The Most Iconic Poses in Sports
Are you #branding hard? Or hardly #branding?
Darren Rovell will ask you this one day, and the question is: Will you stutter and shrink under his gaze/oppressive cologne odor? Or look him in the eye and say, "You bet your sweet muffin I am."
Establishing your persona—your brand—has become a compulsive necessity in modern sports, and no other action can do more to cement an athlete's legacy than an unforgettable gesture or move after a big moment.
With that said, the following are the masters of this tactic—the athletes (and sports characters) who solidified their place in history with a simple, iconic pose. The best part? Most of them struck these poses organically, and not by testing sample audience reactions in a corporate headquarters in Tucson.
These are the naturals, and their poses/moves will be remembered for decades to come.
Origins: Nike began using the Jumpman logo in 1985 on all of its Michael Jordan-related products. The pose itself was born at the 1985 NBA dunk contest when Jordan took off from the free-throw line and slammed home a jaw-dropping dunk.
The Jumpman has to be the most ubiquitous pose in sports, if only due to its commercial success as a fashion symbol. Nike apparel sells around the world, and kids everywhere from Japan to Dubai are buying these products, regardless of whether they play basketball or not.
Put it this way: Nike's Jordan brand sold $2.25 billion in merchandise in 2013, compared to LeBron James' products, which brought in a relatively paltry $300 million. The Jumpman is more than iconic, it's an institution.
Looks Like: My girlfriend's sleeping posture.
Muhammad Ali Pose
Origins: Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer snapped the most famous shot of his career in 1965 when he captured this image of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston.
Leifer has gone on the record as saying that Ali made him "look good" as a photographer.
"No subject has ever had the charisma Muhammad Ali had," Leifer said.
Image via KnowYourMeme.com
The Usain Bolt Point
Origins: The world at large first encountered the Usain Bolt point after the sprinter won the 100-meter dash at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Rumor has it that Bolt stole his signature move from Pingu, a claymation penguin from a popular children's show.
Looks Like: Pingu. Kind of.
Image via HitEntertainment.com
LeBron James' 'Lower the Roof' Dance
Origins: LeBron James' "lower the roof" celebrations began sometime in the middle of the 2012 NBA season.
James has given credit for his roof-lowering celebration to its pioneer, former NBA sharpshooter Nick Van Exel. Van Exel used to drop this move all the time in the '90s, generally after making a ridiculous runner in the lane.
Looks Like: The guy on spring break who tries to show how strong he is when he gets out of the pool.
Brandi Chastain's Shirtless Celebration
Origins: After scoring the decisive penalty kick against China at the 1999 Women's World Cup, U.S. women's soccer player Brandi Chastain slid to her knees and whipped off her jersey, promptly sending every joyless, censor-crazy American into frothing insanity.
Dear God, America was at its best and worst when Chastain whipped her jersey off in '99. I was 10 years old when this occurred and still remember the uproar. Morons across the country lost their collective grits over the sight of a woman celebrating the biggest moment of her life in such scandalous fashion. I spent the majority of that period of my life picking my nose and staring at the sun, and I still understood people were overreacting on this one.
Who would've known that a woman wearing more clothes than a bathing suit would've been a hot-button issue in America?
Looks Like: Forceful prayer at the heart tree.
Dikembe Mutombo's Finger Wag
Origins: Sometime in the early '90s.
Did Dikembe Mutombo do the finger wag at Georgetown? I don't know, but I like to think he started his trademark move before going pro.
Regardless, the Mutombo finger wag is about as cherished of a move/pose as exists in the NBA. David Stern half-banished the move in the mid-2000s, allowing players only to wag their fingers to the crowd (as opposed to in a player's face).
Still, others have continued to carry the torch since Mutombo's retirement from the league. Barely two weeks ago, Serge Ibaka tallied up a monster block and gave the home crowd in Oklahoma a taste of the "no-no" waggle. He then proceeded to mosey down the court like the mayor of Swatsville.
Image via Tumblr
The DX Chop
Origins: Founded by members of The Kliq, D-Generation X and its infamous chop began prior to the group's formation.
According to Gerweck.net, Lex Luger and members of The Kliq were in Europe when they began pointing to their crotches as a way to tell others to pound sand. It eventually evolved into the charming double-armed crotch chop that it is today.
Looks Like: A better pose for going through airport security.
The Johnny Unitas Pose
It's unclear exactly when Johnny Unitas first struck this hand-out "Unitas pose," but it's just about as quarterback-y of a posture you can assume with a football.
Looks Like: "I'm coming for YOU, bro!"
The Tiger Woods Arm Pump
Origins: America fell in love with the Tiger Woods fist pump in 1997 when the young pro destroyed the field at the Masters by an unthinkable 12 strokes.
There surely were fist pumps before '97, but Woods' ridiculous run to his first green jacket solidified this move as the go-to celebration for bros and bro-ettes everywhere. He didn't invent it, but he made it look cool as hell.
Looks Like: "I caught you an invisible mouse!!"
Origins: Named after Downtown Athletic Club director John Heisman, the Heisman award was created in 1935 to award the most "outstanding college football player" in the nation.
We all remember Johnny Heisman, right? What a guy. He sure knew how to stiff arm, or something.
Regardless of whether or not he stiff armed anyone in this awkward, spine-twisting pose, the posture has become a marquee, money-making machine for Heisman winners. Just ask Desmond Howard, who was sued for using photographs of himself doing the pose in 1991.
Looks Like: "STOP! Hammer time!"
Johnny Manziel's 'Topszn' Hands
Origins: Johnny Manziel's signature hand gesture began with Drake, who started throwing it up with his friends several years back.
It's unclear exactly when the "Topszn Regime" hand gesture became a thing, but the rapper and his buddies appear to have created it a long time ago.
What I can tell you is the gesture blew up once the former Texas A&M quarterback began doing it in 2013. Everyone everywhere jumped on Manziel for throwing up "money hands," but all signs indicate this move was originally meant to signify another type of green.
Looks Like: Money hands/tender nipple twist.
Wilt Chamberlain's 100-Point Pose
Origins: On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks after going 36-of-63 from the floor and hitting 28 free throws.
While Chamberlain's iconic photo has devolved into a mocking meme, the legendary paper pose is still recognized by anyone with half an inkling of basketball history. Young kids probably think it's just a way to shame someone after a terrible game, but at least they're still seeing it?
Looks Like: He won the first Clearing House sweepstakes.
The 'Rocky' Pose
Origins: You know exactly when this all began.
Anyone who has lived in Philadelphia for any length of time has probably spotted some tourists posing with their arms up at the top of the stairs in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Hell, you and your friends might've done it, too.
I get the impulse. Rocky was an amazing movie, and of all of the franchise's unforgettable moments, Balboa's celebration after climbing the steps is the most symbolic of the human spirit and all that happy stuff. Actually, I'd totally do this if I wound up imbibing a lot in downtown Philly (and who would ever do that?).
Looks Like: Someone surrendering after a long highway chase on Cops.
On the Twitters.
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