50 Most Mind-Blowing Endings in Sports
Sporting events, much like great movies, are often made even better by a mind-blowing ending. From buzzer-beating baskets to walk-off home runs to game-winning catches to overtime goals—heck, even penalty kicks (OK, we hate penalty kicks, but you get the point).
Those are the routine plays that elevate highly anticipated sporting events into unforgettable memories, but there’s often a strange and completely unforeseen act that affects the outcome and leaves us completely confused about what we’ve just witnessed.
Spectacular endings can turn an otherwise boring sporting event into an instant classic, all because of a furious flurry of action in the closing minutes or even one unforgettable play. Depending on the outcome, one mind-blowing play can turn a role player into a hero or turn a star into a goat.
Whether our favorite team emerges victorious or our most hated rival crushes our souls, fantastic endings live in our memories forever, leading to the types of moments that are replayed on SportsCenter for eternity.
All of these plays are historic because of the sheer magnitude of the moment in which they occurred. But they are equally as special because of the act itself, be it clutch, a supreme choke job or just plain weird.
Here’s a look at 50 of the most mind-blowing endings in sports history.
50. 1994 Colorado v. Michigan: "The Miracle at Michigan"
Kordell Stewart had varying levels of success as an NFL quarterback, most famously with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he earned the nickname "Slash" for his dual-threat skills as a runner and passer. He was never an elite passer, but one play from Stewart's college days at the University of Colorado will forever be a part of NCAA lore.
On September 24th, 1994, Stewart led the Buffaloes to a stunning 26-25 victory at Michigan with a last-second, 74-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Michael Westbrook. 18 years later, this is still considered one of the greatest Hail Marys in college football history.
49. 1995 NBA Finals Game 1: Nick Anderson Misses Four Consecutive Free Throws
The upstart Orlando Magic, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, were looking to win their first NBA title by knocking off the defending champion Houston Rockets. They held home-court advantage in the series, and O’Neal was vying to snatch the title of the game's best center from Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Magic held a three-point lead in the closing seconds of Game 1, but Orlando guard Nick Anderson missed four consecutive free throws in the closing seconds, opening the door for Kenny Smith’s game-tying three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
The Rockets went on to win the game and sweep the series, as the Magic never recovered from the emotional let down of the Game 1 collapse.
48. 2010 Men's World Cup: Landon Donovan's Goal Helps Team USA Advance
Soccer fans in the United States haven’t had a lot to cheer about over the years regarding the performance of our national team.
So when Landon Donovan punched in this goal versus Algeria to give the United States a 1-0 victory that sent them to the next round of the 2010 World Cup, it felt like we’d won the whole tournament.
47. 1993 Dallas Cowboys v. Miami Dolphins: Leon Lett Becomes Thanksgiving Turkey
You'd think that Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Leon Lett would have learned his lesson about boneheaded plays given his famous fumble during the 1993 Super Bowl. Not so much.
Later that year, during a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day home game against the Miami Dolphins, the Cowboys held a 14-13 lead with seconds left in the fourth quarter. Dallas blocked a 40-yard field-goal attempt that appeared to give them the victory, but Lett inexplicably went to recover the ball after the block.
Once he touched the football, it became live and was recovered by the Dolphins at the 1-yard line with three seconds remaining on the clock. Miami went on to make the second field-goal attempt and escape with a 16-14 victory in one of the more bizarre endings in NFL history.
46. 1982 Stanford v. Cal: "The Play"
The Stanford v. Cal (University of California-Berkeley) football rivalry—otherwise known as "The Big Game"—is one of the more underrated in college sports, but this fall will mark the 30th anniversary of one of the most famous plays in college football history.
The Cardinal had taken a 20-19 lead over the Bears with four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Being the school of brainiacs that they are, Stanford did the intelligent thing by attempting a squib kick to minimize the likelihood of a return and effectively end the game.
Not so fast.
The equally as smart players from Cal miraculously pulled of the most stunning series of laterals in football history, eventually returning the kick for a game-winning touchdown in a 25-20 victory.
What makes the victory more stunning is that the Bears not only made their way through the Stanford kickoff coverage team but also the school’s band, who had prematurely rushed the field in anticipation of a Cardinal victory.
45. 1993 NBA Playoffs: Charles Smith Misses 3 Layups Against Bulls
In the closing seconds of the 1993 NBA Eastern Conference finals, the New York Knicks were fighting to stave off elimination at the hands of the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls.
Trailing by two with about 15 seconds left, Knicks forward Charles Smith missed not one, not two, but three layup attempts that could have tied the game and sent it to overtime. Instead, the Bulls advanced to their third-straight NBA Finals and completed the first of their two three-peats in the Michael Jordan era.
Angry New York fans are still waiting on the refs to call a foul on at least one of Smith’s failed efforts.
44. 1995 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament: Tyus Edney Stuns Mizzou
In the closing seconds of the second round of the 1995 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, the No. 1 ranked UCLA Bruins were on the verge of elimination when point guard Tyus Edney took over.
Trailing 74-73 with 4.8 seconds remaining in the second half, Edney caught the inbounds pass and sprinted through the Missouri defense to make a layup as time expired, keeping UCLA’s season alive. They went on to win their first national championship since the John Wooden era.
43. 1997 No. 1 Nebraska v. Missouri: "The Flea Kicker"
The University of Missouri Tigers have been on the losing end of not one but two of the most bizarre endings in college sports history (actually three for those who remember the infamous fifth-down game against Colorado).
The No.1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers were trailing the Tigers by a touchdown in the closing seconds when wide receiver Matt Davison miraculously caught a pass that was deflected in the end zone and kicked into the air before touching the ground.
With the game tied at 38, Nebraska went on to win in overtime and advance to college football’s national championship game.
42. 1984 No. 10 Boston College at No. 12 Miami: Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary
Considered one of the greatest plays in college football history, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie hoisted a desperation pass into the hands of wide receiver Gerrard Phelan as time expired, giving the Eagles a 47-45 victory over the defending national champion Hurricanes.
41. 2007 NFC Wild Card: Tony Romo Can't Hold on to Beat Seattle Seahawks
Every sports fan has a handful of moments involving at least one of their favorite teams which they will never ever forget exactly where they were when it happened. For me, this is, unfortunately, one of those moments.
Tony Romo had just completed his first full season as the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, and he’d given fans hope that we had indeed found our next Troy Aikman. But long before he developed his reputation for choking away games, Romo delivered this heart-breaking play.
As me, my wife and a bunch of friends sat in my buddy Chris’ condo preparing to go out and celebrate my 30th birthday, the Cowboys were poised to beat the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Round. They trailed 21-20 with 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter, needing only a chip-shot field goal to win.
Romo, still Dallas' regular holder at that point, improbably fumbled the snap and was subsequently tackled just short of the goal line as he attempted to salvage the play with a mad dash for the end zone. Dallas’ playoff drought continued, and my 30th birthday was ruined.
40. 2007 Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Boise State Upsets No. 8 Oklahoma in OT
Upsets aren’t all that uncommon in college football, but this was still one of the more memorable in recent bowl history.
Upstart Boise State Broncos were just beginning to develop their reputation as the Gonzaga of college football when they faced off against traditional power Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Despite being 7.5-point underdogs, the Broncos managed to beat the Sooners 43-42, but that alone didn’t make this game mind-blowing.
Oklahoma had scored 25 unanswered points to take the lead in the final minute, only to see Boise tie the game in the fourth quarter and win it in OT with a series of trick plays that are normally reserved for seven-on-seven drills.
The in-game madness was made even more memorable when Boise star tailback Ian Johnson proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend on live television during the postgame interview. Absolutely fantastic stuff.
39. 1975 NFC Playoffs: Roger Staubach's Hail Mary Defeats the Vikings
When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach completed this game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson to lead the team to a playoff victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the term “Hail Mary” became a part of the common football vernacular.
The term is believed to go back as far as the 1930s, when it was used to refer to any desperation play during a football game. But when Staubach said during the postgame interview, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” the phrase then became known as what it is today: a long, desperation pass attempt.
38. 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Reggie Miller's 8 Points in 9 Seconds
Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller crushed the hearts of the New York Knicks with one of the more improbable sequences that you will ever see in a basketball game at any level.
With the Knicks holding a 105-99 lead with less than 20 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the second-round series, Miller went into a zone like none other ever seen. The Pacers would go on to win the game 107-105 and win the series in seven games, but you really need to watch the video to fully understand the magnitude of Miller’s heroics.
37. Jean Van De Velde's Collapse at 1999 British Open
Jean Van De Velde is a name that is well known to golf enthusiasts but for all the wrong reasons.
Teeing off on the 18th hole during the final round of the 1999 Brtitish Open, Van De Velde needed only a double-bogey six to avoid a playoff and win his first major outright. He shot a seven.
Instead of playing the hole conservatively, he decided to attempt a series of aggressive shots—one of which landed his ball in the Burn—that led to a triple bogey.
Van De Velde went on to lose the four-hole playoff to Scottish golfer Paul Lawrie.
36. 1999 U.S. Open: Payne Stewart Sinks 18-Foot Putt for Dramatic Win
One of Payne Stewart's final moments on Earth was one that every golfer dreams about.
During the final round of the 1999 United States Golf Open, he was faced with an 18-foot putt at the 18th hole at Pinehurst. Stewart needed to make the putt to secure the victory and etch his name into the history books.
He did indeed sink the putt, giving him his second U.S. Open Championship and sealing an improbable win for a talented golfer who had often let his bad attitude derail his life and his golf career.
The win marked a turnaround that was unfortunately cut short when Stewart died in a plane crash in October of that same year.
35. 2000 AFC Wild Card: “The Music City Miracle”
Trailing 16-15 in the waning seconds of an AFC Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fischer admitted after the game that the play was not designed to score a touchdown. He obviously got more than he bargained for.
Fullback Lorenzo Neal caught the kickoff and handed it to tight end Frank Wycheck, who then threw a cross-field lateral (we think) to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Instead of just getting enough yardage to put the Titans in field-goal range, Dyson followed a caravan of Tennessee players into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
While the play itself was crazy enough, it remains controversial because replay seems to be inconclusive as to whether or not Wycheck’s pass to Dyson was a legal backwards lateral or an illegal forward pass.
Tennessee went on the lose the Super Bowl that year to the St. Louis Rams, so perhaps karma caught up to them.
34. 2012 NBA Playoffs: Clippers Overcome 27-Point Deficit to Win Game 1
The Los Angeles Clippers are normally supposed to end up on the losing end of historic collapses like this. But this game may be the biggest sign yet that the culture of losing for L.A.’s other pro hoops team is officially dead.
Trailing by 27 points in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies, things seemed to be just like old times for the Clippers faithful. Except that they weren’t.
Led by point guard Chris Paul’s never-stop-competing attitude, Los Angeles came back to win Game 1 99-98 in the largest comeback in NBA playoff history.
33. 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Larry Bird’s Improbable Steal
The Boston Celtics were not going to surrender their NBA title without a fight.
Trailing the young and hungry Detroit Pistons late in Game 5, Larry Bird stole Isiah Thomas’ inbounds pass and smartly tossed a dart down court to point guard Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.
Instead of heading back to Detroit down 3-2, the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead themselves and eventually won in seven games to advance to the NBA finals, where they eventually fell to the Los Angeles Lakers.
32. Manny Pacquiao “Loses” Split Decision vs Timothy Bradley
Unlike most boxing enthusiasts, I actually believed that Timothy Bradley had more than a puncher's chance to beat Manny Pacquiao in their June 9th, welterweight title match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. I had no idea it would happen the way it did.
Pacquiao seemed to dominate this fight from start to finish, but apparently two out of three judges didn't see it that way. Bradley was awarded a split decision in what many consider the worst decision in boxing history. Anyone who follows professional boxing knows that this is quite a bold statement, but even the WBO review of the fight went in favor of Pacquiao.
31. 1981 NFC Championship Game: "The Catch"
If you were tasked with identifying the exact moment when the shift in power shifted from the Dallas Cowboys to the San Francisco 49ers, this would unquestionably be it.
In the final minute of the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the legend of Joe Montana was born after he hit tight end Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, giving the 49ers a 28-27 victory over the Cowboys and sending the franchise to its first Super Bowl appearance.
30. 2007 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: James Scores 25 Straight to Beat Pistons
Nobody would have imagined using the words “LeBron James” and “choke” in the same sentence just five years ago. Then just 22 years old, James led an overachieving Cleveland Cavaliers team to the NBA Finals with an electrifying performance in the Eastern Conference finals.
In Game 5 against the veteran, championship-tested Detroit Pistons, LeBron scored 25-straight points—and 29 of the team’s final 30—in a double-overtime victory, marking his official transition from boy to man.
Although the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cavaliers in the finals, NBA fans knew then that the sky was the limit for King James.
29. 1972 AFC Divisional Playoffs: “The Immaculate Reception”
The "Immaculate Reception"—which occurred during a 1972 NFL playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders—was, at one time, the most famous catch in NFL playoff history (you'll have to go further up the list to see why it no longer is).
The play itself is wacky, but like so many other plays on this list, the circumstances and controversy surrounding it add to the lore.
In the closing minute of the game, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to wide receiver "Frenchy" Fuqua, but the ball was deflected as Raiders safety Jack Tatum put a vicious hit on Fuqua. Running back Franco Harris caught the deflection and took it in for the game-winning touchdown.
The catch was amazing on its own, but controversy ensued as the Raiders claimed that the catch should not have even been allowed. NFL rules at the time would make it an illegal play if the ball touched Fuqua first without having contact with a Raiders defender.
To this day, the video footage appears to be inconclusive.
28. 1966 FIFA World Cup: Geoff Hurst Wins It for England
The 1966 FIFA World Cup final between England and Germany is one of the most memorable in history. Not only was the 4-2 victory England’s first and only in World Cup competition, but Geoff Hurst led the charge with a hat trick that is still the only one in the tournament's storied history.
While all of that adds to the game's lore, it is perhaps better known for the controversial third goal by Hurst, which gave England a 3-2 lead in extra time on the way to the victory.
27. 1993 AFC Wild Card: “The Comeback”
It’s rare that an NFL game is truly over heading into halftime, but that’s exactly what Buffalo Bills fans figured when their team entered halftime of the 1992 AFC Wild Card Game trailing the Houston Oilers 35-3.
Instead, Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich (starter Jim Kelly was out with a knee injury that he’d suffered during the previous week’s loss to these very same Oilers) led Buffalo to the largest comeback in NFL history, as they went on to defeat the Oilers 41-38 in overtime.
26. 1951 National League Pennant: Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard 'Round the World
Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" is one of the most famous plays in Major League Baseball history. The walk-off home run gave the New York (now San Francisco) Giants a 5-4 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the 1951 National League pennant.
But that hit was simply the nail in the coffin of an epic collapse by the Dodgers.
The best-of-three series was only necessary because Brooklyn blew a 13.5-game lead in the final six weeks of the regular season, leaving them tied with the Giants for the best record in the NL at 96-58.
After New York finished the regular season on a 37-7 tear to catch the Dodgers, Thompson's home run in Game 3 of the series was a fitting end to the 1951 battle for NL supremacy.
25. 1986 World Series Game 6: Red Sox vs Mets, Bill Buckner's Error
Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner was the most hated man in New England for the better part of 20 years.
With the Red Sox ahead 3-2 in the series and leading Game 6 by two runs heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, Buckner misplayed a routine ground ball hit by the New York Mets' Mookie Wilson, allowing Ray Knight to score the game-winning run.
Boston would go on to lose the World Series in Game 7.
It was perhaps the most replayed error in baseball history for almost two decades, but recent history has largely let Buckner off the hook, as the Red Sox went on to break the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” by winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
24. 1988 World Series Game 1: Kirk Gibson’s Walk-Off Home Run
It’s been almost 25 years since Los Angeles Dodgers fans had much to cheer about in the postseason— so long, in fact, that the team has changed hands three times since the glory days of the O’Malley family.
Dodgers right fielder Kirk Gibson won the National League MVP award in 1988. But he is best remembered for this walk-off, pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth inning which gave Los Angeles a 1-0 series lead over the Oakland A’s en route to the franchise's last World Series.
Gibson was so banged up due to leg injuries suffered during the National League Championship Series that he was unable to take the field during the World Series. But the image of him hobbling around the basepaths and pumping his fist in the air following his lone plate appearance of the series is one that will forever remain etched in Dodgers lore.
23. 2010 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6: Patrick Kane’s Controversial OT Cup Clincher
The Chicago Blackhawks and their long-suffering fanbase had waited 39 years for the team to win another Stanley Cup title—the longest drought in the NHL at the time. So the delayed reaction to Patrick Kane’s game-winner in overtime of Game 6 was a bit poetic.
As hockey fans may recall, it took a few seconds before anyone realized that the puck was actually in the back of the net, leading to one of the more curious endings in NHL Stanley Cup Finals history.
22. 1983 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship: NC State's Upset
The 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack pulled off one of the biggest upsets in men’s NCAA Tournament history when they defeated the Houston Cougars—led by eventual tournament MVP Hakeem Olajuwan—54-52 on a last-minute dunk by Lorenzo Charles.
The play itself is incredible because it came off of a desperation shot to try to win the game in regulation. It was also an incredible ending to a spectacular run through the NCAA tournament for Jim Valvano’s team, which also knocked off the No. 1-seeded University of Virginia Cavaliers on their way to the Final Four.
21. 2012 NBA Finals Game 4: LeBron James’ “Cramp Game”
LeBron James came into the 2012 NBA Finals carrying the proverbial 800-pound gorilla on his back.
Ever since the Boston Celtics eliminated his Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2010 NBA playoffs, James had to answer questions about his failure to close out big games. The critics only got louder after the Miami Heat were humbled by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder steamrolled into this year’s finals following decisive victories over the defending champion Mavericks, the Kobe Bryant-led Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA’s best team in the regular season.
Most NBA analysts assumed the Heat would fall, too, given LeBron’s recent playoff failures.
Miami took a surprising 2-1 series lead and were looking to make it 3-1 in the closing minutes of a tightly contested Game 4. James left the game with 5:49 left in the fourth quarter, with cramping in his left leg.
It briefly appeared that the Thunder would seize this opportunity to tie the series and guarantee a return to Oklahoma City for Game 6 and possibly 7.
With the score tied at 94, James had re-entered the contest but was clearly moving gingerly. As the shot clock wound down, he hit a go-ahead three-pointer to put the Heat ahead for good, giving them a chance to close out the series in front of their home crowd two nights later.
The shot reminded many of Michael Jordan’s flu game against Utah in the 1997 NBA Finals and could be the first of many more memorable championship moments for James.
20. 2005 Masters: Tiger’s Amazing Putt on 16 Paves Way to Victory
Tiger Woods has hit many amazing golf shots en route to 74 PGA Tour victories, including 14 Major Championships. But none was quite as memorable as the one he hit on the 16th hole at Augusta on his way to his fourth green jacket.
Woods teed off on the 16th hole holding a one-shot lead over the gritty Chris DeMarco. After an errant tee shot appeared to leave Woods in position for no better than a par attempt, he holed a chip shot from 20-feet out to pull off one of the most spectacular birdies you’ll ever see.
Woods and DeMarco provided more drama on the 17th and 18th holes—leading to a playoff that Woods would eventually win—but Tiger’s shot on the 16th hole remains the biggest highlight from that victory and one of the greatest moments in his illustrious career.
19. Super Bowl XIII: Jackie Smith Drops TD Pass as Cowboys' Comeback Falls Short
You'd think that Dallas Cowboys fans are forever haunted by memories of San Francisco 49ers tight end Dwight Clark’s “The Catch.” But we may have greater mental anguish resulting from a dropped pass by one of our own, NFL Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith.
The Pittsburgh Steelers jumped out to a 21-14 lead over the Cowboys early in the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII, but Dallas was about to tie the game when Roger Staubach fired a pass towards Smith in the back of the end zone.
Instead, the normally sure-handed tight end had the ball bounce right off of his chest—remember, young receivers, always catch the ball with your hands—and into the ground.
The drop seemed to take all of the wind out of the Cowboys’ sails, and what should have been the game-tying catch turned out to be the most famous miscue in Dallas’ storied Super Bowl history, which includes a 4-3 record in seven appearances.
The Steelers would hang on to win the game 35-31, and Smith retired prior to the start of the next season, giving himself no chance at on-field redemption.
18. 2001 World Series Game 7: Luis Gonzalez Walk-Off Single Stuns Yankees
The 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks was already considered one of the best ever before Game 7 started. The first six games included two extra-inning affairs and three come-from-behind victories in the seventh inning or later.
The Yankees were well on their way to their 27th World Series championship, holding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth with Mariano Riviera—arguably the best closer in MLB history—on the mound.
Riviera had struck out the side in the eighth, but a series of strange plays in the ninth led to a 2-2 tie with the bases loaded for Arizona when Luis Gonzalez stepped to the plate. His bloop single drove in Jay Bell for the winning run, giving the Diamondbacks their first and only World Series title.
17. 2010 Winter Olympics: Sidney Crosby’s OT Goal Leads Canada to Gold Medal
Sidney Crosby was sitting on top of the hockey world when Team Canada faced off against Team USA for the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
He’d just led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup title the previous season, so the Olympic gold medal was the only piece of significant hardware missing from Crosby’s trophy case.
The final was one for the ages, as the United States fought back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game in the last 30 seconds of regulation. That set the stage for Crosby to deliver the game-winner in overtime in front of the Canadian crowd, providing a fitting end to a true winter classic.
16. 1996 Masters: Greg Norman's Collapse Leads to Nick Faldo Victory
Greg Norman was the best golfer never to win a major (on U.S. soil) well before Phil Mickelson appeared destined to own that title for life. Lefty went on to put that reputation in the rear-view mirror, but Norman never did—thanks to an epic collapse in the final round of the 1996 Masters.
Holding a six-shot lead over his arch nemesis Nick Faldo entering the final round of play, Norman somehow managed to come completely unglued on his way to a six-over 78 that would cost him his best shot at the elusive green jacket.
15. 1986 AFC Championship Game: “The Drive”
Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway demonstrated an uncanny ability to bring his team back from fourth-quarter deficits during his NFL career, but the 1986 AFC Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns is perhaps the most famous example of his greatness.
Trailing 20-13 with about 5:30 left in the fourth quarter, Elway led the Broncos on a 98-yard drive that ended with a game-tying touchdown. Denver would go on to earn a trip to the Super Bowl with a field goal in overtime.
There are many reasons why Elway is considered by many to be the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL, and “The Drive” is a major part of his legend.
14. 2004 Western Conference Semifinals: Derrick Fisher’s .4 Shot
The game-winning shot by Los Angeles Lakers guard Derrick Fisher in Game 6 of the second round of the 2004 NBA Western Conference playoffs isn’t the most difficult shot you’ll ever see nor did it occur on the game's biggest stage. But it capped off a series of incredibly clutch shots from two of the NBA’s all-time greats.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant put Los Angeles ahead by one with a pull-up jumper with about 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Not to be outdone, San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan hit the apparent game-winner with an incredible shot at the free-throw line with 1.8 seconds left on the clock.
While the Spurs started prematurely celebrating, the Lakers quickly inbounded the ball and called a timeout to advance the possession into their frontcourt with .4 seconds left, just long enough for a catch-and-shoot play. We all know what happened next.
Had the Lakers not gone on to lose to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA finals, this shot might be in the top 10. As it stands now, it’s still one of the more phenomenal endings in NBA playoff history.
13. 2002 BCS National Championship Game: Ohio State Beats Miami in 2OT
When the University of Miami Hurricanes met the Ohio State Buckeyes for the 2002 NCAA Division-IA football BCS National Championship in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, most were expecting a blowout in favor of the ‘Canes.
Instead we got only the second overtime game in the history of the championship-game format.
Miami appeared to have won the game in the first overtime, when a fourth-down pass attempt from Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel to wide receiver Chris Gamble fell incomplete. Instead, the Buckeyes got a new set of downs after a delayed, and controversial, pass interference call.
Ohio State tied the game at 24, sending the game to a second overtime. They then scored a touchdown to take a 31-24 lead and held Miami scoreless on their final possession to win the 2002 BCS National Championship.
12. 2008 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship: Kansas Stuns Memphis
Former University of Memphis coach John Calipari never gave much thought to emphasizing the importance of free-throw shooting during his practices, a decision that came back to haunt him in the closing seconds of the 2008 NCAA Men’s Division-I Basketball Championship game.
Memphis guards Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts combined to miss four free throws in the game’s final two minutes, while the Kansas Jayhawks shot 6-for-6 from the field and free-throw line during that same stretch.
That sequence included a game-tying three-point shot from Jayhawks guard Mario Chalmers with 2.1 seconds remaining, a shot that could have been avoided had the Tigers fouled him before the shot attempt.
Kansas went on to win the game in overtime, but the closing minutes of regulation serve as a cautious tail of how poor late-game execution can cost you on the game’s biggest stage.
11. 1960 World Series Game 7: Bill Mazerowski’s Walk-Off Home Run Beats Yankees
The 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees was a star-powered affair, featuring a combined seven league Most Valuable Players between the two clubs (two for Pittsburgh and five for New York).
So it was ironic that the game-winning hit in Game 7 was not delivered by one of them.
After blowing a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the Pirates entered the home half of the inning with the game tied at nine. Second baseman Bill Mazeroski, the first batter of the inning, wasted no time hitting the first series-ending, walk-off home run in World Series history.
10. 2006 BCS Championship: Vince Young Leads Texas to Upset of USC in Rose Bowl
The 2006 Rose Bowl featured a matchup between the University of Texas Longhorns and the USC Trojans, the only two undefeated teams in NCAA Division-I football that year.
The combined 53-game winning streak between the two teams—34 in a row for USC and 19 straight for Texas—is still a record for two opponents. USC tailback Reggie Bush beat out Texas quarterback Vince Young for the Heisman Trophy earlier in the season, making this arguably the most anticipated game in college football history.
The game lived up to the hype in a thrilling back and forth affair that finally ended on Young’s game-winning touchdown run with 19 seconds remaining—and subsequent two-point conversion—which gave Texas a 41-38 victory and the 2006 BCS National Championship.
9. 1993 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship: Chris Webber’s Timeout
The 1993 NCAA National Championship game was a true heavyweight battle, as Michigan’s “Fab Five” squared off against the mighty North Carolina Tar Heels, both of whom were No.1 seeds in their respective brackets.
With the Wolverines trailing by two, Chris Webber grabbed a defensive rebound and almost cost his team that game when he appeared to travel while deciding whether to advance the ball himself or pass to teammate Jalen Rose.
Webber avoided the call, but he made an even greater mistake when he attempted to call a timeout with 11 seconds left in the game and Michigan out of chances to stop the clock.
Instead of an attempt at a game-tying shot, Carolina received two technical foul shots and possession of the ball, leading to a 77-71 victory and one of the most bizarre endings in college basketball history.
8. Super Bowl XLII : David Tyree Ends New England’s Quest for Perfection
The 2008 Super Bowl is one that needs little introduction. The New England Patriots entered the game attempting to become the first team in NFL history to finish a season 19-0, while the New York Giants were riding a hot streak to make the championship game as a wild-card team.
Trailing 14-10 with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter, Giants quarterback Eli Manning led an 83-yard touchdown drive highlighted by one of the more incredible plays in Super Bowl history.
Facing a 3rd-and-5, Manning somehow managed to avoid being sacked before hoisting a desperation pass towards David Tyree in triple coverage. Tyree somehow managed to make the 32-yard, leaping catch by securing the ball against the top of his helmet, giving New York a first down.
Manning would later hit Plaxico Burress for the winning touchdown with 35 seconds remaining, thus ending New England’s shot at NFL history.
7. 1998 NBA Finals Game 6: Michael Jordan’s “Last Shot”
The most ardent NBA conspiracy theorists have to admit that not even commissioner David Stern could have orchestrated a better end to Michael Jordan’s career than what occurred in the 1998 NBA Finals (turns out this was not the storybook ending that it should have been).
With the Chicago Bulls trailing the Utah Jazz 86-85 in the closing seconds of Game 6, Michael Jordan began the dream sequence by stripping the ball from Utah forward Karl Malone along the baseline. He then walked the ball up the court before faking Jazz forward Bryon Russell out of his shoes and hitting the game-winning jump shot with 5.2 seconds left.
Both Michael Jordan and Bulls coach Phil Jackson retired after the season in what should have been a glorious ride off into the sunset for both. Jackson went on to improve his legacy by winning five more NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Jordan tarnished his by making a forgettable comeback with the Washington Wizards.
6. 1956 World Series Game 5: Don Larsen’s Perfect Game
Don Larsen’s perfect game during Game 5 of the 1965 World Series was almost as great for its timing as for the performance itself.
The New York Yankees had overcome a 2-0 deficit against the rival Brooklyn Dodgers to tie the World Series at two games apiece. The Yankees were hoping to take a 3-2 lead before the series headed back to Brooklyn for Games 6 and 7.
Larsen delivered a gem in what was the first no-hitter in postseason history until 2010 and remains the only perfect game in playoff history.
The Yankees went on to win the World Series over the Dodgers in seven games, and Larsen was named MVP for his performance.
5. 1992 NCAA Men's East Regional Final: Christian Laettner's Buzzer Beater
The 1992 NCAA Men’s Basketball East Regional final pit the defending champion Duke Blue Devils against a Kentucky team that had returned to national prominence under coach Rick Pitino just a few years removed from NCAA probation.
The Wildcats looked certain to end Duke’s run at back-to-back titles, holding a 103-102 lead with 2.1 seconds left on the clock. But Christian Laettner caught Grant Hill’s full-court pass just above the free-throw line, took one dribble and hoisted the game-winner as time expired.
The Blue Devils escaped with a 104-103 victory and a return trip to the Final Four and would go on to defeat the Michigan Wolverines in the final to win their second-consecutive NCAA title.
4. 2004 American League Championship Series: Red Sox Stun Yankees
The Boston Red Sox were still haunted by the “Curse of the Bambino” when they faced off against their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, in the 2004 American League Championship Series. After losing the first three games, it appeared that the 86-year World Series drought would continue.
The Red Sox were on the verge of elimination, trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4. But Boston rallied to tie the game off of Yankee’s closer Mariano Riviera and eventually won the game in the bottom of the 12th on a walk-off, two-run home run by designated hitter David Ortiz.
Ortiz delivered another extra-inning, game-winning hit in Game 5, which sent the series back to New York for the infamous Curt Schilling bloody sock game. The Red Sox once again pulled out a victory to send the game to a decisive Game 7 in Yankee Stadium.
Despite the home-field disadvantage, Boston routed New York 10-3, and the Red Sox became the first team in Major League Baseball history to overcome an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of seven series.
3. Mike Tyson Bites off Evander Holyfield’s Ear
The 1997 heavyweight boxing title rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield was officially marketed as "Holyfield-Tyson II: The Sound and the Fury." The irony of that title became eerie, given what happened during the fight.
Holyfield pulled off a stunning upset in their first bout in November of 1996, earning a TKO victory in the 11th round. Holyfield dominated the first two rounds of the rematch as well, so after an inadvertent headbutt opened up a cut over Tyson’s right eye, the former champ’s frustration boiled over.
Early in Round 3, Tyson bit Holyfield’s right ear, but referee Mills Lane allowed the fight to continue after the ringside doctor cleared Holyfield to continue. When the two boxers got tangled up again later in the round, Tyson got more aggressive, this time biting off a chunk of Holyfield’s left ear. This time, Lane finally stopped the fight and disqualified Tyson.
Tyson was never known as a stable individual, but in a life full of erratic and inexplicable behavior, this fight marked one of the oddest endings to any sporting event in modern history.
2. Evan Longoria’s Walk-off Homer Puts Rays in Playoffs
September 28, 2011, may go down as the greatest regular season date in Major League Baseball history. Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria played a huge role in that.
Following a September collapse by the Boston Red Sox which culminated with a walk-off loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays found themselves in the unlikely position of needing a win over the New York Yankees to advance to the postseason.
Their chances didn’t look good heading into the bottom of the eighth inning trailing 7-0, but Tampa somehow managed to score six runs in their half of the inning and then got a game-tying, pinch-hit home run from Dan Johnson to send the game to extra innings.
Longoria completed the epic comeback with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th which capped off a wild final night of the season—one that would pale in comparison to what happened in the World Series.
1. 2011 World Series Game 6: Cardinals Never Say Die
The St. Louis Cardinals had already defied the odds three times in the previous three weeks, so it wouldn’t have been a great surprise if their luck had finally run out in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers.
The Cardinals needed a furious September charge—and an epic collapse by the Atlanta Braves—just to make the postseason. Then, they upset the Philadelphia Phillies, the best team in the majors during the regular season, in the National League Divisional Series before defeating their bitter rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers, for the NL pennant.
St. Louis now found themselves in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series trailing 10-9 and down to their last strike against flame-throwing Texas closer Neftali Feliz.
Only two teams in MLB history had ever been that close to elimination and come back to tie a World Series game. Cardinals third baseman and St. Louis native David Freese helped the Cardinals become the third when his triple drove in the tying runs to send the game to extra innings.
After overcoming another two-run deficit in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Cardinals finally held the Rangers scoreless in the top of the 11th. Freese struck again in the home half of the inning with a walk-off, solo home run that ended perhaps the greatest game in World Series history.
2003 National League Championship Series: The Steve Bartman Incident
The Chicago Cubs' World Series drought continued as Chicago fan Steve Bartman cost them a shot at the National League pennant.
1999 Stanley Cup Finals Game 6: Stars Clinch Cup on Hull’s “No Goal”
The Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in triple overtime on Brett Hull's goal that should not have been.
2006 FIFA World Cup Finals: Zinedine Zidane Headbutt
In the 2006 World Cup Final, France's Zinedine Zidane was sent off during his last professional game for his headbutt against Italy's Marco Materazzi, leaving him unavailable for the penalty kick shootout that Italy would go on to win.
2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game: “The Tuck Game”
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady literally escaped defeat when a controversial fumble was ruled an incomplete pass during a game-winning drive against the Oakland Raiders.