The 12 events that made 2016 a truly unpredictable year

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U.S. President-elect Donald Trump delivered brief remarks to reporters at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. December 28, 2016.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

2016 was an eventful year.

It saw a string of unexpected shakeups in music, entertainment, and politics, both in the United States and abroad.

From the deaths of cultural icons like Prince, shocking wins and losses in the sports arena, and Donald Trump’s unprecedented rise to the presidency, here are some of the world-changing events we never saw coming.


David Bowie dies after battling cancer

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A lock of the late rock star David Bowie’s hair was sold for $18,000.
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Jo Hale/ Getty Images

Music legend David Bowie died in January at the age of 69 following an 18-month-long battle with cancer. The music industry and fans around the world erupted with messages of support and grief for the late singer.

“David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime,” Kanye West tweeted.

“As well as being a wonderful and kind man, [Bowie] was an extraordinary artist, and a true original,” The Rolling Stones wrote.

“He never seemed of this earth. Now he’s left it. He bent rules, gender, genres, and our minds. RIP David Bowie. One. Of. A. Kind,” tweeted Josh Groban.


The death of boxing great Muhammad Ali

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Getty Images/Andrew H. Walker

Muhammad Ali, perhaps the biggest name in sports history and a decorated civil rights activist, died in April at age 74 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Even as his health waned, Ali stayed true to his lifelong involvement in activism and did not shy away from controversy – he was one of the first to speak out against President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to ban all Muslims from immigrating to the US, saying, “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

Ali was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, and his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky opened the Muhammad Ali Center, which is dedicated to chronicling the heavyweight champion’s life and career, but also to promoting equality and tolerance.


The death of pop icon Prince

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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Prince Rogers Nelson, died unexpectedly at the age of 57 in April from an overdose on fentanyl, a powerful painkiller that’s 50 times stronger than pure heroin.

Best known simply by his first name, Prince was one of the singular music talents of his generation, crossing genres from funk and soul to rock and pop.

Born in Minneapolis, he performed in the local music scene from a young age before his breakout 1979 album, “Prince,” went platinum.

Often compared to the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna, he was one of the most commercially successful artists of all time, selling over 100 million records worldwide. He brought a unique R&B sensibility to the mainstream, spanning albums like “Controversy,” “1999,” and “Purple Rain,” the hit soundtrack for the 1984 film of the same name. He frequently performed with his backing band, The Revolution.


The Cleveland Cavaliers recover from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Championship

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Ronald Martinez/Getty

The Cleveland Cavaliers became NBA Champions in June by pulling off a seemingly impossible task – coming back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit against the defending champions, the Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs became the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-1 Finals deficit, winning the first championship for the city of Cleveland since 1964.

In an exciting back-and-forth Game 7 in Oakland California, the Cavs erased a seven-point deficit at halftime to win 93-89. LeBron James led the way with a triple-double: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists. He was named the 2016 Finals’ MVP.


Brexit happened

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In this photo, Brexit supporters form a counter demonstration as Pro-Europe demonstrators protest during a “March for Europe” against the Brexit vote result earlier in the year, in London, Britain.
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Thomson Reuters

Brexit – a portmanteau of “British” and “exit” – is the nickname for Britain’s exit from the European Union initiated after a June 23 referendum which asked voters whether Britain should remain in or leave the EU.

The world was shocked Brexit won, despite pollsters’ and pundits’ predictions that voters would choose to remain by a wide margin.

Brexit prompted another major political upheaval: the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron stepped down after he failed to persuade voters to stay in the EU, despite warnings that leaving would be crippling for the British economy.


Gawker shuts down — with help from Silicon Valley titan Peter Thiel

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Founders Fund partner Peter Thiel.
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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times

In mid-August, controversial news and gossip website Gawker folded under the weight of a lawsuit brought against the company by ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Hogan, who alleged that Gawker had invaded his privacy by publishing part of a sex tape he had made on the site, won $140 million in the lawsuit which bankrupted the company – and was largely financed by billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

In a bombshell interview published in May by The New York Times, Thiel said “it was worth fighting back” against the outlet, which in 2007 published an article titled “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”


Turkey’s military coup

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People stand on a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016.
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Reuters/Huseyin Aldemir

In July, a faction within the Turkish military called the “Peace at Home Council” attempted to seize power from the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party and declare martial law.

It deployed forces into Istanbul and Ankara, and over 250 people were killed in clashes between the rebels and pro-government forces. Though the fighting was brutal, the coup was quelled by the Turkish government within 24 hours.

In the fallout, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan has tightened his control over the government and curbed dissent by ordering a clamp down on the press and academia, along with a widespread purge of civil servants, police officers, and soldiers.


John Glenn’s death

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US astronaut and senator John Glenn.
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NASA via Agence France-Presse

The scientific community and world at large mourned the death of John Glenn, decorated American astronaut. Glenn was 95 when he died, and he had been hospitalized for more than a week prior to his death.

Glenn achieved a number of extraordinary feats during his life and career, including being the first person to orbit the earth, becoming a United States senator, authoring the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978 to fight the rise of nuclear weapons, being the oldest person to fly into space (he was 77 when he went on his last mission in 1998), and being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.


The Chicago Cubs win the World Series.

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Chicago Cubs players celebrate after winning the World Series on November 2, 2016.
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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series on November 2 for the first time in over a century.

The Cubs bested the Cleveland Indians with an 8-7 victory in Game 7 of the World Series. FiveThirtyEight had estimated that the team had a 15% chance of winning, but they beat the odds – and their fans couldn’t have been happier.


President-elect Donald Trump

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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 21, 2016.
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REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In one of the most stunning upsets in modern political history, billionaire and reality television star Donald Trump beat his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the 2016 presidential election.

Despite a polling disadvantage and a long series of gaffes that may have been a death knell to any other presidential campaign, Trump tore down the Big Blue Wall of states that most predicted would vote for Clinton.


The sudden death of pop icon George Michael.

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George Michael.
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Michael Putland/Getty Images

Pop singer George Michael died suddenly on Christmas Day at the age of 53.


The death of Carrie Fisher — and her mother, one day later

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ses with her daughter actress Carrie Fisher backstage after accepting her Lifetime Achievement award at the 21st annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California January 25, 2015.
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Mike Blake/Reuters

Carrie Fisher, the iconic actress who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise, died two days after Christmas after suffering a massive heart attack. She was 60.

Fisher was widely lauded not just as an actress, but as an author, feminist icon, mental health advocate, and free spirit who was never far away from her beloved bulldog, Gary.

Fisher’s mother, iconic actress Debbie Reynolds, died one day later of a stroke.