina.
Yuval Filo, Alona Koshevatskiy, Ekaterina Levina, Karina Lykhvar and Ida Mayrin of Israel compete during the Group All-Around Final on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Rio Olympic Arena on Aug. 21, 2016.
A banner stating "We Love You Muhammad" is displayed as well-wishers touch the hearse carrying the body of the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali during his funeral procession through Louisville, Kentucky, June 10, 2016.
Actor Bill Murray reacts on the field after the Chicago Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians 8-7 in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on Nov. 2, 2016 in Cleveland.
2016 Rio Olympics: Best of the Olympics
Katie Ledecky of the United States competes in the Women's 400m Freestyle Final on Day 2 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on Aug. 7, 2016.
Pandelela Rinong Pamg of Malaysia competes in the Women's 10m Platform Preliminary at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 17, 2016.
Fans during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks at TCFBank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Jan. 10, 2016.
Steam rises from a scrum during the Super Rugby Exhibition match between the Rebels and the Hurricanes at Harlequins Rugby Club in Melbourne, Australia, on June 23, 2016.
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza in Monza, Italy, on Sept. 3, 2016.
David Boudia and Steele Johnson of USA compete in the Men's Synchronized 10m Platform at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 8, 2016.
An RS-X athlete is seen on the way back to the marina after the conclusion of racing on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Marina da Gloria on Aug. 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs drops back to pass against the Houston Texans during the first quarter of the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 9, 2016.
Jhoanis Portilla of Cuba, Orlando Ortega of Spain and Deuce Carter of Jamaica compete in the rain during the 2016 Rio Olympics Men's 110m Hurdles in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 15, 2016.
A general view of court action as the weather closes in on day 3 of the FIVB Kish Island in Iran on Feb. 17, 2016.
The TCU Horned Frogs celebrate after winning the Valero Alamo Bowl in three overtimes against the Oregon Ducks at Alamodome on Jan. 2, 2016 in San Antonio.
Croatia football fans at the Stade de Bordeaux in France on June 21, 2016.
Anna Marton of Hungary, right, fences against Manon Brunet of France during women's saber individual fencing competition in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug. 8, 2016.
A general view inside the stadium as Lightning strikes following the postponement of the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester City FC and VfL Borussia Moenchengladbach at Etihad Stadium on Sept. 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Zach Collaros warms up before his team plays the Toronto Argonauts in their CFL game in Hamilton, Sept. 5, 2016.
LeBron James, #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers, holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, Calif., on June 19, 2016.
An athlete poses for the judges during the bodybuilding competition as part of the Arnold Classic Europe 2016 on Sept. 23, 2016 in Barcelona.
Paralympic gold medalist, Oscar Pistorius, prepares to walk across the courtroom without his prosthetic legs during the third day of his hearing at the Pretoria High Court for sentencing procedures in his murder trial in Pretoria on June 15, 2016.
Simone Biles of the United States competes on the balance beam during the Women's Individual All Around Final on Day 6 of the 2016 Rio Olympics at Rio Olympic Arena on Aug. 11, 2016.
Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Josh Reddick can't catch a foul ball hit by Chicago Cubs' Ben Zobrist during the fifth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series, on Oct. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles.
NCAA Men's Final Four - National Championship - Villanova v North Carolina
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is handed the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.
Fireworks explode over Maracana stadium with the Mangueira 'favela' community in the foreground during opening ceremonies for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Aug. 5, 2016.
Joao Sousa of Portugal serves to Feliciano Lopez of Spain during his second round Men's Singles match on Day Four of the
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Al Bello—Getty Images
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The Best Sports Photos of 2016

Dec 16, 2016

It was a year of firsts, lasts, and loss in the world of sports documented in millions of photographs.

In one image, LeBron James bows his head, tears of joy in his eyes, as he fulfills a promise—for the first time in the franchise's history, the Cleveland Cavaliers were NBA Champions. At the Rio Olympics, Usain Bolt preserved another title as World's Fastest Man, grinning in a photograph captured by Getty's Cameron Spencer. On the NFL field, football great Peyton Manning claimed a final Super Bowl trophy before an emotional retirement from the game. And around the world, mourners said goodbye to the greatest, Muhammad Ali.

There were milestone moments, records and champions made, but the images in between can be as monumental— a fog around a diehard crowd supporting its team on one of winter's coldest days; a dog is groomed for its moment at Westminster; an Olympic diver disappears into the blur of motion and water, her ending and the water's beginning indiscernible.

Here, TIME selects its favorite moments from this year in sports.

Chelsea Matiash, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s deputy multimedia editor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @cmatiash.

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