14 of the Biggest Celebrity Heroes of 2016
This past year was rough for a lot of people, but it's in our lowest moments where we get to see who the real heroes are among us.
For better or worse, 2016 gave many opportunities for heroic acts and we're looking back at a few people who rose to the challenge.
PICS: Social Media Posts That Changed the Game in 2016
1. Shannen Doherty
The 45-year-old actress has bravely shared her bout with cancer, documenting her journey for fans on social media and giving strength to those in a similar situation. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2015, Doherty announced this year that the cancer spread to her lymph nodes.
"The unknown is always the scariest part," she told ET. "Is the chemo going to work? Is the radiation going to work? You know, am I going to have to go through this again, or am I going to get secondary cancer? Everything else is manageable. Pain is manageable, you know living without a breast is manageable, it's the worry of your future and how your future is going to affect the people that you love."
Another of the more difficult experiences has been losing her iconic hair -- the long dark locks and blunt bangs she has sported since her Brenda Walsh days. Thankfully, the Beverly Hills, 90210 actress has the support of her mom, best friends, and her husband of five years, Kurt Iswarienko. With their help she was able to turn a heartbreaking moment into an inspiring one when she shared photos of herself shaving her head four months ago.
2. LeBron James
James ended a 52-year championship drought for the city of Cleveland, Ohio. The city's prodigal son returned to the Cavaliers for the 2014-15 season to fulfill his lifelong dream of bringing a championship to the troubled NBA franchise only to be thwarted by a dominant Golden State Warriors squad.
Even after two championships with the Miami Heat, no victory would be as meaningful to the four-time MVP than if he could raise the trophy for his home team. So when the Cavs were rematched with the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, James couldn't let the opportunity slip away.
In a heart-pounding Game 7, James and the Cavs became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals, putting a damper on the Warriors all-time best 73-9 regular season record. Away from the court, the LeBron James Family Foundation pledged to provide more than 1,100 students a full ride to college, which could cost up to $41 million. The students would receive their scholarships under the condition that they graduate high school with a 3.0 GPA.
In addition to remaining flawless, the GRAMMY winner did not shy away from political messages over the past year. She stole the show as a "special guest" performer in the Super Bowl Halftime Show by evoking images of the Black Panthers and showing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Through her visual album, Lemonade, the superstar gave a voice to black women in a way that was unprecedented in mainstream media by featuring the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Oscar Grant. The women later joined Beyonce on the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards.
4. The "Final Five" Gymnastics Team
Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas took the world by storm when they took gold at the Rio Olympics. Leading up to the Olympics, commentators unanimously agreed that the other gymnasts were just competing for silver, as Biles was favored to take home gold in all of her events. Still, every member of the Final Five qualified for at least one individual event final. As Biles went on to win three individual gold medals in addition to their team all-around gold medal, the ladies graciously ceded the spotlight to Biles. Hernandez found her own spotlight after the Olympics by winning the mirrorball trophy on Dancing With the Stars.
5. Refugee Olympic Team
For the first time in history, those with no nation to claim had 10 athletes to represent them in the Olympic Games. James Chiengjiek (originally from South Sudan), Yiech Biel (originally from South Sudan), Paulo Lokoro (originally from South Sudan), Yonas Kinde (originally from Ethiopia), Popole Misenga (originally from Democratic Republic of Congo), Rami Anis (originally from Syria), Rose Lokonyen (originally from South Sudan), Angelina Lohalith (originally from South Sudan), Yolande Mabika (originally from Democratic Republic of Congo) and Yusra Mardini (originally from Syria) overcame famine and war to chase their sporting dreams, proudly competing under the Olympic flag.
6. Michelle Obama
During the contentious 2016 presidential election, there was one bright spot when the first lady delivered an emotional and inspiring speech at the Democratic National Convention that renewed many Americans' faith in their country. "Don't let anyone ever tell you that this country isn't great, that somehow we need to make it great again," she said. "Because this right now is the greatest country on Earth!"
7. Leonardo DiCaprio
The fifth time was a charm for the actor in his quest for Oscar gold. The consistently snubbed star won his first Academy Award in February for his performance in The Revenant, getting a huge monkey off his back, but that's only one of the reasons Leo makes our list of heroes. The activist also produced two environmental documentaries, National Geographic Channel's Before the Flood and Netflix's The Ivory Game.
ET caught up with the 42-year-old actor at the Before the Flood premiere in October, where he revealed why he's so passionate about the issue of climate change. "This is the most monumental issue facing our generation and the next, and we need to solve it incredibly quickly," he said.
8. Jamie Foxx
The 48-year-old Oscar winner saved a man from a burning vehicle outside of his Hidden Valley, California, home on Jan. 18. The driver of the vehicle, 32-year-old Brett Kyle, ran his 2007 Toyota Tacoma off the road, after which it hit a ditch, flipped over multiple times and caught fire. Foxx unbuckled the man from the driver's seat and dragged him 30 feet away from the flames.
"I told [Kyle] as we were talking, I said, 'Listen,' as I'm getting him out, 'You gotta help me get you out 'cause I don't want to have to leave you,'" Foxx told ET. "I said, 'You got angels around you. You have angels around you.' I kept saying this."
Foxx also directed his first major film in 2016. The comedy, called All-Star Weekend, features two friends who form a rivalry over their favorite NBA stars. Foxx produced the movie alongside a team that included Sam Warren,Chuck Pacheco and Elijah Long amongst others.
9. Hugh Jackman
The action star proved to be a superhero both on and off-screen when he saved his 15-year-old son, Oscar, and other beachgoers from a dangerous surf at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, on March 26. According to a report from Australia's 9 News, the actor helped his son escape the intense riptide, then waved down others in the water -- including his 10-year-old daughter, Ava -- signaling them to make their way to shore.
10. The Chicago Cubs
Major League Baseball's lovable losers ended a 108-year championship drought by winning the World Series in their 145th season. From the Curse of the Billy Goat (legend has it Billy Goat Tavern owner William Sianis declared the team wouldn't "win no more" after he and his pet goat were kicked out of Wrigley Field in 1945) to the Steve Bartman Incident, when a well-intentioned fan accidentally interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 of the NLCS, the Cubs, and more importantly their fans, have suffered more than their fair share of heartbreak.
In a season that ended in a storybook Game 7, people of all backgrounds rejoiced together over the victory that seemed to symbolize that anything is possible. The win was such a unifying experience that the victory celebration ranked as the 7th largest gathering in human history as 5 million people assembled for the event.
11. Shailene Woodley
In October, the 25-year-old actress was arrested in North Dakota while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 billion oil pipeline that will span 1,100 miles across the Dakotas and into the Missouri River, after a federal judge rejected the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's request to halt construction. As Woodley continues her activism work, she has been honored by the Environmental Media Association.
"I don't know if I'm fearless, but I'm definitely one of those [people] who looks fear in the face," she told ET at the award show. "We are an environmental issue! Right? We are the environment. We are the soil, we come from the earth. In order to survive we need oxygen." Following her arrest, Woodley pleaded not guilty to criminal trespassing and engaging in a riot.
12. Michael Phelps
The Rio Olympics solidified Phelps as one of the greatest Olympians of all time. With 28 medals he is the most decorated Olympian in history -- a feat made even more incredible considering his comeback to the sport of swimming at an age beyond his peak. At 31, he won five gold medals in Rio with his wife Nicole and son Boomer cheering him on.
The swimmer retired in 2012 only to propose a comeback in April 2014. This comeback seemed unlikely, however, after several setbacks. In September 2014, he was arrested for DUI for the second time in 10 years, which led to a stint in rehab. With most of the world counting him out, Phelps pressed on and became the first American male swimmer and second swimmer overall, after Dara Torres, to qualify for a fifth Olympics. Phelps was even chosen as the American flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
13. Megyn Kelly
The Fox News journalist stood her ground through more than eight months of attacks from Donald Trump as he carried out his bid for the U.S. presidency. Trump unleashed a series of verbal attacks at Kelly after she questioned him about some of his past controversial statements about women during a GOP debate that she was moderating. In her book, Settle for More, Kelly writes that her differences with Trump -- which included him calling her "overrated," "angry," "crazy," and "a bimbo" on Twitter -- led to death threats and her family having to take an armed guard to Disney World.
Through it all, Kelly stayed above the fray with her head held high. She claims she even turned down gifts offered to her by Trump, which she suspects were meant to try to win him favor in her coverage of the election. But Kelly's battles didn't stop there. She even went toe-to-toe with her former Fox boss, Roger Ailes. According to New York Magazine, Kelly told lawyers that Ailes "made an unwanted sexual advance toward her in 2006 when she was going through a divorce." Ailes was ousted from the company after Gretchen Carlson filed suit against the media giant.
14. Ryan Reynolds
The Deadpool star supported child cancer patient Connor McGrath through his comic book movie character, and has kept his memory alive since his tragic death. McGrath got a special visit from Reynolds when he was surprised with a special screening of the Marvel movie, and made a huge impact on Reynold's life.
After McGrath died in April following a three-year bout with cancer, Reynolds wrote an emotional post in October on what would have been McGrath's 14th birthday. "He isn't here now, but he stuck around long enough to make everyone he knew fall over laughing," he wrote. "Right up to the very end he was as quick with a joke as he was with a hug."