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ESPN5's Sports Decade: Top ten moments of the 2010s

As the decade draws to a close, the ESPN5.com editorial staff look back at the sporting figures and moments that stood out and helped define Philippine sports in the 2010s. Check back regularly until December 31 for the latest features in our ESPN5.com Best of the Decade series.

We list down the the ten best and most memorable performances in Philippine sports from 2010 to 2019 as voted on by the ESPN5.com staff These are the moments that will be talked about over and over again when we look back on this decade, moments that will also remain etched in our minds for more years to come.


10. 40-year-old Manny Pacquiao beats Keith Thurman (2019)

When Manny Pacquiao defeated Lucas Martin Matthysse in 2018 for the World Boxing Association regular welterweight title in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, many boxing pundits didn't think much of it. Matthysse's style was perfect for the faster Pacquiao and he was also in the tail end of his career (Matthysse retired after the loss).

When Pacquiao defended the title against Adrien Broner, he convinced some people that he still had it, but when he took on Keith Thurman, it was a chance to make a statement that at 40 years of age, he can still beat the best in the sport.

Pacquiao did exactly that as he floored Thurman early in the match and won via split decision. The Pacman was not the punching dynamo he was early in the decade as he was more economical with his punches to save his stamina. Still, he was the faster fighter and his combinations were still on point. He might still have a couple of fights left in him and it will be very interesting to see if he'll try and take on the best in the weight category in Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. -- Carlo Pamintuan

9. San Mig Coffee's Grand Slam (2014)

With James Yap, Peter June Simon and Marc Pingris all at the peak of their pro basketball careers, San Mig Coffee emerged as the PBA's most dominant team in 2014 after winning a rare Grand Slam.

The Grand Slam feat was the Purefoods franchise's first, and the first since since Alaska did the trick in 1996. Crispa won Grand Slam titles twice (1976 and 1983), while San Miguel Beer became the second team to do so in 1989.

Incidentally, Tim Cone, the architect in Alaska's Grand Slam finish, also authored San Mig's "Triple Crown" achievement. He became the only PBA coach in league history to win two Grand Slam titles. -- Richard Dy

8. Ateneo Lady Eagles accomplish the improbable (2014)

The Ateneo Lady Eagles winning the Season 76 women's volleyball title at the expense of defending three-peat champions, De La Salle Lady Spikers, was one of the most stunning fairytale stories in Philippine sports in recent memory. True to the 'heartstrong' mantra that head coach Tai Bundit introduced, Ateneo overcame six grueling knockout matches on the way to its maiden UAAP volleyball crown.

La Salle completed an elimination round sweep, which came with a thrice-to-beat incentive at the time. The third-seed Lady Eagles began their magical run by booting out the Adamson Lady Falcons in the first step of the stepladder semis. They followed it up with convincing wins over the heavily favored NU Lady Bulldogs, who got eliminated despite their twice-to-beat bonus.

Most Valuable Player Alyssa Valdez powered the Lady Eagles to an improbable feat that made the previous back-to-back finals heartaches worth it. They drew first blood in the series before the Lady Spikers reasserted their mastery over their archrivals. Faced with another do-or-die situation, Ateneo buckled up to defeat La Salle twice, including a straight-sets sweep in the title-clincher. It was a perfect culmination of the incredible journey that Ateneo went through -- stemming back from the 'Fab Five' years when the foundation was built -- in what would be the first of back-to-back championships for the team. If you could pinpoint a moment when volleyball really took off in the Philippines, this was it. -- Charmie Lising

7. The Azkals' Miracle in Hanoi (2010)

There is no question that the "Miracle in Hanoi" is the watershed moment of Philippine football. The 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup Group Stage match between the Philippines and Vietnam was billed as a one-sided affair. Despite the Azkals showing resiliency in a 1-1 draw with Singapore a few days prior, defending champions Vietnam was expected to run roughshod over the Filipinos.

In front of a partisan crowd of 40,000 at the My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi on December 5, 2010, the plucky Filipinos lined up to play disciplined counter-attacking football. Then-coach Simon McMenemy understood that they were underdogs, but lined up in a way that was meant to frustrate the hosts.

A flick of the head from Chris Greatwich in the 38th minute, some solid goalkeeping from Neil Etheridge, and a clinical finish from Phil Younghusband 12 minutes from time was enough to create history. Almost overnight the Azkals became household names and jumpstarted the Philippines return to football relevancy on the world stage. While they did not win the Suzuki Cup that year, that proved to be the moment wherein the collective Philippine public rediscovered the beautiful game. -- Paolo del Rosario

6. The Philippines is SEA Games overall champion (2019)

The 2019 SEA Games was a rollercoaster of a ride. From the chaos it brought before the start of the games, to the incredible run of our Filipino athletes, to the numerous celebrations we all had when it ended. We won the entire thing. Overall champions with the biggest gold medal haul in the history of the regional meet. It was a proud moment for every Filipino - not just the athletes but also the coaches, the organizers, the media, the family and the supporters.

They say sports unites people. It wasn't necessarily the case all throughout. But I guess winning did the trick. The country went through a lot as hosts of the 30th SEA Games. The were great stories, and there were forgettable ones as well. The hope is that years and decades from now, we remember it for its success. For the 387 medals our athletes won for our country. -- Jutt Sulit

5. Laban Filipinas at the Asian Games (2018)

Female athletes took center stage for the Philippines in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Coming off just one gold medal for cycling in the 2014 Asian Games in Korea, the country received four golds as the Filipinas dominated in their respective sports.

Olympic silver medalist Hidalyn Diaz did not disappoint with her gold in the women's -53kg, but golf and skateboarding were also able to have their moment. Yuka Saso struck gold in the women's individual event and she was joined by Bianca Pagdanganan and Lois Kaye Go to rule the women's team competition. Margielyn Didal took home the country's fourth and final gold medal in the Asian Games while placing the sport of skateboarding in international spotlight.

The Philippines won a total of 21 medals in the 2018 Asian Games, finishing 19th overall, which was an improvement from its 22nd placing in the 2014 edition. -- Yoyo Sarmenta

4. It's a Beeracle (2016)

Being down 0-1 in a best-of-3 series? That's tough. Down 0-2 in a best-of-5? Deep trouble. But being down 0-3 in a best-of-7 Finals? Better luck next time. It's impossible to recover from that.

That's what everyone thought until the San Miguel Beermen proved us wrong in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup.

Without then two-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, the Beermen looked vulnerable against Alaska. They lost the first three games of the series. And even though many thought SMB would not allow a sweep, the same people probably thought it was a lost cause already. They were even down by 11 points with three minutes to go in Game 4. But Chris Ross refused to let SMB get swept. He played his best basketball in Games 4 and 5. With their chances of completing an upset looking more realistic, Fajardo put his knee injury in his back pocket and returned to court. San Miguel forced Game 7 and it changed everything about the series. So much that Coach Alex Compton had to try an unorthodox approach of calling three straight timeouts to open up Game 7. Somehow, someway, the San Miguel Beermen were able to pull it off.

The Beermen had won a couple of championships the season before. But the "Beeracle" run cemented their status as the team to fear. It was the start of dynasty talks. No one is supposed to be able to recover from down 0-3 in a best-of-7 finals. But San Miguel did. -- Jutt Sulit

3. Justin Brownlee's buzzer-beater (2016)

It had been eight years since the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel franchise had won a PBA title. When the Governors' Cup 2016 began, Ginebra had as its import Paul Harris, a former TNT KaTropa (then known as the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters) import in 2011, who had led TNT to a win over Ginebra in the 2011 Commissioner's Cup. Harris lasted less than one game as he injured his thumb late in Ginebra's first outing, which prompted the Gin Kings to recruit his replacement.

Enter Justin Brownlee, a young player with some of the usual credentials - US NCAA, NBA G-League, European leagues. Little did anyone know that Brownlee's arrival would be franchise-shaking. As he acclimatized himself with the PBA style of play from game to game, he developed into an import who just quietly delivered each and every time he was on the floor. When it really mattered, JB would deliver with machine-like efficiency.

October 19, 2016 was Game 6 of the Governors' Cup Finals. Ginebra was ahead in the series, three games to two. Opponent Meralco looked poised to force a Game 7, led by import stud Allen Durham, who had edged out Brownlee for the Best Import of the Conference Award. But Justin would have none of that. He wanted the series to end right there and then.

With about five seconds left on the game clock and the score tied at 88-all, with cellphone lights a-shimmer throughout The Big Dome, Solomon Mercado inbounded the ball for Ginebra. Brownlee received it. He dribbled three times as he brought the ball to the top of the key, beyond the arc, tightly guarded by Durham. He let fly...and the legend of Justin Brownlee was born! The ball swished through the net at the buzzer, giving Ginebra a 91-88 victory and the 2016 Governors' Cup championship. He finished the game 31 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, but the image of him hoisting the trey for the series, for the championship, will forever be etched in the minds of PBA fans, especially the Ginebra faithful who have grown to love and cherish their beloved import, who continues to play for them to this day. -- Charlie Cuna

2. Hidilyn Diaz wins an Olympic silver medal (2016)

It was the Olympic silver medal that was not even supposed to be in the books.

The projection for Hidilyn Diaz was bronze at best as two athletes in the women's 53kg division of the weightlifting competitions were a cut above the rest. Li Yajun on China was expected to dominate the field with Chinese Taipei's Hsu Shu-Ching being her main challenger.

Diaz ranked fifth after snatch as she could only lift 88kg with China's bet setting a new Olympic record of 101kg. However, the Filipina dug deep in clean and jerk as she lifted 111 and 112 with her first two tries. Diaz edged the South Korean bet Yoon Jin-Hee by 1kg to assure herself of a medal.

Winning the bronze would have been considered a success for Diaz but China's bet was too focused on setting another Olympic record instead of getting the sure gold. Li faltered as she failed on her 123 and 126kg tries to promote the Filipina's bronze to a silver. It was the spark that Philippine weightlifting needed and the sport has not been the same since. -- Carlo Pamintuan

1. Gilas Pilipinas breaks the Curse of Korea (2013)

It's been over six years, but I still vividly remember what happened on August 10, 2013, the day Gilas Pilipinas ended the Korean curse.

Korea had broken our hearts in the past time and time again, but not that night. With a berth in the 2014 FIBA World Cup at stake, everyone inside the Mall of Asia Arena were on the same side, cheering and shouting their lungs out.

It was a tight battle all throughout, given the high stakes. Marcus Douthit, who was injured and practically on one leg, didn't play almost the entire game. The Philippines, though, still managed to take a 9-point lead heading into the fourth. The Koreans grabbed the lead with under three minutes left, but Gilas mustered enough energy to pull out the historic 86-79 win.

The Philippines' conquest of Korea in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship semifinals is the most significant moment in Gilas history. I still get goosebumps everytime I watch highlights of that game. The threes from Ranidel de Ocampo and Jimmy Alapag, the block by Gabe Norwood, and the putback by Marc Pingris -- scenes you can never erase from your memory. PUSO. -- JC Ansis