The 200 Most Important Events in Sports History
Sports has a way of making an impression on us, leaving lasting memories and untold "Where were you when..." moments.
Witnessing history is something that draws us to sports in the first place, whether it's the unexpected (Kobe's 81) or the all-but-assured (1992 "Dream Team"), but on-field performance isn't the end-all, be-all in sporting lore. No, things as simple as putting lights on a pole or projecting a yellow line 10 yards downfield on TV have had seismic impacts as well.
In that vein, we'll retrace a rich, clogged and sometimes unfortunate history as we explore the 200 most important events to ever happen in sports.
No. 200. The Wildcat Formation
With as long as the NFL has been around, it's hard to come up with something new that can actually change the game. The wildcat formation isn't quite there yet, but the potential is there and lurking.
More and more teams are loading up on players who can stretch defenses in more ways than one. Dual-threat runners and passers will become more prevalent as each season passes.
Can we say Tim Tebow?
No. 199. Interleague Play
Interleague play started in 1997 and brought the potential for new and exciting rivalries.
Yankees vs. Mets, A's vs. Giants, Cubs vs. White Sox. It shook things up, which Major League Baseball desperately needed after the strike in 1994.
No. 198. Bo Jackson Runs a 4.12 40-Yard Dash
While the hand-timed nature of previous combines may have been exaggerated, Bo Jackson's fierce sprint before the 1986 NFL Draft certainly provoked eyes to simultaneously pop around the league.
Bo was perhaps the greatest athlete ever to step onto the gridiron. With our obsession over speed and numbers, this may have been the true beginning of it.
No. 197. The 1st Soccer Style Field-Goal Kicker
Kickers once approached the pigskin straight on, toe directing towards the goal, leg extension limited...until Pete Gogolak came along with his angular soccer-esque flavor.
Gogolak's 41-yard field goal during Cornell's '61 season was the first by a soccer-style kicker, and it changed the kicking game forever.
Image via gmen.sportblog.fr
No. 196. Rickey Henderson Steals 130 Bases in 1982
The Man of Steal is the only player in AL history to steal 100 bases in a season, which he did three times.
This was the most important accomplishment for a man who will likely be the closest to ever receiving a unanimous vote to the Hall of Fame.
No. 195. NFL Sunday Ticket Is Launched
Any game. Any time. A necessary for diehard football fans.
NFL Sunday Ticket has kept us drooling for hours straight since 1994. More importantly, it allowed fans to follow their hometown teams no matter where they were in the country.
Image via readingquietly.com
No. 194. Katrina and the Superdome
When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, it tore a city apart. But it was sports that helped mend the wounds.
Over 26,000 people took shelter in the Superdome during the hurricane and the subsequent flooding. After $185 million in repairs, it was that same Superdome that housed the New Orleans Saints during their successful quest for the franchise's first Super Bowl.
No. 193. The Invention of the Snowboard
Skiing was never cool. It was something rich, white people did on vacation.
Somehow, putting the skis together to form one, bigger board was all that was needed to turn snowboarding into the coolest new sport that has become mainstream thanks to Winter X Games and phenom Shaun White.
No. 192. Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan
Widely recognized as the biggest draft blunder in sports history, the Portland Trail Blazers passed on Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft (you may have heard of him) to go with the "sure thing" big man.
Blazers fans were just starting to get over that one before Portland did it all over again in 2007, taking injury-prone Greg Oden over superstar Kevin Durant.
If you don't learn from it, history always repeats itself.
No. 191. Jackie Joyner-Kersee Makes History
Jackie Joyner-Kersee was a woman who could do it all. In 1988 she set a record for the heptathlon with 7,291 points, only to win another gold medal five days later with another record-setting performance, this time in the long jump.
Bruce Jenner called her the "greatest multi-sport athlete ever, man or woman." It makes sense. Nobody has even come to smelling distance of her record.
No. 190. Freddy Adu Gets Drafted at 14 Years Old
After being drafted by D.C. United in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft and eventually signing a contract, the tender prospect became the youngest to appear in a game, and eventually the youngest to score.
He didn't live up to the hype, but he will always be a trailblazer nonetheless.
No. 189. Travis Pastrana Lands 1st Double Backflip in Competition
The X Games were already a big deal, but this trick by Pastrana in 2006 was equally exciting and dangerous. It was mainstream.
And it has not yet been topped.
No. 188. Ashley Martin Shocks the Gridiron World
As the pigskin fluttered between the goal posts, it became clear that Aug. 30, 2001 would be forever remembered in the football record books.
The first woman to play and score in an NCAA Division I American football game, placekicker Ashley Martin gave Jacksonville State fans more than they could've possibly bargained for.
No. 187. Bob Beamon Shatters Long Jump Record at 1968 Mexico Olympics
Mike Powell has since eclipsed the record by two inches, but we'll never forget Bob Beamon's 1968 thrashing of the existing record long jump by almost two feet (29'2.5").
He would never surpass a distance of 26'11.75" again. It might be the biggest one-hit wonder in sports.
No. 186. LeBron James' Decision
No athlete took free agency to new heights like LeBron James.
As much as people hated The Decision in 2010, it set cable records and brokered in a new era of players teaming up via free agency.
On top of that, no player in sports ever went from a fan favorite to an absolute villain so quickly.
The NBA will never be the same.
No. 185. Madden NFL Keeps Fans Stimulated
Originally called John Madden Football (released in 1988), Madden NFL has set the standard for gridiron video gaming.
It is the go-to game whenever you think of sports and video games. And it's only getting better.
Madden also may be the most widely recognized and accepted curse in sports today. No offense to Sports Illustrated.
Image via kotaku.com
No. 184. Kobe Bryant's 81-Point Game
In 2006, Kobe went off against the Toronto Raptors for 81 points. It was the second most points ever scored in the NBA and signified that Kobe was still very much in his prime.
It's important to note that four of the top five scoring performances in NBA history belonged to Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe is in very rare air there.
No. 183. Win One for the Gipper
In 1928 at Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame beat an undefeated Navy team after trailing at halftime when coach Knute Rockne broke out this legendary speech:
I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy.
The Irish prevailed 12-6 and Rockne went down in sports history for his inspirational words. People are still winning one for the Gipper.
No. 182. WNBA Is Started
It may be the most important league for women in America. Despite its problems, the NBA has helped keep the dream alive for a new generation of women basketball players.
Opening doors for talented females since 1996.
No. 181. Usain Bolt Breaks 100-Meter World Record Twice
One year after topping the original record of 9.72 seconds with his time of 9.69 at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bolt beat his own record with a time of 9.58.
He didn't just get the record, but he totally dogged it in the stretch, just coasting and prematurely celebrating while doing it.
But he's a legend on surname alone.
No. 180. Willis Reed Takes the Court
It wasn't just about playing through pain when Willis Reed stepped onto the court in the 1970 NBA Finals. It was about courage.
Reed took the tip against Wilt Chamberlain and scored the first two baskets for the Knicks on a leg with a torn thigh muscle.
He wouldn't score again for the rest of the game, but what he did was enough to inspire his team to victory. It goes down as one of the greatest "playing hurt" moments in sports history.
No. 179. Marshall Plane Crash
A plane carrying 37 player and eight members of the coaching staff of the Marshall football team crashed in November of 1970. It was something that could have devastated a program completely.
But Marshall fought back and persevered with new coach Jack Lengyel, winning two games that year— most notably an emotional 15-13 game against Xavier in the home opener.
It was a lesson in overcoming all obstacles and carrying on for generations to come.
No. 178. Title IX Gave Females More Equal Access to College Sports Funding
Finally, on June 23, 1972, women were offered a chance to compete.
Title IX leveled the playing field and truly turned college sports into a place where both genders could stand out.
No. 177. Joe Theismann Goes Down
We had seen players go down before, but none as famous and as brutally as Joe Theismann did at the hand of Lawrence Taylor on November 18, 1985.
It was a Monday Night Football game, so the whole country basically got to see it happen. The Washington Post called it "The Hit That No One Who Saw It Can Ever Forget."
No. 176. Nadia Comaneci Scores 1st Perfect 10 in Olympics History in 1976
Every athlete dreams of perfection, but Nadia Comaneci was the first to truly experience it in 1976, setting a new gold standard for Olympic athletes ever since.
No. 175. Muhammad Ali Lights the Olympic Torch
In 1996, we knew Atlanta was going to have something very cool planned for whoever would light the Olympic torch, but we were still blown away by what we saw.
Muhammad Ali, ravaged by Parkinsons, shakily lit the torch as we watch in awe and inspiration.
It was a brave performance by one of our greatest athletic heroes and a moment that will stick in our minds forever.
No. 174. England Wins the 2003 Rugby World Cup on the Last Kick of the Game
Becoming the first northern-hemisphere team to win the Webb Ellis Cup.
You couldn't have scripted a more exciting ending.
No. 173. Danica Patrick Becomes the 1st Woman to Lead the Indy 500
The 2005 Indy 500 was a watershed moment for women in racing, as Patrick piloted her car to the front of the pack.
No. 172. Linsanity
Harvard alum Jeremy Lin saw insanity surround him after he helped lead the Knicks on a solid winning streak.
The first American player in the NBA to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, Lin has only scraped the edge of stardom.
If you didn't hear about Linsanity this year, you must have been living under a rock. There's a reason Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People.
No. 171. Ted Williams Finishes .406 Season
1941 was perhaps the last time we'll ever witness a season-long batting average of over .400.
Tony Gwynn's .394 average in 1994 certainly had us dreaming.
No. 170. Vince Lombardi Trophy Renamed
His victories in the first two Super Bowls left quite the shiny legacy and provoked the league to rename the trophy after the legendary coach in 1970.
It was the first championship trophy named after a coach. There wasn't anyone more deserving.
No. 169. Bay Area World Series Earthquake
It was Game 3 of the World Series in 1989. The San Francisco Giants were taking on the crosstown Oakland A's. The Bay Area World Series.
But it wasn't the game that made headlines. It was the earthquake that hit during the game. The largest earthquake ever to be caught on national television.
It stalled the World Series for 10 days while a city tried to put itself back together. One good thing about the quake happening during the game is that officials say it may have saved lives because people left work early to watch.
No. 168. Wayne Gretzky Breaks 200-Point Mark
Two hundred and twelve points in 80 games—that'll get you some statues. After the groundbreaking 82' season, Gretzky would break 200 three more times, setting a new record of 215 the last time.
The closest anyone else ever came was Mario Lemieux with 199.
No. 167. UConn Women's Basketball Wins 90 Straight Games
Led by Maya Moore, this Huskies squad was unstoppable. To win 90 straight games (their 90th win coming in 2010) in any avenue is beyond impressive.
It also cemented Gino Auriemma's status as one of the greatest coaches of all time, in male or female sports.
No. 166. Johnny Vander Meer's Consecutive No-Hitters
The Boston Bees and Brooklyn Dodgers were the consecutive victims in 1938.
It is widely regarded as the most unbreakable record in sports.
Image via espn.go.com
No. 165. Janet Jackson's Wardrobe Malfunction
Super Bowl XXXVIII was set to be another exciting, pigskin-filled event between the Panthers and Patriots.
But fans got more than they bargained for when Justin Timberlake ripped off singing partner Janet Jackson's attire with fury.
The fallout was enormous. Events were to be shown on a time delay after that, and until 2012 the Super Bowl halftime shows were filled with old rock stars. Really anyone least likely to pull the same stunt.
It was all anyone could talk about after the game.
No. 164. Jim Valvano's Speech
At the ESPYs in 1993, a cancer-stricken Jim Valvano gave one of the most inspirational speeches the world has ever heard.
He reminded us: "don't give up, don't ever give up."
Valvano died eight weeks later, but his lasting image was one of hope.
No. 163. Joe Louis Holds Heavyweight Title 140 Consecutive Months
Joe Louis was a bad man. He was also an honest, blue-collar hero during the post-Jack Dempsey era and an immortal boxing icon, but a bad man nonetheless.
He successfully defended his title 25 times before retiring in 1959. That is the definition of protecting what is yours.
Image via crisolplural.com
No. 162. Kelly Slater Becomes Immortal
He was the youngest (20) and the oldest (39) to become the ASP World Champion, clearly mastering the waves along the way.
Consistency, old man, consistency.
No. 161. Julio Chavez Has Longest Undefeated Streak in Boxing
With the longest undefeated streak in boxing history (13 years, 87 wins in a row), Julio Chavez cemented his name as perhaps the best talent ever to come out of Mexico.
No. 160. John Wooden Wins 10 NCAA Titles in 12 Years
John Wooden went undefeated four times during his run while sticking with his mission of shaping boys into men.
A great leader and a surprising picture of dominance.
No. 159. Ernie Davis Wins the Heisman Trophy
Ernie Davis was the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy in 1961, breaking his own barriers and providing an example for the thousands of athletes to follow in his footsteps.
Image via ahotmama.com
No. 158. Constant Scores on the Screen
It may not seem like much to us now. In fact, we're so used to it that we clearly take it for granted. But it was a huge day for sports fans when networks figured out how to keep the score on the screen during the game.
No more waiting for a commercial or for a team to score. We got to see the points on the board and the clock as the game was rolling.
I have no idea when this finally rolled out, but it couldn't have been a day too soon.
No. 157. Oklahoma Sooners Win 47 Straight
It spanned five seasons from 1953 to 1957. The longest winning streak in Division I FBS history started with a 19-14 win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl and has yet to be approached by any team.
With the way college football is now, I doubt we'll ever see anyone come close again.
No. 156. Jack Nicklaus Wins 1986 Masters Tournament
Nicklaus' 18th and final Major win came at the age of 46 and truly captivated sports fans everywhere. We love rooting for the underdog and a last hurrah for the greatest career in golfing history certainly qualified.
It was awesome to watch. Maybe we'll see Tiger do something similar in 10 years.
No. 155. Martina Navratilova Wins 74 Consecutive Matches
Navratilova was one of the most dominant athletes ever. In her prime, nobody could touch her, as evidenced by her massive win streak.
No. 154. Red Sox Break the Curse
2004 was the year of the bloody sock and the comeback for Beantown.
After trailing the Yanks 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, it seemed like another stepping stone on the path to endless failure.
Two championships later, the curse is officially trashed.
No. 153. Roger Federer's 16 Grand Slam Titles
Winning a Grand Slam means winning when it absolutely matters the most. Nobody did that better than Roger Federer.
The man made a jacket specifically for when he beat Sampras' record. That's how proud he was of it.
It was an incredible accomplishment.
No. 152. Muhammad Ali's Rumble in the Jungle
The year was 1974. Nothing was going to stop Zaire president Mobutu Sese Seko from having it held in his country.
George Foreman took up grilling after getting knocked out in the eighth round.
Image via boxingmemories.com
No. 151. Mike Tyson Bites off Evander Holyfield's Ear
The rematch added fuel to a heated rivalry on June 28, 1997, but few could believe their eyes, watching the most vicious heavyweight bite his opponent's flesh and spit it out.
It was so bizarre. Mike Tyson was already seen as a lunatic, but this sealed the deal with absolute certainty. And people watched: 1.99 million households bought the pay-per-view, a record at the time.
No. 150. Patriots Fined for Spygate
After it was discovered that Bill Belichick and his once-respected crew videotaped the Jets' defensive signals during a September 9th, 2007 game, pigskin nation as a whole was a bit concerned that this was a more serious problem.
Never before had a team, in the midst of building a dynasty, been caught cheating in such a public way.
No. 149. Pete Sampras' 286 Weeks as No. 1
Glory can be short-lived in sports, especially individual ones where there are no teammates to pick you up if you're hurt or tired.
Not for Sampras, though. His time on Tennis' throne spanned five-and-a-half years, an all-but-untouchable mark. Though Federer may have taken his all-time Grand Slam record, he fell short by a week to Sampras in this realm — 285.
No. 148. 1972 Miami Dolphins Finish 1st and Only Undefeated Season in NFL
It's inevitable. Whenever an NFL team starts the season off hot, the 1972 comparisons immediately come out — the SportsCenter anchors and the like referencing Mercy Morris and Don Shula and the rest of this squad that compiled a 14-0 mark en route to a throne that's been untouched since.
Will another team ever run the table? It will be one of sports' greatest questions until somebody actually does it (David Tyree helmet catches notwithstanding).
So bring out the bubbly, and have a cheer for one of the most elusive feats in all of sports. Hey, the team themselves (allegedly) like to, creating one of the best legends in sports.
Image via sports.popcrunch.com
No. 147. Eli Manning Beats Tom Brady in the Super Bowl for a 2nd Time
If somebody told you five years ago that Eli would have more rings than his brother by beating the Patriots twice, you probably would have laughed. Eli? The sour-faced kid who didn't want to play in San Diego? The dogged by the tabloids, interception-prone QB that never seemed to have the sight or arm or personality of Peyton?
Yet, younger bro's got two (the most recent one coming last February), and he did it the hard way, winning on the road in the postseason and stuffing it in the face of Belichick and Brady. Officially file that under "unexpected."
Score one for younger siblings everywhere.
No. 146. Cal and Stanford Write a Unique Script
When you can simply call something "The Play," and everybody just knows, you've got something special on your hands. Not "The play which ..." Not "That one play where ..." Just "The Play," even if the whole thing is more of a discombobulated, lateraling, band-leveling chaos than something drawn up on a chalkboard.
Those present at the 85th Big Game on a calm afternoon on November 20, 1982, would witness perhaps the most thrilling, heart-wrenching finish in NCAA football history: Bears 25, Cardinal 20.
"Oh, the band is out on the field!"
Image via nicenfunny.com
No. 145. Edwin Moses Wins 107 Consecutive Hurdling Finals
There's winning streaks, and then there's WINNING STREAKS. Moses is most definitely the latter. Between 1977 and 1987, the hurdler won 107 consecutive finals, sprinkling in a couple Olympic gold medals and four world records as an exclamation point.
In a sport where tenths of a second are seismic, he didn't lose a step in a decade. On top of that, he's credited with helping to pioneer drug testing in track, a contribution that will have an impact far longer than his time on top.
No. 144. Gertrude Ederle Becomes 1st Woman to Swim English Channel
Ederle not only did something no women had ever done before, she beat all the men that came before her when she began her 14-plus hour trek from France to Britain. Five men had swam the channel before this New Yorker (and Olympic gold medal winner), but she crushed all of them by more than an hour.
After her accomplishment in 1926, a ticker-tape parade was thrown in NYC in her honor.
Image via phenomenalpeople.tumblr.com
No. 143. Islanders Win 4th Straight Stanley Cup
They may be an NHL afterthought now, but from 1980 to 1983, this team was untouchable, taking the repeats and three-peats and upping them both by making a run that hasn't been matched in any major American sport since.
And here's one more stat for the road: During this run, the Islanders were victorious in 19 straight playoff series, a record unmatched in professional sports (even by the '59-'67 Celtics, who have 18 to go with their rings).
No. 142. Carl Mays Kills Ray Chapman with Beanball
Two players have died in the history of Major League Baseball while playing, though August 16, 1920 is the most infamous, as a ball became lethal.
Mays, playing for the Yankees at the time, hit Chapman (of the Indians) in the head, who would pass away from his injuries. It led to the rule that umpires must replace the baseball when it became dirty, though batting helmets wouldn't become standard until three decades later.
Image via grafiklit.wordpress.com
No. 141. Ping Pong Diplomacy
Really, for the non-historically inclined: Ping Pong Diplomacy.
A game Americans usually think of as frat-house fare helped ease tensions between the US and China after the countries welcomed in the other's players, eventually paving the way for President Nixon to travel to China for face-to-face meetings with the China's leaders.
Before the US team stepped foot into Beijing 1971, no American sports delegation had done so since 1949.
No. 140. Bjorn Borg Wins 5 Straight Wimbledon Singles Titles
And to think what would have happened if he didn't retire at age 26 ... Still, even in his relatively short professional career (1973-1983, plus an unsuccessful comeback in the 1990s), Borg took home 11 Grand Slam Singles titles, a mark that was unmatched until Federer came along.
He's considered one of the best, if not the best, to ever pick up a racket. Yet, there will always be a huge "what-if" lingering over his career, because who knows how many more Grand Slams could be on his mantle if he didn't walk away.
No. 139. KDKA Broadcasts 1st Sporting Event on Radio
We take for granted the high-def, big screen access we have now, but the first stepping stone to the 1080p, NFL Redzone world we live in now was the radio, which gave sporting fans their first taste of sports as they played out live from their living rooms.
No more waiting for the next day's paper to find out what happened, and the first sporting event ever to go out over the airwaves was a no-decision boxing match on famous Pittsburgh station KDKA in 1921. Nearly a century later and you can still find your favorite team with a turn of the dial.
No. 138. Australia Ends an American Reign
Sailing isn't exactly a sport that comes up when talking with buddies at the bar, but it's hard to argue with the significance of the streak which was broken here — considering it was the longest in the history of sports.
From 1857 to 1983, the America's Cup yacht race was won annually by the New York Yacht Club. But in '83, Australia II finally put that to an end.
Kind of hard to be a sore loser after winning for 125 years.
No. 137. The Rise of the Sideline Reporter
We could get our sports information from the old guys in the booth, or we could get it from Erin Andrews talking with the coach.
You can guess which ones sports fans overwhelmingly wanted. Sideline reporters are here to stay, and their roles have grown, as in-game chats with baseball managers or the awkward, yet done-by-everyone halftime interview with basketball and football coaches have become standard fare.
In The Internet Generation, the sideline reporters have become stars in their own right, as Andrews and some of her peers have transitioned to mainstream popularity.
No. 136. The Kermit Washington Incident
December 9th, 1977 would turn out to be the final time the world saw Rudy Tomjanovich prosper on the hardwood after the Lakers' Kermit Washington tossed a life-threatening punch at his opponent during an on-court scuffle.
A shattered jaw and near-fatal head injuries caused Tomjanovich's career to slowly dwindle before he retired in 1981.
No. 135. Kerri Strug Sticks the Landing
In 1996, Strug became an American hero after vaulting the U.S. Gymnastics Team to a gold medal on a bad ankle with a legendary performance in Atlanta. A national hero after sticking the landing despite her injury, Strug became a sensation, earning her a Sports Illustrated cover, the front of the Wheaties Box and even a "Saturday Night Live" spoof.
The image of her being carried off by coach Béla Károlyi has lived on as one of the most famous in Olympic history. Plus, anyone remember the awesome SportsCenter commercials?
No. 134. Michael Phelps Wins 8 Gold Medals at 2008 Beijing Olympics
Phelps' chase for eight captivated the country, as his prowess in the pool was a must-watch for everyone from California to the Carolinas. The darling of NBC's broadcast from Beijing, Phelps became a superstar after converting on his unprecedented run, which one-upped Mark Spitz from 1972 and gave him a celebrity status that hasn't fallen off in the four years since he turned that water cube into his underwater playground.
Fourteen golds. Mind-numbing dominance.
No. 133. Rocky Marciano Retires at 49-0
In a sport where people are literally gunning for your head, Marciano proved unflappable. He successfully defended his title six times during his career and stepped down unscathed in 1956.
There's retiring on top (Elway), then there's retiring while perfect (with 43 KOs, no less).
Image via bestweekever.tv
No. 132. Elana Meyer Wins Silver Medal for South Africa
Her country was allowed to compete for the first time since the 1960 games due to apartheid policies, and nothing was going to stop Elana Meyer from medaling.
After a neck-and-neck finish in the 10,000-meter event, Meyer and Ethiopian runner Derartu Tulu (gold medal winner) enjoyed an awe-inspiring victory lap at the 1992 Summer Olympics. Per the Chicago Tribune,
Once she was across the finish, swaddled in a red, green and yellow Ethiopian flag and ready for a victory lap, Tulu waited for Meyer again. When Meyer had been given the special Olympic flag designed to commemorate the precarious unity in her country, the black champion from Ethiopia and the white silver medalist from South Africa linked hands and started off on that victory lap together.
``That was a very special moment,`` Meyer said. ``We did it for Africa, which needs a couple very good female runners. At least we were two Africans. At least that is an example for Africa.``
No. 131. Celtics Form a Big 3
In the cellar, the once great Celtics were given one of the most noteworthy booster shots in recent sports memory when a series of shrewd, wide-reaching roster moves in 2007 landed the Boston both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
Suddenly, Boston wasn't just viable, they were a championship contender. They had a "Big Three" (with Paul Pierce), and the Garden got itself a new banner accordingly. Not only that, but this trade rekindled the Lakers-Celtics rivalry.
No. 130. Chick Hearn Broadcasts 3,338 Consecutive Lakers Games
Well, consider that the modern, non-lockout NBA has 82 games in a season, and you get the scope of this accomplishment. Not only did this legendary broadcaster call decades worth of games consecutively, but he was a true innovator for how the game is called today.
No. 129. Sports Talk Radio
The broadcasting of games may have been the fans' first love when it came to sports and radio, but the script has since changed as the rise of loud, vent-happy sports talk shows have become the main reason fans hit up the AM dial.
If your team loses badly, tune in to your favorite show to hear them air out frustrations with you. From national guys like Cowherd and Rome, to the local people in your area, if you're a sports fan, there's probably a radio show you tune into (or podcast) on some level of frequency.
No. 128. Tony Hawk Lands the 1st 900
A true pioneer in the skateboarding business, Hawk's bigger-than-ever-imagined moment came in 1999 when he rotated himself and his board two-and-half times through the air above a vert ramp.
It helped make Hawk (and the sport of skateboarding) more mainstream, leading to video games, skater apparel and legions of kids hitting up parks and mall parking lots on their boards.
No. 127. Magic Johnson Dominates Every Position as a Rookie in 1980 NBA Finals
A 6'9" point guard, the first man coined MJ started the decisive Game 6 of the NBA Finals at center, but eventually played every position during a career game. Forty-two points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to go with the feat of playing 1 though 5 — quite a foreshadow indeed.
Pro ballers these days have a hard enough time staying in front of routine slashers as well as being a two-position combo player at most. Therefore, seeing Magic masterfully execute all his responsibilities in a series clincher, as a 20 year old rookie no less, is just awe-inspiring.
No. 126. Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100
On March 2nd, 1962, Chamberlain set a mark that may stand forever when he hit the century mark in the Philadelphia Warriors' 169-147 victory over the Knicks. Kobe's 81 is next in line on the record books, showing just how crazy of an accomplishment this is.
Image via jzsports.blogspot.com
No. 125. Brett Favre Retires...Kind of
Will he retire? Won't he? Is he coming back? These questions seem to command the NFL offseason starting in 2008, when the gunslinger QB and his waffling held the Vikings — and the American sports market — hostage as he couldn't figure out whether or not is was time to hang it up.
Remember the helicopter shots of Farve's plane landing, or the reports of Richard Childress trying to woo the aging, interception-prone, yet still viable signal-caller back?
All of which proved that QBs are the biggest stars in the biggest game in America.
No. 124. Joe DiMaggio Hits in 56 Straight Games
In 1941, DiMaggio did something that just can't seem to be matched int the modern era. Think of its significance: is there a bigger, more pressure-filled streak in sports? Whenever players start to go past 25 games or so, the comparisons start coming out, the "can he" questions getting more pervasive from the fans and media as each game goes along.
Nerve-racking, has to be.
Maybe that's why no player has come within 10 games of his record since.
Image via basport.wordpress.com
No. 123. Sir Barton Wins 1st Triple Crown
In 1919, this thoroughbred was the first to complete one of sports' most elusive feats by winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. It would be another 11 years until another horse could equal the accomplishment, though the modern era has proven far more elusive.
Not since Affirmed won all three in 1978 has a horse won the Triple Crown.
Image via preakness-stakes.info
No. 122. Oscar Pistorius Needs No Legs
While he does hold Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400-meter sprints, Oscar Pistorius became known as the fastest man with no legs after inspiring a nation in 2007. Also called "blade runner" because of the prosthetics he traverses the track with, there was initially controversy over whether he was given an unfair advantage.
He was eventually cleared to try out for the 2008 Olympics, and his story spread internationally.
No. 121. Cal Ripken Jr.'s Streak
Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 consecutive games over 17 seasons before voluntarily removing himself from the lineup before Baltimore's final 1998 home game. Like many slides here, this is one of sports' most untouchable records, as he and Lou Gehrig are in a stratosphere of their own.
Most memorable though was the game where he finally surpassed Gehrig in September of 1995, as he hit a home run for an exclamation point to his 2,131st consecutive game.
No. 120. Tebowmania
In 2011, with the Broncos sitting quietly at 1-4, Coach Fox decided to start arguably the most polarizing player ever to enter the league.
But it wasn't talent (which he certainly displayed in college) or stats (he's more of a crunch-time guy) that had fans Tebowing endlessly.
His religious potency and crunch-time miracles have sparked an intriguing legacy for the former Gator thus far.
The media continues to build a legend.
No. 119. Joe Montana Wins 4th Ring in 1990
A great dynasty needs stars to propel it forward, and Comeback Joe was definitely one of the generals that helped lead the 49ers to such a dominant run. With 31 fourth quarter comebacks and an undefeated Super Bowl Record, Montana earned his final ring with an MVP Performance at Super Bowl XXIV.
Niners 55, Broncos 10 – thanks to a ton of help from this all-time great.
No. 118. Fritz Pollard Leaves His Mark
Most remember Fritz Pollard for becoming the first African American head coach in 1923 (Hammond, Indiana football team), but he (along with Bobby Marshall) transformed the league when he became the first African American to play in the NFL in 1920.
Art Shell (Raiders, 1990) would be next in line to man the sidelines.
Image via brown.edu
No. 117. Don Larsen's Perfect Game
Game 5 of the 1956 World Series was the stage for the first and only postseason piece of perfection in MLB history. Larsen, a righty for the Yankees, tossed his gem against the Brooklyn Dodgers, eventually earning himself MVP honors.
At the time it was the fifth perfect game in all of MLB history. To this day, it remains the only one thrown in the playoffs.
Image via 59toppsblog.blogspot.com
No. 116. Althea Gibson Follows in Jackie Robinson's Footsteps
Shortly after becoming the first African American woman to play on the world tennis tour in 1956, Althea Gibson became the first to win a Grand Slam title by winning the French Open. She'd go onto to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open two times each in her career.
She's known as the "Jackie Robinson of Tennis."
Image via iamyardrock.com
No. 115. USC vs. UCLA: Game of the Century
Quite a few contests in college football have laid claim to the "Game of the Century" moniker, but in the minds of many, this Southern California showdown could be the greatest of them all.
With No. 1 UCLA facing No. 2 USC, Gary Beban and O.J. Simpson showcased their talents prior to Heisman decisions during this epic 21-20 Trojans' victory in 1967.
As perhaps the greatest team of the 20th century, the '67 Trojans couldn't be stopped.
Image via sportige.com
No. 114. Introduction of the Shotgun Offense
First seen during Sammy Baugh's double-wing days at TCU in the 1930s, the shotgun offense reached its prime in the '70s, when Tom Landry's Cowboys ran the high-flying formation behind gunslinger Roger Staubach.
Ever since, from third graders on the playground to pros battling for a wild-card spot, the shotgun has been seen everywhere.
The term itself, one of sports' most classic, was defined by 49ers coach Red Hickey in 1960.
No. 113. Jack Johnson Becomes 1st African American Heavyweight Champion
When famous documentarian Ken Burns has a take on Johnson's life and career, you know it's significant. Nicknamed the "Galveston Giant," Johnson became the first black heavyweight champion in 1908, making him one of the most polarizing people in the country given the racial sentiments that divided America at the time.
Said Burns: "[F]or more than thirteen years, Jack Johnson was the most famous and the most notorious African American on Earth."
Image via brittanica.com
No. 112. NBA's Prep-to-Pro Craze
Reggie Harding may have been the first in 1962, but Kevin Garnett set the tone for a high school frenzy following his entrance into the 1995 NBA Draft.
Kobe Bryant in '96, LeBron in 2003 and a plethora of boom-or-busts along the way.
It seems like ancient history now with the NBA's new rules and the one-and-done era of college basketball, but for a time, we watched kids become superstars a year after roaming the quad and going to proms.
Image via tchuddle.com
No. 111. Bobby Thompson's Shot Heard 'Round the World
Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca can still hear the echos of the crowd following Bobby Thompson's walk-off home run on October 3rd, 1951.
The National League pennant was secured by the Giants during perhaps the most renowned, dramatic and remembered play in MLB history. As famous as the actual shot itself, is the legendary call from Giants broadcaster Russ Hodges, whose "Giants win the pennant" screams have been secured in sports lore.
Image via tributes.com
No. 110. The Year-Round Athlete
Jim Thorpe. Deion Sanders. Bo Jackson. Heck, even Michael Jordan. There was a time before the over-specialization of sports when this was possible, when somebody as good as Deion could steal a pass from an opposing offense and a base from a forgetful pitcher in the same year.
Those days seem like a distant memory now, as even elite high schoolers are putting all of their eggs into one basket when it comes to sports.
Image via sports.espn.go.com
No. 109. Magic Johnson Faces Larry Bird in the NCAA Finals
As if the basketball gods wrote the script themselves, 1979 saw the clash of Indiana State's Bird and Michigan State's Johnson, which helped spark an historical rivalry between these two legends when they moved onto the NBA.
Sure, their Lakers-Celtics days are what most would reference first, but every story has to start somewhere, and this one started with a bang with Michigan State's victory.
Image via online.wsj.com
No. 108. Todd Bertuzzi Punches Steve Moore from Behind in 2004
Bertuzzi would get a year's suspension. Moore would never play again. The grizzly incident in March of 2004, which was the nadir of a violent, tense rivalry between the Canucks (Bertuzzi) and Avalanche, highlighted the role of enforcers in the game. It turned the normally hockey-averse national media onto the sport with a critical eye.
That being said, the 2012 playoffs have illustrated that the violence hasn't gone anywhere, it's just not as blatant as a punch to the back of the head.
No. 107. Zinedine Zidane's Infamous Headbutt at the 2006 World Cup
A national hero for France, one of the all-time greats, all you have to do is Google "Zinedine Zidane" to see how huge of a blunder this was. First thing that pops up, "headbutt." And rightfully so, it happened on the biggest sporting stage on the planet: The World Cup Finals (2006).
Allegedly stemming from an insult of his sister, Italy's Marco Materazzi was hit in the chest by the midfielder, who was red-carded. Italy won 5-3 in a shootout.
No. 106. Moses Malone Goes from High School to Pros in 1974
Moses Malone wasn't the first player to make the jump from high school to the pros, but when he decided not to attend the University of Maryland and instead jump at the opportunity to play for the ABA's Utah Stars, he became the best.
With his success, he helped lay out a blueprint for future stars to go the prep to big-time route.
No. 105. A Miami Hurricanes Streak Ends
"The U," for all of it's swagger and polarization and controversy, always have an undeniable claim to fame, they were a factory for NFL stars. This streak proves that.
One hundred and forty-nine consecutive regular-season weeks where a former Hurricane scored in a National Football League game came to an end in Week 11 of the 2011-2012 season after massive defensive tackle Vince Wilfork failed to score.
No. 104. Saints Bounty System Discovered
The most-recent item on this list, it's impact on the NFL certainly merits inclusion here. Though people may argue this type of "system" has been done in the league for years, it was never brought out in such a public, incriminating way, especially as the league is dealing with the public relations fiasco of concussions and their effects on players' lives.
Plus, defensive coordinator's Gregg Williams' speech, which was a chilling nail in the coffin to his career, served as a reminder to just how violent this game can be.
No. 103. Poker Boom
You couldn't escape this "sport" between 2003 and 2006, as the rise of the online game and ESPN's broadcasts of the World Series of Poker became must-watches for sports fans and non-sports fans alike.
Suddenly, writers and teachers and other normal Americans were enamored with Texas Hold 'Em, buying books en masse and calculating the odds of hitting that spade on the river for a flush. A dude named "Fossilman" became a celebrity.
But we need to take a step back to 1998, when the film Rounders and the idea of online poker was introduced. The power of Edward Norton.
No. 102. Williams Sisters Take over Tennis
Breaking the prototypical mold of tennis being a haughty, country club-type sport, the Williams sisters took over the sport of women's tennis in the early 2000s after learning how to play in the notoriously hardscrabble neighborhood of Compton, Calif.
Aside from their upbringing and dominance, they're also in rarefied air as both taking claim to being ranked No. 1 in the World during some point in their careers. Plus, those times when they played each other? Must watch.
Image via melbournedailyphotodaily.blogspot.com
No. 101. Monday Night Football Improves Audience
Here's how it always worked: Watch college football on TV Saturdays, the pros on Sunday.
Enter Monday Night Football, which gave football fans a reason not to hate the lamest day of the week as we were given anticipated, hyped-up, nationally televised matchups on ABC. It's since moved to ESPN, and the iconic "Are You Ready for Some Football" song may be gone, but the history that's played out on the prime-time stage cannot be argued.
No. 100. Kentucky Wins Youthful Championship
The debate can rage all it wants, the naysayers decrying how Kentucky won the 2011-2012 NCAA Championship, complaining about these one-and-done players and how they "hurt" the game.
Well, rules are rules, and the NBA won't take the likes of Anthony Davis (et al.) out of high school anymore. Enter The Wildcats, who along with coach John Calapari have played the recruiting game better than anyone.
Thirty-eight wins en route to the title? Yup, it sure works to have multiple first-round NBA players on your team.
No. 99. NFL Concussion Lawsuits
This story is nowhere near finished, as pending litigation and damming story after story keep it alive. Fact is, concussions are a big problem in football, and their long-lasting effects are no longer being swept aside.
As we close in on 1,000 former players becoming plaintiffs, it becomes even more clear that medical coverage is a serious issue in the National Football League. Without this issue, it can be argued that "Bountygate" would never have reached the proportions it did in terms of outrage.
No. 98. Steroids in the Olympics
After a full-scale drug testing program was instituted in 1972, most expected substance abuse to drop off.
Szymon Kolecki, Mabel Fonseca and of course Marion Jones headline a large throng of unnatural stars who were caught. With each positive test and tarnished legacy, the cloud of suspicion widens, not only in track, but in all sports.
No. 97. Tough Love for the Lockout Industry
While every sport has had its share of financial distress and angered workers, the NHL set a new standard in 2005, when it became the first North American league to call the entire season quits.
While it can be argued the revamped NHL (no ties, getting rid of that dumb two-line pass rule) has greatly improved the game, taking an entire season off had a devastating effect on the league. Casual fans learned quickly that their life goes on without hockey, and ESPN learned it would be just fine not broadcasting NHL games.
Just look at the first round of the playoffs. Game were on CNBC. Enough said.
No. 96. The Newspaper Box Score
After being allegedly created by Henry Chadwick in the late 19th century, box scores began to keep fans even more in tune with the intricacies of the game. By the early 1900s, they were regularly appearing in print and became a must-read for hardcore sports fans.
Want to know a players' average? Check the box score. Want to know an ERA or any other bit of statistical goodness? It's there, on the paper's agate page. Times may be changing, but right now, somebody somewhere is checking up on the Yankees' hitting on his iPad.
Image via verdun2.wordpress.com
No. 95. Introduction of the 3-Point Line
First attempted during a 1945 college game between Columbia and Fordham, the three-point line would eventually find a permanent spot on the hardwood with the ABA in 1961.Careers have since been made from behind the arc and the game itself has been given a whole new level of excitement as such.
Just think of all the legendary buzzer-beaters.
No. 94. Slam Dunk Banned in College Between 1967 to 1976
Try to imagine that now? Imagine watching nothing but breakaway layups for nine years. I think most of the readers here were happy they weren't around to witness this. The rumors are that this rule was enacted by some (lame) folks who were attempting to corral the skills of one Lew Alcindor.
It's not Kareem's fault he was so good.
No. 93. Yao Ming Leaves China for the NBA
Sure, Chinese star Yao Ming became the first international player ever to be selected first overall without having previously played U.S. college basketball. But when the Rockets chose him in 2002, it was his height that had scouts thinking he could be a Hall of Famer.
He bridged the gap between NBA and China almost single-handedly, opening the sport to a new worldwide audience. Even with a career that was injury-plagued, he remained huge in China, where he garnered a staggering number of NBA All-Star votes.
No. 92. Boston Celtics Win 8 Titles in a Row
This remains the standard for all of sports, a run that's safe to say nobody will ever match. Nobody. With Red at the helm and Bill Russell swatting everything in sight, 1959-66 was an eight-year period that will forever be appreciated not just around New England, but the sporting world as a whole.
Image via wineandbowties.com
No. 91. Gatorade
First developed by Florida University researchers looking to combine water, carbohydrates and electrolytes to keep athletes hydrated, Gatorade has become so much more. From the now famous, almost necessary "baths" of coaches after big wins to the sponsorships of big-time athletes, Gatorade is a sports essential.
Who hasn't wanted to chug some lemon lime (Fruit punch? Frost-Glacier Freeze?) after sweating it out at the gym or the court?
No. 90. Michael Vick Dog Fighting
A story that transcended sports for all the wrong reasons, Vick's conviction of running a dog-fighting ring disgusted millions of Americans and turned him into a national pariah. Considering he was the face of an NFL franchise and was recently awarded a massive contract when this story broke, the aftermath was seismic.
Charged in July of 2007 and convicted in August, Michael Vick saw six prolific years with the Falcons go right down the drain.
Even after salvaging his career with the Eagles, he's still traveling a brutal road to redemption in the public eye.
No. 89. Shot Clock Becomes a Mainstay
Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone may have saved the NBA when he introduced the shot clock in 1954, considering clock killing and menial attendance numbers clogged the hardwood in years prior.
The lack of pace in NBA games in the early 1950s was widespread, typified by a game between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers on Nov. 22, 1950. The Pistons defeated the Lakers 19-18 in the lowest scoring game in NBA history. Each team had only four baskets, and Fort Wayne outscored Minneapolis by the underwhelming margin of 3-1 in the fourth quarter.
Gross. Thanks, Danny. You made the NBA watchable.
No. 88. Malice at the Palace
The replays are still chilling to watch, as Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) charges the stands, Steven Jackson in tow, fists flying as the always tense relationship between players and unruly fans reached the most famous tipping over point in sports history.
It caused wide-spread discussion and evaluation of safety in sports, and will define Artest's career. Good defense will always be buried behind this ugly incident in the Pistons stadium in November of 2004.
Image via grantland.com
No. 87. Michael Jordan's 1st Nike Shoe
After signing the pure superstar for $2.5 million over five years, Nike decided to release MJ's first shoe in 1985.
From Spike Lee playing the part of Mars Blackmon in an Air Jordan commercial to Jordan showing off his stellar footwear in Space Jam, Nike and Jordan have formed quite the potent tandem.
This paved the way for future entrepreneurs like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to offer their own products. Even other brands and star sponsorships (like Derrick Rose's massive, nine-figure deal with Adidas), wouldn't exist without Nike and Jordan paying the way.
Image via ffffound.com
No. 86. AAU Takes Over College Basketball
In the last decade, where you went to high school stopped being as important as your AAU team when it came to choosing your college if you were a basketball player.
AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) leagues dominated scouting and allowed players to be seen all over the nation. Coaches steered players to schools. The recruiting game has forever been changed, regardless of people's thoughts on the seediness of the system.
No. 85. Wayne Gretzky Gets Traded to Kings
Signing a contract worth $1.75 million before the legal drinking age is certainly unheard of, but when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Kings, his native Canada was in shock. Imagine it in reverse. Imagine if a Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant (neither of whom are nearly as beloved as Gretzky was in Canada) was sent north of the border.
Immediately following the Stanley Cup in 1988, Gretzky was sent to the Kings because of financial difficulties in Edmonton. His beloved fans were stunned, but Gretzky's star grew as America got a better look at "The Great One."
No. 84. Sports Gambling Adds an Element
Want to make the Bobcats vs. Raptors game interesting? How about Ivy League Basketball? Simple, lay down a bet on it. An over under? A first-half score? It's all possible thanks to a part of sports that keeps many people watching, and Vegas (and online sites) stupid rich.
In Nevada's playground alone, billions are wagered (and lost) on sports. Factor in points-shaving scandals (etc.) and it's easy to see that betting is actually an integral (if sometimes seedy) part of sports culture.
No. 83. Jersey Mania
After Major League Baseball teams began experimenting with creative designs in the late '70s, other sports took notice and jumped on the artistic bandwagon. Now alternates, and often throwbacks, seem to be the most sought-after jerseys.
Take college football, where the crazier you get, the better. Maryland football was an afterthought this season until they played on ESPN rocking those crazy kits. How about Oregon? Their uni combos no doubt helped recruiting, which no doubt helped them reach back-to-back BCS bowls.
When a new jersey is revealed, it's news. Big news. Meanwhile, Nike, Reebok and the like continue to print money off their sales.
Image via angrytrey.com
No. 82. Lance Armstrong Finds Livestrong
A national hero for his boldness facing cancer and his incredible Tour de France run, Armstrong and his foundation have raised more than $325 million for the cause with the sale of the once-ubiquitous LiveStrong Bracelets.
Athletes, politicians, random normal folk across the country — it didn't matter. It seemed as if everyone was wearing one of these yellow bands to not only support Cancer research, but Lance himself.
No. 81. SMU's Death Penalty
Following massive Southern Methodist University violations that featured slush funds—quiet stipends paid to players from the mid-'70s until 1986—the NCAA instituted the so-called "Death Penalty."
SMU saw itself become the only school to have its entire football season cancelled. No SMU football was played in '87...a lesson learned, as they remain the only football team to earn this fate.
While it can be argued that college football isn't any cleaner of a game now, this seismic penalty — SMU football is, and forever will be a shell of its old self — drove the subterfuge underground.
Image via timesunion.com
No. 80. HDTV Revolutionizes Aesthetics
HDTV is changing sports. With picture quality improving to completely unheard of heights, fans can just stay in and watch the game in the comfort of their own home, pay much less for food and drinks and still get a great experience.
It could possibly have devastating effects on attendance in the future.
Image via dish2u.com
No. 79. The Introduction of Instant Replay
It's something we take for granted now with our multiple-angle, slowed down looks coming through crystal clear on our big screens, but there was a time when nobody got a second look.
Introduced at the Army vs. Navy football game on December 7, 1963, fans have been given that ever important second look since. And that second look has spurned change and debate in the sports world, as plays are now being reviewed across the board (except for baseball, hence the debate).
Image via tecca.com
No. 78. Sports Agents Start to Surface
We live in the age of the monster-contract now, where even somebody like Jayson Werth can get himself a nine-figure deal. Look at what Albert Pujols just pulled. The contracts just seem to get bigger and bigger, and the rise of agents in sports is to thank.
C.C. Pyle was known as the first, with clients such as Bears star Red Grange and French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen.
No. 77. Tennis Racket Improvements
Hard to believe now that you can walk into a WalMart and the cheapest racket there is better than what some of the greats played with. Thank technology, which ushered in a new era of steel that segued to carbon fiber and made the old fare mind-boggling to look at.
People didn't serve that fast with laminated wood, that's for sure. Wilson's T2000 changed the game.
No. 76. Bird and Magic Reignite the Boston-LA Rivalry
What started in college was most definitely taken to another level in the pros. Michigan State vs. Indiana State is one thing, but this was the NBA; Lakers vs. Celtics, no less.
These two teams met three times in the NBA Finals in the 80s, giving the NBA — and sports in general — some of the greatest moments in history. Highlighted by Magic's junior skyhook, the 1987 series would put a cap on these incredible faceoffs.
No. 75. MRI Changes Sports Medicine
Magnetic Resonance Imaging — three of the most important words in modern sports. When a player goes down, coaches, teammates, fans and the media immediately want to know the MRI results. Sighs of relief and he's-out-for-the-season groans have resulted from the results this machine shows.
Started after Larry Minkoff and Michael Goldsmith performed the first MRI body scan of a human on July 3, 1977, the medical world and how it intersects with athletics was forever changed.
Image via blog.remakehealth.com
No. 74. Streaming Video
With streaming video on computers and now mobile devices, you no longer have to be in front of a TV to watch a game.
Ten years ago you could barely follow your teams on the road. Now you can see them play.
Image via tuaw.com
No. 73. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan
The image of Nancy Kerrigan screaming on the ground after someone hit her in the leg was haunting. She kept asking "why?"
It didn't take too long before we found out why. Her biggest competition for the 1994 Olympics, fellow skater Tonya Harding, conspired to have her ex-husband take out Kerrigan.
It was an unspeakable act, the kind of conspiracy that shows truth is even stranger than fiction.
No. 72. Fernandomania
Starting his rookie season 8–0 with five shutouts and an ERA of 0.50 was certainly impressive, but it was Fernando Valenzuela's exuberant, sky-peering windup that had fans in awe.
Fernandomania was the first true "mania" in the sports world. Valenzuela was a crossover that bridged the gap between America's pastime and Mexico.
No. 71. Hip-Hop Culture Begins in Basketball
Baggy shorts, shaved heads, trash talking. It was all part of the colorful hip-hop culture that began to dominate the hardwood following the introduction of Michigan's Fab Five in 1991.
Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson pioneered the way.
Allen Iverson put some quality finishing touches in the 90s, adding his own brand of hip-hop basketball to the NBA.
Image via magicbasketball.net
No. 70. Ayrton Senna's Crash
Three-time Formula One World Champion Ayrton Senna transformed racing safety measures forever following his crash into a concrete barrier while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
The accident also propelled the return of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.
No. 69. 1999 Women's World Cup Team
The 1999 US Women's Soccer Team legitimized women's sports in America.
These aptly nicknamed "soccer moms" rode a wave of popularity into the finals of the World Cup, beating China in a climactic shootout.
There are few images less legendary in sports than Brandi Chastain celebrating that final goal.
No. 68. The Rise of the UFC
Following the first UFC event in 1993, this melting pot of martial arts prowess has developed into one of the more thrilling playing fields around the world.
The Ultimate Fighter has been essential to the development and survival of the Ultimate Fighting Championships, with the Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar fight setting the tone in the first season.
The UFC has been on the rise ever since and they have their sites set on becoming one of the world's most popular sports.
Image via flickr.com
No. 67. Duke Lacrosse Allegations
A prestigious Duke program had its 2006 season stopped short when three Blue Devils players were falsely accused of rape.
Head coach Mike Pressler was eventually forced to resign, but the damage was done. The disbarment of lead prosecutor Mike Nifong certainly intensified the post-trial opinions.
It was a messy case dealing with issues of race and privilege in sports.
No. 66. Ichiro Suzuki Changes the Game
Hideo Nomo and his quirky, yet effective windup may have paved the way for future Japanese players when he debuted with the Dodgers in 1995, but it was Ichiro Suzuki who truly found prosperity as the first everyday Japanese-born player in the majors.
After 10 consecutive 200-hit seasons, Ichiro is a household name in probably the most households in the world.
No. 65. 1980 Summer Olympics Boycott
Many countries, led by Jimmy Carter and the United States, protested the 1980 Olympics following the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.
Sixty-five countries stayed home that year. It was a bold statement that not all agreed with, but it showed that sports were not above world politics.
No. 64. DVR Improves Fan Experience
The moment TiVo shipped out their first units—March 31st, 1999 to be precise—a standard for watching games was set.
Can't catch kickoff? No problem, digital video recording is here to please.
Image via wonderyou.wordpress.com
No. 63. The Thrilla in Manila
The pinnacle of the Ali vs. Frazier rivalry, this October 1975 battle was the third and final bout between two legendary boxers.
The two beat the hell out of each other for 14 rounds. Frazier's corner threw in the towel in the 14th round, right as Ali was about to have his corner cut his gloves off.
It was the rare sporting event that lived up to all the hype.
Image via interaksyon.com
No. 62. Jack Dempsey Loses Count
After losing the heavyweight title to former U.S. Marine Gene Tunney only 364 days prior, Jack Dempsey seemed ready for his September 1926 rematch.
Losing the points battle, Dempsey knocked his opponent down with a ferocious punch, but immediately forgot to get back to his neutral corner (a new rule at the time).
This supplied Tunney with an extra four seconds on the ground, and evidently, the controversial long count.
Dempsey would go on to lose this epic rematch.
The fight earned $2.6 million at the gate and was the first to even cross the $1 million mark. All the factors involved made the crazy ending one of the most controversial events in sports history.
Image via boxing.com
No. 61. Baseball Card Fad
Pictures of players on cards were first seen in the 1860s, as baseball was gaining popularity.
In 1868, a sporting goods store by the name of Peck and Snyder began to offer these glorious cards, and kids were forever hooked.
The cards gave popularity to the players in a way never seen before, and drove the thirst for stats by putting them on the back of all the cards.
Image via jewsonfirst.mlblogs.com
No. 60. Salary Cap Makes an Impact
First appearing in the NHL during the Great Depression, the infamous salary cap has kept teams in check, for the most part.
By giving teams penalties for spending over a certain amount of money on their players, the salary cap helped level the playing field for leagues like the NFL and the NBA.
Major League Baseball and the Yankees, however, don't seem to be in too much of a hurry to implement one.
No. 59. Equipment Advances
Gone are the days of golf clubs and tennis rackets being made of wood. The age of titanium shafts and frames have helped us realize our full potential.
It hasn't just been limited to those, though. We have even made improvements on the human body with the full-length swim suits that help athletes glide through the water easier than ever.
The future is here.
No. 58. Tiger Woods' Fall from Grace
In December of 2009, the legendary golfer's endless list of infidelities began to flood every printed issue in the world, clogging every media station.
The most famous and wealthy athlete in the world at the time came plummeting back to earth. It was a circus unlike anything we had ever seen before.
Three years later, Tiger is still not his old self. A career ruined by mistakes off the course.
No. 57. Introduction of the West Coast Offense
While it was former coach Don Coryell's high-flying focus on passing the pigskin that seemingly instituted the West Coast offense, the term is often associated most with Bill Walsh's 49ers dynasty of the 1980s.
A focus on short, horizontal tosses was scripted in an effort to open up big plays down the field.
And it did.
No. 56. Diego Maradona Hand of God
Six minutes into the second half of the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals against England, Argentina star Diego Maradona scored a controversial deciding goal.
The play was made more famous by Maradonna slyly suggesting that it was "un poco con la cabeza de Maradona y otro poco con la mano de Dios" ("a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God").
Image via worldfootballstar.tk
No. 55. Cassius Clay Makes a Statement
Having won the World Heavyweight Championship three years prior, Cassius Clay was eventually scrutinized for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
But his religious beliefs led to more than just a refusal to fight, as he changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964.
Never before had an athlete so popular made such a dramatic statement.
Image via thestar.com
No. 54. Monica Seles Stabbing
After beating Steffi Graf in the final of the Australian Open, Monica Seles was shooting up the ranks of the tennis world, easily the game's No. 1.
But that popularity was a curse, as an obsessed fan rushed the court during a match in 1993 and stabbed Seles in the back.
It was an incredibly scary moment to witness and showed that there was a true danger to the celebrity status that athletes could gain.
Image via brainiedeal.wordpress.com
No. 53. ESPN Introduces SportsCenter
The first episode of SportsCenter was broadcast on September 7th, 1979.
George Grande and Lee Leonard co-anchored the first production. The show reached its pop culture pinnacle in the 90s with Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann spewing catch phrases left and right.
The Big Show has been the tent pole for ESPN ever since.
Image via sportscentercommodity.wordpress.com
No. 52. The Twitter World
Since being founded in 2006, Twitter has become the pinnacle of celebrity following.
Three hundred and forty million tweets daily, half from Chad Ochocinco, and fans are still anxious for the next anti-climactic "just brushed my teeth" message from their favorite athlete.
Leaked news, updates on games and more intense fan followings, this micro-blogging service changed the sports landscape and the way we even watch games.
No. 51. Ben Johnson's Substance Use
Two Olympic bronze medals and a gold, plus consecutive 100-meter world records in '87 and '88. All taken away for steroid use.
A sad ending to a glorious '80s tenure, and a crucial wake-up call to the impact of performance enhancing drugs.
No. 50. Lou Gehrig's Speech
No, we're the lucky ones, big guy—what a tenure on Earth for Lou Gehrig.
Made in 1939, it was probably the most famous speech in sports and a sad realization that these godlike athletes we always looked up to were unfortunately mortal.
No. 49. Buster Douglas Upsets Mike Tyson
An 83-inch reach and fearless approach led Buster Douglas to the jaw-dropping upset of undefeated heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in 1990.
As a 42-to-1 underdog, Douglas truly shocked the world by beating a man that nobody thought could be beat.
It also signaled the start of a terrifying downward spiral for Iron Mike.
Image via worldboxingnews.net
No. 48. Billie Jean King Wins Battle of the Sexes
In May of 1973, Bobby Riggs was 55 years old, but defeated Margaret Court, then the top-ranked female tennis player in the world at 30 years old.
Riggs used the victory to taunt all female tennis players, which led to King stepping up to take him on. By this time it had turned into a national spectacle.
When King finally beat Riggs in straight sets, it was a victory for women everywhere.
Image via thelede.blogs.nytimes.com
No. 47. Obsession with YouTube
Created in February of 2005 by three former PayPal employees, YouTube's video-sharing abilities have paved the way for a new way to look at the sports domain.
Almost instant highlights, colorfully obnoxious remixes featuring Skip Bayless' love for Tim Tebow, thrilling athletic compilations—there is no limit to the power of the Tube.
No. 46. Olympics Cancelled
The 1916 and 1940 Summer Olympic Games were both cancelled due to their respective World Wars.
Just proof that everything stops during wartime. Everything.
Image via sonyaantoinette.com
No. 45. Greg Louganis' HIV Controversy
A diving accident and resulting head injury during the 1988 Seoul Olympics gave the swimming community cause for concern, as it was believed others were at risk of being exposed to HIV.
His eventual gold medal and story helped inspire others and helped bring awareness to AIDS and HIV.
No. 44. 1st-and-10 Graphics System Makes an Appearance
First constructed in 1976 by David W. Crain, this now-routine graphics system would become an essential part of NFL viewing.
Following the advancement of technology, ESPN programmers redesigned the idea in 1998 before it was seen during coverage of a Bengals vs. Ravens game on Sept. 27th of the same year.
For non-sports fans, it's known as that yellow line and it's invaluable.
Image via mgoblog.com
No. 43. Sports Illustrated Magazine
After failing in the 1920s and 1930s, the first issue of Sports Illustrated was finally produced on August 16th, 1954.
But only after Andre Laguerre became its managing editor in the '60s would the magazine wave goodbye to steady financial losses.
This opened up a lane for idolizing athletes and learning about the rest of the sports world. Calling SI an "influential magazine" is an understatement.
Image via nwponyexpress.com
No. 42. George Steinbrenner Builds a Dynasty
We can trash his aggressive, free-spending approach endlessly, but seven World Series wins and 11 pennants from 1973 to 2010 speaks for itself.
People may not have liked George Steinbrenner very much, but he set a new gold standard as an owner.
No. 41. Lowering the Mound
After 1968 was seen as the year of the pitcher, the brilliant baseball minds decided to lower the mound.
By the following season, it was a bit closer to the ground in an effort to increase hitting, thus the eventual slugging boom.
No. 40. Herschel Walker Trade Shapes Cowboys
Involving a total of 18 players and picks, the Great Train Robbery saw Dallas escape with a bevy of future draft talent and the Vikings left with a deteriorating running back (he never ran for 1,000 yards during any single season in Minnesota).
A blockbuster ouch for the Vikings which jump-started a 90s dynasty for the Cowboys.
No. 39. Advanced Statistics and Moneyball
It may have caught fire in the middle of the 20th century, but sabermetrics research truly found a face when Billy Beane used his magic on the Athletics, the illustrious centerpiece of Moneyball.
But while Beane is the poster child, Bill James is the brains, having written a solid collection of books solely concerned with baseball history and statistics.
A new, mathematical way to judge talent. It's hard to find a team in professional sports that isn't using this way of thinking in one way or another.
No. 38. Broadcasting of Sporting Events
It wouldn't be the same to watch sports without hearing the announcers break it down for us.
From guys like Gus Johnson who have built up a cult following, to legends like Vin Scully, we're all richer for having the experience in sight and sound.
No. 37. Astrodome Pioneers the Way
By November 1964, the major leagues saw their first roofed and Astroturfed venue appear, all in one.
It was a magical, eye-popping venue from day one that created a new standard for stadiums. No longer did games have to be cancelled due to the weather.
The Astrodome wasn't perfect, and new avenues are actually built to be the opposite of the structure now, but it was definitely a game-changer in its time.
No. 36. BCS Is Cemented
Instituted in 1998 after tinkering with the system a bit, the Bowl Championship Series now involves five battles between 10 of the top-ranked teams, with the top two competing for a national title.
All the years of disputing who really won the national title was over. Well, not really over, but at least it was better than past systems.
Now all that's waiting is a playoff system that may never come.
No. 35. Giants and Dodgers Move West
To keep their heated rivalry thriving, these two New York-based clubs packed their bags and headed west together in 1958 after Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley convinced Giants owner Horace Stoneham to join him.
The west coast finally got their own teams and, with advances in travel, you can have a team basically anywhere in America. This was just the beginning.
Image via joeposnanski.si.com
No. 34. BALCO's Dominance
Steroids were always the shady underbelly of the sports world.
BALCO gave them a face.
The business had been supplying steroids of one kind of another to athletes for years before they were caught. It shattered our collective innocence as sports fans.
There were cheaters out there. Lots of them.
No. 33. Dale Earnhardt's Crash
Seventy-six victories, seven championships and an untouchable legacy.
But a glorious career and life would be cut short when Dale Earnhardt suffered a basilar skull fracture in a final-lap crash at Daytona in 2001.
Never had an athlete so popular died while participating in their sport before Dale.
No. 32. Introduction of the Blitz Linebacker
Lawrence Taylor haunted offensive minds and shattered ball carriers.
The new scheme paved the way for the importance of the left tackle position.
Football had always been about adapting to new ideas, but this was more about adapting to a new kind of player. Guys built like trucks, but fast as sprinters.
Image via gmenhq.com
No. 31. ESPN Launches
A sports network dedicated fully to sports, ESPN launched in 1979.
People didn't think it could work. Now we can't live without it.
Image via sincelavallewent2albany.tumblr.com
No. 30. 1st Successful Tommy John Surgery
Performed for the first time by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974 on (of course) Tommy John, the surgery initially featured chances equaling 1-out-of-100.
But after rehabilitating for 18 months, John would win another 164 games and pitch until the age of 46.
The new surgery changed baseball forever. Now pitchers whose careers would have been over before are only out for a year at most.
Image via articles.nydailynews.com
No. 29. The Dream Team Dominates
As the first American Olympic team to include active NBA players — it was the first time pros were allowed to play — the '92 Dream Team was expected to win and win big.
But defeating opponents by an average of just under 44 points and winning the gold medal against Croatia at the 1992 Summer Olympics...that's perfection.
No. 28. Fantasy Sports Culture
The essentials of rotisserie may have been originally developed by former Harvard sociologist William Gamson before he started the "Baseball Seminar," but it was the launching of Commissioner.com and RotoNews.com in January of 1997 that helped the fantasy sports world explode onto the scene.
Now fantasy football is a multi-million dollar business and the only thing anyone can talk about when they watch the NFL.
It gave the spectators a way to be a part of the game. Even if just a little bit.
Image via gridironwest.com
No. 27. South African Rugby Team Wins 1995 World Cup
Making their World Cup debut in 1995 was obviously a huge step in post-apartheid development, but defeating the All Blacks, 15-12, in the finals was the Springboks' icing on the cake.
It was a seminal event that superseded sports and helped heal the wounds of white and black tension in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was grateful.
No. 26. Joe Namath Guarantees Victory over Colts in Super Bowl III
"We're gonna win the game. I guarantee it"
The least overrated part of his illustrious Broadway career.
Image via newspaper.li
No. 25. Texas Western's All-Black Lineup
Not only did Don Haskins' Miners win the NCAA Basketball championship in 1966, but they were the first all-black starting squad and they did it against Adolf Rupp and his all-white Kentucky team.
It was a true statement game.
Image via syracuse.com
No. 24. Pete Rose Banned from Baseball
After three years of retirement, Pete Rose was banned from baseball in August of 1989 following shocking gambling allegations.
Betting on his Cincinnati Reds as a player and manager has kept perhaps the greatest hitter ever out of the Hall of Fame.
As if every one of his legendary, unmatched 4,256 hits never happened.
No. 23. Floodlighted Arenas
High-beamed, artificially-blinding lights are necessary for any nighttime playing field.
Since their permanent installation in Southampton FC's stadium in 1951, they have become a mainstay on the athletic scene.
I mean, can you imagine sports without night games now?
Image via usarab.org
No. 22. Michael Jordan Retires for the 1st Time to Play Baseball
On October 6th, 1993, Michael Jordan made a truly shocking announcement—he was leaving the hardwood for the baseball diamond in the prime of his career.
But after batting .202 in Double-A, it was clear balls and bats weren't his calling.
He returned to the NBA on March 18th, 1995 and won three more titles for the Bulls, but no one will ever forget their shock of hearing that MJ was retiring that first time.
No. 21. Tiger Woods Wins 1997 Masters
The tournament's youngest winner ever would go on to win 14 Major tournaments.
It was a turning point for the game to have a young, black man at the top of the golf world. It also ushered in a new era of popularity for the sport with Tiger as the headliner for over a decade.
No. 20. The Chase for Roger Maris
On September 8th, 1998, Mark McGwire officially overcame Sammy Sosa in the race to break Roger Maris' home run record.
The two colorful characters (the brawny McGwire and the smiling Sosa) helped give baseball fans something to root for and brought the sport back to its former popularity after taking such a hit in the 1994 strike season.
Too bad the stink of steroids surrounded the whole thing.
No. 19. Curt Flood Starts Free Agency
Flood vs. Kuhn: December 24th, 1969.
It was a case that set the tone for the future of baseball.
When Curt Flood refused to report to Philly following a trade from the Cardinals, he wrote a calm letter to the commissioner asking to be a free agent.
The 10/5 Rule changed everything as players now are not beholden to a certain team unfairly. Free agency now rules professional sports.
Just ask LeBron.
Image via hbo.com
No. 18. Steroid Hearings
Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, Bill Romanowski...the list goes on, but the juice never fades.
Having shadowed the sports world since 1988, BALCO's impact was finally revealed in a federal investigation that began in 2002.
Incrimination, one syringe at a time.
No. 17. Joe Paterno Gets Fired
The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State pulled the sports world to a stop in 2011. The disgusting allegations left no one unscathed, including PSU's legendary coach.
It was a dark and unsettling end to one of the greatest coaching careers in all of sports.
No. 16. Black Sox Scandal
Shoeless Joe Jackson and seven other members of the World Series-bound White Sox allegedly threw the 1919 World Series in exchange for gambling profits.
An ugly situation awoke the baseball world to the realities of underground dominance.
Image via 90feetofperfection.com
No. 15. NFL Institutes a Draft
After getting the party started in 1936, the NFL watched the NBA follow suit in 1947, followed by the NHL in 1963 and the MLB in 1965.
History was made at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia on February 8th, 1936.
Now the NFL Draft is a prime-time event and one of the most important days of the sports world. Teams can make or break their future in a draft and pick up a Tom Brady or blow it on a Ryan Leaf. Anything can happen.
Image via espn.go.com
No. 14. Roger Bannister's 4-Minute Mile
Never had an individual completed a mile under 240 seconds.
Beliefs were that legs couldn't move that fast.
But Roger Bannister defied the odds and shocked the world at Oxford's track on May 6th, 1954.
No. 13. 1968 Olympics Human Rights Salute
African American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos held their fists up for centuries of injustice.
It was a brave statement that still stands today as a strong symbol of the Civil Rights Movement.
Image via sfae.com
No. 12. Hank Aaron's Historic Day
On April 8th, 1974, before an eager crowd of 53,775, Hank Aaron made history with one routine swing of the pine.
Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record with class and poise in a moment when all the world was watching.
Image via myhero.com
No. 11. College Scholarships
First seen in the 1870s, the athletic scholarship was officially introduced in 1950.
It changed the landscape of college athletics, allowing anyone to play no matter what their financial means were.
No. 10. Organized College Sports
When Yale created a boat club in 1843, it was a wavy sign of things to come.
Hard to believe that these guys paved the way for players like Anthony Davis and Andrew Luck.
Where would we be without college sports today?
Image via unabashedlyprep.com
No. 9. 1972 Munich Massacre
While swimmer Mark Spitz did eventually win seven gold medals at the '72 Olympics, that year's games were sadly headlined by vicious terrorism.
Eight Palestinian combatants of the Black September organization kidnapped 11 Israeli team members before demanding the release of 234 prisoners being kept in Israeli jails.
No. 8. Len Bias Overdoses
Two days after being chosen with the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA draft, former Maryland legend Len Bias was found to have passed away from cardiac arrhythmia, brought on by a cocaine overdose.
It woke the sports world up to the reality of drug usage in sports.
Dwight Gooden would flirt with a similar path only one year later.
Image via washingtonpost.com
No. 7. Babe Ruth Traded to the New York Yankees
When the Bambino demanded a doubling of his salary to $20,000 ($230,000 today) following the 1919 season, owner Harry Frazee refused before his counterpart claimed he wouldn't play until the cash was forked over.
One hundred and twenty-five thousand in cash, three $25,000 notes payable every year at six-percent interest, a $300,000 loan, the mortgage on Fenway Park as collateral and plenty of broken hearts later, the Babe was traded to the Pinstripes.
The Sox wouldn't win another title until 2004, while Ruth and the Yankees built the greatest dynasty in sports in New York.
Image via 90feetofperfection.com
No. 6. O.J. Simpson Trial
Long after becoming the first football player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season, O.J. Simpson found himself at the center of arguably the most publicized athlete trial in history.
No. 5. Miracle on Ice
Do you believe in miracles?
America did the night of February 22nd, 1980, after Herb Brooks led a crew of amateur heroes past the world-class Soviets by one uplifting, inspirational score.
It was quite possibly the greatest underdog story in sports history.
No. 4. Jesse Owens Defeats Hitler's Utopia
With gold medals in the 100 and 200-meter sprints, the long jump and the relay team, Jesse Owens became the most successful athlete at the '36 Games.
Set in Berlin with Hitler watching, Owens showed the Fuhrer that his ideas of a master race were somewhat unfounded.
No. 3. Magic Johnson Announces He's HIV-Positive
After the announcement on Nov. 7th, 1991, Johnson became a torchbearer for the movement and was labeled a hero for doing so.
No. 2. 1st Televised Sporting Event
The 1936 Jesse Owens Olympics was the world's first televised sporting event, but the United States quickly jumped on the bandwagon in May of 1939.
A college baseball game between the Columbia Lions and Princeton Tigers was the hot ticket, produced by none other than NBC.
We take it for granted now, but can you imagine not being able to watch a game while it's happening? This was a big step for the sports world, and it's only gotten better.
Image via cisco.com
No. 1. Jackie Robinson Breaks the Color Barrier
April 15th, 1947; Ebbets field; 26,623 spectators; A world of doubt.
The most epic 0-for game in MLB history, but Robinson would go on to do much, much more for the world of sports and for equality in the human race.
Image via pinterest.com