Tick-tock.The last hours, minutes and seconds of 2013 are racing to an end.Tick-tock.Frankly, it’s time to say, “good riddance,” to a year that didn’t live up to expectations. As in, the Kings didn’t win a second consecutive Stanley Cup title but did have to wait three months to raise their first championship banner because of the NHL lockout, which chopped the 82-game regular season down to 48 contests.As in, USC and UCLA didn’t win much of anything in either football or basketball, but did fire and hire new coaches in their signature sports.But, hey, it could be worse. We could live in some sports backwater like, say, New York and have to suffer with a parade of inept teams like the Yankees and Mets, Knicks and Nets, Rangers, Devils and Islanders and Giants and Jets. Now that would really stink.Here are the top sports stories of 2013, such as they were:1. Dodgers’ return to gloryHow could you not feel the seismic shift that happened last summer? Only a true hater, or maybe one of those transplants you see now and again at the ballpark in the jersey of an opposing team, wouldn’t feel romantic about the way the Dodgers’ season unfolded.Ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw called out his teammates one June night in San Diego and, suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place. The Dodgers won 42 of 50 games during one record-tying stretch that had many fans dreaming of a wonderland the club hadn’t visited since 1988.You know, the World Series.It was a rough few years with the transition in ownership from Frank McCourt to the free-spending Guggenheim Group and its billions of dollars. But the Dodgers suddenly looked like a team that was going places. Good places. Nice places. Happy places.Kershaw, en route to the National League Cy Young Award, helped the Dodgers chart a winning course. Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig joined in the fun, even if he had some much trouble with the fundamentals of the game that old-timers cringed every time he picked up the baseball.Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Juan Uribe helped to make it cool to return to Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers lost in the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, but spending a summer night at the ballpark was a good time again.2. Bryant’s injuries multiplyNothing symbolized the current state of the Lakers more than the sight of Bryant bravely shooting two free throws and then limping off the court for the final time in 2012-13 after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the closing moments of a game last April.He vowed to return to the lineup this season and he did, only to suffer a knee injury earlier this month that could sideline him for six weeks or more, casting doubt on the wisdom of signing him to a two-year, $48.5-million contract extension.Bryant promised he would return on schedule when his knee heals. He desperately wants to be a part of the Lakers’ restructuring when they finally achieve salary-cap freedom next summer, and free agents like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony might become available.Question is, will Bryant still have a leg to stand on by then? 3. USC football sagaLet’s see if we have this straight: Lane Kiffin was fired on the tarmac at LAX, Ed Orgeron stepped in and breathed new life into the program, but wasn’t hired to replace Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian was lured away from Washington and the Trojans were thrilled to win the Las Vegas Bowl?Yikes.It’s been a rocky road for the USC football family since the NCAA came down hard on the program after Pete Carroll fled for the Seattle Seahawks in the wake of the scandal. It was good to see the players smiling again after Kiffin got sacked and a sense of fun returned to the Trojans, however.Despite his connection to USC, Kiffin never seemed to be the right man in the right place at the right time. He often looked like an unprepared undergrad on his way to a class he’d skipped all too often and suddenly had to figure out how to pass an impending midterm exam.Sarkisian’s hiring should restore a level of confidence that was sadly lacking under Kiffin. 4. Jerry Buss diesIt’s hard to imagine what the Lakers were like when Buss bought the team in 1979. Mostly, they were cloaked in failure, having won only one NBA championship while serving as punching bag for the Boston Celtics for the better part of two decades.Buss changed everything. He ushered in the “Showtime” and “Shaq” championship eras and then watched happily as Bryant and Pau Gasol teamed for two more titles to bring the franchise’s total to 10 during his ownership and 16 overall, dating to the years in Minneapolis.The Lakers became a regional obsession, a team that unites a sprawling, fractured metropolis. The ritual placing of Lakers flags on cars became an annual rite of spring in Southern California, much like the blooming of the Jacaranda trees and their purple flowers.That was the legacy of Buss, who died this year at 80.5. Dwight Howard sagaThe Dwightmare, as it came to be known, ended when he signed a contract with the Houston Rockets rather than re-up with the Lakers. Oh, Dwight, we hardly knew ya. What we did know of ya, we didn’t like a whole heck of a lot. One-and-done, don’t let the door hit you in the rear.Howard couldn’t make a free throw and couldn’t live up to expectations, either. When the Lakers moved heaven and earth to acquire him from the Orlando Magic, it seemed he would be next to join the great line of Lakers centers. Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal and Howard.It never happened.Howard was ejected from his final Lakers game before halftime of a playoff elimination loss to the San Antonio Spurs, passing a confused Bryant in the hallway. Injured and unable to play, Bryant was on his way to the court to watch the game. Howard left with a whimper, not a bang.6. UCLA basketball sagaWell, it’s not the first time UCLA turned to a young coach with Indiana roots. Fellow by the name of John Wooden put the Bruins basketball program on the map with 10 national championships in 12 seasons way back when.No one is asking Steve Alford to do the same, but a little consistency would be nice.UCLA fired Ben Howland after a second-round tournament loss to Minnesota last spring and the departure of Shabazz Muhammad for the NBA draft. The Bruins wanted a fresh start after completing a long-awaited renovation of storied Pauley Pavilion, and Alford was the man to lead it. 7. Clippers win but loseChange came to the Clippers, too. After leading them to their first Pacific Division title, Vinny Del Negro was fired following a first-round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Doc Rivers was lured from the Celtics and Chris Paul signed a five-season, $107-million extension.The big question was put to rest when the Clippers decided against raising a division championship banner. Then they raised a few hackles by covering the Lakers and Sparks title banners at Staples Center with a set of promotional banners featuring Paul, Blake Griffin and others.8. NHL lockout ends; Kings raise bannerKings fans waited 45 years to see their team hoist the Stanley Cup in victory. Then they had to wait an extra three months to see a championship banner raised to the rafters, thanks to a nasty, bitter and ultimately senseless lockout of the players by NHL owners.The Kings then quietly and confidently turned a shortened season of celebration into a second consecutive campaign to remember by advancing to the Western Conference finals last spring before losing to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.9. Hollywood Park closesThe “Sport of Kings” took another hard knock when Hollywood Park was shuttered earlier this month, another blow from which horse racing might never recover. The days when horse racing, boxing and baseball made up the biggest sports stories of the year are long since passed.Hollywood Park’s acreage will be turned into more homes and more shopping centers, and no doubt that will be a boon to the economy of Inglewood and surrounding cities. It marks the end of a sporting era that might not survive another generation, however.10. UCLA football resurgenceWe started with a feel-good story in the Dodgers and we end with another one. Brett Hundley’s strong arm and legs led a Bruins resurgence in football that included a 35-14 rout of rival USC and continues with a Sun Bowl appearance New Year’s Eve against Virginia Tech.Jim Mora felt so good about the future in Westwood that he signed a contract extension with UCLA rather than pursue the coaching vacancy created by Sarkisian’s departure for USC from Mora’s alma mater of Washington. Good times, indeed. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Tick-tock.So, raise a glass of your favorite beverage in anticipation of 2014.Surely, the new year won’t be as bad as 2013 was for the Southern California sports fan. Without a championship team to call our own or a local Olympic hero to celebrate, it was largely a season of misfortune and misgivings, highlighted by what didn’t happen.As in, the Dodgers’ new owners spent a ton of dough on their new toy, but didn’t produce a World Series championship with all that money. As in, Dwight Howard didn’t stick around despite the Lakers’ unprecedented and embarrassing attempts to re-sign the enigmatic center.As in, Kobe Bryant didn’t get a chance to return to form after suffering an Achilles tendon injury because he cracked a bone in his knee and it didn’t seem wise for the Lakers to sign the fading superstar guard to a hugely expensive contract extension.