The Craziest Leaping Plays in Sports

Andrew BlumettiCorrespondent IJune 28, 2012

The Craziest Leaping Plays in Sports

0 of 30

    Fire up Google in your browser.  Now search for the term "leap".  Don't worry, we'll wait... 

    Surprisingly, the results will be littered way too heavily with the early-90's Scott Bakula sci-fi snoozer series, Quantum Leap.  It's 2012 for crying out loud, maybe Google's broken. 

    Doesn't make for a good sporting article, trust me.

    Stand in front of an office water cooler on a mundane Monday morning during football season, and you're sure to hear something different though.

    There are some plays just made for YouTube. Just made to be watched over and over until your finger aches from clicking the replay button.  Just made to provoke a crowded sports bar raise hands in united cheer.  Just made to be discussed over and over with friends, family and sports fans and foes alike. 

    Those "Did you see that?!?" kinds of moments—ones that not only add dramatic effect, but those that literally defy physics and common logic. Clips showing players giving up their bodies for the game, teammates and fans. 

    A few short seconds can create a hero.  It could be a football player launching their body into mid-air like a cannonball, a charging outfielder risking his health to slam into a wall or a basketball player lifting off so high he might come back down with snow on his head. 

    These are the plays make us re-watch endlessly.  These are the plays we can't wait to discuss.  These plays are history without words. 

    Most importantly, these are the plays that remind us why we love seemingly simple games. 

30. Richard Zednik's Jumping Goal

1 of 30

    Date:  February 5, 2009

     

    For some clumsy people it's difficult enough to stay upright on ice skate. For Richard Zednik of the Florida Panthers, catching some air is a piece of cake. 

    Now scoring while doing it?  Just sweet, sweet icing.

    Zednik, who survived a life-threatening slash to the neck from a teammate's skate blade in 2008, returned to the game a year later without missing a step, and provided one of the NHL's most amazing goals ever. 

    In a mid-air hurdling jump, Zednik managed to somehow get his stick down and score a goal during a game against the New York Islanders in 2009. 

    For the Panthers, it was a goal for their history books.  For the Islanders, it was just one of the many inventive ways they've found to be scored on in recent years.

29. Baylor's Diving TD vs. Kansas State

2 of 30

    Date:  October 1, 2011

     

    Bears can fly...

    In the third quarter of a game against Kansas State, Baylor quarterback, and soon-to-be-NFL über-star Robert Griffin III, rocket-launched a missile pass 35-yards to receiver Kendall Wright. 

    The second Wright's fingers made contact with the pigskin, he stretched out, hit the purple-painted end zone, and tumbled out of the end zone.

    His reward:  six to Baylor's total after an official's review. 

    Our reward:  one heck of a touchdown pass to watch. 

28. LeBron's Dunk over John Lucas

3 of 30

    Date:  January 29, 2012

     

    Sure, the Miami Heat can dunk.  We've all seen it, and we all know it.  You don't get paid boat-loads of money and win championships if you can't do the big stuff. 

    This first-quarter alley-oop pass from Dwayne Wade to LeBron James wasn't just another play though.   

    When the Bulls' John Lucas was in the way of Wade's pass, James just leaped directly over the 5'11" point guard, slamming the ball in with one-hand and lighting the Miami home-crowd on fire. 

    See?  Apparently LeBron can make a decision quickly.

27. Jaguars Mascot Flies Above the Fans

4 of 30

    Date:  Every Jaguars Home Game

     

    Jaxson de Ville, the playful mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars has a notorious history for his rambunctious antics.  He's even been reprimanded by the league for being too involved with the game a few times.

    Recent years have seen Jaxson take those madcap antics to new heights, literally. 

    The mascot's most daring stunt is a bungee-jump leap from the terrifyingly high EverBank Field light towers, followed by zip-line ride over the crowd, shooting out confetti or stuffed animals along the route. 

    In a December 2009 game, Jaxson got stuck on the zip-line, hanging over the crowd for three minutes before he could be freed by rescue crews. 

26. "The Leap by the Lake"

5 of 30

    Date:  October 3, 1998

     

    The Arizona Wildcats' last timeout had been called. There were a few precious seconds left on the game clock. Arizona quarterback Ortege Jenkins knew the weight of the next play.

    The ball was snapped and Jenkins dropped back to the 20- yard line.  His receivers were covered like zombies overrunning a ramshackle, poorly defended house.  It was either throw an incomplete pass or...

    Jenkins saw an opening down the middle and began charging down the field.  The Huskies' defenders ran in to meet him—the force of the collision sending Jenkins into the end zone with a circus-worthy front-flip. 

    Six points later, the whistle blew, and Jenkins' teammates piled on him in celebration of one of the school's most dramatic victories. 

25. Masato Akamatsu's Spiderman Play

6 of 30

    Date:  August 3, 2010

     

    The Amazing Spiderman hits theaters next week, but if you want real gravity-defying acrobatics, look no further than this Japanese outfielder's home run-robbing grab.

    During a Nippon Professional Baseball game between the Hiroshima Carp and the Yokohama BayStars, Yokahama's slugger, Shuichi Murata, launched a sure-fire home run rocket towards left-center field. 

    The homer would never happen though.

    In a Parkour-worthy moment, Hiroshima's center fielder, Masato Akamatsu, ascended the outfield wall, climbing it faster than this guy.  Reaching the apex, he spun around, snatched the ball and leaped down, robbing the home run in an unlikely play that looked straight out of a Mega Man video game. 

24. Troy Polamalu Leaps the Line

7 of 30

    Date: September 19, 2010

     

    Headline:  Troy Polamalu goes "Head and Shoulders" above the rest!

    Steelers safety Troy Polamalu has been an absolute nightmare for offenses to deal with in his illustrious NFL career.  Interceptions, blocked passes and heavy coverage are all par for the course when this ocean of hair takes the field.

    This 2010 early-season game against the Titans being a perfect example of Polamalu's skills causing coaches to hit the Advil a bit early. 

    Unexpectedly leaping the pack and flying through the air upon the snap of the ball, it took a fraction of a second for Polamalu to take out Titans' quarterback Kerry Collins on a first-and-goal play. 

23. LeGarrette Blount's Hurdling Run

8 of 30

    Date:  October 31, 2010

     

    On Halloween 2010, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeGarrette Blount took to the air like a blood-sucking vampire bat.

    Blount, the boxing Duck, clearly hasn't received the memo that his 6'0'', 250 pound frame isn't built to hurdle defenders, and he's making highlight reels left and right by defying those odds. 

22. Roy Williams' Superman Leap

9 of 30

    Date:  October 6, 2001

     

    Ask any Oklahoman, and they'll just refer to it as the "Superman Play". 

    In a brutal Big 12 battle, the Oklahoma Sooners were leading the rival Texas Longhorns 7-3 with just over two minutes to play.  Longhorns quarterback Chris Simms hiked the ball, only to look up and see airborne Sooners linebacker Roy Williams, flying directly at him like a charging, flying bull in a maroon jersey.

    Simms' doomed pass popped out, and landed directly in the hands of Sooners linebacker Teddy Lehman, who strutted into the end zone with ease, sealing a 14-3 victory for Oklahoma. 

21. S.J. Green's One-Handed Catch

10 of 30

    Date: July 1, 2010

     

    S.J. Green, receiver for the Montreal Alouettes, of the CFL, made an incredible one-handed reach for this overtime two-point conversion pass.

    The successful conversion helped tie the score and force another overtime round against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. 

    Sorry Canada, all the great plays you can pull off won't make up for this

20. Otis Nixon Robs Andy Van Slyke's Homer

11 of 30

    Date:  July 25, 1992

     

    Center fielder Otis Nixon played for so many teams that his hat collection must look like the wall at Lids. 

    Out of all those teams, it's Atlanta Braves fans who will most remember Nixon for this classic home run-robber.

    In a summer-evening game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Nixon got some air that would make Michael Jordan jealous, as he leaped the outfield wall, stealing what seemed to be a sure home run away from Pirates outfielder, Andy Van Slyke.

    The 1992 season was the Pirates last winning season to date.  Sure, that was the last season Barry Bonds would don the black and gold, but perhaps "the Curse of Otis Nixon" may have played a hand as well.  

19. Boris Becker's Wimbledon Dive

12 of 30

    Date:  July 6, 1986

     

    The 100th edition of Wimbledon, tennis' most prestigious tournament, featured one of its truly memorable moments, due in part to then 18-year old Boris Becker and one of his patented dives. 

    Becker's second consecutive Wimbledon title was capped off by a submarine dive in the final game of the final set. 

    His now-trademark dive was met with a dying ball that had clipped the net.  A grounded Becker thought quick and with a snappy backhand, tapped the ball, landing it perfectly over the net, perfectly out of the reach of opponent, Ivan Lendl. 

18. Blake Griffin's Dunk on Perkins

13 of 30

    Date:  January 30, 2012

     

    In Blake Griffin's young NBA career, he's had his share of impressive dunks.  Perhaps the cream of the crop occurred in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder this past January. 

    In a YouTube-worthy monster slam, Chris Paul fed the ball to Griffin, and he proceeded to dunk, and dunk big, over Kendrick Perkins.

    Even impressed was superstar LeBron James, who controversially tweeted, "Dunk of the Year! @blakegriffin just dunked on Kendrick Perkins so hard!!! Wow! I guess I'm No. 2 now. Move over #6."

17. Knowshon Moreno Goes Airborne

14 of 30

    Date:  September 20, 2008

     

    Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno may have needed to submit a flight plan for this play.

    On a steamy night in Tempe, the Arizona State Sun Devils hosted the visiting Georgia Bulldogs.  ASU held Georgia scoreless in the first quarter, but the 'Dawgs couldn't be leashed for long as the second quarter brought down an onslaught of touchdowns from the Southern boys. 

    The first being this four-yard catapulting launch from Moreno, landing him into the end zone and sending the Georgia faithful home smiling and itching for air conditioning. 

16. "Catch 42"

15 of 30

    Date:  February 3, 2008

     

    The New York Giants weren't supposed to win Super Bowl XLII...but apparently no one told them that. 

    No secret to anyone, this historic late-game catch from Eli Manning to David Tyree against the New England Patriots is a Super Bowl moment never to be repeated. 

    Similar leaps are often seen in late-game Hail Mary passes, but the improbability of the helmet-hugging catch that followed makes this a play for the ages. 

15. Lynn Swann Attempts to Leap a Car

16 of 30

    Date:  October 25, 1979

     

    Sure, we know, Superman can leap about twenty of these without breaking a sweat.

    Steelers' legend, Lynn Swann, is no stranger to some famous amazing acrobatic moments of his own, but his 1979 post-endzone car-hurdling feat is often his most overlooked. 

    Naturally, one wouldn't expect the outskirts of an end zone to turn into the set out of Wipeout!, but Swann, in a blink-of-an-eye reaction, handled it with grace and quick thinking. 

14. Derrick Salberg's Acrobatic Game-Ender

17 of 30

    Date:  May 25, 2012

     

    Just a mere month ago, one of the most impressive baseball leaps in recent memory occurred. 

    It was the first round of the 2012 NWAACC Baseball Championships.  With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Lower Columbia College led Everett Community College by a score of 4-2.

    ECC had a man on base and the tying run, designated hitter Keone Kela, at the plate.  He blasted a rocket deep into left field, a hit headed for the fences that seemed sure to tie the game at four. 

    Then outfielder Derrick Salberg shockingly made an Olympic-worthy jump, easily clearing the four-foot outfield wall, and making the catch, saving the game for LCC. 

    From the Daily News

    "By far the best catch I've ever made,” Salberg said of the Sportscenter Top-10 worthy catch. “I was waiting for the bullpen pitchers to tell me I was getting close to the fence. Thank God I didn’t run into the fence, and I've got some hops."

13. Derek Jeter's Dive into the Seats

18 of 30

    Date:  July 1, 2004

     

    Everyone hopes to go to a ball game and catch a souvenir ball.  Well, how about catching a millionaire? 

    Never one to back down from a highlight-reel moment, Derek Jeter's 2004 dive into the stands of a marathon 13-inning game against the rival Boston Red Sox, remains a modern-day Bronx Bombers classic.

    In the 12th inning, Boston's Trot Nixon sent a bloop hit over third base, Jeter made a running catch, then the seats caught him.  Jeter gave up his body as momentum sent him flying head-first rows into the stands. 

    He arose from the blue seats, bloodied, bruised, and ball-in-glove.

    The Yankees would end up winning the game one inning later, but without their captain, who was nursing a cut-up chin in a New York hospital room. 

12. Michael Jordan's Free-Throw Line Dunk

19 of 30

    Date:  February 6, 1988

     

    "Boomshakalaka!"

    Michael Jordan won his second consecutive Slam Dunk Contest title in 1988 over Dominique Wilkins with this NBA-Jam worthy slam, that not only was stylistically impressive, but was lifted-off from the free-throw line. 

11. First Lambeau Leap Ever

20 of 30

    Date:  December 26, 1993

     

    Some puns about LeRoy Butler's inaugural post-touchdown leap into the crowd at Lambeau Field:

     

    - "That's why he makes the big cheddar!"

    - "That's a Gouda play!"

    - "This leap is total can't-miss Swiss bliss!"

    - "Butler's serving up leaps to the fans!"

    - "No American Idiots here in Green Bay!"

    - "What a muenster leap!"

10. Reggie Bush's 6-Yard TD Dive

21 of 30

    Date:  October 25, 2009

     

    You don't think you're gonna win over Kim Kardashian with some C+ moves, do you? 

    Then Saints running back Reggie Bush highlighted a high-scoring mid-season matchup with the Miami Dolphins with a touchdown run off a double-reverse that ended with an improbable six-yard dive into the end zone.

    To put that staggering distance in perspective, line up three six-foot tall people end-to-end on the ground, or roughly the height of Snooki's bouffant.   

9. Lavar Arrington Leaps the Line

22 of 30

    Date:  October 31, 1998

     

    That Halloween gave us the birth of "The Lavar Leap". 

    In the fourth quarter of a game against Big Ten rival Illinois, Penn State's linebacker Lavar Arrington went airborne on a fourth-and-short play.

    Well, not just airborne, more into orbit.  Anticipating the snap count, Arrington dove over the offensive line, and snared Fighting Illini running back Elmer Hickman for a one-yard loss. 

8. Horizontal Victory for Bobby Orr

23 of 30

    Date:  May 10, 1970

     

    Perhaps not the "craziest" leap, but certainly one of the most iconic, and for that alone, it's top-ten worthy. 

     

    "If it had gone by me, it's a two-on-one. So I got a little lucky there, but Derek gave me a great pass and when I got the pass I was moving across. As I skated across, Glenn had to move across the crease and had to open his pads a little. I was really trying to get the puck on net, and I did. As I went across, Glenn's legs opened. I looked back, and I saw it go in, so I jumped." - Bobby Orr

7. John Elway's Helicopter Dive

24 of 30

    Date:  January 25, 1998

     

    You don't lead your team to Super Bowl victory by not going big on the big stage.

    Late in the third quarter of Super Bowl XXXII, with the score tied at 17, Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway charged forward with the ball on a third-and-six play.  As he dove, Packers safety LeRoy Butler made contact, sending Elway spinning, his motion imitating a helicopter. 

    The Broncos would go on to score two plays later, and Elway's "helicopter" dive is credited with invigorating his team who would hoist the Lombardi Trophy shortly after. 

    Butters approves

6. Vince Carter's Monster Olympic Dunk

25 of 30

    Date:  September 25, 2000

     

    In the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Vince Carter took to the skies, basketball in hand, providing one of the most impressive dunks in basketball history.

    The incredible dunk in question was over the 7'2" French giant Fred Weis. The French refereed to the play as "le dunk de la mort" or "the Dunk of Death". 

    The only taller French figure Carter could've scaled would be the Eiffel Tower. 

5. Tom Chambers' Devistating Dunk

26 of 30

    Date:  January 27, 1989

     

    A more glorious dunk than an Oreo in an ice cold glass of milk...

    Sure he had "Joey Gladstone circa the entire Full House run" hair but Phoenix Suns Tom Chambers wreaked more havoc over a New York entity than the Cloverfield monster.

    From right inside the free-throw line, Chambers lifted off and threw a knee right into New York Knicks' Mark Jackson's neck as if he wasn't even present. 

    Looking overpowering from start to finish, he rose higher than eye-level with the rim, and completed one of the NBA's fiercest slams of all time.

4. Bob Beamon's World Record Jump

27 of 30

    Date:  October 18, 1968

     

    During the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, Bob Beamon, an American long-jumper entered the games as a favorite, and left as a world-record holder.

    Jumping a distance of over 29 feet, Beamon shattered the existing record by more than a foot and a half. 

    Being that the score was announced in metric units, he was unaware of his feet's feat at first.  Upon hearing the news, he feel to his knees in joyous celebration. 

    His jump was so impressive, a new term, "Beamonesque", was later coined to describe astonishing feats. 

3. Fan's Insane Jump on Monday Night Football

28 of 30

    Date:  September 11, 1995

     

    Well, this knucklehead's gotta get bonus points for the hair alone. 

    Early into the 1995 season, during a smash-mouth Monday night battle between the Bears and the Packers, common sense took a leap out the window and this Bears fan took a leap off the stands.

    A national television audience witnessed Mike Pantazis take a 15-foot free fall, catching Kevin Butler's point-after kick in the process.  He landed safely in the entrance tunnel, much to the surprise of everyone in attendance, including the Monday Night Football announcers.

    In an interview following the catch, he credited his "good hands" to his high school football days.  Surprisingly he gave no love to his sweet mullet, copious amounts of alcohol, or his daughter Miley, who would one day become "Hannah Montana". 

2. Fordham Player Flips over Catcher at the Plate

29 of 30

    Date:  April 20, 2010

     

    Immediately picked as ESPN's "Play of the Day" here is one of the most gravity-defying acrobatic feats on a baseball diamond that wasn't performed by Ozzie Smith.

    In the midst of a nine-run rally in the eighth inning, Fordham Rams shortstop Brian Kownacki was rounding third on a line-drive go-ahead hit into center by Chris Walker.  Iona Gales catcher, James Beck, took stance for a play at the plate, ready for the tag. 

    In a twist worthy of Saw film, instead of the tried-and-true route of sliding, Kownacki took the opposite route—the air.  To everyone's surprise, he performed a front-flip, easily clearing the catcher, and landing squarely on home plate. 

    Iona fruitlessly argued the play, but at the end of the day, Fordham was victorious and the sports world would soon "flip" over the somersaulting play at the plate.  

1. Jerome Simpson's Amazing Acrobatic TD

30 of 30

    Date:  December 24, 2011

     

     

    Bengals players are usually more likely to be seen on an episode of COPS over the past few years, but just last Christmas Eve, Jerome Simpson's Olympic-worthy flipping touchdown landed them on ESPN highlights instead. 

    It was aroutine pass from quarterback Andy Dalton, followed by a routing catch and a routine run. Until the three-yard line that is... 

    Simpson, holding the ball one-handed, took a forward somersault, clearing an Arizona Cardinals defender on the goal-line and scoring a near-flawless landing that'd make gymnast Shawn Johnson jealous. 

    He settled for six points, but it's hard not to give him a perfect ten for this aerobatic assault on Arizona.