20 Shots You Can't Believe Professional Athletes Missed
As the legendary Howie Day once said, even the best fall down sometimes.
Even the most talented athletes can't get the job done occasionally. Even the greatest of them all miss a dunk or a layup every once in a while. Even the most lights-out kickers send the ball wide right once in a blue moon.
It happens. It's gut-wrenching and devastating, and those misses still haunt the dreams of players and fans alike, but it's unavoidable.
Still, when we see plays like this, we cannot help but ask ourselves how these so-called pros ever allowed these atrocities to happen.
20. LeBron James Misses Four Times in Four Games
Just to prove it really can happen to anyone, let's start off with the King.
It's true: Even the league's bona fide best player used to miss on occasion. In fact, at one point, he missed four dunks in the span of four games.
I wouldn't have believed it either.
Back in the day, before LeBron James found his identity as the leader of the most terrifying team in the NBA, he was still a person who people liked and a person who was capable of screwing up every so often. Or very often.
In 2009, LeBron's first missed dunk came against Boston. Two games later, he missed again against the L.A. Clippers. The next game, against the Suns, he missed twice in one game.
Apparently the pressure of being the Cavs' only hope was just too much.
19. J.R. Smith Missed Dunk
We all know J.R. Smith is streaky. He can be the best player on the floor one night and go 1-of-25 the next.
Knowing that makes this terrible miss a tiny bit easier to stomach.
In 2009, in the third quarter of a tie game against the Pistons, Smith snagged a steal and took it to the house—or at least attempted to. His dunk didn't fall, but he did—intentionally, most likely, in an attempt to disguise his shame over the fact that his miss prevented his team from taking a late lead.
Afterward, Smith slowly loped back up the court, reluctant to even show his face.
18. Nate Thompson Empty-Net Fail
Getting a breakaway and finding yourself faced with an empty net is just about the best thing that could happen to an NHL player.
Getting a breakaway and finding yourself faced with an empty net only to miss what should have been a gimme, however, is probably the worst thing that can happen to an NHL player.
Such is the catastrophe that the Islanders' Nate Thompson experienced in December 2009. In the waning seconds of a penalty kill against the Rangers, it was just him and the wide-open net…and he sent his shot wide on the near side.
17. Rudy Gay's Dunk/Layup Hybrid Miss
This probably didn't do much to impress the international competition.
In the summer of 2010, Rudy Gay was participating in a friendly between the U.S. and Lithuania when he tried to do a little bit of showing off.
Spoiler: It didn't go well.
On a breakaway, Gay seemed to lose track of whether he wanted to dunk or lay it up, so he attempted to accomplish both once he was already going up for the shot. Except he didn't quite get the ball high enough over the rim, and it ended up bouncing off, resulting in a Lithuania rebound.
To add insult to injury, Lithuania was already up by six at the time of the botched dunk.
16. Ricky Davis Gets a Re-Do
It's not every day that you get the opportunity for a re-do once you botch an easy basket. Fortunately for Ricky Davis, he was swift with the rebound and therefore didn't encounter the wrath of his coaches—or the fans—for screwing up what should have been a routine play.
In 2006, Davis tried to put up a through-the-legs dunk off a breakaway, but he was nowhere close to pulling it off. The silver lining, though, was that he was so far ahead of the pack that he had time to secure his own rebound and go up for another highlight-reel dunk.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. As long as there isn't a defender on your heels. In that case, it might be safer to go for a regular old layup.
15. Nate Robinson Miss vs. LeBron
Come on, Nate; at least make him work a little bit.
In 2008, when Nate Robinson was still a member of the Knicks and LeBron James was still a member of the Cavaliers, they were engaged in a first-quarter battle that resulted in a rather embarrassing moment for Robinson.
After a series of missed three-point attempts by the Cavs, the Knicks finally pulled in a defensive rebound and pushed the ball way up to Robinson, who attempted a dunk near LeBron.
But he couldn't even pull it off with James just standing there.
14. Brandt Snedeker's Four-Putt
This seems to happen all the time. A PGA Tour member with a lights-out short game will suddenly collapse on the last hole of a tour event, only to see his name fall from atop the leaderboard.
In 2009, at the Tour Championship, all Brandt Snedeker needed to do was two-putt from about 15 feet away in order to finish in the top 30.
He missed the first putt. He also missed the second. And the third. Finally, Snedeker sunk it, four-putting and proving that pressure really does get to anyone and everyone.
As the commentator says, "It's beyond hard to watch."
13. Diego Forlan's Open-Net Miss
The more you watch this one, the harder and harder it is to comprehend that there's any possible way Diego Forlan could have missed this attempt.
This isn't hockey, where the net and the puck are both about a quarter of the size they are on the pitch. This is a big target, and from a few feet away, anyone should be able to put the ball in the net.
But Forlan couldn't get the job done. Facing an open net against Juventus in 2010, all he needed to do was just tap it in, and he somehow sent it about an inch wide to the left, to the horror of the commentators and himself.
All he could do was hide under his jersey in shame.
12. Kobe's Missed Dunk
Just like LeBron, even Kobe Bryant is capable of failure.
This one in particular was embarrassing, though, because he wasn't even trying to do anything fancy. It was just about as cut and dried as a dunk attempt can be, and he somehow clanked it off the rim, where it fell right into the hands of the Wizards.
Fortunately, he had an opportunity to make up for it seconds later, and instead of going for a low-key layup or even a regular old dunk, he had to go for the 360 jam.
It would have been so awesome if he missed that one too.
11. Egeas Plomariou Hits the Post Four Times
Here, we come to the aptly titled, "How did this strike not go in?"
Imagine if an NBA player tossed up a buzzer-beater and it bounced on the rim four times before not going in.
That's pretty much what happened to Egeas Plomariou here.
The Greek soccer player, who is now more commonly known as the unluckiest player in the world, put this apparent gimme of a shot on net only to see it hit the left post, then the crossbar, then the right post, then the left post again before a defender finally booted it away.
No goal for him.
10. Andrei Kirilenko's Wide-Open Miss
Missing a dunk is bad enough. Is missing a layup worse? It's an easier shot, after all. Even high school basketball players are ridiculed when they miss layups, so there's really no excuse as to why a professional should miss under any circumstance.
Alas, that didn't stop Andrei Kirilenko in 2011.
This miss was devastating for a number of reasons—mostly because it would have tied the game with 1.2 seconds remaining on the clock. The Jazz were down by five with about three seconds left and managed a three-pointer to pull within two. Then Kirilenko made a great play when he stole the Nuggets' ensuing inbound pass.
He was right under the hoop. It seemed like a no-brainer. But his layup didn't fall, the Jazz lost by two and Kirilenko walked off in shame.
9. Courtney Lee Misses a Huge Alley-Oop
The stage could not have been bigger for Courtney Lee in 2009 NBA Finals with the Orlando Magic.
Down 1-0 in the series to the Los Angeles Lakers, Lee had a chance to steal Game 2 for Orlando on a last-second alley-oop attempt. The score was tied at 88, and a perfectly drawn-up play gave Lee a point-blank look at the rim.
Unfortunately, Lee could not convert, and the Lakers took the series 4-1.
8. Craig Smith's Wide-Open Miss
In 2011, the Nashville Predators' Craig Smith fooled everyone with his empty-net butchering against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The light went on, the horn blasted and the fans went wild. Alas, he didn't score.
A top-shelf attempt led to a truly embarrassing moment for Smith, but at least the commentators and his teammates got a kick out of it.
7. Jason Richardson's Potentially Game-Tying Miss
It should just be a rule that when you have an opportunity to tie a game late, you don't do anything fancy. If you miss a dunk late, no one will forget.
Jason Richardson didn't get the memo.
A couple of years ago, the Suns were down by two against the Spurs with less than a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Richardson—who, ironically, is a two-time dunk contest winner—flew down the court on a breakaway and attempted a one-handed dunk that clanged off the back of the rim and fell right into the hands of Manu Ginobili.
As you may have predicted, the Suns lost.
6. Patrick Ewing's Game 7 Miss
It's already bad enough when your miss results in a loss for your team.
It's the absolute worst-case scenario when your miss results in a Game 7 playoffs loss. It's unfair. It's cruel.
It was 1995. The Knicks were up against the Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. There were mere seconds remaining on the clock, and the Knicks were down by two. They needed a score in order to prolong their season, and the ball was in Patrick Ewing's hands.
Except that Ewing's game-tying layup bid rolled off the rim, and the Pacers escaped with a two-point victory and a trip to the conference finals.
5. Tony Romo's Botched Snap
This one is a special case. It's an I-can't-believe-it miss, but technically, it wasn't the kicker's fault.
Any legitimate NFL kicker should have no problem knocking a 19-yard field-goal attempt through the uprights, but the job becomes substantially more difficult when your quarterback-turned-holder fumbles the snap.
Taking the snap and holding it should be a no-brainer, but not for Tony Romo, who fumbled it at the most inopportune time. The Cowboys were facing the Seahawks in the Wild Card Round, and they were down by one with 1:19 remaining in the game.
But the kicker didn't even get a chance to knock in that 19-yarder because Romo couldn't hold on to the snap. He tried to run it in instead, but you can guess how that ended.
4. Billy Cundiff's Career-Defining Miss
As a New England Patriots fan, I can tell you with the utmost confidence that there was zero doubt in my mind the 2012 AFC Championship Game was going into overtime.
Until Billy Cundiff got involved and simultaneously answered the prayers of Patriots fans while shattering the dreams of the Ravens faithful.
There were just seconds remaining on the clock, and the Ravens were in seemingly perfect position to tie the game with a field goal. The stakes couldn't have been higher with a berth to the Super Bowl on the line.
Cundiff, however, somehow missed a 32-yarder that shocked everyone in the stadium, failing to send the game into OT. While the Ravens gazed at the Jumbotron replay in disbelief, the Patriots flooded the field in jubilation.
Cundiff was subsequently cut a few months later and replaced by a rookie.
3. IK Kim's One-Foot Miss
There's really no excuse for missing a one-foot putt. At least if you're a professional.
IK Kim needed to sink a one-footer in order to lay claim to the 2012 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and somehow she put a little too much on the ball and missed.
The commentator had to stop what he was going to say midsentence, settling on, "I've never seen a putt so short…missed at a moment like this." Sadly, the crowd barely even clapped for her when she finally did sink her putt.
2. Patrik Stefan's Incredible Miss
Up 5-4 against the Edmonton Oilers in 2007, Patrik Stefan casually went in for what should have been a game-ending empty-net goal.
Inexplicably, he appeared to trip over himself, giving the Oilers one last chance with under 10 seconds remaining. As luck would have it, Ales Hemsky punished Stefan and the Oilers with a last-second goal.
"Can you believe what we just saw?" It certainly is hard to.
1. Gary Anderson's First Miss
No matter how good they are or how rarely they miss, it happens sometimes. Every kicker misses.
It's just really, really unfortunate when that one miss of the entire season happens to come with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
In 1998, Gary Anderson was perfect during the regular season. He made all 35 of the field goals he attempted as well as all 59 of his extra points. It wasn't until the conference championship game against Atlanta that he finally missed one.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Falcons capitalized on his miss to tie the game and win in overtime.