Photo by Arthur Puu / Spark Sports

The year 2016 will be remembered for many things in the sports world. From the city of Cleveland winning a major championship for the first time in 52 years, to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series for the first time since 1908. From the retirements of all-time great, once-in-a-lifetime talents such as Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, David Ortiz, Kevin Garnett, Marshawn Lynch, and many more, to the 31st Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro. However, 2016 will also likely be most remembered for the unfortunate losses of so many of the sports world’s biggest heroes, legends and icons. Some writers here at Spark Sports would like to pay tribute to some of the many sports figures we lost in 2016, as the year comes to an end and a new year is on the horizon. They may be gone, but they will surely be remembered in 2017 and for many years beyond.

 

Ted Marchibroda (March 15, 1931 – January 16, 2016)

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Marchibroda passed away earlier this year at the age of 84, and was a NFL player and coach. While his playing career was short, Marchibroda was primarily known as an offensive minded coach and coordinator. He had head coaching stints for the Baltimore and Indianapolis Colts, and the Baltimore Ravens, making him the only coach of the Colts franchise in both locations at different points. He began his coaching career as an assistant and coordinator under George Allen’s Redskins, but gained fame as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl Bills from 1987-91, and was a major part of the invention of the modern day hurry up offense. After retiring, Marchibroda spent his retirement with his wife in a house not too far down the street from mine, which is why his passing was touched me on a personal level. He was one of the nicest men I’ve ever known, and for a man with as much success in the league he had, also one of the most humble.

Shawn Valdrighi, Spark Sports Editor

 

Will Smith (July 4, 1981 – April 9, 2016)

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Will Smith, who was a perennial figure in the New Orleans Saints’ organization, passed away on April 9th in New Orleans at the age of 34. A vast majority of the success that the Saints found during his tenure can be attributed to Smith. In 2006, the year following Hurricane Katrina, the Saints went to the NFC Championship with Smith averaging 10.5 sacks that season and even making the Pro Bowl. In 2009, when the Saints won the Super Bowl, he racked up a career-high 13 sacks that year. Despite the fact that he was born in New York and went to Ohio State, he was a Saint from the moment he walked into New Orleans. He and his family loved the New Orleans community and he left a legacy of love and respect behind for all to see.

Irving Mejia, Spark Sports NBA & NFL Analyst

 

Chyna (December 27, 1969 – April 20, 2016)

Joanie ‘Chyna’ Laurer was one of the most recognizable women in sports entertainment throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Initially getting her start as a bodybuilder and competing in fitness competitions, Chyna rose to fame after signing with the then-World Wrestling Federation in 1997. She soon after became a member of the first incarnation of the wrestling stable, D-Generation X, where she was the enforcer of the faction. Billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World”, her muscular physique and intimidating looks made her unlike any other female wrestler the WWE had signed. In January 1999, she became the first woman to ever compete in the annual Royal Rumble match and made history once again in October that year, becoming the first and only woman in WWE history to win the Intercontinental Championship. She was also a former WWE Women’s Champion, winning the title at Wrestlemania X-Seven and holding the title for seven months, until leaving the company in November 2001.

Chyna left a legacy in her four years with the WWE that is nearly impossible to be matched by any other woman wrestler. She displayed a level of dominance over her male and female counterparts in the industry in a manner that looked both impressive and believable. Unfortunately, after her wrestling career ended, Chyna struggled with drugs and alcohol, which ultimately cut her life short. She passed away on April 20th after an accidental overdose of alcohol, anxiety pills, painkillers, and sleeping pills at the age of 45.

Jensen Toussaint, Spark Sports Editor