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Rajon Rondo and the Toughest Performances in Sports History

Robert KnapelCorrespondent IMay 8, 2011

Rajon Rondo and the Toughest Performances in Sports History

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 07: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics injures his arm as he lands on the court after a scramble with Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2011 at the TD
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Injuries can ruin the day not just for athletes but also for their teams. When some athletes get hurt in big games they manage to find some way to play through the pain.

    Athletes in every sport ranging from tennis to football have played through injuries that would sideline most people. These incidences have led to some of the greatest moments in sports history.

20. Pete Sampras

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    During the 1996 US Open, Pete Sampras had what looked to be an easy matchup against Spaniard Alex Corretja. It would have been an easy match had Sampras not come down with a stomach flu before the match.

    Corretja brought his best game with him and he battled with Sampras. The match went on and on. Sampras' legs began to get shaky and he looked tired. Then, in the fifth set tiebreaker, Sampras threw up on the court and was given a delay of game violation.

    Sampras managed to fight through his illness and won the match.

19. Michael Chang

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    American tennis player Michael Chang at the French Open in Paris, 1989. He won the tournament, becoming the youngest male winner of a Grand Slam singles event at the age of 17. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)
    Simon Bruty/Getty Images

    Having a leg cramp is a huge issue for a tennis player. They are incredibly limited in what they can do with a cramp.

    Michael Chang had leg cramps that were so bad in the fourth round of the 1989 French Open that he was forced to serve underhand.

    Ivan Lendl was up by two sets on Chang in the match while Chang was facing severe exhaustion. Chang managed to win the match in five sets after four hours and 37 minutes.

18. Ken Venturi

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 07:  Ken Venturi walks to the stage at the Opening Ceremonies prior to the start of The Presidents Cup at Harding Park Golf Course on October 7, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    When a doctor advises you that your actions may be fatal, most people will follow the doctor's advice and stop what they are doing. Ken Venturi did the opposite of that during the 1964 US Open.

    Ventruri was facing severe dehydration and heat exhaustion in the middle of 36 rounds of golf on Sunday. His doctor followed him around the course in case anything happened. What did happen was that Venturi managed to capture a come from behind victory and win by four strokes.

17. Phillip Rivers

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    DENVER - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks to deliver a pass against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.  (Photo by Doug
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    In the 2007 AFC Divisional round against the Colts, Phillip Rivers went down with a knee injury. He was not able to return to the game but the Chargers held on to win. He had arthroscopic surgery the next day to fix whatever he could.

    Rivers then went on to play in the AFC Championship against the Patriots knowing that he had a torn ACL. He managed to go 19 for 37 and threw for 211 yards with two interceptions.

    While it was not an outstanding performance, Rivers put his career on the line for his team.

16. Kellen Winslow

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    Winslow played one of the best games in his career while he was dealing with cramps and dehydration. If that wasn't enough, he also got three stitches to his lip. And there's more. He also had a pinched nerve in his shoulder.

    With all of these ailments one would not fault Winslow if he had an off-day. Instead, Winslow had 13 catches for 166 yards against the Dolphins. He also caused overtime when he blocked a field goal at the end of regulation.

    After the game, Winslow was carried off the field by his teammates.

     

    Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt

15. Bobby Baun

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    In 1964, the Toronto Maple Leafs faced a 3-2 deficit heading into Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings.

    Early on in the game, Baun broke his ankle. He then made a triumphant return later in the game. Baun, a defenseman, managed to score the game winning goal with just one good ankle.

    The Leafs then went on to win Game 7 and the Stanley Cup a few nights later.

    Photo Credit: Ontario Sports Hall of Fame

14. Tiger Woods

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    AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 10:  Tiger Woods hits his second shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the 2011 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 10, 2011 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time. He did not need to do anything to add to his legend. However, in 2008 Woods had one of the most impressive performances in golf history.

    Tiger was playing in the 2008 US Open with a torn ACL and broken leg. Nothing should be expected of any athlete with those injuries. Woods managed to fight on.

    He hobbled around the course and went to a playoff against Rocco Mediate for the title. Woods managed to beat Mediate and turned in an incredible performance.

13. Byron Leftwich

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    An ordinary MAC game became the scene of one of the more memorable college football moments of the past decade. Marshall was facing Toledo Akron when Marshall's starting quarterback Byron Leftwich was hit in the shin during the first quarter.

    Leftwich knew he was hurt and had to be carried down field by linemen Steve Perretta and Steve Sciullo to finish the touchdown drive. After the drive, Leftwich went to the hospital and found out he broke his shin.

    He then returned to the game in the third quarter and managed to complete 14 of 24 passes for 108 yards in the second half.

12. Kirk Gibson

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    No one expected Kirk Gibson to play in Game 1 of the World Series. He had a bad hamstring. He could barely walk.

    The voice of the Dodgers, Vin Scully, even noted how Gibson was not in the dugout during the game. This was true as Gibson was in the clubhouse undergoing physical therapy. After hearing Scully's comment on TV, he made sure that Tommy Lasorda knew that he was ready if he was needed.

    Lasorda decided to call on Gibson as a pinch-hitter in the the ninth. Gibson hit a two-run walk-off home run that gave the Dodgers the win and an emotional edge.

     

    Photo Credit: MLB

11. Ben Hogan

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    In 1949, Ben Hogan was involved in a head-on car accident with a bus. Golf was certainly the last thing on his mind as he was told that he might never be able to walk again. Hogan had suffered two fractures to his pelvis, a broken collarbone, a broken ankle and broken ribs.

    Just 16 months after doctors thought Hogan wouldn't walk again, he was competing in the US Open.

    He was tied for the lead and went to a three-way 18-hole playoff against George Fazio and Lloyd Mangrum. Hogan impressively defeated both of them to win the title.

     

    Photo Credit: John Dominis

10. Cassius Clay

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    Clay was in the middle of an entertaining fight with Sonny Liston in 1964 when he managed to cut Liston.

    Then, after the fourth round, Clay wanted out. His eyes were burning and he couldn't see. His trainer cleaned them with water, but Clay still couldn't see. He went out there for the fifth round and stayed in the fight. By the start of the sixth round, Clay could see again.

    Clay won the fight after Liston did not get back up to fight after the sixth round. It was a huge upset and Clay shocked the world.

    Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

9. Ronnie Lott

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    Sep 1988:  Strong safety Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers focuses on the ball as he follows in pursuit during a 49ers game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.   Mandatory Credit: Allsport USA/ALLSPORT
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    In a game against the Dallas Cowboys in the 1985 season, Ronnie Lott had his finger get crushed during a play. He went over to the sidelines and got his pinky taped up and then re-entered the game.

    Not wanting to miss any time during the season, Lott continued to play with his busted finger. In the offseason, Lott found out that the finger would need to be amputated.

    He had the surgery and for the remainder of his career, Ronnie Lott played in the NFL with only nine fingers.

8. Rajon Rondo

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 07: Rajon Rondo #9 of the Boston Celtics heads down court after he scored on a break away in the second half against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 7, 2011 at the TD Garde
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Looking at Rajon Rondo's stat line from Game 3 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals, nothing really stands out. He had six points, three rebounds and 11 assists.

    His performance is a lot more impressive once you realize that Rondo did it with just one good arm. Rondo played with a dislocated elbow. He was more impressive while his left hand was dangling at his side than some players are when they use both arms.

7. Michael Jordan

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    10 Jun 1998:  Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls in action against Howard Eisley and Jeff Hornasek of the Utah Jazz during the NBA Finals Game 4 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls defeated the Jazz 86-82. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Michael Jordan's career was filled with memorable games and moments. One of the most famous of those games, "The Flu Game," came against the Utah Jazz in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.

    The day before the game, Jordan woke up sick. He was told by doctors that he likely would not be able to play the next day. Understanding that the winner of the game took control of the series, Jordan decided to suit up and play.

    When he walked onto the court, it was clear that Jordan did not look right. He was pale and visibly weak. The Bulls went down by 16 early as Jordan was struggling. He then found some energy and turned it on.

    Jordan brought the Bulls back into the game and scored 16 points in the fourth quarter and hit a three with 30 seconds left.

    Jordan played 44 minutes and ended the game with 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

6. Curt Schilling

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    NEW YORK - OCTOBER 19:   Pitcher Curt Schilling #38 of the Boston Red Sox grabs at his ankle as it appears to be bleeding in the fourth inning during game six of the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees on October 19, 2004 at Y
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    The Boston Red Sox fell into a 3-0 hole in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees. The team managed to win Games 4 and 5 to narrow the Yankees lead.

    The Red Sox called upon Curt Schilling for Game 6 of the series. Schilling was on the mound despite having a torn tendon in his right ankle which was being held together by sutures.

    Schilling pitched seven innings, giving up just one run on four hits, and led the Red Sox to victory. The Sox would win Game 7 and become the first team in baseball history to come back from a 3-0 deficit.

5. Shun Fujimoto

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    Gymnasts need to be able to stick their landings to get a good score.

    Fujimoto hurt himself during the first part of the competition in the 1976 Summer Olympics. He knew it was a leg injury, but he did not know that he fractured his kneecap.

    He continued to compete and scored a 9.5 on the pummel horse. He had a soaring dismount and perfect landing off of the rings which helped him score a 9.7. Fujimoto hobbled off the floor and did not compete in any further events.

    However, Fujimoto's efforts helped Japan upset the heavily favored Soviets for the gold medal.

     

    Photo Credit: Associated Press

4. Kerri Strug

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    ATLANTA - JULY 23:  Coach Bela Karolyi carries Kerri Strug of the United States after she injured herself on her first attempt while competing in the vault, part of the Womens Team Gymnastics competition at the 1996 Olympic Games on July 23, 1996 at the G
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    As mentioned in the previous slide, landings are so important for gymnasts in the Olympics.

    Kerri Strug missed her first landing off the vault in the 1996 Olympics and injured her ankle.

    Competing with a third-degree sprain, she went back up to complete her second vault. She stuck the landing and then fell to the floor, unable to move from all of the pain.

    She gave the Americans the gold medal over the Soviets.

3. Willis Reed

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    The story of Willis Reed's performance with a torn muscle in his right calf has gone down in both NBA and New York lore.

    Reed had missed Game 6 of the 1970 NBA Finals with the injury. He hobbled out of the tunnel at the Garden and on to the floor.

    Reed only scored the Knicks' first four points of the game, but that was not his only contribution. Reed's presence on the floor provided a huge emotional lift to his teammates. The Knicks went on to win the game and the NBA championship.

2. Bert Trautmann

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    Soccer players tend to get a poor repuatation from a lot of Americans who think they are not as tough as other athletes. Clearly these people have not heard about the performance that Trautmann put in during the 1956 FA Cup.

    Manchester City had managed to build up a 3-1 lead on Birmingham City when Peter Murphy was on the attack to try to narrow the deficit. Murphy collided with Trautmann, who made the save, and his knee hit Trautmann in the neck.

    Trautmann was knocked out for a few seconds but needed to stay in the game because Manchester City had no substitutions left. He looked dazed as he stood in net, but he stood strong in net and made a few diving saves to keep Manchester City on top.

    Three days later, while at the hospital getting his neck checked out, Trautmann had an X-Ray and was told that he had broken his number five vertebrae during the collision.

     

    Photo Source: Goalkeeping Greats

1. Jack Youngblood

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    ANAHEIM, CA - DECEMBER 23:  Defensive end Jack Youngblood #85 of the Los Angeles Rams walk on the field during the 1984 NFC Wild Card playoff game against the New York Giants at Anaheim Stadium on December 23, 1984 in Anaheim, California.   The Giants won
    George Rose/Getty Images

    Playing with a major injury for one game is hard enough, but Youngblood managed to play through one for three games in the NFL playoffs.

    Youngblood played in part of the 1979 NFC Divisional game, the 1979 NFC Championship game and Super Bowl XIV with a broken leg. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl that season so he decided to play in it despite his leg injury.

    This was an incredible feat considering the amount of leg drive that a defensive end needs to generate to chase after a running back or rush the quarterback.

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