In the recently released movie Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Dominic Cobb is able to enter other dreams to extract information (basically).
What if the ability to do that was real? Has this or could this happen in sports?
Many times in sports we ask how did a certain athlete perform they way they did. History tells us it can be the star of the team, a key reserve, or a player that stepped up out of nowhere.
These are all players that surprised us with their performances. These athletes exceeded expectations and had near out-of-body experiences, just like Cobb’s ability to enter dreams.
These were all memorable performances that were clutch and will be remembered forever.
The 1979 NCAA Championship game is memorable as the beginning of the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry.
Johnson and Michigan State All-American Greg Kelser were the stars leading the Spartans. Bird was the dominant figure on the undefeated Indiana State Sycamores team entering the national championship game.
Donnelly came off the bench to score 13 of his 15 points in the second half to complement Kelser and Magic Johnson, as MSU won its first national championship. Donnelly more than doubled his average in the national championship game.
A reserve, Jensen made all five of his field goal attempts and four of his five free throws to finish with 14 points. Villanova upset Georgetown 66-64 to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NCAA title game history.
Entering the 1978 World Series, Bucky Dent hit .229 with no home runs and eight RBI in 10 postseason games. Dent finished the 1978 Series hitting .417 with seven RBI as the Yankees won in six games.
Brown had a career year for the Dallas Cowboys in 1995. His performance in the Super Bowl came completely out of nowhere though.
Brown finished ‘95 with six interceptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
On a team with three Hall of Famers on offense, Brown was an unlikely hero. His two interceptions for 77 yards set up two Cowboy touchdowns.
Brown was a starter on all three of their 1990s Super Bowl teams and became a free agent after the season. He signed a lucrative contract with Oakland. After recording only one INT in 12 games over two seasons, he finished out his career with Dallas in 1998.
Brown was the first cornerback and only the second defensive back to win MVP.
Martin intercepted three Ron Jaworski passes to help lead the Raiders to an easy 27-10 win. The Raiders became the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl.
The Giants knew they were going to have to be nearly perfect to defeat the undefeated New England Patriots to capture the franchise’s third Super Bowl title.
Tyree was a special teams player and backup wide receiver. The Giants faced third-and-five at their own 44 with 1:15 remaining.
Tyree leaped over the Pats' Rodney Harrison, pinned the ball to his helmet, and pulled in Eli Manning’s desperation pass to keep the drive alive.
Manning connected with Plaxico Burress for the game-winning score four plays later.
John Isner's 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 first round victory at Wimbledon over Nicholas Mahut defied logic.
The announcers were trying desperately to find other sporting events to compare it to. Ultra marathons and the Ironman triathlon were just a couple mentioned; throw in the decathlon and cricket, and those are the only plausible comparisons.
The records that the match set were absurd. The entire match lasted 11:05. The fifth set alone was 8:11. The 183 games played in the match and 138 in the final set were the most ever by a gigantic margin. The previous record for most games played in a match was 112.
Isner's 112 aces were the most ever. Mahut's 103 ranked second all time. It broke the record of the previous longest match by 4:32.
Just as amazing as all the records that were set was the quality of play. Isner had only 10 double faults, Mahut 21, and Isner had 52 unforced errors to Mahut's 39. Appropriately, Isner won the match with a winner down the line.
After his amazing win, Isner was unable continue his run. Out of energy, Isner lost 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 to Thiemo de Bakker.
Even for Michael Jordan, “The Flu Game” proved to be a near out of body experience.
Jordan wasn’t able to get out of bed until three hours before tip-off. He played 44 minutes, finishing with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a block.
He led the Bulls back from a 16-point first half deficit to tie the game and then an eight-point fourth quarter deficit. The Bulls' victory gave them a 3-2 series lead.
After they secured the win, on the brink of exhaustion, Jordan collapsed into Scottie Pippen’s arms after the game.
During his major league career Al Weis hit just .219 with seven home runs in 10 seasons. During the Mets' miracle run to win the 1969 World Series, Weis hit .455 with one home run and three RBI. He would be out of the majors two years later.
McElwain can serve as an inspiration to all. Diagnosed as autistic as a young child, McElwain worked hard to be accepted into the mainstream at his high school, Greece Athena in Rochester, N.Y.
McElwain's passion was basketball, and he was rewarded when Jim Johnson, Greece Athena's basketball coach, named him the varsity team manager.
In 2006, with Greece Athena comfortably ahead in a playoff game, McElwain stepped onto the court. He scored 20 points in the last four minutes on six three-point field goals and a two-point shot.
His story has served as an inspiration to others with education challenges.
Darrell Porter hit .248 with 12 HRs and 48 RBI during the 1982 MLB season. He was a very unlikely candidate to capture an MVP award during a postseason series.
Porter had both a great NLCS and World Series as he captured both MVP awards. Porter hit .351 with one HR and six RBI as the Cardinals won their first World Series since 1967.
Simms was nearly perfect at the right time. Simms had a solid career that included two Pro Bowl appearances.
In Super Bowl XXI, Simms was in the zone. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants won their first Super Bowl.
The G-Men exploded for 30 points in the second half in their 39-20 win.
Leighton had shutouts in three of the Flyers' four wins in their five-game series against Montreal. Leighton stopped 75 shots in the three shutouts and allowed only seven goals total in the series.
He became the first goalie since 2004 to record three shutouts in a series.
The series win advanced the Flyers to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1997 before losing to Chicago.
Before Scheyer became a star at Duke, he was a folk hero at Glenbrook North High School outside Chicago.
Scheyer scored 21 points in a minute and 15 seconds. Glenbrook North’s comeback and 35-game winning streak ended against host Proviso West that night.
Scheyer set a tournament record with 52 points that night. Proviso West Holiday tournament alums include Doc Rivers, Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre, and Kevin Garnett.
Forced out of the World Series with injuries to his legs and a stomach virus, Gibson was not expected to be available in Game One. Instead, he hit one of the most famous home runs in baseball history.
On an 0-2 pitch with teammate Mike Davis on second base, Gibson’s HR came off arguably the game’s best closer ever, Dennis Eckersley.
After two almost forgotten dramatic home runs in the NLCS, Gibson’s home run set the tone for the rest of the World Series. It was his only at-bat in that series.
Pre-fight, Buster Douglas' public chances of winning against Mike Tyson were so poor that only one Las Vegas casino posted odds for the fight.
Douglas dominated the fight and finally ended it in the 10th round. His jab confused Tyson throughout the fight.
Douglas’ huge uppercut preceded a rapid combination to knock Tyson down. After Tyson failed to get up while holding his mouthpiece, Douglas secured one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
Douglas would never regain that glory. He lost his first defense to Evander Holyfield. The reports are that Douglas lived off the $24.6 million he received for fighting Holyfield.
Entering the 2010 Major League season, Oakland’s Dallas Braden had a 14-21 career record in his three major league seasons. Braden was raised by a single mother that passed away from skin cancer during his senior year in high school.
Pitching on Mother's Day was of special significance to Braden. Braden had a tough upbringing in Stockton, CA amidst poverty, gangs, and crime. His day would finally come.
Pitching against baseball’s best team at the time (Tampa Bay), Braden threw a perfect game. It was the second time in less than a year that the Rays had a perfect game pitched against them.
Prior to Opening Day in 1994, Rhodes had only hit six home runs in his major league career. He hit home runs in his first three at-bats of the season off Dwight Gooden, the first major leaguer to do that.
George Bell is the only other major leaguer to hit three home runs on opening day.
Loyola Marymount had the entire country talking with one of the highest scoring offenses in the history of college basketball in 1990.
When star center Hank Gathers suddenly died during the West Coast Conference tournament, not much was expected of the Lions in the NCAA Tournament. Few would have blamed them if they decided not to play.
The Lions made an incredible run to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual national champion UNLV. Kimble honored his childhood friend and teammate by shooting his first free throw of every tournament game left-handed.
Kimble, like his friend, is right-handed. Gathers, a poor free-throw shooter, shot free throws left-handed in an attempt to improve his poor percentage from the line.
Alexander Karelin was the most prohibitive favorite in any event entering the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Entering Sydney, Karelin hadn't lost in an international competition in 13 years, had won the previous three super heavyweight Greco-Roman Olympic Golds, and hadn't given up a point in six years. To say he was as big of superstar in his sport as there was is a gross understatement.
Gardner only had a JUCO national championship to his résumé entering Olympic battle. His highest finish in an international competition had been fifth before Sydney.
Gardner shocked the crowd by scoring a point in the second round. Three points must be earned to win the match without overtime. After holding the lead through the overtime, Karelin conceded the match with five seconds remaining in the overtime.
Gardner was overcome with emotions after his incredible win. He was screaming with joy, did a cartwheel, and grabbed a fan's American flag and did a victory lap.
This was a win will likely never be duplicated.
Walton is one of the greatest players in the history of college basketball. His performance in the 1973 NCAA Championship game is one of the greatest ever and a near out of body performance by any measure.
Walton converted 21 of his 22 field goal attempts. He finished with 44 points as UCLA won 87-66 to capture their seventh straight national championship.
The shot of Jim Valvano running around the court after North Carolina State’s improbable national championship win was one of the most indelible sports images of the 1980s.
The most amazing part of the shot that still reverberates when March Madness comes around is that Charles was in the wrong place to get the rebound of Dereck Whittenburg’s missed shot.
He was standing directly under the basket, the last place to get an offensive rebound.
During the last timeout, Valvano told Charles, “Lo, you haven’t done anything all night. I wish you would wake up.” He was only 2-of-7 and finished the game with just four points.
According to Charles, he just went up, got his hands on the ball, and put it in. He also said he had the best view of the ball.
Dunking off an alley-oop missed shot to win the NCAA championship for a team that wasn’t even supposed to be there, playing one of the best teams in college basketball history—that’s what made Lorenzo Charles a legend.
McGee was a key contributor for the Packers throughout the 1960s. Towards the end of his career he became a backup.
The night before Super Bowl I, McGee violated curfew and spent the previous night partying. He even told starting wide receiver Boyd Dowler, “I hope you don’t get hurt. I am not in very good shape.”
On the Packers' second drive of the game, Dowler separated his shoulder, and McGee had to enter the game. He scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history and finished the game with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
The Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 to win SB I.
Smith rushed for only 602 yards during his NFL career. 102 of those came during his rookie season in 1987.
Smith was thrust into the starting role after an injury to George Rogers.
Smith shocked just above everyone by rushing for 204 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins' 42-10 win.
With the impression that his team had an off day, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Dock Ellis was in Los Angeles while the team was in San Diego.
After his friend’s girlfriend noticed that he was supposed to be pitching that night, Ellis had to quickly board a flight to San Diego. He would later find out that he was pitching the first game of a doubleheader.
Ellis figured that the game was at night, and the the effects of LSD, marijuana, screwdrivers, and amphetamines took their toll. Ellis arrived at Jack Murphy Stadium 90 minutes before first pitch.
Ellis had to rely on the reflective tape on catcher Jerry May’s glove to be able to pitch through his psychedelic fog. Ellis later recounted that if felt like the size and weight of the ball kept changing.
Ellis walked eight and hit a batter. He was often unaware of the score, how many runners were on base, or how many outs there were. Padres pinch hitter Ed Spiezio looked at strike three on a 3-2 pitch to complete the most unlikely no-hitter ever.