The 50 Most Amazing Plays of All Time

Austin SchindelAnalyst IIFebruary 2, 2012

The 50 Most Amazing Plays of All Time

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    Amazing. This word means more than just the game. It means a moment or a play. An image that withstands the test of time because it is so unforgettable that we make sure to keep it alive.

    It transcends sports and moves into our lives. These are the moments that make us love sports and continue to watch it. We watch, waiting for the next great moment or amazing play, hoping that it will become immortalized in our psyche.

    Here are the 50 most amazing plays of all time.

50. Nicks Catch Against WVU

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    The defender had the best reaction on that play. At first, he simply gives up because it looked like it was going to be an incomplete pass. Then, after the play was over, he puts his hands on his head in disbelief.

    That's why Hakeem Nicks is playing in the Super Bowl and this guy is probably at home watching.

49. Bluegrass Miracle

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    There is nothing better in sports than to see a team pre-celebrate.

    Kentucky makes it seem like 1) something like a Hail Mary is completely implausible, 2) they have the best secondary in the world, and 3) they aren't playing the SEC's elite.


48. DeSean Jackson Punt Return

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    Skip to 1:36 in the video.

    Whatever you do, don't kick it to the extremely dangerous punt returner. Really, under no circumstance do you punt a low line-drive kick to the guy with huge game-breaking speed. Got it?


    Unbelievable. That's an uncomfortable postgame locker room. 

47. Derek Fisher .04 Shot

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    Did it count? What's wrong with the timekeeper? All of these questions come secondary to the fact that Derek Fisher made one of the most difficult/important/improbable buzzer beaters of all time, making it amazing.

    The NBA says you need at least .3 seconds to attempt a legitimate shot. Fisher even left .1 seconds to spare. 

46. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the volatile striker, for all of his problems, is still one of the most talented players in the world.

    That was no more apparent than when he split five defenders including the goalie through a series of moves that would make Chris Berman scream, "Wwwwuuuuup."

    There is nothing like one man taking on an entire back line.

45. High School Hurdle

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    If you plan on trying to hurdle someone, you better make it, because otherwise you're going to be in for a world of pain.

    When I heard that it was his seventh touchdown of the night, I came to the realization that the kid knew what he was doing.

44. Malik's Penalty Shot

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    Sometimes, the greatest moments come from players you least expect.

    Marek Malik, who was noted by the commentators for not being a normal penalty shooter nor having scored a goal all year, came through in ways that made the announcer shriek like a 10-year-old girl. See, at heart, we are all fans.

    The move was memorable, but the fact that he ended the longest shootout in NHL history gives it a little something extra.

43. Joe Washington

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    This one comes from deep in the archives. I pride myself on having watched hours and hours of YouTube videos doing research for my many articles, but I have never seen this before.

    Joe Washington of the Oklahoma Sooners gives us one of the better punt returns I have ever seen.

    You have the jukes, the broken tackles and the always-awesome "looks like he's down but he's really sneaking through the pile" moments.

    Well done, sir. 

42. Bobby Ryan

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    Spectacular is right. He makes the defenders look stupid by using a series of moves that he must have practiced hundreds of times on the pond in his backyard.

    Bobby Ryan even seemed amazed by what he did. That's the true sign of an amazing moment—it's bigger than the athlete.

41. Kevin Mitchell Bare-Handed Catch

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    "In my entire life, I have never seen that happen." See, the commentator is even doing all the hard work for me.

    He might have taken a bad route to the ball, but it added to the theatrics.

    In the bare-handed-baseball-catches category, Mitchell beat out David Wright and holds a prestigious spot on the list.

40. Bird Scores on Own Miss

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    The intuitiveness. The anticipation. The follow.

    I'm not sure which part of the play is the most impressive—all I know is that I wish I had as much talent as Larry Bird had in his pinky. 

    These were the types of plays that separate stars from legends.

    Don't be desensitized by the play just because you have seen it a bunch of times. It is truly incredible.

39. Rene Higuita Saves Ball with His Feet

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    Necessary? Absolutely not.

    Amazing? Undoubtedly.

    Rene Higuita and the entire Colombian soccer team had swagger. This is just Rene being Rene. Luckily, this yielded one of the greatest "What the ____" moments.

38. Amazing Japanese Baseball Player Catch

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    He didn't just scale the wall or jump and bring the ball back in the park.

    This incredible outfielder climbed on top of the wall AND leaped over the fence to bring it back. I think watching it will do it the most justice.

    I'm done. Go watch again.

37. Travis Pastrana Double Back Flip

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    In 2006, Travis Pastrana attempted what was thought to be impossible—a double back flip, on a motorcycle, over nothing but very unforgiving ground.

    He put on the body armor, told his mom he loved her and went for it.

    Don't tell me this isn't a sport, because I'm thinking Travis would beg to differ.

36. Roger Federer Through the Legs

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    What do you do when you've won majors and beaten all worthy opponents? Do it without looking.

    Roger Federer may no longer be the top dog, but he'll always have this incredible moment. One of the many tests these clips have gone through is crowd and announcer reaction.

    In this clip, Roger's body language says it all.

35. Oklahoma State Interception

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    On their way to the top of the rankings, the Oklahoma State Cowboys used some dramatics along the way. 

    In their biggest game of the year, cornerback Broderick Brown made possibly the most self-aware interception of all time. He tipped the ball to teammate Shaun Lewis, keeping his feet inbounds long enough to make the play.

    This very well might have been the turning point of the season.

34. Brad Johnson TD Pass to Himself

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    We've seen quarterbacks throw balls that are batted down and then caught by the quarterback, big deal. 

    What makes this special is that Brad Johnson doesn't panic, like most do. He has the presence of mind to collect himself and find a blocker.

    The play resulted in a touchdown and therefore makes this esteemed list. 

33. Bears Decoy

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    Forget for a second that this play was negated by a penalty.

    Now put into perspective three things. First, special teams knows which way the punt is going to go (presumably). Second, all they have to do is look up in the air to see which way the ball is going. Third, the Bears are geniuses.

    The fact that a team fears Devin Hester so much that they are willing to go wherever he goes is really special. 

32. Michael Vick Lights It Up

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    We like the new Michael Vick. He seems mature, self-aware and has a nice pocket presence. 

    Once in while, though, it's nice to pull out the tape of the old Vick, who had no regard for his body and was, at times, untouchable.

    In this classic overtime run vs. the Vikings, Vick avoids several defenders, then turns on the burners and makes two Vikings collide into each other. It looked like it came straight from a cartoon.

    It wasn't, though—Vick was just that good.

31. Stefan Misses Empty Net

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    This comes from the amazingly bad side of the countdown. 

    Stefan just needs to do what he has done hundreds of times: score a goal. This was about to be one of the easiest of his life.

    Not only doesn't he score, but he somehow raises the intensity of the Edmonton team so much that they go down and score.

    Someone now argue that sports isn't scripted.

30. Orton Throws Game-Winning TD

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    I hate the prevent defense for many reasons. But, in this case, it actually did its job. Everyone surrounded the ball and someone even got their fingers on it.

    But, why not reward the team that did nothing offensively for the first 59:32 of the game?

    Gus Johnson, you are an announcing god.

29. Devin Harris Buzzer Beater

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    Sometimes, you just cannot explain things. I don't care if it was a game of horse or a million-dollar bet, but Devin Harris surely could never do that again if he tried.

    The 76ers did everything right. Andre Iguodala rode Harris to the sideline, hands in the air, with pressure defense and, by a stroke of luck, the ball left Harris' hand with about 0.05 seconds remaining.


28. Roberto Carlos Free Kick

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    Roberto Carlos' free kick goes down as one of the "I just don't understand how that happened" types of moments. At first, I asked myself what he did with his foot to make that happen.

    After a minute of coming up with nothing, I just decided to let well enough alone and enjoy this magical goal.

27. Saints Lateral

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    What is more amazing, the laterals or the missed extra point?

    I think the combination of the two is what gets the play on the list above some of the other plays out there.

    I watched this play in its entirety over and over again, and every time I think the EP is going to go in. I think Carney believes the same.

26. Chris Moore

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    Big deal, he caught the ball through his legs.

    Wait, it went through his legs twice? And he got both feet in bounds?

    (Sound of speechlessness.)

25. Best Ping Pong Rally of All Time

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    If you've ever declared that you just played the most incredible ping-pong rally that you've ever seen in your basement, then you've never seen this video.

    My only problem with the whole situation is why the guy in blue doesn't just tap it over eventually. Seems easy enough, right?

24. Brian Kownacki Makes Superman Leap

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    Baseball is one of the few sports where athleticism is not one of the most important characteristics between the best and worst players.

    Here, that theory is debunked by Brian Kownacki, who leaped over the catcher after being dead in the water rounding third. 

23. Antonio Freeman

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    Leave it to Brett Favre to make a terrible throw that miraculously makes its way to the receiver for an improbable touchdown.

    Al Michaels, the king of the big-time call, once again give us another gem.

    "He did WHAT?!?"

22. David Tyree Catch

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    I'm officially changing the star of this play from David Tyree to Eli Manning. The escape and throw is greater than the helmet catch and, despite the media coverage surrounding the play, Eli should get his due credit.

    There are a few plays that you'll never forget where you were when you saw it—this is one of them. 

21. Jim Edmonds Leaping Catch

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    Mostly everyone has seen the Jim Edmonds lunging catch, diving towards the wall. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to come up with the footage here.

    Edmonds was one of the best defensive center fielders of all time. This catch was his top moment. 

20. Mikael Nilsson Curls It Around the Wall

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    At first glance, it looks like any other free kick sunk in the back of the net. After you watch a replay or two, you get to really see truly how amazing that kick was.

    It went around the wall, and curved with such an intense force that the goalie couldn't get to it. I hope all my soccer fans out there really get a kick out of this one (no pun intended).

    I implore all of you to watch soccer, because it is truly a great sport.

19. Music City Miracle

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    The only thing cooler than the play is the name. "Music City Miracle" just has such a nice touch. To this day, you can still find people who aren't sure if the ball was a lateral or a forward pass. 

    Either way, Bills fans have it hard. They haven't been good since Tom Brady took over the AFC East and, no matter what, they always seem to fall apart at the hinges at some point during the season. 

    It's also really damn cold there. 

18. Full Court Miracle

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    Guilford College's Jordan Snipes just did the best thing he'll ever do in his life. Luckily, in today's day and age, he can watch it over and over again—it's hard to believe, athletically at least, he can top that.

    When you make it on Sportscenter's Top 10, you know you've done something right.

17. Buehrle's No-Look

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    You only need to watch the first 10 seconds of this clip.

    Opening Day, and Mark Buehrle already made the play of the year. After that, everyone just kind of went about their business, just hoping to come close to such an unbelievable play.

    Through the legs, no look, with the glove.

    Nobody else should even try that.

16. Earl Campbell Runs over the Rams

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    I don't want to hear about Peyton Hillis or Adrian Peterson. Those guys are tough, but nobody, and I mean nobody, was like Earl Campbell.

    I present to you, the origin of beast mode.

    The only way to bring him down is to physically rip the jersey off his back.

15. Willie Mays Catch

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    The moment and the man might be bigger than the catch itself. That being said, I'm not going to take anything away from this achievement.

    The Say Hey Kid is one of the purest baseball players of all time. In some instances, that boosts him up a little.

14. Flutie Hail Mary

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    No matter how many times you have seen this, it is still great. There is something romantic about the Hail Mary.

    Usually, it includes the underdog and always means that something big just happened. In this instance, you have Doug Flutie (extremely lovable) against the Miami Hurricanes (extremely polarizing).

    Why not take the chance to just look at it one more time...

13. Roberto Carlos vs. Tenerife

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    The only two-time member of this list, Roberto Carlos makes one of the most difficult shots known to man. With no real estate to work with, fading out of bounds, he fires a cross into the middle that goes to the top right corner.

    Is it possible (or probable) that was simply a pass? Yes. Am I going to hold it against him? Absolutely not. Still one of the best goals I have ever seen.

12. Jeter Flip

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    *Go to 54 seconds.

    Oh, how Yankees fans are going to miss him. Every great player has a play or two that define his career. For Jeter, this is one of them.

    Shane Spencer completely misses the cutoff man, and Jeter, seemingly out of nowhere, makes his own cutoff and saves the Yankees.

    The movie Moneyball talks about how the Yankees spend so much money, but that's not it—the A's just never had a player like Jeter.

11. Boise State Miracle

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    All right, so I'm going to list both of these plays in one slide because of the magnitude of the entire situation. 

    Going into the game, Boise was monumental underdogs and the Sooners played like it. Just when we all lost hope on the Broncos, Jared Zabransky threw the hook-and-lateral play to tie the game with seconds remaining, followed by the Statue of Liberty to Ian Johnson.

    Ever since, nobody has taken the underdog lightly. 

10. Immaculate Reception

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    This is the video that makes us wish they had the video technology we have now.

    Rookie Franco Harris scores an incredibly unlikely touchdown to win the big playoff game for the Steelers. Sounds like an awesome story, but nothing too out of this world, right?

    Well then, let's throw in the wrench that the pass was never intended for him in the first place.

    That is the beauty of the Immaculate Reception (the best name for a sports play in history).

9. Vince Carter Dunks over Weis

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    Remember back to the time when Vince Carter used to love the game? Not only was it nice to see, but he gave us one of the most memorable dunks in basketball history.

    The players in this rendezvous are a young, incomparable athlete in Vince Carter and the French big man, Frédéric Weis. 

    I think most of us have seen this video at least a couple of times, but it never gets old. Carter does what we thought was more or less impossible before that. 

    "Half-Man, Half-Amazing" seems like a good place to start off the list.

8. Rooney Bicycle Kick

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    Man U vs. Man City, 78th minute, tie game.

    Nani crosses the ball into the box and Wayne Rooney (no relation to Andy) uses an incredible bicycle kick as the ball is tailing away from him to break the tie.

    I have no words. It's that good. 

7. Jerome Simpson Flip

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    Everyone knows that any good acrobatic move is contingent upon the landing .

    When both of Simpson's feet landed, in bounds, and then he gave us the arms-in-the-air move, you knew it was a keeper. 

    I just don't know where we go from here. Has Simpson provided us with the best touchdown leap we have ever seen?

    We'll be enjoying this marvel for a long, long time.

6. Marshawn Lynch Beast Mode

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    Marshawn Lynch showed the world what it means to will yourself to do something great.

    With seemingly nowhere to run, the Seahawks' running back ran 67 yards for a touchdown, breaking tackle after tackle in spectacular fashion.

    From this moment on, the term "beast mode" took on a whole new meaning.

5. Blake Griffin: Monster

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    I got chills. This surpasses the Mozgov dunk because he touched the rim, therefore making it a dunk. Beyond that, this one has more intensity on a guy that I think means more to Griffin.

    Though this is fairly new, there is no reason to keep it off the list.

    Blake Griffin equals man.

4. Jose Guillen Has a Cannon

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    There have been some great throws from the outfield to home plate but, generally, they are nicely-timed plays off of a ground ball or sac fly.

    But, disoriented after the ball takes a weird hop off the wall, Guillen fires from the warning track and nails a guy going to third.

    To top it all off, the ball never touched the ground.

3. Ovechkin Goal

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    What do you say to your team after that? 

    "Um, next time, don't let the guy slide on his back, um, flick it in over his head. We prepared for that!"

    Best reaction: No. 14 with the "you've got to be kidding me" look.

2. Amazing Catch by Alabama Receiver

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    Within the rich history of the University of Alabama, Tyrone Prothro is not someone who usually comes up in conversation.

    But, down 21-10 with :29 seconds remaining in the first half, with little on the line, Prothro became a household name. As seen above, he made one of the best catches, in any sport, ever.

    His combination of concentration and strength makes this play possible, but pure will made it happen.

1. Tiger Woods on the 16th Hole

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    *Go to 1:20 in video.

    I formally introduce Tiger Woods. This was the guy we knew before the scandals, before the bum knee and before the comeback. He was simply the best that ever was.

    The 16th hole, 2005 Masters and the ultimate stage—sounds like a place where the old Tiger would shine.

    This is what makes golf everything, but Woods simply showed us things other golfers can't do.