It’s been an unexpected year of surprises for the New Orleans sports scene.
It’s had its ups and downs, but it’s a pattern that this sports-loving city is familiar with.
When you’re ready to start a new chapter in 2023, let’s first look back at 2022 and the top 10 sports stories from New Orleans over the past year.
1. Sean Payton’s “retirement”. Picking a top sports story can be difficult. Not this time. It took me less than a month into the new year to find it. That was the day the city’s most successful coach, Sean Payton, made a surprise announcement that he would be leaving the New Orleans Saints, giving life to the franchise during the city’s downturn and making his long-awaited Lombardy debut. brought a trophy. His ability to build culture has made New Orleans a free agency destination and raised the bar for Saints football.
2. Pelicans in the playoffs. The best soundbite of the year is undoubtedly Willie Greene. Willie Green said those words heading into the fourth quarter of the Pelicans’ play-in tournament game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“We are not giving up on this. We have to fight. We have to fight.”
The Pelicans bounced back from a 10-point deficit to set up an epic first-round showdown against the Phoenix Suns. The Pelicans pushed the No. 1 seed Suns to his sixth game, creating a rivalry in the process. Not only between teams, but also between Jose Alvarado and Chris Paul. “Jose” chants from that series can still be heard today at his Center for Smoothie King. That postseason momentum will carry over into this season, with the Pelicans now one of the top teams in the Western Conference and very likely one of the few remaining teams in 2023. is.
3. Tulane turned around. After a year in which he went 2-10 in a distraction-filled season, Willie his Fritz flipped the record and finished his season as a regular with his 10-2 record, leaving Green his caused a wave. Tulane then defeated American Athletic for his conference title in his game against Central Florida, 45-28, in front of the largest crowd in Yurman Stadium history. It was his school’s first conference title since 1998 and secured a sleeper to face the tradition-rich Southern Cals at the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
4. Hiring Dennis Allen. The Saints decided to take Peyton’s place and named defensive coordinator Allen as his replacement. The idea was “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”. The Saints are now 6-9 in his two games remaining, so the early return to that decision has been disappointing. A playoff spot is still a possibility, but the odds are slim, further evidence that his first year with Allen didn’t live up to expectations.
5. CJ McCollum Trade. As he scrolls to No. 2 on this list, Pelicans executives David Griffin and Trajan Langdon know that this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t acquired McCallum in February. Put it down please. A veteran guard who spent his entire career as a sidekick to Damien Lillard in Portland proved to be just what the Pelicans needed. He could bring the leadership they needed and give their offense the extra punch they needed. The Pelicans also acquired Larry Nance Jr., and his presence was felt in the playoffs.
6. Extension and Return of Zion. Remember all the national pundits who said Zion Williamson didn’t want to be in New Orleans and suggested he’d be better off in the bigger market? All of that talk was crushed when he celebrated his 22nd birthday on . Told. It was the best birthday gift he’s ever received, and possibly the best gift the city of New Orleans has received in his 2022. He gifted the city again on Wednesday night and had a smoothie. Scored his career-high 43 points in a thrilling win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the King Center.
7. Loyola wins all. It’s been 77 years since the Loyola men’s basketball team last won a national title. They overcame that drought by beating Talladega College in his March 71-56, finishing the season with a 37-1 record, and hoisting his NAIA championship banner, the school’s first since 1945. I finished it.
8. Honey Badger and Juice are back. It may have been the offseason, but on his May 4th, the Saints signed New Orleans native Tyran Mathieu, one of the most beloved footballers in Louisiana history. The city was certainly bustling at that time. Ten days later, they signed Jarvis Landry from Lutcher. “To have the opportunity to play here in New Orleans at this level, at this stage, is special for him and for me,” Landry said.
9. Coach K finale. New Orleans was some of the most memorable Final Four moments of all time. Jordan shot. Keith Smart jumper. Chris Webber timeout. The biggest rivalry in all of college basketball was the Caesars Superdome when he met on stage and he added one more this year. This turned out to be the last game of the legendary Duke his coach Mike Krusewski’s career as the Blue Devils lost to North Carolina in the semifinals. Two days later, Kansas defeated North Carolina, cutting down the net in a Blueblood-filled Final Four, giving New Orleans “One Shining Moment” along with everything else.
Before wrapping up the list, here are a few stories worthy of honorable mention. Jameis Winston bench. Michael Thomas and his lingering injuries. Arch Manning committing to Texas. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson Trade. But this concludes the list.
10. Sean is back? This list can end with how it started. Everyone assumed Peyton’s retirement was temporary. But now his return to coaching next season is gaining more momentum, with reports even suggesting a return to New Orleans. so that he influences the saint wherever he goes. With several NFL job openings and regular matchmaking nearing the finish line, Payton’s next stop is expected to be one of 2023’s biggest storylines.
Happy new year.