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20 Athletes Who Are Defined by One Play Forever

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2013

20 Athletes Who Are Defined by One Play Forever

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    Not everything in life has staying power, and as we all know, sports is no different.

    In music they're called one-hit wonders.

    In sports, let's just go ahead and define these athletes as one-play wonders, because without these memorable plays, we may have never remembered who they were.

    These are the athletes who we know by name thanks to that one play people still talk about.

Bucky Dent

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    For a guy who had a career .247 average and hit just 40 home runs over the course of 12 seasons, Bucky Dent sure is remembered for one of the most historical jacks in Fenway Park.

    It may have been 35 years ago, but just ask a Red Sox supporter what they think about Dent, and you'll probably get a word that rhymes with "duck" to describe him—forever being Bucky "bleeping" Dent to Boston fans.

Carlos Newton

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    Though MMA fighter Carlos Newton held the UFC's welterweight title at one point in his career, his reign at the top of the sport ended so abruptly, he was gone before any of us really got to know him. 

    Newton might not be remembered for one specific play so to speak—though he did attain one of the few bulldog choke victories in UFC history—but after a career record of 16-14, he's by definition a one-play wonder.

Franco Harris

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    Franco Harris might be in the Hall of Fame following a stellar 12-year career, but considering that a lot of us never got to see the bruising running back play for the Steelers, most of us only think of the "Immaculate Reception" when hearing his name.

    It still stands as one of the craziest plays in NFL history, and helped set the tone for the Pittsburgh teams of the '70's that won four Super Bowls in the decade.

Tyus Edney

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    During the early-to-mid '90s, former point guard Tyus Edney helped take the UCLA men's basketball team towards the top of the college basketball world.

    After his game-winning layup against Missouri helped the No. 1 seeded Bruins avoid upset and march towards a national title, everyone was singing Edney's praises—which never seemed to happen again for him in his career.

Desmond Howard

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    OK, so maybe we're cheating on this one since Desmond Howard technically has two tremendous returns that helped supplant his name in the minds of football fans.

    Howard proved he had game when he earned himself a Heisman trophy back in 1991—along with a Super Bowl MVP for his heroics in Super Bowl XXXI—but it's because of these two return touchdowns that anyone remembers his college and pro careers.

Stephane Matteau

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    Sure, former Rangers star Mark Messier rightfully deserves the praise for bringing the Rangers franchise its first Stanley Cup title since XX back in 1994, but without the heroics of his teammate Stephane Matteau, lifting the cup may have never happened.

    People forget that it was Matteau who put the double-OT goal past Devils' goalie Martin Brodeur in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference Finals that capped the Rangers trip to the final round to face Vancouver.

    For this, all Rangers fans can never let Matteau's name escape their minds.

Lorenzo Charles

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    Playing just 36 career NBA games with the Atlanta Hawks in 1985-86, Lorenzo Charles' finest moment came in the waning seconds of the miraculous 1983 NCAA title game against the heavily-favored Houston team.

    Grabbing a last-second attempt by his teammate Dereck Whittenburg, Charles provided the final margin with his two points as time expired.

Jerome Simpson

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    Each time we watch this video, it's more and more amazing.

    Besides just hurling over a defender with a front flip—in pads no less—Jerome Simpson's acrobatic touchdown is one of the finest ever seen on highlight reels.

    Unfortunately for him, it's also the most memorable thing he's ever done while playing in the NFL—unless you count his anger towards burglars or for having pounds of pot at his house?

Willie Mays

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    As one of the most athletic players to ever play the game celebrates his 82nd birthday this week, we honor Willie Mays by including his incredible catch from the 1954 World Series on our list.

    The "Say Hey Kid" may be a Hall of Famer who belted 660 homers in his illustrious career, earning him praise as arguably the greatest ever, but it's this catch that fans think of first whenever hearing his name.

Bryce Drew

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    Bryce Drew's game-winner in the 1998 NCAA tourney is still one of the greatest plays in the history of the tournament.

    Drew might be the current head coach at his alma mater Valpo now—taking over for his dad Homer a couple of years ago—but his "one shining moment" will forever be this shot to knock off 4th-seeded Ole Miss.

Dwight Clark

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    Former Niners wide receiver Dwight Clark may have enjoyed some fine moments in his NFL career—including a couple Pro Bowl trips and two Super Bowl rings—but it's because of this catch in the 1982 NFC title game versus the Cowboys that he's still relevant.

    Much like the "Immaculate Reception" before it, Clark's catch helped set the tone for the domination of the Niners through the entire decade.

Dave Roberts

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    Over Dave Roberts' 10-year career, he had nearly 250 stolen bases, snagging as many as 49 in one season with the Padres.

    Whether he wants to be or not, he'll always be remembered as the guy who stole the biggest base in Red Sox history, getting himself in scoring position to keep the series alive against the Yanks in 2004's ALCS.

    Without Roberts taking second, who knows if Boston would have been able to win two World Series titles in a matter of four seasons?

Derek Fisher

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    It seems that no matter what he accomplishes in his career, Derek Fisher will forever be linked to his shot against the Spurs in the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals with 0.4 seconds left.

    The dude has himself five NBA titles—with a realistic shot at No. 6 this year with the Thunder—and currently holds the title as president of the player's association, yet it's this shot that continues to be his legacy.

Dallas Braden

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    Former MLB pitcher Dallas Braden's defining moment may not have been a particular play, but considering the perfect game that he pitched back in 2010, we think it qualifies.

    Unfortunately for Braden though, his career didn't quite take off following his perfect moment, racking up inconsistent numbers due to several injuries.

    Apparently, he's currently hoping to make a comeback, giving fans a chance to remember him for something more than just his nine-inning gem.

Corey Pavin

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    Not only was Corey Pavin rocking that mid-90s 'stache perfectly, but after trailing Greg Norman by three shots to enter the final round of the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, he found that his golf swing was just as sweet.

    Sticking this approach shot just mere feet from the pin helped him capture his only Major title, and gave sports fans a reason to remember his name.

Kerri Strug

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    We've seen plenty of one-play wonders in Olympic history, and for the United States 1996 gymnastic team, they just happen to have one of the better ones.

    Kerri Strug landing on her feet during her vault to earn the red, white and blue their first ever team gold in history made her a household name, forever ingrained in fans' minds.

Steve Kerr

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    Many fans know Steve Kerr thanks to his stint as an analyst on TNT broadcasts, but for some of us 20-somethings who remember seeing him play, his shot in the '97 Finals against the Jazz still rings fresh in your minds.

    In his own admission, it was the most memorable play in his career, and helped the Jordan-led Bulls capture the fifth of their six titles.

Aaron Boone

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    Sorry Red Sox fans, but just as Bucky Dent did to the Boston fateful 25 years later, Aaron Boone reminded everyone that the "Curse of the Bambino" was going to haunt you for at least one more season.

    Boone is a fine analyst for ESPN now—even if he does have a weird obsession with scarves—but his playing career is always measured by this one homer.

Buster Douglas

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    Like some of the other athletes on this list, Buster Douglas' best moment wasn't just a single play, but an entire fight, as he knocked out former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson back in 1990.

    With a career record of 37-0 with 33 knockouts, Tyson was one of the most feared men an opponent could look across at from inside of a ring.

    That all changed in the Tokyo Dome though, when Douglas literally shocked the world when Tyson hit the canvas, giving the challenger the bout and champion title.

    Douglas lost to Evander Holyfield in his only title defense, fading into oblivion to never really be heard from again.

David Tyree

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    Considering that David Tyree entered the 2008 Super Bowl with 50 career receptions and 615 yards in his four seasons in the NFL—and has found himself out of football for the past three years—how couldn't he hold down the number one spot?

    This is arguably the greatest catch in Super Bowl history.  It's just that instead of a guy named Jerry Rice making it, it was a no-namer like Tyree, who will forever be in all of our minds.

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