Is Crying Jordan the greatest sports meme of all time? Unilateral GOAT status reminiscent of its subject is debatable, but it's definitely in the top 10.
The greatest sports images, catchphrases and trends don't just go viral. They also have that versatile staying power of truly great Internet sensations. They are applicable to many situations, and they boast longevity. They are timeless.
When considering the fictional Sports Memes Hall of Fame, these 10 are sure to get in on the first try. Honorable mentions to Falling Shaq, The Real MVP and the Tom Brady Courtroom Sketch. There is still hope for them. (On that note, stay tuned for more HOF sports memes from Bleacher Report—there are plenty to choose from for that second ballot.)
Here they are, in no particular order:
In 2010, Mark Pain of the Mail on Sunday captured one of the most enduring photos in golf history. OK—that's a stretch, but it was an incredible image. As Tiger Woods took a chip shot at the Ryder Cup, one man looked on, smoking a stogie and galloping into virtual superstardom.
Ian Gallagher the Mail on Sunday and Andy Whelan of Mail Online described the man perfectly, succinctly writing, "Standing behind Woods was a wide-eyed spectator smoking a fat cigar and wearing a Groucho Marx moustache and ginger wig."
This man, aka "Cigar Guy" started popping up in all kinds of photos. He was at Muhammad Ali's 1965 victory over Sonny Liston. He was on the Clash's London Calling album cover. Someone even replaced every person in the original photo, including Woods, with his face. (Isn't Photoshop great?) And though it's been over five years since his emergence, the Cigar Guy lives on.
Lance Stephenson Blowing in LeBron's Ear
Lance Stephenson, formerly of the Indiana Pacers, used an odd form of distraction in a 2014 game against the Miami Heat. Specifically, he blew in LeBron James' ear.
The move was so ridiculous, it had to go viral. And oh, did it go viral. The memes were almost instantaneous. If ever there was wind, Stephenson was suddenly a part of it—Marilyn Monroe's skirt blowing up, the Wizard of Oz tornado, you name it. One brilliant soul even used Stephenson as an explanation for that horrendous 50 Cent first pitch.
A quick note on Stephenson: He photobombed Derek Fisher a few months later and proved, beyond any shadow of a doubt, he and Internet memes were made for each other.
"That's a Clown Question, Bro"
In 2012, young Washington Nationals phenom Bryce Harper hit a game-winning home run to beat the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto. After the game, a reporter asked the then-19-year-old rookie if he planned to enjoy a victory beer—since the legal drinking age in Canada is 19.
Harper replied, "That's a clown question, bro."
It went viral almost immediately. The remark started trending on Twitter, T-shirts were made overnight—the whole nine. Almost three years later, in January 2015, the phrase still had panache. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, used it in response to a question from a CBS correspondent.
In the "Images that Might Terrify Small Children" wing of the Sports Memes Hall of Fame, fans will find the Laughing Undertaker.
At one point during an August 2015 fight between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, the former mocked his opponent's laugh, creating one of the most deranged facial expressions you'll ever see.
If you need a great sports image for sadness, look to Michael Jordan. But if you need one for maniacal laughter, The Undertaker has you covered.
Smokin' Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been criticized for his attitude in the past. Does he care; does he not? It can sometimes be tough to tell simply based on his outward demeanor. Luckily, at least one good thing has come from the QB's oft-apathetic-looking face: Smokin' Jay Cutler.
Cutler's attitude came under particular fire in 2012, inspiring some brilliant soul(s) to create SmokinJayCutler.Tumblr.com—a website dedicated to Photoshopped photos of Cutler with cigarettes in his mouth. Clearly, the point is to illustrate just how often Cutler looks wholly apathetic. Brilliant.
The site started over three years ago, but it's still going strong, and the Smokin' Jay Cutler Twitter account continues to be well-maintained. (By the way, there's no indication Cutler actually smokes IRL.)
Things Tim Howard Could Save
Belgium bounced the U.S. men's national soccer team from the 2014 World Cup with a 2-1 victory in the round of 16. Even so, American goalkeeper Tim Howard gave the performance of a lifetime. His 16 saves were good for a World Cup record—the most since 1966 when folks starting keeping track of such things.
His performance was so dominant, it inspired the #ThingsTimHowardCouldSave meme. Howard could have saved the dinosaurs from extinction and Taylor Swift from Kanye West-inflicted humiliation. He could have even saved Ned Stark, according to the Internet. Creativity was high on this one.
McKayla Maroney is Not Impressed
Gymnast McKayla Maroney might not have won individual gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics, but she did win the hearts of meme lovers everywhere. Maroney took silver in the vault, an event she was expected to win, and her facial expression on the podium became the stuff of Internet legend.
According to Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports, Maroney said of that moment, "It was just a moment of complete shock. I remember wishing it had gone differently, and I had an expression on my face for two seconds."
Soon, that expression was everywhere. It became the quintessential symbol for apathy all over sports and pop culture. She even recreated the face alongside President Obama. That's big-time. Maroney announced her retirement from high-level gymnastics in February, but her meme will live on.
It's not often a single individual can inspire a meme, just in and of himself. Then again, Brian Scalabrine is no ordinary man.
Scalabrine, aka the "White Mamba," played in the NBA from 2001-12. He averaged just 13 minutes and 3.1 points per game for his career, but he still managed to became one of the game's most popular players.
As these things do, the adoration made its way to the Internet. Most Scalabrine memes lightheartedly poke fun at the retired forward, making him seem like a much-better basketball player than he actually was. And it's all awesome. He even has his own, sarcasm-laced entry in Urban Dictionary.
"Boom Goes the Dynamite"
Brian Collins was a 19-year-old freshman at Ball State University when he inadvertently created one of the greatest catchphrases in sports (and really, Internet) history.
The year was 2005. Collins was filling in for the regular sportscaster on the university's Newslink@9, and he wasn't exactly crushing it. In fact, he looked painfully awkward for most of the highlights, stumbling over his words and just generally tanking the broadcast.
Amid the carnage, however, Collins uttered a phrase that would go on to infiltrate mainstream vernacular:
He explained its meaning to Hannah Storm on The Early Show (via Will Wei of Business Insider): "One thing that we do is we have Mario Kart tournaments...and along with that we try to create things that'll kind of mess each other up...part of that is you create catchphrases. And, obviously, 'Boom Goes The Dynamite' was one of mine."
Now, it's just a generally accepted phrase, a normal part of pop culture, even today.
Crying Jordan has taken over sports, and it shows no immediate signs of fading. The now-infamous image of an emotional Michael Jordan originated at the NBA legend's Hall of Fame induction speech in 2009, and now it is used to express sadness all over sports.
Not only does this meme feature one of the most prominent athletes of all time, but it's also got staying power, applicable in so many moments. The boom will die down, but as long as no one starts profiting off MJ's likeness without his approval, this is one fans are likely to see, at least on random occasions, for years to come.