Most athletes will never know what it's like to lift the Lombardi, drink from the Stanley Cup or bite into an Olympic gold medal. Pick your iconic symbol of a champion, and only a fraction of the generations who've played the game have ever reached that mountain top.
Winning it all—becoming a champion—is the dream that motivates and inspires athletes from the backyard to Game 7. For the fortunate few who live it, the moment must be equal parts surreal and beyond joyous.
Like the great Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.”
It's no surprise that the greatest moment of an athlete's career is almost always captured in thousands of photos as the world shares in the experience, albeit vicariously. It's nearly impossible not to value those frozen images of men and women achieving something born in their childhood imaginations.
Slack-jawed disbelief, champagne showers, silent contemplation, tears—these amazing images of athletes living a dream finally realized are as revealing as they are entertaining.