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ESPY Play of the Year 2014: Breaking Down the Nominees

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

ESPY Play of the Year 2014: Breaking Down the Nominees

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    USA TODAY Sports

    You know that moment.

    It's the moment that makes your skin tingle. It's the moment that makes you giggle recalling the sheer magnitude of the situation and the player or team that calmly delivered in spite of that pressure. Maybe it's the play that makes you grimace, that breaks your heart all over again. Maybe it's the moment that simply leaves you in awe.

    But it's certainly not a moment that you'll ever forget. 

    Four such moments are the finalists in this year's ESPY category for "Best Play" (you can vote here). Amazingly, two of them came from the same team. On the following slideshow, we'll relive them. 

Auburn's Hail Mary Beats Georgia

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    For four quarters, Georgia gave national championship contenders Auburn all they could handle. Aaron Murray had one of the finest games of his college career, completing 33 of 49 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing nine times for 36 yards and two more scores. 

    Somehow, it wasn't enough. As the old saying goes, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. And on this day, Auburn proved that adage true. 

    Facing a 4th-and-18 with just 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall decided to heave the ball deep down the field and, well, pray.

    His prayers were answered.

    Two Georgia defenders were in position to make the play, but the pass bounced off of Josh Harvey-Clemons' hand, hung in the air for what seemed like an entirety and fell into the hands of Ricardo Louis, who raced the distance to complete the miraculous 73-yard touchdown. 

    Any little thing could have gone wrong. One of the Georgia defenders could have simply knocked the ball down or intercepted it. Louis, who for a moment appeared to lose the ball in the air, could have misjudged its flight. Or he could have dropped it after he initially bobbled the catch. 

    They say football is a game of inches. Heck, entire seasons are often defined by a few inches. An inch here or an inch there, and maybe Georgia breaks up the play or Louis can't pull off the catch.

    Instead, Louis got the inches he needed. And Auburn had one of the most memorable moments of the past year in the process. 

Paula Creamer Sinks 75-Foot Putt

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    Sinking a long putt at an LPGA tournament is no easy feat. Sinking a 75-foot putt is nearly impossible. But sinking a 75-putt in the second playoff hole of the HSBC Women's Champions to win the tournament, your first win since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open?

    Well, that's worthy of being nominated for an ESPY.

    That's just what happened for Paula Creamer in early March, as the above eagle earned her a victory over Azahara Munoz, who surely was left feeling that if she was going to lose, at least it took such a moment of magic to beat her.

    The putt itself was incredibly special. But that it was Creamer who pulled it off added to the charm of the moment, as Mechelle Voepel of espnW wrote at the time:

    Any player on any tour winning a title with that kind of putt in a playoff would be news. Any title by Creamer—undeniably one of the LPGA's 'it girls' since she's been on tour—would also be news.

    That it was Creamer who won so dramatically? After a drought of three-plus years? About the only way it could have been better is if it had happened in the United States. But the native Californian probably wouldn't have minded if this had come on another planet.

    After all, the putt itself was out of this world. 

     

Damian Lillard Drains a 3 to Sink the Houston Rockets

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    Techically speaking, Damian Lillard had already "arrived." He won the Rookie of the Year two seasons ago, made the All-Star team this past year and led the Portland Trailblazers to the postseason, averaging 20.7 points and 5.6 assists per game.

    But on May 2 in Portland, Lillard introduced himself to Americans perhaps unfamiliar with his body of work as one of the game's young, preeminent stars.

    With 0.9 seconds remaining and the Blazers trailing the Houston Rockets 98-96, Nicolas Batum inbounded the ball to Lillard, who had scurried behind the three-point arc. He caught, he rose, he released, he waited.

    He swished the shot, and he sent the Blazers to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

    He became a household name. He became a part of Blazers history.

    He arrived. 

Chris Davis Returns Field-Goal Attempt for TD to Win Iron Bowl

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    Have you ever seen anything like it?

    After all, it's rare to see a field-goal attempt, of all things, returned for a touchdown. It's even rarer to see that return win a football game. And to win the Iron Bowl—the annual rivalry game between Alabama and Auburn, one of the fiercest rivalries in American sports—well, that just made this play iconic. 

    The stakes couldn't have been higher. With the game tied at 28, just a second remaining on the clock and a berth in the SEC Championship Game on the line, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban decided to send out kicker Adam Griffith to attempt a game-winning, 57-yard field goal. 

    And Auburn sent corner Chris Davis into the end zone in case the kick went short. 

    It did. And the rest, as they say, is history. For Auburn it seemed like something more, something preordained, especially after beating Georgia just two weeks earlier in the season on a Hail Mary pass. 

    "We're a team of destiny," Davis told the Associated Press after the game, via ESPN. "We won't take no for an answer."

    "I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run," he added. "I knew they would have big guys on the field to protect on the field goal. When I looked back, I said, 'I can't believe this.'"

    Neither could Alabama. Neither could the rest of us. It was, quite simply, a play for the ages.

     

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