The 50 Biggest Screw-Ups in Sports History
Screw-ups, blunders, bloopers, errors, mess ups, or mistakes; whatever you call them, sports are full of them.
However, there are some screw-ups that rise above the rest. Some so embarrassing that they live forever in infamy.
They are the moments in sports that drive fans crazy and turn superstar athletes into goats.
Here are the 50 Biggest Screw-Ups in Sports History.
Note: Video included when possible.
No. 50 Maybe He Should Have Gone for the 360 Windmill
On February 28, 2010 Jason Richardson dribbled in all alone and went for a conservative one-handed jam against the Spurs. He missed.
The miss cost his Suns considerably, as it would have tied the game. The Spurs would go on to win the game 113-110. Pretty hard to believe coming from a guy who went between his legs, then behind his head to win the Slam Dunk contest in 2003.
No. 49 You Can't Wym If You Don't Play
Suriname's Wym Essajas was to be the nation's first ever Olympian at the 1960 Summer Games. However, the 800 meter runner was given the wrong starting time for his event and slept through it.
The pride of joy of Suriname was devastated and his country men had to wait another eight years to see one of their own participate in the Olympic Games.
No. 48 A Little Mistake
In game seven of the 2003 AL Championship Series, the Red Sox had the Yanks on the ropes. They had their ace, Pedro Martinez, on the mound and a comfortable lead. However, things started to fall apart for Pedro and the Yankees mounted a rally.
Despite making multiple visits to the mound, Sox manager Grady Little left Martinez in the game, despite the fact that everyone knew Martinez was done. In the end, the Yanks won the game, headed to the World Series, and left Boston fans waiting one more year for salvation.
No. 47 He’s Not Worthy
In the 1981-1982 men’s basketball National Championship game, Georgetown’s Fred Brown gave Michael Jordan’s North Carolina team the title. Literally.
After Jordan hit a go ahead shot with 17 seconds remaining, Davis dribbled down the court, picked up his dribble, and casually passed the ball to James Worthy. The problem? James Worthy played for the Tar Heels.
No. 46 Hale to the Chief
Hale Irwin lost the 1983 British Open by one stroke. He also happened to whiff on a putt attempt inches from the cup on the 14th hole on Sunday.
Disappointed after missing a 20-foot birdie attempt, Irwin walked up to the ball and attempted to tap the ball into the cup for par. He completely missed and recorded bogie, costing him at least the opportunity to play an extra hole with eventual champion Tom Watson.
No. 45 It’s Three Outs, Isn’t It?
This is a shared award given to Milton Bradley, Larry Walker, Trot Nixon, and Damon Hollins. All four of these men have made one of the easiest, but most embarrassing mistakes you can make on a baseball field. They forgot how many outs there were.
All are guilty of thinking they had recorded the third out in an inning, and tossing a live ball into the stands. Lou Piniella, Cubs manager at the time Bradley performed the feat, said, “Do we have to go over the math? One, two, three. I don't know what else to say."
No. 44 Going for Two
In the 1984 Orange Bowl, Nebraska scored a late touchdown that pulled them within one point of Miami with the extra point pending. Instead of kicking the extra point for the tie, Cornhuskers’ coach Tom Osborne decided to go for two.
Of course, the conversion failed and Miami went on to win the game and the title of National Champions. The worst part? Most people believe that Nebraska would have been awarded the National Championship in the polls had the game ended in a tie, which was a distinct possibility since games ended in ties at the end of regulation at the time.
No. 43 Fried Duck
And from the mascot portion of our list, Anaheim Mighty Ducks mascot Wild Wing attempted to trampoline over a wall of fire during the Ducks season opener in 1995. He didn’t quite make it.
He ended up landing on the wall, instead of over it and lit his feathers on fire. Luckily, the Ducks cheerleaders were there to extinguish him. I guess that’s one way one to get the attention of the cheerleaders!
No. 42 Two Hands!
The Mets' Francisco Rodriguez was 17 for 17 on save opportunities in 2009, and looked to be on his way to 18 for 18 when he got the Yankees Alex Rodriguez to pop up to short right field with two outs in the ninth.
Second basemen, and all-around Mets scapegoat Luis Castillo inexplicably dropped the easy pop up, allowing two Yankees to score. The Yanks would go on to win the game 9-8 against their Big Apple rivals.
No. 41 All the Guy Wanted Was a Good Manicure
Joe Niekro was best known for his knuckleball, but his blunder in 1987 gave sports fans something else to remember him by. After throwing a slider that moved like a belly dancer, Niekro was approached by the home plate umpire who found Niekro to be in possession of a nail file and a piece of sandpaper.
Niekro claimed that he was filing his nails in between innings and “forgot” to take the file out of his pocket. He received a 10-game suspension for his actions, but later appeared with a pocket full of sandpaper and a power sander in a spoof on David Letterman.
No. 40 You Don’t Trade a Guy Called “The Great One!”
In the offseason following the Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup victory in 1987-1988 NHL season, the Oilers dealt Wayne Gretzky, Marty McSorley, and Mike Krushelnyski to the Los Angeles Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million, and the Kings first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993.
Seems like a big haul. Not for the Great One. The Oilers won four Stanley Cups with Gretzky, and only one since.
No. 39 Wrong-Way Marshall
Jim Marshall was a two-time Pro Bowler who was a stalwart on the Vikings Purple People Eaters defense of the 1960s. Unfortunately, he is remembered for something other than his fierce play.
In 1964, Marshall recovered a fumble and ran 66 yards to the endzone. The wrong endzone. The play resulted in a safety and Marshall didn’t realize his mistake until a member of the opposing team, the 49ers, hugged him! In that moment, Wrong-Way Marshall was born.
No. 38 The Vlade Divac Era Ends in Los Angeles
In 1996 the Lakers made the unfortunate decision to part ways with their starting center, Vlade Divac. It left a hole in the middle of the Lakers' lineup that wasn’t filled until Shaq made his way to Los Angeles.
While the trading of Vlade Divac is one of the greatest tragedies in Lakers’ history, the blow was lessened some by the player the Lakers acquired in the deal, a newly drafted kid out of high school named Kobe Bryant. All kidding aside, Vlade for the Black Mamba? That’s highway robbery!
No. 37 Face Plant
In what was one of the worse collisions in baseball history, Mets outfielders Mike Cameron and Carlos Beltran crashed face to face into each other when both dove for a fly ball in 2005.
Both men are centerfielders by trade, meaning they are both trained to get after everything, which may have contributed to the collision. Marlon Anderson, the first teammate on the scene claimed he felt like he was approaching a car wreck as he made his way towards his teammates. This one has got to be the most physically painful screw-up on the list!
No. 36 Wild Bill
Cardinals kicker Bill Gramatica really was excited about his first half ending field goal that gave his team a 3-0 lead over the Giants during a regular season battle in 2001. So excited, that he leaped for joy like he had just won the Super Bowl. However, it’s what happened when he landed that lands him on this list.
Gramatica landed awkwardly on his leg, which twisted and resulted in a torn ACL. Gramatica would go on to miss the remainder of the season, and earn himself a spot on enough sports blooper reels to last a lifetime.
No. 35 The Candy Man
At the NBA draft in 1998, the Clippers thought they were about to turn their sad franchise around by selecting Michael Olowokandi with the first overall pick.
In the end, Olowokandi would amount to nothing more than a role player in his years in the NBA. What about those taken after him? They read like a who’s who of NBA all stars of the 2000s, Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Rashard Lewis.
No. 34 The Biggest Loser
At the 1936 Olympic Games, South African boxer Thomas Hamilton-Brown suffered a devastating loss in his first round bout. To comfort himself after the close loss, Hamilton-Brown went on an eating binge that resulted in a gain of five pounds.
Soon after, he received a message stating that there had been a scoring error and he was in fact the winner. However, he was not able to lose the weight in time for his next bout the following day and was disqualified. Guess he should have just hit up a strip club after his loss like the athletes of today do!
No. 33 Lane Violation
Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer lost a gold medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics when his coach directed him to switch into the inside lane during the men’s 10,000 meter race.
The problem? Kramer was supposed to be in the outside lane. The huge flub cost Kramer a gold medal and approximately $500,000! That’s an expensive mistake.
No. 32 Couch Potato
Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch was the Cleveland Browns first overall selection at the 1999 NFL draft. Big mistake. In his five NFL seasons, Couch lost 15 more games than he won, and threw more career interceptions than touchdowns.
The Eagles used the second overall pick on Syracuse’s Donovan McNabb. Ouch. Also in the top 10? Edgerrin James, Ricky Williams, Torry Holt, and Champ Bailey. Double ouch.
No. 31 Bad Things Come in Threes
Tommy John is better known for the elbow surgery that bares his name than his long and relatively successful big league career. Lucky for him, no one remembers him best for a play he made in 1988.
John muffed a groundball that allowed a batter to reach first base, and in a rush to try and record an out anyway, he threw the ball wildly past first base. As the ball was coming back into the infield from right field, he cut the ball off and fired wildly past the catcher allowing the runner to score. Three errors on one play.
No. 30 Chuck's Chucks
There was a time when Chuck Knoblauch was considered one of the game’s best defensive second basemen. In 1999, shortly after signing with the Yankees, Knoblauch developed a case of the “yips” that never went away.
He began to have tremendous difficulty throwing the ball to first base. Once he threw the ball so errantly that it flew into the stands and hit Keith Olbermann’s mom in the face! After trying just about everything, the Yankees gave up, and manager Joe Torre reassigned Knoblauch to left field.
No. 29 Triple Bogey
Needing just a double bogey to win the 1999 British Open, Frenchman Jean Van de Velde decided not to play things conservatively. After shanking his tee shot into the woods, he chose to shoot for the green instead of laying up, and put the ball well past the putting surface.
He ended up making triple bogey, ending the tournament in a three-way tie. He would go on to lose the tiebreaker to Paul Lawrie
No. 28 It's the Line After the One Yard Line
DeSean Jackson made a name for himself during his 2008-2009 rookie season. Perhaps more for his epic screw-up than his big play ability. Having hauled in a long pass from Donovan McNabb, Jackson could have walked into the endzone for his first professional touchdown.
Instead he showboated his way towards the endzone and inexplicably dropped the ball at the one yard line. What's worse is that Jackson did nearly the same thing during a high school all-star game! Some guys never learn.
No. 27 Playoff Meltdown
Rookie Steve Smith was behind his own net with the puck during game seven of the 1986 Smythe Division final. When Smith tried to pass the puck through the crease of his own goaltender Grant Fuhr, the puck bounced off Fuhr into the net.
The goal made the score 3-2, and cost the Oilers and Wayne Gretzky their chance at a third Stanley Cup. They did capture their third cup the following year.
No. 26 Gus Frerotte vs. Wall, Wall Wins
After scoring a touchdown against the Giants, Frerotte decided it would be a good idea to celebrate by slamming his head into a concrete wall. He nearly knocked himself out. At halftime he suffered spasms and ended up in the hospital.
Strangely, Frerotte was never the same after the head-butt. At the time, he was considered an up-and-coming quarterback. Now he’s considered Gus Frerotte.
No. 25 If You Miss Out on LeBron...
After missing out on the LeBron sweepstakes, the Pistons thought they made the smart move when they selected Darko Milicic with the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft. They were wrong.
Carmelo Anthony was taken right after Milicic, and was soon followed by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. In the end, it goes down as one of the biggest draft blunders in NBA history.
No. 24 Wide Right
Super Bowl XXV. New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills. With eight seconds remaining and the Giants up 20-19, Bills kicker Scott Norwood lined-up for a 47-yard field goal that would hand the Bills the Super Bowl.
In warm-ups Norwood learned that if he aimed right, the wind would pull the back between the uprights. Except this time it didn’t. Norwood’s kick missed wide right, and the Giants were Super Bowl champions.
No. 23 Julian's Jam
Sure his Jayhawks had a commanding first half lead on Colorado at the time, but Julian truly made dunk history when he didn't miss a dunk, but missed on even attempting the dunk.
Heading in for a big finish on a fast break, Wright lost control of the ball when he took off from his feet, lost his balance, and ended up sprawled out on the floor under the basket. Perhaps the worse dunk attempt of all time.
No. 22 Leaf Blower
In 1998, the San Diego Chargers were greatly in need of a franchise quarterback. So, they decided to take Washington St. junior Ryan Leaf, who was coming off a first team All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist season. In the process they passed on Heisman Trophy-winning corner back Charles Woodson and Florida running back Fred Taylor.
They picked Leaf right after another quarterback prospect out of Tennessee, who many thought didn’t have the arm strength to be successful in the NFL, was selected by Indianapolis. Leaf would go on to post a career record of 4-17 over three seasons. Oh, and the other guy, his name is Peyton Manning.
No. 21 Strike One
Punting from his own endzone during the 1985 playoffs, Giants punter Sean Landeta completely missed on a punt attempt. As in, dropped football, swung foot, kicked nothing.
The ball was picked up around the five yard line by the Bears Shaun Gayle, who ran it in to start what would be a 21-0 Bears victory. The next day was Landeta’s 24th birthday. He later called seeing his screw-up in every newspaper in the country “a nice birthday present.”
No. 20 Stefan's Slip
With time running out and the Stars up a goal against the Edmonton Oilers, the Stars Patrick Stefan gathered a loose puck and skated in alone on the Oilers empty net. Just as he was about the push the puck into the net and ice the game, he slipped and fell.
The puck skidded away from him, where it was gathered by the Oilers. They immediately headed back to the other way and stuffed the puck past Stars goalie Marty Turco to force overtime. In Stefan’s defense, like you’ve never fallen on the ice before!
No. 19 Wrong Way Part II
In the 1929 Rose Bowl, Cal’s Roy Riegels picked up a fumble and ran 65 yards…towards his own endzone! Chased the whole way by a teammate, he was eventually caught and tackled at his own one yard line.
Cal had to punt out of its own endzone, and the punt was blocked by Geogria Tech, resulting in a safety. The two points were the difference in an 8-7 Tech win.
No. 18 A Fatal Mistake
When Colombian Andres Escobar scored an own goal against the United States at the 1994 World Cup, he did more than hand the U.S. a 2-1 upset victory. He cost himself his life.
After returning home following the World Cup, Escobar was murdered for his terrible stroke of misfortune. It registers as one of the most unbelievable displays of sports fanaticism of all time.
No. 17 That’s Not So Amore
When the Italians sent their best player, Roberto Baggio, to take the team’s fifth penalty during the shootout that decided the 1994 World Cup everyone assumed Baggio would bury the kick, tie the score at three conversions each, and send the shootout into a sudden-death round.
However, Baggio’s penalty sailed over the crossbar without a touch from the Brazilian keeper. The miss handed Brazil the World Cup, and broke the hearts of an entire nation.
No. 16 Gold Medal Mistake
At the 2006 Winter Olympics, American snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis held a comfortable lead going into the final jump of the gold medal run in the snowboard cross event.
Jacobellis made the decision to show off a little on her way to gold by grabbing her board as she sailed off the jump. She caught her edge on the landing and ended up falling.
The decision caused her gold, as Switzerland's Tanjan Frieden passed her while Jacobellis recovered. At the 2010 games Jacobellis vowed to redeem herself by winning the gold she gave away four years earlier. She failed.
No. 15 Jackie Smith's Legacy
It's the third quarter of Super Bowl XIII between Jackie Smith's Cowboys and the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. The 38-year-old backup tight end finds himself wide open in the middle of the endzone. The quarterback spots him and hits him with a nearly perfect pass. He drops it.
The Cowboys settle for a field goal and end up losing 35-31. That’s a difference of four points, or the difference between the touchdown Smith dropped and the field goal the Cowboys had to settle for. Ouch.
No. 14 Slide!
Everyone remembers the play for the incredible scoop to the catcher that Derek Jeter made to nail Jeremy Giambi at the plate and save the 2001 ALCS for the Yankees. What they fail to remember is that Giambi would have been safe if he had done one of the most basic fundamentals of the game, slide!
Giambi’s baserunning error essentially cost the A’s game three of the ALCS as the final score was Yankees 1 A’s 0. The Yankees were right back in the series after game three, and eventually went on to defeat the A’s and represent the AL in the World Series.
No. 13 The Curse Begins
On January 3, 1920 Babe Ruth was sold from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees for an amount of cash that is still disputed today. However, unless it was about $32 gazillion, it doesn’t really matter how much the Yanks paid.
It was more than the worse trade in the history of sports; it was the moment that gave birth to “the Curse.” The Yankees would go on to collect World Series championships like they were going out of style, and the Red Sox would have to wait until 2004 to break the Curse of the Bambino.
No. 12 Romo Lets One Slip Through His Hands
During a 2007 playoff game between the Cowboys and Seahawks, the Cowboys lined up for a nineteen yard field goal with less than one minute left that would have given them a 23-21 lead. The snap was good, but Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's hands were not.
He bobbled the snap, and was unable to find the endzone in the scramble that ensued. The Cowboys turned the ball over on downs and saw their season end 21-20. Romo declined when Butterfinger offered up an endorsement deal.
No. 11 Dan O’Brien’s O’Blunder
With the Dan vs. Dave (Johnson) showdown in the Olympic decathlon on the horizon, American Dan O’Brien was running away with the competition at qualifying. All he needed to qualify for the 1992 Games in Barcelona was to clear any height in the pole vault.
Arrogantly, O’Brien decided to skip the first few heights and start at a challenging 15 feet and 9 inches. He missed on all three attempts and failed to qualify for the Olympic Games. Brilliant!
No. 10 Head-Butt Heard Around the World
At the 2006 World Cup Finals between Italy and France, French soccer legend Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italian Marco Matterazzi during extra time of a 1-1 game, earning a red card for his actions.
Extra time ended in a tie, and Italy went on to win on penalty kicks. Do you think France would have liked to have their best player available to take one of those game deciding penalty kicks?
No. 9 Lett’s Legacy
On Thanksgiving day, the Dolphins lined-up for a game winning field goal with 15 second remaining. The kick was blocked, all but sealing the Cowboys victory. Then Leon Lett got involved.
Lett dove on the pigskin, making it a live ball. With snow on the ground, the ball slipped from his hands and the Dolphins recovered the ball. They promptly kicked the game winning field goal.
No. 8 Favre Throws Interception, People Act Surprised
In the 2008 NFC championship game Brett Favre threw perhaps the biggest interception in a career that certainly hasn't lacked its share of picks.
Favre simply threw a bad ball, and ended his Packers chances of reaching the Super Bowl for a showdown with Tom Brady and the Patriots. Worse of all, it would end up being the last pass of his career, as he decided to retire three weeks later...wait, never mind.
No. 7 Hard Headed
In May of 1993, Cleveland Indian Carlos Martinez collected one of the most unusual homeruns in baseball history. Martinez lifted a fly ball to right field that was pursued by one of baseball’s most controversial figures, Jose Canseco.
As Canseco retreated into the warning track, he lost track of the ball, which ended up bouncing off the top of his head and over the fence. It is the closest thing Jose Canseco has ever come to using his head.
No. 6 Terrible Timeout
In the 1993 men’s National Championship game, Michigan’s Chris Webber secured a rebound with 20 seconds left and his team down by two. Without anyone to pass to, Webber dribbled a few times and called timeout.
Unfortunately, Michigan coach Steve Fisher had already called the team’s final timeout. A technical foul was the result, and opponent North Carolina went on to ice the game.
No. 5 Leon Lett Again?!
He's the only player to make two appearances on our list, perhaps making Leon Lett the all time greatest screw-up in sports history. This time he recovered a fumble during the Cowboys Super Bowl XXVII victory over the Bills, but Lett couldn't help but showboat on his way to the endzone.
His celebration quickly came to a halt when Bills receiver Don Beebe caught him from behind and stripped the ball out of Lett's outstretched hand. The ball slid out of the endzone for a touchback, and left Lett feeling foolish, a feeling he grew to know well during his playing days.
No. 4 MJ > Bowie
With the second pick in the 1984 NBA draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select…Sam Bowie?! I know, Bowie wasn’t a terrible NBA player, but it’s who went after him that makes this one of sport’s biggest screw-ups.
The Chicago Bulls used the third pick to take some kid named Michael Jordan, and the 76ers grabbed Sir Charles Barkley with the fifth pick. How different the NBA would be if MJ had been a Blazer!
No. 3 Bartman!
In 2003, Steve Bartman went from regular anonymous sports fan to the most hated man in Chicago on one fateful night in the Windy City.
Like any good fan would, Bartman tried to catch a pop fly along the fence in foul territory off the bat of the Marlins Luis Castillo. He touched the ball, which prevented Cubs outfielder Moises Alou from recording the second out of the eighth inning.
The Marlins would use their extra out to spark a rally that would result in a Marlins victory and a tie at three games a piece in the NL Championship Series. The Marlins went on to win game seven, then defeated the Yankees in the World Series. A certain goat in Chicago was very pleased to finally see someone else shoulder the blames for the Cubs woes!
No. 2 The Band is on the Field!
It's the only entry on our list in which the screw-up is blamed on members of the band. With four seconds left the 1982 match-up between rivals Cal and Stanford, Stanford kicked the ball off after taking a one point lead.
Five laterals, 55 yards, and several flattened band members later, Cal's Kevin Moen rushed into the endzone. The play is still a matter of debate today, but the end result was a 25-20 victory for Cal that was aided by the madness caused by the Stanford band's presence on the field.
No. 1 Through the Wickets
In game six of the 1986 World Series, Red Sox first basemen Bill Buckner made the biggest error in baseball history. In a tie game, Mookie Wilson’s two out grounder to first slipped through Buckner’s legs.
The Mets scored and won the game to tie the series at three games a piece. The Mets would go on to win game seven and the World Series, and Red Sox fans all over the world would forever curse the name of Bill Buckner.
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