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The 20 Most Famous One-Hit Wonders in Sports

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

The 20 Most Famous One-Hit Wonders in Sports

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Much like in the music biz, there are certain athletes and teams who are on top of the mountain one week, only to find themselves slipping down and taking a mighty fall the next.

    OK, so that might be a bit overdramatic, but I think you get the point—it's tough to maintain their spot on top.

    Whether they got injured, just lost their athletic mojo or fell from grace for some other reason, here are the most famous one-hit wonders in sports.

2007 Appalachian State Mountaineers Football

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    Coming off a 2006 season that saw Appalachian State win the D-I FCS national championship, the small, North Carolina school put its big boy pants on and marched into Michigan Stadium to take on the preseason No. 5 ranked Michigan Wolverines.

    What transpired was magical—and heartbreaking for a Wolverines team who nearly made it to the national title game a season before.

    Blocking a last-second field goal, the Mountaineers shocked college football by beating the winningest team in college football history—making this one of the biggest upsets ever witnessed.

Joe Namath

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    I know, Joe Namath is sitting in the Hall of Fame in Canton. But that doesn't mean he necessarily accomplished as much as one would think during his career.

    While Namath is famous for his flash, confidence and Super Bowl III prediction, his playing stats suggest he was nothing more than a mediocre quarterback at best.

    With a win-loss record of 62-63-4, he might have ring, but based on today's standards, Namath would probably be best compared to a modern day Joe Flacco—at best.

    Yet, everyone assumes Hall of Fame numbers because of his bold prediction from the Big Game, which just isn't the case.

2012 Lehigh and Norfolk State Men's Basketball

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    How bad did everyone's bracket get screwed after not just one, but two No. 2 seeds got bounced in the 2012 NCAA Tournament?

    Thanks to supposed Cinderella's Lehigh and Norfolk State, every college basketball fan and analyst had a quick reality check.

    Key word is quick—because just a few days after both putting themselves in the discussion as two of the best upsets in tourney history, they were both sent packing, with Lehigh losing by 12 to Xavier, and Norfolk State getting blasted by Florida, 84-50.

    Oh well, at least they both had their one shining moment.

Livan Hernandez

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    HANS DERYK/Associated Press

    For one great postseason ride, former MLB player Livan Hernandez was the most feared pitcher anyone could see on the bump.

    Unfortunately, his magic lasted for just a couple of playoff series and not the rest of his career.

    Sure, Hernandez ended up playing 17 seasons in the Bigs, even finishing with an above .500 record. But after coming on as a potential phenom in the Marlins' World Series season of 1997, one would have expected more.

    After all, he did win both the NLCS and World Series MVP that season—sadly having to sell his title rings and one MVP award.

Michael Chang

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    PIERRE GLEIZES/Associated Press

    Becoming the youngest male tennis player to ever win a Grand Slam singles title at the age of 17 in 1989, former tennis player Michael Chang was thought to be an emerging star on ATP Tour.

    Although Chang would go on to win 34 different tournaments in a long career, he never managed to capture another major win, falling short in two finals trips in 1996 at both the Australian and U.S. Open.

    Chang did reach as high as No. 2 on the world rankings at one point, but sadly, never made a mark more than he did at Roland Garros 25 years ago.

Tim Tebow

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    For all those who might be shaking your head at me for including former New York Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath on this list, I can only imagine the rage you might have now that I've added former NFL signal-caller Tim Tebow, too.

    Don't get me wrong, Tebow is a good guy, a competitor and one hell of a winner.

    But he had his finest days in college when he won a Heisman Trophy and two national titles.

    Even with the unexpected six-game win streak and home playoff win in 2011, Tebow failed to maintain that level of consistency in the league—which is why he's currently a free agent.

2005-06 Carolina Hurricanes

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    ANN HEISENFELT/Associated Press

    Going 38-34-14 in the year before winning the Stanley Cup, the Carolina Hurricanes didn't exactly come into the 2005-06 NHL season as favorites to make much noise.

    Catching everyone off guard, the Canes finished their title year at 52-22-8, grabbing the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    After defeating the Edmonton Oilers in seven games to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup—including their days as the Hartford Whalers—Carolina fell completely off the map, missing the playoffs in all but one year since the championship.

Ickey Woods

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    Breaking into the league by rushing for more than 1,000 yards and scoring 15 total touchdowns in 1988, former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods unfortunately never found the same success.

    To his credit, Woods did help lead Cincy to a Super Bowl appearance—where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers—and even nabbed himself the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    But his stats for the remaining three years of his career were pedestrian at best.

    He did give us the "Ickey Shuffle" to remember him by, though.

Christian Laettner

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    As a University of Kentucky graduate, it's in my blood to absolutely despise former Duke great Christian Laettner.

    After knocking down one of the most famous shots in one of the best games in NCAA Tournament history back in 1992, muttering Laettner's name around Lexington will draw some angry stares.

    It does come with some solace to UK fans that Laettner's career didn't exactly flourish after this shot, though.

    While he was the only collegiate player named to the original Dream Team for the '92 Olympics, Laettner's NBA career didn't go as some may have thought it would, with him failing to leave much of an impact after being selected No. 3 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Much like the aforementioned Tim Tebow, the big man was a great college player whose game didn't translate well to the Association—even if he did last 15 years.

Dallas Braden

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    In a list of 282 no-hitters tossed in Major League history, Dallas Braden proved that his one memorable career moment would be the one he threw on May 9, 2010.

    That's because the since-retired lefty was never able to parlay that success into anything more, struggling with injuries that ultimately cost him his job.

    Of course, he was also known for blasting the highest-paid player in the game, Alex Rodriguez, for breaking an unwritten rule in baseball.

    It's a moment that Braden is still fond of—even after retiring.

2007 Cleveland Browns Offense

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    As a Cleveland Browns fan, I just had to add the 2007 version of my favorite NFL team to this list.

    With an unexpected, breakout season by quarterback Derek Anderson, the Brownies had a wide receiver in Braylon Edwards and a tight end in Kellen Winslow Jr. who set franchise marks that year—with all three earning Pro Bowl berths.

    Toss in a running back in Jamal Lewis who rushed for more than 1,300 yards, and you get an offense that ranked eighth in the league in both total yards and points per game.

    The team finished 10-6, missed out on the playoffs and have yet to ever come close to those numbers in the six years since.

Jeremy Lin

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    Man, remember how huge Jeremy Lin was when he first broke onto the scene for the New York Knicks back in 2012?

    The whole "Linsanity" thing became a worldwide phenomenon, with everyone trying to get their hands on the Harvard grad who was living on a teammate's couch at the time.

    Naturally, though, those types of dramatics just didn't last.

    While Lin did sign a big deal with the Houston Rockets and still finds himself as the team's point guard, he hasn't been able to play with the same consistency that he did during that ridiculous run in early 2012.

Shane Spencer

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    ERIC GAY/Associated Press

    Following a September stretch run that saw former MLB outfielder Shane Spencer slug eight home runs for the New York Yankees in 1998, the Bronx Bombers seemed to believe they found the next Mickey Mantle or something—even scoring himself the cover of Sports Illustrated.

    Sadly, it just wasn't meant to be for Spencer, who ended up hitting only 49 more home runs in his remaining six seasons in the major leagues.

    He did collect three title rings as a utility guy, but never became the everyday player one would have projected after his first month in the Bigs.

Corey Pavin

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    J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

    It's not as if golfer Corey Pavin wasn't a good golfer during his heyday on the PGA Tour, it's just he wasn't thought of as one of the finest in the world.

    He silenced all the critics back in 1995, though, hitting one of the best approach shots in U.S. Open history on his way to winning the tournament.

    It was the first, and last, major title for Pavin, who did have top-five finishes at each of the other major tournaments at one point in his career, but never again tasted victory.

Brady Anderson

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    DAVE HAMMOND/Associated Press

    As a leadoff man, few guys ever approach double-digit home runs in a season, let alone 50.

    But former MLB outfielder Brady Anderson broke that trend when, back in 1996, he jacked the half-century mark for the Baltimore Orioles.

    The abundance of power was great for him, as he parlayed it into a big deal in his next contract the following season to re-up with the O's.

    But he wasn't able to come close to those type of numbers again, never belting more than 24 home runs in a season after.

Timmy Smith

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    One thing about the Super Bowl is that it gives us guys who would otherwise go unnoticed a lot of times—just look at this year's game MVP, Malcolm Smith.

    And one of the biggest surprise performances to ever come from the Big Game was former Washington Redskins running back Timmy Smith.

    Rushing for just 126 yards with no touchdowns in his rookie campaign of 1987, Smith went off in the Super Bowl, running for a game record 204 yards and scoring twice, making him a household name—for one night, at least.

    Yet, he failed to ever do anything worth noting again in his remaining two seasons in the league.

Leon Spinks

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Although boxing might not be as big as it was years ago, fighter "Neon" Leon Spinks was once the toast of the sport, upsetting Muhammad Ali to capture the heavyweight title back in 1978.

    In just Spinks' eighth pro fight, his remarkable win over Ali remains one of the greatest surprises to ever happen in a ring.

    But like others on this list, Spinks' ride ended abruptly, as he gave the belt back to Ali just seven months later in a rematch between the two.

    Still, Spinks gave sports fans one of the most remarkable moments ever—along with quite the memorable Sports Illustrated cover.

Mark Fidrych

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    As a surprise All-Star and Rookie of the Year winner in 1976, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych also finished as runner-up in the A.L. Cy Young voting that year.

    I hope he enjoyed it.

    That's because after posting a 19-9 record with a league leading 2.34 ERA and an insane 24 complete games, Fidrych was gone before anyone could ever get to know him.

    Battling a knee injury, then a torn rotator cuff, the righty only made 27 more starts over the next three seasons, going just 10-11 with a 5.36 ERA before hanging it up.

David Tyree

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    Best-known for his remarkable catch in the Super Bowl six years ago that helped propel the New York Giants to a title, former wideout David Tyree completely fell of the face of the earth once the confetti was swept up.

    By absolute chance, Tyree had his best day as a pro on the biggest stage, catching three balls for 43 yards and one touchdown—including the ball-pinning play.

    In comparison, he only had a total of 54 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns before the game, and went on to never snag another ball in the NFL after.

    Not a bad way to go out, though.

Buster Douglas

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    Gardiner/Associated Press

    I've given you plenty of athletes and teams worthy of earning the top spot on my one-hit wonders list, but there hasn't been anyone bigger than former boxer Buster Douglas—at least, not in my opinion.

    Battling 42-1 odds before his 1991 bout against heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, Douglas knocked out Iron Mike in what turned out to be one of the biggest sports upsets in history.

    Tyson was talked about as already being one of the all-timers at that point, so the loss to the widely unaccomplished Douglas was a bit humiliating.

    Still, Tyson went on to have a colorful career thereafter, while Douglas lost the championship belt to Evander Holyfield in his only title defense fight just eight months later, all but ending his boxing career completely.

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