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5 memorable championship performances from 2017

By
Alex Butler
New England Patriots running back James White celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard run in overtime of Super Bowl LI on February 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
New England Patriots running back James White celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard run in overtime of Super Bowl LI on February 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Five memorable championship performances of 2017 include displays of brilliance in tennis, college football, golf, the NBA and the NFL.

While many championships feature MVP awards and other accolades for top performers, sometimes athletes get overlooked despite terrific showings of excellence.

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Some of the best performances in sports came early in the year as postseasons overlapped into 2017 from the 2016 regular seasons.

Here are some of the most memorable.

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James White, New England Patriots running back, Super Bowl LI

He didn't win the MVP of Super Bowl LI, but New England Patriots running back James White was the best player in the contest on Feb. 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history after trailing the Atlanta Falcons 28-3 in the third quarter. White scored the Patriots' first touchdown of the game on a five-yard pass from Tom Brady with 2:06 remaining in the third frame. Danny Amendola caught another pass from Brady for a six-yard score in the fourth frame.

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Then White put the Patriots in position to tie the game with a one-yard scoring run with 57 seconds left in regulation. Amendola caught the two-point conversion from Brady to tie the game at 28-28.

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New England Patriots running back James White scores on a 2-yard run against the Atlanta Falcons to win Super Bowl LI on February 5 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. File photo by David Tulis/UPI

White capped off the Patriots' run of 31 unanswered points with a two-yard touchdown run in overtime to give his team another Lombardi Trophy. White finished the game with 29 yards and two scores on six carries. He also had 110 yards and a score on a game-high 14 receptions.

But his day didn't end without accolades. Brady, who was given the game's MVP honors, said White deserved the award.

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors power forward, 2017 NBA Finals

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After a 2016 season full of haters, following his decision to bolt from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant came through when it counted. The 2017 NBA Finals MVP paced his squad to his first championship, posting 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game.

Perhaps his biggest moment came with a huge shot in the Warriors' 118-113 victory in Game 3. The win enabled the Warriors to take a 3-0 series lead, putting the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of elimination.

Durant and the Warriors trailed LeBron James' Cavaliers 113-111 with about 45 seconds left to play before he stepped up for the biggest shot of his career. He dribbled up the court, facing off against James. He stopped right at the 3-point line -- with James' hand in his face -- and heaved one up from long distance, draining the clutch bucket. Kyrie Irving missed a 3-point attempt on the resulting possession and the Warriors took home the chip.

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Deshaun Watson, Clemson quarterback, 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship

It's no surprise now, seeing how Deshaun Watson performed during his rookie campaign for the Houston Texans, but once upon a time, he was just a college quarterback for Clemson and facing Nick Saban's mighty Alabama Crimson Tide for all the marbles.

Watson was the unquestionable leader of the underdog Tigers heading into the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

The Tigers quarterback completed 36-of-56 passes for 420 yards and three scores. He also ran the ball 21 times for 42 yards and another score. Watson took home the game's Offensive MVP honors, while Ben Boulware won the MVP on the defensive side.

Clemson Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) scrambles into the end zone on an 8-yard run against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first half of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship on January 9 in Tampa, Fla. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Watson's squad trailed 14-7 at halftime and 24-14 after three quarters. Then Watson's Tigers outscored the Crimson Tide 21-7 in the fourth frame to take the title. Clemson trailed 31-28 when it took over with 2:07 remaining in the game. Watson orchestrated a 10-play drive from the 32-yard line to give the Tigers the lead. The drive wrapped up with a two-yard passing score to Hunter Renfrow with just one second left in the game.

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Watson threw three of his touchdown tosses in the second half.

Sergio Garcia, PGA Tour veteran, 2017 Masters

Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia turned pro in 1999. He didn't win his first major until 2017. Garcia claimed the notorious green jacket on April 9 at Augusta National Golf Club.

Garcia and Justin Rose shot 3-under-par 69s on the final Sunday of the tournament to force a playoff. Rose shot 71-71-67-60, while Garcia carded 71-69-70-69.

Rose already had a major in his pocket, the 2013 U.S. Open. It was Garcia's time.

The 37-year-old birdied the first hole in a sudden-death playoff to break his 0-for-73 drought in major tournaments.

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Serena Williams, WTA star, 2017 Australian Open

Winning a Grand Slam title? Unlikely during a tennis player's career.

Winning 23 of those Grand Slam titles? Sure, maybe if you are Serena Williams.

Winning a Grand Slam title while pregnant? Wait, what?

Williams had a year packed with excitement. She beat sister Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 to win the women's singles title on Jan. 28 at the 2017 Australian Open. In April, Williams announced that she won the Grand Slam title while she was two months pregnant.

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Williams' year only got more entertaining after that. She welcomed her first child, Alexis Olympia, in September. Williams married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November at a star-studded affair in New Orleans.

The 36-year-old is now planning her comeback for the Australian Open on Jan. 15 in Melbourne.

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