The Luckiest Plays in Sports

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

The Luckiest Plays in Sports

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    HARRY CABLUCK/Associated Press

    Whether it's a full-court shot, a near impossible deflection or just a bad call by a referee, us fans know that luck often comes into play in sports.

    Instead of ripping your hair out or getting upset over a lucky play, it should be embraced for what it is, knowing that it wasn't necessarily skill that broke your team's back, but just a bad bounce or a small inch.

    And since some things are just meant to be, here are the luckiest plays ever seen in sports.

A Wicked Curveball

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    A nasty curveball in baseball is described as falling off of a table.

    In this soccer game, though, it was literally a curve that seemed to slice perfectly over the goalie's head and into the back of the net.

    Trying to clear the ball, this poor defender had no idea his kick would be one of the luckiest—and most bizarre—goals ever seen.

Chris Couch

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    The only thing missing from this shot by PGA golfer Chris Couch was having the ball somehow find its way into the hole.

    Shooting from about 160 yards out, Couch hit a shot that drives all golfers crazy, with the ball coming up short of the green and heading towards the water.

    Thankfully for Couch, though, luck was on his side, as the ball ricocheted off the rocks not once...not twice...but three times before landing on the green for him to two-putt for a par.

    The remarkable shot helped him stay within contention for the win, but he instead had to settle for a fourth-place finish the following day.

Any Dude Perfect Shot

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    Things like this just aren't supposed to be possible.

    Most sports fans are familiar with the trick-shot group Dude Perfect, who go to crazy lengths and even further distances to show off some of the most insane shots a person can think up.

    I'm not saying these guys aren't skilled—they obviously know what they're doing—but the shots they're making are things that have to take a hell of a lot of tries.

Derek Jeter and Jeffrey Maier

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    This one might not fall under the lucky category because of how crazy or rare it was—fans reaching for a baseball happens at nearly every game.

    But it makes my list because it's something that went from an almost certain out to a highly disputed play, giving the New York Yankees a tying home run in Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS.

    It also put then-newcomer Derek Jeter on the map—along with the 11-year-old fan, Jeffrey Maier—as the Yanks were able to win the series 4-1, before capturing their first World Series title in 18 years just a few weeks later.

Damian Buckley

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    I'm fairly positive that Damian Buckley of Concordia University doesn't practice this shot every single day just in case he needs to sink one in a game.

    Nevertheless, the kid buried an over-the-head, kneeling, near half-courter against the Virginia Cavaliers a few years back, proving that even prayers do sometimes get answered.

The Music City Miracle

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    When a play has the word "miracle" in it, it typically means that it's something that's both unexpected and lucky.

    And while a lot of my Nashville friends will give me hell for adding the Music City Miracle on this list, the fact is that the famous play was one that no one knew would actually pay off.

    From the lateral to the wide open left side of the field that Kevin Dyson ran down with his potential blockers, this play had to have a lot of things go right for the Titans—and they did.

Down the Wire

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    I'm not so sure that this basket actually counted, but I still had to add it here because it's about as possible as a supermodel approaching you at a bar and handing you her number.

    With a near full-court, one-handed bomb to try and beat the buzzer, the kid actually draws backboard—which is more than I could probably do.

    But the magic comes when the ball bounces up near the ceiling and rolls down a wire holding the hoop up and through the net.

    I'm pretty sure this isn't how the kid drew this one up.

Devin Harris

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    It's hard enough to bury a half-court shot as it is—especially when the clock is against a player in an actual game.

    But when former New Jersey Nets guard Devin Harris not only hit a running, off-balance trey as time expired, but did it after losing the ball and somehow regaining possession all in one movement, it had everyone shaking their heads in disbelief.

Tim Howard

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    There aren't too many soccer goalies who can do what American Tim Howard did in a match against Bolton back in 2012.

    Clearing the ball from the edge of his box, Howard booted the thing 100 yards up field, where it skipped off the damp grass and over the opposing keeper's head for a goal.

    Sadly, it was Everton's only goal in the match, as the team lost 2-1.

    Still, it was just the fourth time in Premier League history a goalie had scored a goal.

    In a strange twist of fate, Howard has also been on the other side of some luck, as he knocked in a goal to lose a match against Chelsea a few weeks ago.

Mark Buehrle

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    Sometimes the best play in a 162-game baseball season comes on Opening Day.

    That was the case back in 2010, when former Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle made one of the most bizarre assists anyone has ever seen.

    With a slow bouncer towards first base, Buehrle was able to field the ball cleanly, rolled into foul ground and flipped the ball with his glove to first baseman Paul Konerko to record the out.

    It was something that required just a little bit of luck.

Glover Quin and Mike Thomas

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    No team or coach ever likes to see a Hail Mary attempt.

    With all the twists and random things that can happen, it has to be nerve-wracking seeing the ball fly through the air, with everyone holding their breath until the ball is either caught or has fallen incomplete.

    And while every defender knows to just "knock it down" when there's an attempt, sometimes that doesn't always pay off.

    Take this example, where then Houston Texans defender Glover Quin did just that, yet still got burned when the ball fell into the arms of Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas, who crossed the goal-line for a winning touchdown.

    That's some serious luck—both good and bad—on one play.

Hardy Sauter

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    Taking a shot from behind one's own net in hockey isn't usually encouraged, but when the results are a goal, a coach can't be too upset, right?

    Hopefully that was the reaction that Oklahoma City Blazers defenseman Hardy Sauter got from his bench after scoring one of the craziest hockey goals ever, when the puck slid, bounced and sailed into the opposing team's net.

    This might be easier to do when no one else is on the ice, but not when both teams are at full strength.

Antonio Freeman

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    I love broadcaster Al Michaels' reaction to this, asking, "He did what?" after former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman somehow brought in this long pass for a touchdown.

    Not only did Freeman pull the ball in while sliding and laying on the ground—which takes serious concentration—but he had the smarts to get up and run into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

    I doubt this is something that will be pulled off again anytime soon.

Marvey'o Otey

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    Could this behind-the-back three-pointer by William Byrd High School player Marvey'o Otey be the most insane shot from a basketball game?

    Possibly.

    When you add in the difficulty of not only making the shot but doing it while running full speed to save the ball from going out of bounds, it's one that I bet my life the kid couldn't make again in a million attempts.

The Colorado Buffaloes Fifth Down

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    1...2...3...4.

    How hard is that?

    Apparently pretty damn difficult for the refs who were calling the 1990 college football game between the Colorado Buffaloes and Missouri Tigers.

    That's because the zebras gave the heavily-favored Buffs an extra down, allowing the team to score on fifth down to win the game.

    It has been over 20 years, but the play is still one that haunts head referee J.C. Louderback, who showed that even grown men have trouble counting to five sometimes.

Paula Creamer

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    Just because this putt happened a few weeks ago doesn't mean I can't qualify it as being one of the luckiest shots ever witnessed on a golf course—especially when considering it won the tournament!

    Standing 75 feet away from the hole, women's PGA golfer Paula Creamer read the line as perfectly as possible, stroking it with the right speed and angle to roll the ball in.

    To say this is a once-in-a-lifetime shot would be an understatement.

The Immaculate Reception

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    Like so many other crazy, lucky plays, the Immaculate Reception occurred after a number of things could have gone wrong for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    First, quarterback Terry Bradshaw could have been taken down while roaming around to buy himself some time—even nearly tripping over his own lineman who got pushed back into his legs.

    Second, the ball could have obviously fallen incomplete or been intercepted once Bradshaw's throw did take flight.

    And third, what if Franco Harris hadn't been at the right place at the right time?

    It's one of the most famous and debated plays in NFL history, but it's also one that has about a 1/1,000,000 chance—it just happened to be the one time it actually worked.

The Hand of God

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    For anyone who understands a thing about soccer, they probably know that using your hands while on the pitch is against the rules.

    Yet, somehow, former Argentine great Diego Maradona was able to fist bump a bouncing ball for a goal against England in the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup, also having the play actually hold up.

    This one is clearly on the refs for not "seeing" the hand ball, but it's still pretty damn lucky for having that happen.

The Play

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    One of the most memorable plays in sports history, "The Play" between the Stanford Cardinal and Cal Bears in 1982 also happens to be one of the luckiest.

    Just as I mentioned with the Music City Miracle earlier, everything had to go right with this kickoff return, as Cal players were able to complete five disputed laterals that ended with a game-winning touchdown—and one very sore Stanford trombone player.

    NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway admitted that this play was such a travesty that it ruined the last game of his collegiate career.

David Tyree

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    All things considered, the catch that former NFL wide receiver David Tyree nabbed during Super Bowl XLII has to go down as the luckiest play in sports history.

    Of all the trick shots, last-second heaves and strange bounces I've shown you, Tyree's came in the biggest game, on the grandest stage in sports, to extend a game-winning drive.

    Not only did he have the strength to fend off a defender, but then to hold onto the ball by pinning it against his helmet is both remarkable and absolutely ridiculous.

    Oh yeah, and add in the fact that it came the play after former New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel dropped a near-sure interception, and it makes it all the more lucky that it even had a chance to happen.