The 100 Most Clutch Moments in Sports History
A walk-off home run, a Hail Mary, a short-handed goal, a buzzer-beating shot.
If we were to ask Michael Jordan, he'd call it being in the zone.
If we were to ask Derek Jeter, he'd call it October.
We're talking, of course, about what Stephen Colbert would probably call "clutchiness," but what the rest of us know as clutch plays.
The question is simple: What are the top 100 clutch moments of all time?
We try to answer that here.
100. DeWayne Wise Saves Mark Buehrle's Perfect Game
Top of the ninth. Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle is working a perfect game, and Gabe Kapler's at the plate.
Kapler sends a drive to center that the entire stadium is convinced is a home run; goodbye perfect game, no-hitter, shutout, complete game, all of it.
But DeWayne Wise had other ideas.
99. The Music City Miracle
With 16 seconds left in a Wild Card playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills, the Titans were trailing 16-15 and receiving the kickoff.
The Titans had a play scripted and ready to run, which called for Frank Wycheck to toss the ball to Kevin Dyson. But the kick went to Lorenzo Neal, an incredibly intelligent player, who kept his head, handed the ball to Wycheck and made history.
98. Tyus Edney Goes Coast-to-Coast
How long does it take to run the length of a basketball court and make a layup when your season hangs in the balance?
Apparently, 4.8 seconds.
What makes this play so great is that Tyus Edney and the UCLA Bruins would go on to win the NCAA Tournament.
96. Sophia Young's Buzzer-Beater Beats the L.A. Sparks
With the season on the line against the Los Angeles Sparks, Sophia Young hit a turnaround buzzer-beater to propel the San Antonio Silver Stars to a win in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. The Silver Stars would go on to the WNBA Finals.
95. Torii Hunter Robs Barry Bonds in the All-Star Game
Okay, so it was just an All-Star Game, but when the biggest star in baseball hit what appeared to be a home run, AL center fielder Torii Hunter was undaunted, going over the wall for a memorable catch that robbed Barry Bonds of cherry-on-top glory at the peak of his career.
94. Blues 14, Senators 13
On May 23, 1901, in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the Cleveland Blues (now Indians) trailed the Washington Senators (now Minnesota Twins) by a score of 13-5.
What must have seemed like an eternity later, the Blues won 14-13, marking the largest comeback on the final out of the game in history.
93. Williams' All-Star Walk-Off
Again, just an All-Star Game, but Ted Williams called his two-out, three-run home run to win the 1941 All-Star Game one of the most memorable moments of his career.
92. Dempsey's 63-Yarder
Half an arm, half a foot and the worst franchise in football. On this day, Tom Dempsey put himself and the Saints in the record books.
91. Rooker's Long Walk: June 8, 1989
In 1989, the Pirates were on the road in Philadelphia one day when they happened to put up a 10-spot in the first inning.
Pirates announcer Jim Rooker said that if the Pirates lost that game, he'd walk home.
Well, the Pirates scored only one more run, in the fifth inning, while the Phillies scored two in the first, third and fourth innings and four in the sixth to make the score 11-10.
Then, in the eighth inning, the Phillies rallied for five more runs and won the game going away, 15-11.
Rooker, true to his word, walked the 300 miles back to Pittsburgh, though he did it after the season and used the walk to raise money for charity.
89. Tim Couch Says Two Hail Marys
Not once but twice with the Cleveland Browns, Tim Couch pulled off game-winning Hail Mary passes.
The first game in 1999 against the New Orleans Saints, and the second came in 2002 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Those were pretty much the highlights of an otherwise disappointing career.
88. The Bluegrass Miracle
The Stanford Band play taught us that the band should never come onto the field until the final play of the game is completely over.
The Bluegrass Miracle teaches us that you should never Gatorade the coach until the clock reaches zero, and fans should never enter the field until the final play is over.
87. Keith Smart, 1987: "The Shot"
We have seen guys win games on dunks, free throws and half-court heaves.
But with the clock winding down in the final of the 1987 NCAA Tournament, Keith Smart and the Indiana Hoosiers couldn't set up a shot, so Smart had to take a running jumper moving to his left.
How do you convert on 4th-and-26?
Duh—throw it to the guy who just ran 27 yards.
85. Michael Crabtree's Touchdown
Michael Crabtree catches the ball with Texas Tech down 33-32 to Texas with eight seconds left.
Score and you've just beaten the No. 1 team in the country. Get stopped short and the game is over.
What do you do? What do you do?
84. Teresa Weatherspoon's WNBA Finals Buzzer-Beater
Game 2 of the best-of-three 1999 WNBA Finals.
Teresa Weatherspoon launches a desperation three-pointer from beyond half court, and swish, the New York Liberty force a Game 3.
83. Matt Leinart's 4th-and-9
With USC's consecutive wins streak on the line against hated Notre Dame, the Trojans were down to a 4th-and-9 at their own 26-yard line with 1:36 left.
Leinart called an audible at the line, which resulted in a 61-yard gain and, ultimately, a miracle win by the USC Trojans.
82. Stockton's Jumper in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals
At the end of Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals, John Stockton nailed a three-pointer to finally put the Utah Jazz into the NBA Finals, where they would fall in six games to the Chicago Bulls.
This moment would be ranked higher, but Stockton didn't need three to win, because the score was tied, and didn't need to win the game at all, because it was only Game 6.
81. West's 60-Footer
Down by two in the waning moments of Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Jerry West infamously dribbled past Walt Frazier and heaved a 60-foot shot that went in like it was a free throw.
Ultimately, the Lakers lost in overtime, but the shot has lived on.
80. Kordell's Miracle at Michigan
Trailing in the last seconds of a game between Kordell Stewart's University of Colorado and the University of Michigan, Stewart launched a 76-yard pass that was somehow caught by Michael Westbrook to win the game.
79. Al Gionfriddo's Catch in the 1947 World Series
The Brooklyn Dodgers led the Yankees 8-5 going into the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 6 of the 1947 World Series.
Al Gionfriddo was brought in as a defensive replacement as the Yankees quickly put two men on base. Joe DiMaggio came to the plate and crushed a ball that all parties thought would be a home run.
But Gionfriddo ran like a madman to make a play, racing across the field and reaching over the fence at the 415-foot mark to catch the ball.
The play is famous for eliciting from the famously taciturn DiMaggio a frustrated kick at the dirt between first and second base as he realized the ball had been caught.
78. Bryce Drew's Buzzer-Beater
In 1998, the 13th-seeded Valparaiso Whatevers improbably ran to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The run began with Bryce Drew's buzzer-beater to knock off Ole Miss.
77. Jonathan Byrd's Walk-Off Hole in One
"Walk-off" isn't really a figure of speech we use in golf very often.
So enjoy this clip, because you won't see too many more like it.
76. Flyers Come Back from Down 3-0
The Philadelphia Flyers had been given up for dead when they fell behind 3-0 in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Boston Bruins before coming all the way back to force Game 7.
Things didn't look so good, though, when the Flyers fell behind 3-0 in the game.
Shortly after the third Boston goal, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette called a rare timeout and huddled his entire team.
We'll have to wait for the Disney movie to find out exactly what he said to his team, but whatever it was, it worked. The Flyers didn't yield another goal, and with just under eight minutes left in the game Simon Gagne scored a power-play goal to send the Flyers to the Conference Finals.
75. Mike Jones Tackles Kevin Dyson
On the final play of Super Bowl XXXIV, the Tennessee Titans were in a score-or-go-home situation. Titans quarterback Steve McNair completed a pass to Kevin Dyson, who simply could not elude the tackle of St. Louis Rams linebacker Mike Jones, who made one of the most clutch tackles in football history.
74. Johnny Podres Shuts Down the Yankees
Hard for us to appreciate now, but Dodgers-Yankees used to be a huge deal.
And when Johnny Podres shut out the Yankees in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series to deliver the Brooklyn Dodgers their first ever World Series title over their hated crosstown rival, it was a very, very big deal.
73. Jordan Strips Malone
Look, final shots are final shots, and with a championship in the balance and Bryon Russell guarding him, I think we all expected Michael Jordan to take, and make, the final shot of the 1998 NBA Finals.
The clutch play, though, was what set up the final shot.
With less than 30 seconds remaining, and the Jazz up by a point, Karl Malone had the ball in the low post. If he makes a shot, the game is essentially over. If he is fouled, the game is essentially over.
Instead, John Stockton throws a pass in to Malone, and neither of them noticed Jordan cheating over to pick Malone's pocket.
73. Nuggets Vs. Sonics, 1994 NBA Playoffs
One of the very few No. 8 seeds to ever knock off a No. 1 seed in sports history, the Denver Nuggets knocked the Seattle Supersonics out in the first round of the 1994 NBA Playoffs even though the Sonics had won 63 games that season and looked to be an incredibly strong team.
The Nuggets, meanwhile, had a very young team centered on Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Dikembe Mutombo, and barely finished over .500 at 42-40.
After losing the first two games of the series, the Nuggets reeled off three straight wins, the last two in overtime.
72. The Impossible Return
On August 5, 2001, the Cleveland Indians were trailing the Seattle Mariners 14-2 going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Indians then scored three runs in the seventh, four runs in the eighth and five in the ninth to force extra innings, where they eventually won in the bottom of the 11th.
Kenny Lofton scored both the game-tying and the game-winning runs.
71. Sam Jones' 18-Foot Jumper Over the Lakers
Trailing 87-86 to the Lakers in Game 4 of the 1969 NBA Finals, with the risk of going down 3-1 in the series, Sam Jones came off three screens and shot an 18-foot jumper over the outstretched hands of Wilt Chamberlain that went in as the buzzer sounded to even the series at two and save the Celtics' season.
The Celts would eventually win in seven.
70. Boise State's Hook and Lateral
Before one of the craziest plays in one of the craziest games in college football history, with 18 seconds remaining in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State was facing 4th-and-18.
With Oklahoma in a prevent defense, quarterback Jared Zabransky passed for 15 yards to Drisan James, who flipped the ball to Jerard Rabb, who was crossing in the exact opposite direction and managed to get around the entire Oklahoma defense, running the ball along the left sideline an additional 35 yards for a touchdown.
Boise State would go on to win the game on, of all things, a Statue of Liberty play.
69. The Immaculate Reception
The Immaculate Reception occurred in the AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders on December 23, 1972.
Late in the game, Terry Bradshaw passed to Frenchy Fuqua, who was hit as the ball arrived by Raiders safety Jack Tatum, sending the ball out on a carom. Steelers running back Franco Harris caught the ball out of the air and ran it in for a touchdown that won the game for the Steelers.
68. Larry Bird's Steal from Isiah Thomas
The low point of Isiah Thomas' playing career, the Detroit Pistons were looking to close out Game 5 at Boston Garden and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals back to Detroit for Game 6.
Thomas' inbounds pass, though, found the hands of Larry Bird, who passed it infamously "underneath to DJ, who lays it in."
The Celtics made their last trip the Finals of the Bird-Kevin McHale-Robert Parish era that season, and the Pistons had to wait another year to get to the Finals.
67. Miller's Eight Points in 8.9 Seconds
Would this sequence of events have been amazing if it hadn't taken place during the playoffs?
The fact that it occurred at the end of Game 1 of the Knicks-Pacers Eastern Conference Semifinals in Madison Square Garden made it clutch.
66. Ron Swoboda's Game 4 Catch: 1969 World Series
In the top of the ninth of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series, the Orioles put two men on base with one out when Brooks Robinson hit a screamer to right field. Ron Swoboda, not known for his fielding, made a diving catch to quell the Orioles' rally, and the Mets went on to win the game in extra innings.
A victory would have tied the series up for the heavily favored Orioles, but instead the Mets took a 3-1 lead and won the World Series in five games.
65. Don Larsen's Perfect Game
In Game 2 of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen got rocked for four runs on four walks and a hit without getting out of the second inning.
No matter: In Game 5 he came back out and retired every batter he faced, throwing the only perfect game in postseason history.
64. Renteria's Single Wins the 1997 World Series
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning, 20-year-old Edgar Renteria singled home Craig Counsell to deliver the Florida Marlins a World Series title in their fifth year of existence.
Given his subsequent Series-winning home run for the Giants in 2010, perhaps we should be calling him Mr. October.
63. Ruth Calls His Shot
Whether Ruth pointed to the outfield with his bat to indicate that he was going to hit a home run or not in Game 3 of the 1932 World Series is up for debate.
What we do know is that he made the gesture, and then he smacked a home run to the spot where he had pointed.
62. The Miracle Bowl: 1980 Holiday Bowl
With two minutes and 33 seconds left in the 1980 Holiday Bowl, Jim McMahon and BYU trailed Craig James and SMU, 45-25.
They had them right where they wanted them.
BYU scored 21 points in the final 2:33 and won the game on a Hail Mary to Clay Brown.
61. Dusty Rhodes' Walk-Off
Game 1 of the 1954 World Series is better known for Willie Mays' "The Catch" off Vic Wertz, but the game was won on a pinch-hit, three run homer by Dusty Rhodes off Bob Lemon, which set the tone for a four-game sweep of the Indians.
60. Mr. November
The first ever major league at-bat in November came just after midnight on November 1, 2001.
It was Derek Jeter, it was the bottom of the 10th and the score was tied 3-3 in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series.
Moments later, Jeter hit a walk-off home run to win the game and forever seal the nickname "Mr. November."
59. 2005 Capital One Bowl
Defending champion LSU came into the 2005 Capital One Bowl favored by a touchdown over Iowa.
With only seconds remaining, LSU led Iowa by one point. But the tide turned quickly as Iowa quarterback Drew Tate completed a 56-yard bomb to Warren Holloway as time expired to give Iowa the win.
58. Staubach's Hail Mary
You heard it here first (or maybe not): Roger Staubach is, if not the most underrated, then the most under-appreciated quarterback in NFL history.
He also coined the phrase Hail Mary when referring to his Catholic faith after completing a last-second touchdown pass to Drew Pearson to win an NFC Divisional Round playoff game in 1975. Staubach said to the press afterward, "I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary."
57. Manning's Monday Night Miracle
With four minutes left in regulation against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts trailed 35-14.
Manning somehow led the Colts on three scoring drives to tie the game, and the Colts won in OT.
57. Rumeal Robinson's Free Throws
Here, kid. Take this ball and shoot two free throws.
Miss 'em and you go home.
Make 'em and you're the national champions.
No pressure. Shoot when you're ready.
56. "Go Crazy Folks, Go Crazy"
Ozzie Smith hit a bottom-of-the-ninth solo home run in Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 win and a 3-2 series lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. St. Louis would then defeat the Dodgers 7-5 in Game 6 to go to the World Series.
To put the unlikeliness of this accomplishment into perspective, Smith would not hit another home run until May 31 of the 1988 season.
55. "We'll See You Tomorrow Night"
Game 6 of the tumultuous 1991 World Series between the worst-to-first Atlanta Braves and the worst-to-first Minnesota Twins ended on Kirby Puckett's solo home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to force a Game 7.
Jack Buck, who delivered the infamous "I don't believe what I just saw" for Kirk Gibson's famous home run two years earlier, this time simply exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!"
54. Bob O'Farrell Throws Out Babe Ruth
A classic clutch scenario gone awry for one player becomes the high point of a career for another.
It was the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series. The Yankees were down 3-2 and had Babe Ruth at the plate. The Cardinals had Pete Alexander on the mound, pitching in relief after having pitched a complete game victory the day before.
Wisely, Ol' Pete walked the Babe, who'd already hit four home runs in the Series, which brought Bob Meusel to the plate. On Alexander's first pitch to Meusel, the Babe took off running. O'Farrell threw down to second, where Rogers Hornsby applied the tag and Ruth was out by 10 feet, ending the 1926 World Series.
53. McGrady's 13
I'm not going to describe it. Watch the clip.
It defies logic and makes you wish Tracy McGrady had realized even a quarter of his potential, because he should have been one of the greatest players of all time.
52. Barton Vs. Winona State
The lead in the ESPN.com blurb for this game says it all:
Anthony Atkinson scored 10 points in the final 39 seconds, including a layup at the buzzer, to give Barton College its first NCAA Division II title with a 77-75 victory over previously unbeaten and defending champion Winona State.
And for that matter, who?!?!
51. The Catch: Willie Mays Edition
Willie Mays' catch was one of the earliest, iconic televised baseball moments.
With two on and the score tied at two in the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, Cleveland's Vic Wertz simply crushed a pitch to deep center field.
Mays got a good jump on the ball and, approximately 420 feet from home plate, caught the ball over his back and then quickly sent it back in to prevent Larry Doby from advancing beyond third base.
The Giants ended up sweeping the Indians in the Series.
50. Magic's Baby Hook
With the game on the line and the Lakers up 2-1 in the 1987 NBA Finals looking to take a commanding 3-1 series lead back to Los Angeles, Magic Johnson hit a shot that by today's standards was definitively old school: Magic took the inbounds pass, dribbled to the top of the key and hit a running hook shot to win the game.
A few years later, when Michael Jordan hit his buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo, the paradigm had shifted, and we would never again see a game won on a hook shot, baby or otherwise.
49. Carlton Fisk's Game 6 Home Run
Carlton Fisk launched the ball into the Boston night and then willed it fair with his body language.
The home run is probably the most famous moment by a team that eventually lost the World Series.
48. Jeter's Flip
Controversy abounds about whether Jorge Posada tagged Jeremy Giambi or not.
No controversy abounds about what a clutch play Jeter made and, for that matter, made look easy.
47. LeBron Takes Over Vs. Pistons
On May 31, 2007, LeBron James scored 29 of the Cavaliers' final 30 points, and all of the team's final 25 points, to bring the Cavaliers to within one win of the NBA Finals.
We all thought this clutch moment marked the beginning of what would be a period of LeBron dominance for years to come.
46. 1985 Villanova Men's Basketball
In one of the biggest upsets in sports history, Villanova was a No. 8 seed in the 1985 NCAA Tournament but knocked off Patrick Ewing and the mighty Georgetown Hoyas.
Villanova was the lowest seed ever to win the tournament.
Villanova shot a remarkable 78.6 percent in the game, which came down to the game's final possession.
45. Lakers Come Back from 15 Down to Beat Blazers
The Shaq-Kobe Dynasty began courtesy of a 15-0 run by the Lakers after trailing the Portland Trail Blazers by 15 points with less than 10 minutes to play in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
44. Mike Scott's No-Hitter to Clinch the NL West
Hey, Mike Scott, with the Houston Astros one game away from clinching the division in the 1986 season, really I think all the Astros needed was seven good innings.
You didn't need to pitch a no-hitter.
43. Adam Vinatieri
You don't need any single moment. Just the name: Vinatieri.
The Patriots and Colts kicker had 20 career game-winning field goals, kicked a 45-yarder in the snow to force overtime against the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs and won two Super Bowls with field goals against the Rams and the Panthers, and his field goals were the difference in the Patriots' 24-21 Super Bowl victory over the Eagles.
He also kicked five field goals to guide the Colts past the favored Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore on the way to the Super Bowl in 2006.
42. Vince Young's Rose Bowl Scramble
For all the complaining we've done about the BCS, in 2006 the Bowl Championship Series gave us a classic, as Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns upset Reggie Bush and the USC Trojans.
For the game, Young had 200 yards rushing and 267 yards passing. The game turned on a nine-yard touchdown scramble by Young on fourth down with 19 seconds remaining.
41. 0.4 Seconds
Can you get a shot off in 0.4 seconds?
Only if the game is on the line and Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have already danced around acting like they've won the game.
40. Henderson's Home Run
Down 3-1 in the 1986 American League Championship Series, and down 5-4 with two outs and two strikes in the top of the ninth in Anaheim, the Boston Red Sox were one strike from being eliminated from postseason play.
With a 2-2 count against Angels closer Donnie Moore, Dave Henderson got a pitch to hit and cranked a two-run bomb off Moore to put the Red Sox ahead. Two innings later, Henderson would hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly off Moore to put the Red Sox ahead for good.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Sadly, untold tragedy might have been averted had this game gone the other way. Moore fell into a cycle of drug and alcohol abuse that ultimately led to his suicide, while those same 1986 Red Sox went on to the World Series, where Bill Buckner's life was ruined by a Mookie Wilson ground ball in what ultimately turned into a Mets World Series championship.
39. Warren Morris Wins the 1996 College World Series
Hey, Warren Morris, we know you've had a hand injury, you haven't hit a home run all season and you made two outs in our historic 22-run seventh inning against Georgia Tech during the regionals, but now we're down to the bottom of the ninth of the championship game of the 1996 College World Series, we're down by one with two outs and a runner on and we need a clutch hit.
What can you give us?
38. David Pearson's 1976 Daytona 500 Win
"In the 1976 Daytona 500, Richard Petty was leading on the last lap when he was passed on the backstretch by David Pearson. Petty tried to turn under Pearson coming off the final corner, but didn't clear Pearson. The contact caused the drivers to spin in to the grass in the infield just short of the finish line. Petty's car didn't start, but Pearson was able to keep his car running and limp over the finish line for the win. Many fans consider this finish to be the greatest in the history of NASCAR. The end of the race was televised live on American network ABC."
37. Koufax Finishes the 1965 World Series
Two days after pitching a four-hit shutout in Game 5 of the 1965 World Series, and pitching on the road against a team that had won Game 6, 5-1, Sandy Koufax had a shutout going in the ninth when he allowed a one-out single by Harmon Killebrew.
Suddenly, the game-tying run was at the plate.
No problem: Koufax simply struck out the next two batters to end a three-hit shutout and seal the 1965 World Series.
36. Bobby Orr: "The Goal"
Bobby Orr's game-winning goal in overtime of Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals gave Boston its first Stanley Cup and gave the hockey world its most famous photograph of all time.
35. Jordan's Jumper, 1982 NCAA Championship
He was a freshman, and he hit the game-winning jumper in the 1982 NCAA Championship Game.
His name was Michael Jordan, and this was the beginning of one of the greatest careers in sports history, to say nothing of this being the first of a myriad of clutch moments.
34. Santonio Holmes' Super Bowl XLIII Touchdown
Helmet Catch aside, this must be the greatest catch of all time.
That it came in the waning moments of a Super Bowl with his team needing a score makes it one of the greatest clutch catches of all time.
An important note: Watch the clip. When the play happens in regular speed, you simply cannot convince yourself that he was in bounds. Only with replay is it made clear that he got his feet down.
33. Brady Wins Super Bowl XXXVI
Hey kid, we know we drafted you in the sixth round of the NFL draft, and you weren't expecting to play what with Patriots legend Drew Bledsoe occupying the quarterback role, but we needed you to, and you did a fine job.
Now, if you could do us one more favor: We just gave the Super Bowl back to one of the greatest offenses of all time, allowing the Rams to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns and tie the score.
Could you lead us down the field for a go-ahead field goal, which will prove to be the winning score for the Patriots' first Super Bowl victory and one of the most unlikely upsets in Super Bowl history?
Thanks a bunch.
32. Messier's Game 6 Hat Trick
Yeah, sure, Joe Namath guaranteed victory and delivered in Super Bowl III, but really, that game was about the Jets defense shutting down Johnny Unitas and the Colts offense.
With the New York Rangers on the brink of elimination in Game 6 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Mark Messier guaranteed victory and went out and scored a hat trick.
Now that's clutch.
31. Willis Reed Comes Down the Tunnel
On May 8, 1970, prior to Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden, the injured Willis Reed, who had missed Game 6, walked onto the court during warmups and electrified the crowd.
Reed started the game and scored only four points, but the inspiration he provided dictated the outcome of the game, as the Knicks won their first NBA championship.
30. Cassius Clay vs. Sonny Liston
In their first bout, then-named Cassius Clay boasted and boasted and boasted about how he was going to manhandle the favored and more feared Sonny Liston.
Then he went out and did it, and a star was born.
(This photo, by the way, is from a later bout, but I love it and wanted to use it, so there.)
29. Havlicek Steals the Ball: 1965 Eastern Conference Finals
Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals, Celtics up 101-100 against the Philadelphia 76ers, with Hal Greer inbounding the ball for the Sixers.
Man, a steal here would be really clutch.
28. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary
Boston College and Doug Flutie took the ball at their own 22-yard line with 28 seconds to go against the Miami Hurricanes in a nationally televised game on CBS the day after Thanksgiving.
As the clock wound down to zero, Flutie scrambled around and finally launched one of the most iconic Hail Marys of all time, finding Gerard Phelan for the winning score.
27. The Comeback: Bills Vs. Oilers, January 3, 1993
Starting quarterback injured, starting running back injured, trailing 35-3 early in the third quarter of the 1992-93 playoffs?
No problem for Frank Reich, the Buffalo Bills' backup quarterback.
Final Score: 41-38, Buffalo.
26. Jack Morris Comes Out for the 10th
Still knotted at zero after nine innings, the Twins turned to their ace.
And the 36-year-old Jack Morris, who'd just pitched nine innings of shutout ball, came back out and did it again, retiring the Braves in order in the top of the 10th of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
In this era in which a starter is rarely sent out for the ninth, let alone the 10th, in crucial games, this is a historic performance. While it seemed that Morris could probably have gone 20 if the Twins had needed it, they won in the bottom of the 10th inning for their second title in five years.
25. Pheidippides Runs First Marathon, Dies
Pheidippides ran 25 miles from the battlefield near Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over Persia in the Battle of Marathon, around 490 BC, exclaiming, "We have won," and then promptly collapsed and died on the spot from exhaustion.
Truly one of the great moments in athletic achievement, and clearly clutch.
24. Belov's Buzzer Beater, 1972 Olympic Finals
In the basketball final of the 1972 Summer Olympics, Alexander Belov of the Soviet Union scored a last-second basket after catching a full-court desperation launch by a teammate.
As time expired, Belov hit a layup that won the game 51-50 against the U.S. team.
Belov was once considered the greatest foreign-born basketball player ever and was the first European inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
23. Joe Carter's Game 6 Walk-Off
Dude won the World Series with a home run in the bottom of the ninth against Phillies reliever Mitch Williams, who was a ground ball away from forcing a Game 7.
22. Luis Gonzalez Wins the 2001 World Series Against Mariano Rivera
Tied score, bottom of the ninth, Game 7, bases loaded.
The best closer in baseball history on the mound.
21. Michael Phelps Takes an Extra Stroke
In the only race that was even close for Michael Phelps individually at the 2008 Summer Olympics, it looked like Phelps might actually not win the gold in the 100-meter butterfly.
Phelps trailed at the halfway point, and at the three-quarter mark he was still behind.
Then, suddenly, he made his move. He got closer and closer to the leader, and then suddenly we were headed for a photo finish.
Just as the two swimmers approached the finish, it happened: As his competitor coasted for the last couple of inches, Phelps took a final stroke and won by a fraction of a second.
20. Lorenzo Charles' Championship Dunk
A desperation shot.
A heads-up play.
A jubilant coach looking for someone to hug.
Watch Charles, by the way, after the dunk.
He clearly thinks he either goaltended or dunked the ball after the clock had expired.
Rather than jumping up and down, his body language says, "No I didn't," to whatever the charge may be.
19. Johnny Unitas Wins Greatest Game Ever Played
The 1958 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts at Yankee Stadium has been called the Greatest Game Ever Played, and it marked the beginning of the NFL's ascent to the top of the sports ratings world.
Trailing by three with roughly two minutes left, quarterback Johnny Unitas drove the Colts from their own 14-yard line all the way to the Giants' 20, setting up a game-tying field goal with seven seconds left.
Then, in overtime, Unitas led the Colts on an 80-yard drive, which culminated in Alan Ameche's game-winning one-yard dive into the end zone.
The game was the first ever sudden-death overtime game in the history of the NFL and to this day is the only championship game ever decided in overtime. The game was broadcast nationally by NBC and seen by 45 million fans across the country
18. Tracy Porter's Interception of Peyton Manning
You're Tracy Porter. You're playing for a snakebitten franchise in their first-ever Super Bowl, and while a victory would be great, just getting to the Super Bowl makes you a local hero and makes the season a success.
Your opponent is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a master craftsman who controls his offense in a way few others have ever tried.
Do you rest on your heels, hoping to limit the damage by breaking up passes or making tackles on your side of the field, or do you rely on your film study, anticipate your opponent's next move and make a play?
17. Ted Williams Hits .406
Going into a season-ending doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics, Ted Williams was batting .39955, which would have rounded up to .400, an increasingly rare accomplishment.
Red Sox manager Joe Cronin gave Williams the opportunity to sit out the final day, but Williams said he'd rather play and not be the guy who sat his way to hitting .400.
In his first at-bat that day, Athletics catcher Frankie Hayes is reputed to have told Williams that the A's were all pulling for him, but that Connie Mack had told them that they were to pitch him hard, and that if any one of the A's pitchers went easy on him, they'd be cut.
Nevertheless, Williams went 6-for-8 on the day and finished with a .406 batting average, the last player to hit over .400 in a season.
16. Montana's Drive to Win Super Bowl XXIII
The 49ers trailed the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 with 3:10 on the clock when they took the ball with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Luckily, the 49ers had Joe Montana.
15. Mario's Miracle
With 2:12 remaining in regulation in the 2008 NCAA Final Four, Memphis led Kansas by nine points and looked to ice their first championship.
Kansas scored five straight and then began manically fouling Memphis, a poor free-throw shooting team, and it paid off as Memphis missed four of its final five free throws as Kansas furiously scored 12 points in the final two minutes.
All of which set up Mario Chalmers' three-pointer in the waning seconds to force overtime, where Kansas went on to win the championship.
14. Kerri Strug
Kerri Strug needs a nine-point-whatever to win gold in the vault. On her first attempt, she stumbles, falls and injures her ankle.
Visibly limping, she takes her second attempts and nails it...on one foot! After holding the pose on one foot, she collapses to the ground in agony and begins receiving medical attention as her score is announced.
"Nine-point-blah blah blah!"
Kerri Strug wins the gold. On one foot.
13. Horry's King Sinker
With the Lakers about to go down to the Sacramento Kings 3-1 heading back to Sacramento in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Vlade Divac inadvertently tipped a rebound to the last player whose hands you'd ever want the ball in as the clock winds down to zero.
12. The Catch: NFL Edition
In the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the NFC’s dominant team of the 1970s faced off against what would become the NFC’s dominant team of the 1980s.
With under a minute left in regulation and the 49ers trailing by six, Joe Montana rolled right and found Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone for the winning score. Montana, who was under pressure from Ed “Too Tall” Jones, threw high to Clark, who jumped as high as he could and caught the pass with the tips of his fingers.
Allegedly, after the play, Jones said to Montana, “You just beat America’s team,” after which Montana said, “Well, you can watch the Super Bowl at home with the rest of America.”
I really hope that’s a true story.
11. The Shot Heard 'Round the World
On August 11 of the 1951 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers led the New York Giants by 13.5 games.
The Giants won 37 of their last 44 games and finished the season tied with the Dodgers, having come all the way back.
In fact, it was only a 14-inning victory over the Philadelphia Phillies that allowed the Dodgers to even finish tied.
The Dodgers and Giants played a three-game playoff series to determine which team would go to the World Series. With the series tied 1-1, the Giants entered the bottom of the ninth trailing, 4-1.
The Giants scored a run and put two on for Bobby Thomson, who cranked a three-run home run to win the game and send the Giants to the World Series.
10. Jesse Owens Shows Up Adolf Hitler
In what was supposed to be a show of the brilliance and dominance of the superior Aryan race at Adolf Hitler's 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens crashed the party and achieved international fame by winning four gold medals, in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team.
Owens' achievements in Germany in 1936 meant so much to the United States of America, and the treatment of blacks began to rapidly improve upon Owens' return.
A mere 11 years later, Major League Baseball let Jackie Robinson join the Dodgers. Just 18 years later, separate-but-equal was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and just 28 years later Congress passed a law making it illegal to prevent blacks from voting.
Yes, suffice to say that Jesse Owens demonstrated for the whole world that bigotry only existed in Germany and that America really was the land of opportunity for all citizens.
9. The Miracle on Ice
What is so rarely remembered is that the game was still in doubt well into the third period when Vladimir Krutov was sent to the penalty box at the 6:47 mark of the third period for high-sticking.
The Americans, who had managed only two shots on Soviet goalie Vladimir Myshkin to that point, had a rare power play and took advantage, as Dave Silk advanced into the Soviet zone and was knocked to the ice. The puck slid to Mark Johnson, who fired off a shot that went under Myshkin and into the net at the 8:39 mark as the power play was ending, tying the game at three.
If that goal doesn't go in, the power play comes to an end, and in all likelihood, so does the game.
8. Brandi Chastain's Penalty Kick
The 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup Final, held at the Rose Bowl, sported the largest attendance for a women's sporting event in California history, with attendance over 90,000.
Those fans got to see the United States and China play to a scoreless tie in regulation. After a critical save by Brianna Scurry on a China penalty kick, Brandi Chastain took her turn and kicked the U.S. women to their second World Cup.
The image of Chastain ripping off her jersey in celebration was burned into the minds of sports fans forever.
7. John Elway's Drive
In the fourth quarter of the 1986 AFC Championship Game, the Denver Broncos got the ball at their own 2-yard line, down 20-13, with just over five-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.
The rest is history.
6. Roberts' Steal
The Boston Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees 3-0 in the ALCS on October 17, 2004. Suddenly, they were down to their final half-inning in Game 4, bottom of the ninth inning, trailing 4-3 and facing Mariano Rivera.
Kevin Millar led off the ninth with a walk and was lifted for pinch runner Dave Roberts.
On Rivera's first pitch to the next batter, Roberts took off for second base. If he had been thrown out, the game would have been over. Instead, he was safe, and the Red Sox tied the game and then won it in the 12th.
The Red Sox then won the next three games to complete the most improbable comeback of all time and easily beat the Cardinals for their first World Series victory since 1918.
5. Jordan's Jumper Over Craig Ehlo
One legendary moment spelled the fate of two franchises at a crossroads.
For Michael Jordan, with his iconic leap and celebration, this shot began the march of the Chicago Bulls towards the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would do battle with the Detroit Pistons in each of the next three seasons before finally prevailing in 1991 and going on to win their first of six NBA Finals.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers and Craig Ehlo, with his iconic collapse to the ground, it was the beginning of a long, hard road as second-class citizens of the Eastern Conference.
4. Christian Laettner's Buzzer-Beater
With a trip to the 1992 NCAA Final Four hanging in the balance, Kentucky took a 102-101 lead over Duke on a Sean Woods runner in the lane with 2.1 seconds left on the clock.
The game seemed to be over to everyone except Duke's coach and players, who drew up this play to win the game.
As Kentucky's players and fans looked on in disbelief, Duke's players couldn't believe what they'd just seen.
3. Maz's Walk-Off
In a most amazing World Series, in which the mighty New York Yankees outscored the Pittsburgh Pirates by a total score of 55-27, the Pirates nevertheless came out on top when Bill Mazeroski, who'd had 11 regular season home runs in 1960, cracked a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, giving the Pirates a 10-9 series-clinching win.
2. Helmet Catch
Super Bowl XLII featured the undefeated New England Patriots, one of the greatest teams of all time, and the Wild Card entry New York Giants.
With the second-largest television audience in American history watching, the Giants trailed 14-10 with 1:15 left in the game and faced a 3rd-and-5 from their own 44-yard line.
Under pressure from the Patriots defense, Giants quarterback Eli Manning barely eluded Patriots defenders in order to launch a jump ball for David Tyree, who was being heavily guarded by Rodney Harrison.
Tangled up with Harrison and falling onto his back, Tyree pinned the ball against his helmet and somehow held on.
Moments later, the Giants scored the winning touchdown and ended the Patriots' dreams of a perfect season.
1. Gibson's Home Run
It is, in essence, the ultimate childhood fantasy moment:
World Series, bottom of the ninth, one on and two outs, down by one.
Kirk Gibson, with not one but two injured knees, steps up to the plate as a pinch hitter and hits a home run against—oh by the way—Dennis Eckersley, the best reliever in baseball.
Put it like this: At the end of Major League, Wesley Snipes is on second, the score is tied and Tom Berenger surprise bunts, beating out an infield single as Snipes scores to win the Indians the division. That was freakin’ Hollywood, and it wasn’t as amazing as what Gibson did.
Kirk Gibson's Game 1 home run off Dennis Eckersley was the very definition of a Clutch Moment.