The 100 Greatest Finishes In Sports History
The world of sport attracts us with a great many things. Some sports may appeal to you in various ways no one has thought of yet. Whatever brings you into this world will differ from your neighbor—all except one.
Dramatic finishes have universal appeal. They are loved by all that have even a passing interest in entertainment. Sports is by far the best show on television. While others flock to reality shows and the like, sports fans know a little secret. We have the best in theater right here.
Every game has the possibility of becoming a classic. But as always, you need a great ending. Something that gets you off your feet to question whether what you saw actually occurred. These are the best endings the sports world has provided us so far. These are the finishes that seem almost scripted.
These are the plays that keep us coming back for more.
100. Kerri Strug: Gold Medal Vault
The US team was falling apart. Going into the final rotation, the Russians were on the floor exercise and the U.S. was on vault.
The U.S. women held a 0.897 point lead over the Russians. It was entirely possible for the Russians to catch the US if they faltered, and they did.
The first four U.S. gymnasts landed sloppy jumps. The biggest disappointment was Dominique Moceanu, who fell twice. Strug was the last to vault for the United States and she needed a great score.
Strug took the first attempt and twisted her ankle. This made the second and final jump all the more important. She took to the vault and landed it cleanly. It was immediately evident that she had been hurting and severely sprained her ankle on the last attempt. Despite the pain, she stuck the landing and the women won gold.
99. 2003 Saints Vs. Jaguars: River City Relay
This is why kickers should not be allowed to call themselves football players. The Saints had to pull off a miracle to tie the Jaguars in a 2003 game. The miracle happened all over the field. On the final play of the game, Aaron Brooks passed the ball to Donté Stallworth, who caught the pass at midfield.
Stallworth then took on some tacklers before he pitched the ball to Michael Lewis, who ran the ball to the 25-yard line of Jacksonville. He then turned and pitched the ball to Deuce McAllister, who ran to the Jaguars' 20-yard line.
McAllister then pitched the ball to Jerome Pathon, who ran 20 yards into the end zone. All of that work, and now the Saints could celebrate a miracle comeback. All they needed to do was to complete a PAT. John Carney, one of the best in the game, missed the chip shot horribly. The magical play was all for not.
98. Kordell Stewart: Hail Mary Over Michigan
The season was just getting started in 1994 when Michigan met Colorado. This game turned the whole season up a notch. With seconds remaining and facing an assured loss, Buffaloes quarterback Kordell Stewart takes the snap. He heaves the ball 64-yards near the end zone.
The ball gets tipped and falls into the hands of Michael Westbrook. The amazing part of the play for me has always been how effortlessly it seems Stewart lofts the ball. He throws the ball 64 yards as if he was catching someone on a quick out play.
97. Dodgers Four Consecutive Home Runs
This is why you never leave a baseball game early. The Dodgers entered the ninth down 9-5. Fans were already leaving in droves; the red lights from their cars could be seen lining out of Dodger stadium. But then Jeff Kent hit a home run.
Then J.D. Drew chimed in with one. Not to be the first to not hit one, Russell Martin then hit a jack to left-center. The Dodgers tied the game with a fourth consecutive home run, this one from Marlon Anderson.
The Dodgers would end up winning the game on a walk off—you guessed it—home run from Nomar Garciaparra in the 10th inning.
You can watch the video here.
96. 2008 Winter Classic Shootout
The NHL may be onto something. In 2008, similar to the Heritage Classic, the NHL invented the Winter Classic. It is a set of games being played outdoors on New Year’s day. The first was played in 2008 and it was, well, a classic.
The Sabres and Penguins went to overtime all knotted up at one goal apiece. That meant a share of the spoils in a shootout. The Sabres drew first blood but failed to net another goal after their first shootout attempt. The Penguins missed their first but still had their best player in tow. Sidney Crosby took to center ice with the game in his hands. He skated down and slipped one past Ryan Miller for the win.
95. Wimbledon 2010: Isner and Mahut
This is the longest finish on the list. It is also the longest in tennis history. The match lasted a total of three days. The run time was 11 hours and five minutes. The two compiled over 980 points in that time span.
The conclusion was a simple Isner backhand down the line. But the finish was not about the flashy end. It was about two competitors that refused to be beat. Neither player thought about holding up to stop the pain. They played through it and showed the resiliency of the human spirit.
94. 1998 NBA Playoffs: Knicks Take Down No. 1 Seed
The Heat and Knicks enjoyed a heated rivalry all throughout the late 90s. One series that turned it up a notch was the 1998 first round series in the playoffs. The Knicks came in as the huge underdogs.
With mere moments left on the clock, the ball goes to guard Allan Houston. He drives the lane and hits a one-handed runner that rims off, hits the back board and then sinks through. That ball seemed to hang in the air for an eternity.
The upset may have been made possible in the fact that the NBA had a five-game series scheduled for the first round back then. It is immensely easier for upsets to happen in a short series. The NBA now plays seven through all rounds.
93. 1998 First Round NCAA Tournament: Bryce Drew
You never want to miss the opening rounds of March Madness. There is sure to be a few upsets on the first couple of days. Valparaiso came in as a No. 13 seed against No. 4 Ole Miss. All that would not matter, as Valpo kept up all game.
The contest ended on a full-court pass that had been practiced all year long. The play worked and Bryce Drew sunk the shot. The Cinderella team would make it all the way to the Sweet 16 that year.
92. Steve Finley: Walk Off Sends Dodgers to Playoffs
The Dodgers were perennial also-rans going into 2004. They used timely pitching to get within a game of the playoffs at the end of the season. They would have to go through the hated Giants to get there first.
Those hopes were dashed when they fell behind by six runs going into the bottom of the ninth. Los Angeles managed to net three runs before they loaded the bases for newly-acquired Steve Finley. Finley belted a game-winning grand slam into the pavilion. The home run tasted that much sweeter as they saw the Giants clear the field.
91. NHL Regular Season: Chicago's Comeback Vs. Calgary
Calgary was all over the Chicago Blackhawks in a regular season game back in 2009. The Flames scored five goals in the first period. At that point, any team would see an insurmountable task and fold. But the Blackhawks had other ideas.
They would score five straight goals to tie the game in the third. That lead to a third period that felt more like a playoff game. Calgary was desperate to get back the lead and Chicago was playing with a renewed sense of purpose. The game ended when Brent Seabrook hit one in with just 26 seconds into overtime.
The third period action starts at 5:30.
90. 2010 NFL Regular Season Game: Eagles over Giants
One of the biggest choke jobs during the regular season of any sport happened in 2010. The Giants had a 21-point lead over the Eagles going into the fourth quarter of their Week 15 matchup. That is when Michael Vick went to work. He secured three straight unanswered touchdowns against the Giants. The game looked to be going to overtime.
That is until DeSean Jackson fielded the football with 10 seconds on the clock. Jackson fumbled the ball and then quickly picked up the ball. He then proceeded to take it all the way to the house and complete a dramatic comeback victory for the Eagles. The Giants never fully recovered and ended up missing the playoffs.
89. Harold Baines: 1984 Walk Off Ends 25 Inning Game
Sometimes it is necessary to hit a home run just so you don't have to play anymore. Not because you necessarily want the win.
The White Sox and Brewers were tied up for a record 25 innings on May 9, 1984. The game seemed to be over when the Brewers scored three in the 22nd. But not to be outdone, the Sox did the same in the bottom half of the inning.
That set up a dramatic end of the game. Harold Baines walked to the plate in the 25th inning and hit a walk-off home run. The hit came on the next day, as the league had a curfew. Play was suspended earlier that morning at 12:59 a.m.
88. 1997 Nebraska Vs. Missouri: The Flea Kicker
Sometimes a fluke play adds a little magic to an already great game. That is what happened at the end of the 1997 matchup between Nebraska and Missouri.
Nebraska needed a last-second touchdown to tie the game. Quarterback Scott Frost threw a bullet to receiver Shevin Wiggins. Wiggins was immediately tackled outside of the end zone. But before he went down, the ball squirted loose and hit his right leg.
The ball went flying into the end zone where Cornhuskers receiver Matt Davidson dove after it. He caught the errant ball and secured the Missouri fate.
87. Brett Favre: Finishes Off 49ers in 2009
Back in 2009, Brett Favre still had some life left in his arm. It was the waning moments of a fantastic career.
Down by four with 12 seconds on the clock, Favre looked to throw a prayer into the end zone. What he threw was less of a prayer and more of a spot-on precision pass. The ball rocketed into the arms of Greg Lewis, who leaped over two defenders to make the catch. It was one of many highlights for the ol’ gunslinger.
86. 2002 Ohio State Vs. Purdue: Holy Buckeye
This play illustrates everything that is right about college football. As we nitpick the BCS, and for good reason, we sometimes forget the simple joy of NCAA football.
Keep in mind that this is a regular season game. But the fans go absolutely insane over what has just taken place. Those at home are treated to one of the better calls from Brent Musburger.
Ohio State was dead in the water until Craig Krenzel turned into Superman on live television. He lofts a 40-yard pass with pinpoint accuracy.
85. Scott Podsednik: 2005 Walk Off
The Chicago White Sox set the tone early during their title run in 2005. The series only lasted four games, with the White Sox pulling off the sweep. The series was tipped in Game 2 when Scott Podsednik hit a walk-off home run to send the Astros down 2-0.
The inning did not start out so well for the White Sox. Closer Bobby Jenks was atrocious and gave up the two-run lead. Chicago stopped the bleeding and headed to the bottom half of the ninth all tied up. That is when Scott Podsednik belted a 2-1 fastball from Brad Lidge into the stands. The Astros never recovered.
84. Shriners Open: Jonathan Byrd's Walk-off Hole in One
How about one of the quickest finishes in golf? Jonathan Byrd had just finished off a magical round of golf. He was now in a dead heat with two other golfers, Martin Laird and Cameron Percy.
Next on the agenda was a sudden-death playoff. After seeing some great shots by Laird and Percy, Jonathan Byrd stepped up to the tee. Byrd does his best impression of David Ortiz and hits a walk-off. His hole-in-one quickly nets him the win. The look of astonishment on his face is priceless.
83. 1982 Smythe Division Semifinals: Game 3
Wayne Gretzky was a monster in 1982. He produced 111 points during the regular season and was a particularly lights out in Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings. Gretzky seemed to be playing against children in the first two periods.
Edmonton would lead 5-0 after two periods. But the Kings surprised the hockey world by netting five goals, one of which came with five seconds to go in regulation. In overtime, Kings rookie Daryl Evans, who was earlier sent off for fighting, returned to the ice and scored the winner. The Kings would go on to shock the Oilers and take the series.
82. Mike Miller: Florida Vs. Butler
The score was 69-68. There were seconds on the clock and Florida was facing elimination. Mike Miller took the ball on the side and went up the lane. He jumped and hit a running jump shot as the buzzer sounded.
The Gators escaped disaster. Florida would make it all the way to the final game, where they would eventually lose. Miller has gone on to become one of the leading sharpshooters in the NBA.
The play can be seen at the 23-second mark of the provided clip.
81. 2002 World Cup Second Round: South Korea Golden Goal
The host nation was dangerously close to being ousted by the much more pristine Italian side. They were down 1-0 late in the second half when a miracle happened. Seol Ki-Hyeon hit an equalizing goal in the 88th minute.
The game would go to extra time. It is pertinent to remember that the FIFA rules at the time mandated that a golden goal would be in effect. The first to score would get the win. The Italians were without Francesco Totti, as he was sent off in a very controversial moment in the game.
Down a man, South Korea took advantage. Ahn Jung-Hwan drove home a game winner and the Koreans upset the powerful Azzuri to the glee of the home crowd.
Korea and Italy start at 4:00
80. Alonzo Mourning: 1993 Playoff Buzzer Beater
Alonzo Mourning was never known as a prolific shooter. He will always be heralded for his ability to play lock down defense on the low post. He is one of the most gifted shot blockers in NBA history.
But in his rookie season he showed that he is more than capable of being consistent from 15 feet out. Mourning was the last man to touch the ball in Game 4 of the 1993 matchup between the Celtics and Hornets. It is a good thing for Hornets fans, because he sunk the shot as he fell to the floor. The buzzer sounded and he was greeted by his teammates as the crowd went wild.
79. Garrison Hearst: 96-Yard TD to Start 1998 Season
Garrison Hearst ended a great passing game with a dramatic run to start the 1998 season. He broke free for a 96-yard touchdown run, lifting the San Francisco 49ers to a 36-30 overtime win over the New York Jets.
The remarkable thing about the run is how many Jets put a hand on him. He had to fight for every yard beginning at the line of scrimmage. He could have been brought down a great many times but kept barreling over defenders. Even when he got into the end zone, you couldn't believe that he got that far.
78. Drew Nicholas: Maryland Vs. UNCW
The NCAA is so volatile, it is almost amazing when a top seed gets through a game unscathed. Maryland was facing UNCW in the first round. It was a No. 6 against a No. 11. The 11th seed had the advantage with five seconds to go.
Maryland guard Drew Nicholas gets the ball and drives to the other side of the court. As time expires, he hurls a high-arcing shot towards the basket. As it left his hands, bystanders had to know this thing is going to be good. Sure enough, the ball hits nothing but net and Maryland lives to fight another day.
77. 2008 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
“There will be a Game 7.” The Boston Bruins chances of making a statement in their series with Montreal in 2008 were slim and none. Somehow they beat Montreal 5-1 in Game 5. Pundits had the Bruins losing out in Game 6. That was not to be.
On April 19, 2008, the two teams met in one of the more legendary playoff games in the modern era. The score was back and forth all night with the Bruins playing their fair share of catchup. Then, with two minutes to go in the game, Marco Sturm hit one in for the win and kept the series alive.
76. Ahmad Rashad: 1980 Game Winning Catch
The Vikings were down 23-22 with 14 seconds to go. Minnesota drives the ball to the 50 with a quick pass up the middle followed by a flea flicker that was run out of bounds near the half. Now the Vikings had time for just one play.
Quarterback Tommy Kramer snapped the ball and threw with as much zip as he could. The ball only made it down to the five-yard line. There a Browns defender bobbles it in to the air and it is immediately snatched up by Ahmad Rashad. The Vikings receiver took the ball into the end zone. The Browns were left stunned at the sudden turn of events.
75. 1981 NCAA Second Round: U.S. Reed
Where did all this last-second magic originate from? Where did our expectations that something great might and often does happen in March come from? It might have stemmed from the 1981 Second Round game between Louisville and Arkansas.
Arkansas player U.S. Reed gets the ball with four seconds. Instead of running down court, he sort of mills around the half court area before taking a last-second desperation shot. Well, it ended up looking like a designed play because the ball hit net, giving Arkansas the win. Louisville was going home early. They had won it all the previous year.
74. 2010 LSU Vs. Tennessee
Tennessee had a shot at a major upset. They were only a minute away from taking down a top 10 LSU team. The LSU Tigers were facing a fourth down on their own side of the field. You could feel the Tigers fans gripping around the stadium. The chances were slim that LSU could complete a first down, let alone win the game. Then they were called for a delay of game. Now slim and none looked even more dire.
Lee then throws a bullet to Terrence Tolliver for a pick up of 23 yards. Suddenly, there was life again at LSU. But it would all come to an end when LSU had trouble snapping the ball in the waning seconds. The ball sailed behind QB Jordan Jefferson. The game was over, or so it seemed.
Officials reconvened and stated that Tennessee had an extra man on the field. LSU gets another shot and the win. Tennessee, meanwhile, goes from a miracle upset to losing a huge game in the span of three seconds.
The final play starts at 7:40.
73. 1992 NCAA Second Round: James Forrest
How about two great shots at the end of a second round game for you? USC gets a quick bucket to almost assuredly seal a victory.
With only .8 seconds on the clock. Georgia Tech throws the ball into James Forrest. He only has enough time to turn, fire the ball and then pray. He catches pivots and shoots. The shot is good and the Yellow Jackets storm the court, winning in dramatic fashion.
72. 1979 NHL Conference Finals: Game 7
This was a tight series throughout. It was evident that the two best teams were playing for the Stanley Cup in 1979. The Bruins took a 3-1 lead into the third period. That is when Montreal scored two quick goals to even the score.
The Habs fell behind once again when Rick Middleton scored a goal to stun the crowd. There were four minutes remaining. At the close of the game, the Bruins had too many men on the ice. The ensuing power play netted Montreal another goal.
In overtime, Yvon Lambert won the Stanley Cup by netting a goal with 9:33 left on the clock.
71. Tyus Edney: Full Court Layup
I remember this one vividly. I was just about to leave the room in disgust as the promising Bruins were about to flame out from the 1995 NCAA tournament. But then Tyus Edney went to work. Down by one, he took the ball out and ran the length of the court.
Every Bruins fan had to be screaming, “pass, pass.” He never passed. Instead he ran the length of the court in four seconds and sank a game-winning layup. UCLA would go on to win the title that year.
70. 1992 NLCS Game 7: Francisco Cabrera Hit Scores Sid Bream
After a decade of dismal showing in the 80s, the Braves enjoyed a great many years of success in the 90s. It all started in a Game 7 that baseball fans will remember for a lifetime.
The great thing about baseball is that it sometimes highlights the most unsuspecting heroes. Enter Francisco Cabrera. Cabrera came to bat in the ninth as a utility man that was just recalled back from the minors. He took no time putting his name in Braves lore.
He hit a ball to left that was good enough to score Sid Bream and net the Braves a shot at the World Series. Barry Bonds has never been able to live down the fact that he could not throw out the unlikely speedster Sid Bream.
69. 1998 Sweet 16 Rip Hamilton
UConn was about to get ripped from the tournament by Washington. What they needed was a good old-fashioned buzzer beater. They would get it, although it would not be pretty.
The Huskies inbound the ball and serve it down low. The ball gets hoisted up with a short turnaround jumper and clangs off the rim. One Huskies player after another jumps up to put the ball in. But the ball just will not go down.
Finally, Richard Hamilton gets a touch and throws a prayer towards the rim as he falls back. The buzzer sounds and the ball finally goes in. It was just your average March Madness game, no biggie.
68. 1997 Game 6 Western Conference Finals: Stockton’s Game Winner
The Utah Jazz in the 1990s were truly a special team. They had arguably one of the best tandems in sports in Karl Malone and John Stockton. They could also be on a list for best teams to have never won a title. That does not mean they are without their fair share of stunning highlights.
During Game 6 of a hotly-contested Western Conference series, Stockton had the ball and a chance to send the Jazz to the Finals. The weight of a city was on his shoulders. It turns out he was the right man for the job. Stockton sunk the buzzer beater and further placed himself on top of the heap of Jazz legends.
67. Dave Henderson Homers Off Donnie Moore
The Angels were one strike away from the big dance. If they could just get Dave Henderson, Anaheim would erupt into a chorus of cheers. Enter one of the best in the game at the time. Donnie Moore was a formidable pitcher that had the stuff to get over on the Red Sox slugger.
But he made one bad throw down the plate and it sailed into the stands. The Angels would be ousted from the postseason and the Red Sox would move on to face the eventual champions, the New York Mets.
A sad note follows, as Moore was never the same after. Fans in Anaheim never let him forget his failure, and he later committed suicide.
66. 2010 World Cup: Ghana Vs Uruguay
The World Cup is always filled with drama. The 2010 iteration had one of the best finishes in recent memory in the match between Ghana and Uruguay.
The match was all tied in the 90th. That is where something interesting happened. Luis Suarez was sent off for a handball. It was a necessary move, as a goal would have assuredly meant the game. The penalty gave Ghana a penalty kick with little to no time remaining. Asamoah Gyan took the shot and missed high.
The miss sent the game into penalty kicks. That is where Uruguay won in dramatic fashion. Gyan was seen after weeping.
65. 1990 Sweet 16: Tate George
Is one second enough time to go the length of the court and win the game? For the Huskies in 1990, it was more than enough time.
Scott Burrell threw a full-court pass with amazing accuracy to Tate George. George somehow has enough time to catch the ball and complete a turnaround jumper to win the game for UConn. That is just the magic of the season, I guess.
64. 1989 Tour De France
Greg LeMond had an unbeatable goal ahead of him. To start the final stage of the 1989 Tour de France, LeMond was 50 seconds behind Laurent Fignon. If he was to surmount that time, the American would have to race at an all-out speed for the rest of the way.
Analysts now state that the issues facing Fignon were that he let up a little on the last stage but also was not as aerodynamic as LeMond. LeMond had a special helmet that made him slick through the air, while Fignon was without a helmet and had long hair flapping in the wind.
LeMond went on to win the race in what is considered to be the best finish in the Tour de France.
The final push is at 6:50.
63. The Bluegrass Miracle
This was just cold blooded. The Kentucky Wildcats came into this game as the underdogs. Yet, they maintained an even keel with the juggernaut LSU Tigers all game. They then took a 30-17 lead with just 11 seconds left on the clock.
That is when the whole of the Kentucky home crowd stood to attention. They were all ready to burst onto the field the minute that the clock struck zero. They were so happy to upset the Tigers that they failed to pay attention to the actual end of the game.
LSU quarterback Marcus Randall threw a Hail Mary from his own 18-yard line as hard and as far as he could muster. The ball deflected off of one LSU player into the hands of another, Devery Henderson. Henderson ran the ball in for the win. LSU won the game amidst fireworks and celebratory Kentucky fans that failed to grasp what had just happened. It was an utterly brutal scene to watch.
62. 1978 Giants Vs Eagles: The Miracle at the Meadowlands
Well, this play should have never seen the light of day. What should have been a textbook example of running out the clock turned into one of the more shocking endings in a regular season game.
The Giants were up with only seconds to go in a 1978 game. The call was for Joe Pisarcik to take the snap and take a knee. Instead, he decided to hand the ball off to running back Larry Csonka. The hand-off was botched at the line.
With the ball loose, Eagles defender Herman Edwards snatched it up and took the ball back for six points. The credits were still rolling when the broadcasters thought the game was over.
61. Danny Ainge: BYU Vs. Notre Dame
The great thing about March Madness is that sometimes there seems to be absolutely no defense being played. It makes for some exciting offensive highlights. BYU and Notre Dame hit one wild shot after another to close this game out.
None was bigger than the game winner. With nine seconds left, BYU gives the ball to future NBA legend Danny Ainge. He travels the length of the court unimpeded by Notre Dame players. He then flips a game-winning layup into the basket as if it were scripted.
60. David Ortiz: 2004 ALDS
The Red Sox were exorcising some demons in 2004. Every baseball fan knew that if the Sox were every to win another World Series, it would have to be after going through the Yankees to get there.
The 2004 series looked to be much of the same as the Yankees jumped out to a commanding 3-0 series lead. But the Red Sox refused to roll over. They pulled off the remarkable feat of ousting the Yankees on a David Ortiz home run. It was an ending that none thought possible just a few days prior. The curse had been washed away through a trial by fire.
59. 1998 Conference Finals Game: Reggie Miller Clutch Over Jordan
Reggie Miller was clutch. But was he the most clutch? One of his arguments has to be his game-winning shot in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals.
The stunning shot received a prestige boost, as it was over the flailing hands of the great one. Miller hit the dagger over Michael Jordan. The shot was magical but later proved meaningless, as the Bulls would move on to the finals where they would eventually beat Utah.
58. Derek Jeter: Mr. November
The year 2001 was somber for us all, especially for those in New York. The images of September 11 were still fresh in the minds. So the 2001 World Series was a welcomed respite from trying times.
Derek Jeter will go down as one of the most clutch ball players in MLB history. One piece of evidence is his series-tying homer he hit at Yankee Stadium.
Jeter worked the count full and nearly hit one out on a previous pitch. He then went opposite field to end the game. He would later be labeled Mr. November for the feat.
57. 1998 Olympic Semis: Czech Republic Upsets Canada in Shootout
The Czech Republic was not supposed to win this game. Mighty Canada was supposed to handle the Czech team fairly easily. But tough defense allowed this game to go to overtime. The star of the game was goalie Dominik Hasek, who had 24 saves.
This would all come down to a pivotal shootout. One that would not feature Wayne Gretzky. Head coach Marc Crawford, in his infinite wisdom, bypassed the legendary star. Hasek went on to stop all five shootout attempts.
56. Immaculate Reception
One of the best receptions in NFL history is a botched play. The Steelers and Raiders were at the end of a great AFC divisional game in 1972. The Steelers found themselves behind with only moments left in the game.
Terry Bradshaw called a play for rookie receiver Barry Pearson. As soon as the ball is snapped, all best-laid plans go out the window. Bradshaw scrambles out of the pocket and fires the ball to John Fuqua. Fuqua is lit up by a full charging Jack Tatum and the ball goes flying in the air. Before it hits the ground, it is picked up by Franco Harris, who runs it back for the touchdown and the win.
Whenever you watch the play, it looks like Harris made the grab at the absolute last second before the ball hits the ground.
55. Payne Stewart: Putt To Win the US Open
How we all miss Payne Stewart. He was a colorful character that was at home on the links. His greatest moment in golf came just months before his untimely death.
Stewart was having a magical tournament at Pinehurst. His best shots were coming on the green. He only needed 24 putts and was the most precise golfer with his putter all day. Then came the tournament winner.
Many thought there would be a playoff because the putt was so long. Well, he did it. Stewart sunk the longest winning putt in US Open history. It was the last hurrah for a gifted individual.
You can watch the putt here.
54. Derek Fisher: .4 Seconds
It takes about .4 seconds to catch and shoot. I know because I saw it done in the grand setting that is the NBA playoffs. The Lakers were in danger of being sent home early. Without Robert Horry to save them, the Lakers would need another big shot player to step forward.
That player was Derek Fisher. He had only the slightest hope of even getting the ball with such a limited amount of time left. It turns out .4 seconds is a lifetime in the NBA. But before he hit the game winner, Tim Duncan added intrigue by hitting one of his own. He hit a fall away jumper at the very end of regulation. The only time left was .4 seconds.
This was truly one of the better finishes in NBA history.
53. 2006 Rose Bowl: Vince Young Winning TD
This could have easily been an NFL game. That is what every college football fan felt when they sat down to watch this spectacle of two highly-talented teams. We were treated to one of the more memorable bowl games in recent years. The 2006 Rose Bowl was a back-and-forth affair that was highlighted by one man, Vince Young.
Young was the key to the Texas victory. He was unlike anything the Trojans had seen all year. He did whatever he wanted that game, including winning it. The last play fittingly went to Young. He surveyed the field and decided in the end to just win the whole thing himself.
52. 1972 Olympic Basketball Final
This game had much more at stake than a gold medal. This was the height of the Cold War and both teams wanted to send a message. The game was like a small war with a basketball. It also had a controversial and intriguing ending.
With the USA down by one, Doug Collins gets fouled. He puts the USA up by one with his two free throws. Now it is anyone’s guess how much time is on the clock. As Collins hits his free throw, the buzzer sounds. As official try and remedy it, the Soviets in bounds the ball and fail to score. This led the crowd and the US team to believe they just won their eighth consecutive gold in the sport.
But then the officials corral everyone off the court. The US team goes from celebration to stunned worry. But the Soviets still only had three seconds with the full length of the court to go. The Soviets pass up court to Alexander Beloff. He shakes off two defenders and gets the basket with time expiring. The US went from celebration to grief in about three seconds.
51. 2000 Western Finals: Blazers Blow 15 Point Lead
The Lakers were so dominant during their three-peat run in the early 2000s that it is easy to forget that it was almost derailed a few times. One dire circumstance was Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers found themselves down 15 points to start the fourth quarter. The game would end with the Lakers taking over and finishing off one of the best comebacks in NBA playoff history. The stamp on the game was the alley-oop from Kobe to Shaq. That play sealed the fate for the Blazers, who were never the same after this game.
50. 2001 World Series Game 7: Luis Gonzalez Bloop Single
For the hardcore fans, it is tough to see an expansion team win a title so quickly after getting introduced into the league. Some baseball teams are still without their first taste of the October Classic. But it is also nice to see the Yankees get the short end of the stick every once in a while.
The Diamondbacks won the 2001 title with a bloop single. But it is who they hit it off of that makes it a truly special feat. Diamondbacks left-fielder Luis Gonzalez had little hope of getting a pitch he could handle. He got the best possible pitch and muscled it into short center in the exact perfect spot to give the franchise their first-ever championship.
You can watch the video here.
49. 1994 Game 5 Eastern Conference Finals: Reggie Miller’s 25-Point 4th Quarter
The Knicks still have nightmares about Reggie Miller. The man was simply unstoppable inside of Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks-Pacers rivalry was taken up a notch in 1994. Down to the Knicks going into the fourth quarter, Reggie Miller took the team on his shoulders and scored an unbelievable 25 points in the quarter. Miller received motivation in his constant smack talk he received from Spike Lee. After the loss, Lee received the ire of Manhattan for his part in sparking Miller.
48. Roger Staubach: 1975 Playoff Hail Mary
Down 14-10 with 24 seconds on the clock, Roger Staubach took the snap, stepped back and said a prayer. He flung the ball with all of his might in the hope that someone would bring it down in the end zone. God willing, that person would have a Cowboys jersey on.
The tactic worked. Staubach completed a last-ditch desperation pass to Drew Pearson. Staubach would later say that he muttered a Hail Mary to himself while the ball was in the air.
Thus, a new pass with a flashy moniker was born. Staubach was no stranger to game-winning drives. He led the Cowboys to 23 while he was with them.
47. 1990 World Cup: David Plath 119th Minute Goal
England was a mess in the early rounds of the 1990 World Cup. They then found themselves once again in dire straits against Belgium. Needing a win, the score was 0-0 in the 119th minute of play.
The game was in danger of going to penalty kicks. In that scenario, it would be anyone’s game. But then the English side was awarded a late free kick. Paul Gascoigne chipped a beauty of a pass near David Plath. Plath turned and volleyed the ball in text book fashion. England were winners with seconds on the clock.
46. 2004 NHL Stanley Cup: Lightning Beat Calgary In Double OT
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a huge mountain in front of them going into Game 6. They had a 3-2 deficit and were in the middle of a tooth and nail game. The contest went all the way through a full overtime with the score all tied.
At any moment, Calgary could have won the Cup with a goal. Instead, Tampa Bay’s Marty St. Louis hit a rebound shot back into the net at the start of the second overtime. A hectic game went to the underdogs. They rode that momentum into Game 7, where they beat the Flames in a classic Game Seven.
45. Kirby Puckett:
Kirby Puckett was a fan favorite that was also loved by his colleagues. He was a child out there that just loved to play the game. So it was extra special when he came to the plate in the 11th inning of Game 6 in the 1991 World Series.
With the score tied, Puckett worked the count to 3-0. Rather than walk him, Charlie Liebrandt served up some puss that Kirby knocked out to left. The Twins would take the momentum and beat the Braves in Game 7.
You can watch the video here.
44. Steve Young to T.O. NFC Wild Card
The 49ers were sick and tired of losing to the Packers. They had just dropped three straight and were about to lose another playoff game to them at home in Candlestick by a score of 27-23.
Brett Favre had just taken the lead for the Packers with a fine TD pass to Antonio Freeman. All the 49ers had left was hope and Steve Young.
Young took the ball on the 22-yard line and drove deep into Green Bay territory. It was such an interesting drive because it did not go all that smoothly. Young nearly throws an interception before the last play of the game. But that ball hit that ground.
Young then gets another shot. This time, he threads a ball between three Packers where only his receiver, Terrell Owens, can catch it. Owens gets a hold of the ball and doesn’t let go. 49ers win.
43. Michael Jordan Over Craig Ehlo
If you have ever seen a Gatorade commercial or Nike ad, you have seen this shot. It propelled the Bulls to victory over a team that they were winless against during the regular season. It was the first instance of Jordan coming up big in a clutch situation.
Little did we all know that he would make a habit of doing just that. The image of Jordan jumping and pumping his fist is one of the most iconic images of the era in the NBA. It has come to epitomize excellence.
42. 1978 Raiders Vs. Chargers: Immaculate Deception
September 10, 1978, the Raiders were down 20-14 with 10 seconds to go in the game against the Chargers. Quarterback Kenny Stabler snaps the ball and immediately comes under fire. As he is going down, he “fumbles” the ball forward. The ball falls into the hands of Pete Banaszak.
Banaszak was hit and going down. With quick thinking, he batted the ball forward while making it seem like a fumble. That is where Dave Casper came out of nowhere to fall on the ball for a touchdown. There were no flags on the play, as it was impossible for officials to know if the balls were batted with intention or not. It was a play that lasted seconds but seemed like an eternity.
41. Robert Horry: Three-Pointer Over Kings
Vlade Divac claims it was a lucky shot. Lakers fans call it destiny. Either way, it was a huge basket that tied the series at seven games and kept the eventual championship Lakers alive one more game.
With seconds on the clock, Kobe drives to the basket to no avail. The ball gets batted around until the Kings center Divac slaps the ball away. It was the smart play that just happened to give Big Shot Bob the ball.
Horry hoists the ball to the rim as the Lakers fans quiet to a whisper. They then break out in celebration as the ball goes through for the win.
40. 2007 Fiesta Bowl
Back in 2007, Boise State was just starting to make their way to the top. They were a great team from a small conference. The new kids on the block commanded little respect. That is why it was so amazing that they pushed Oklahoma to the limit. When the Broncos tossed a pick six with only a minute to go, you had the feeling that the Broncos did all they could. They gave it a good try and that was enough.
But the interception would be just the start. The real miracle was about to happen. The Broncos got the ball back with under a minute to play. They somehow managed to work their way up to the 50-yard line with 18 seconds on the clock. Quarteback Jared Zabransky passed for 15 yards to Drisan James.
James ran the ball a few feet before he lateraled it to Jerard Rabb, who was running the other way. Rabb ran it all the way back for a trick play that stunned the behemoth Sooners.
39. Reggie Miller: Eight Points in Nine Seconds
Reggie Miller owned the Knicks. So much so that he was able to do amazing, otherworldly acts. The most miraculous was his game-winning feat at the end of Game 1 in the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals.
Miller sinks a quick three, which is not a big deal. He made a habit of doing just that over his career. But then he steals the ball on an errant Charles Oakley pass. Instead of hitting a two-pointer, he steps back behind the line and sinks another three.
When John Stark miraculously misses two free throws on the next play, the ball gets inbounded to Miller, who is quickly fouled.
Two free throw makes later, Miller sends the Knicks a loss.
38. Michael Phelps: Gold Number Seven
Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals at the Bejing Olympics. Number seven was by far his hardest to attain. The 100-meter Butterfly is a difficult event with many top competitors.
One in particular would make a late showing alongside Phelps, the Serbian Milorad Cavic. He had just broken the Olympic record in the event and finished ahead of Phelps in the preliminary heat.
In the final, Phelps was behind Cavic all race. He started to make a small move in the last half of the race, but the lead seemed insurmountable. Then, as if willing his body to the finish line, he reached his fingers out and registered a touch before Cavic. The win was of the smallest of margins, one-one hundredth of a second.
37. 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals: Bird Steals Ball
How could we possibly have a great finishers article without one of the best to ever play the game? Larry Bird was a godsend for the Celtics in the 80s. He propelled the team back into a dynasty. In 1987, his smarts and hustle propelled them back to the finals.
Bird had just been stuffed on an attempted layup and the ball went out of bounds. The Pistons were assured of a meeting with the Lakers in the Finals if they could just inbounds the ball. Instead, Larry Legend comes from nowhere and steals the pass and passes the ball out for two points. The Pistons' hearts were ripped out in an instant.
36. The Play: Cal Vs Stanford
Every year around the time of the Big Game, this video gets played throughout Berkeley. It is meant to evoke the best moment in Cal sports history. It is when the Cal Bears ripped out the hearts of the Stanford Cardinal in the most grandiose manner possible.
Cal fans had to believe that the axe would rest with Stanford for yet another year. The Cardinal took a 20-19 lead after a late field goal. With four seconds on the clock, Stanford would kickoff to the Bears and needed only one tackle to claim the season’s biggest rivalry game.
The only problem is that they never took down a Cal player. Instead, the ball was lateraled all over the field. The Stanford band, believing the game to be over, rushed the field. The ensuing mess allowed the Bears to score and finish off one of the best plays in college history.
35. 2003 ALCS: Aaron Boone's Game 7 Walk-Off
Sometimes it isn’t about the big stars or the sluggers. The special moments are sometimes left in the hands of the meager.
Before the Red Sox could get the monkey off their back, they would lose yet another excruciating series to the Yankees in 2003. The fateful shot came from the unlikely bat of Aaron Boone. Boone was actually the perfect man for the job.
His home run came off knuckleball-throwing Tim Wakefield. By struggling at the plate, Boone was certain to go up there and just hack. A hotter hitter may have missed the pitch, but Boone, with his eyes closed, sent one into the stands. It also sent the Red Sox packing.
You can watch the play here.
34. 1998 World Cup: Holland Wins in Final Moments
So soccer is boring, is it? Well, how about looking at it from the standpoint of one giant build up to some great moment. That’s what happened in 1998 with the score netted at one a piece.
Argentina and Holland were flirting with success the whole game. It seemed like this one was destined to go to extra time. But then again, that is why we never leave our seats when sports are on.
In the 88th minute, Holland defender Frank DeBoer played a strong pass down field. His distribution was spot on. Dennis Bergkamp put an excellent touch on it and broke a defender. All that was left was him and the goalie and Bergkamp won. He put the ball right at the back of the net for a late win.
The magic happens at 6:50.
33. Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary
This was a late-season regular season game. The reason it makes the list is due to the fact that it is one of the most memorable moments in college football history.
Miami and Boston College had been involved in an epic game that saw the lead change multiple times. Then, with seconds on the clock and a 45-41 deficit in tow, Flutie snapped the ball from his own 48-yard line.
He dropped back and delivered one of the more accurate throws of desperation. The ball landed safely in the hands of Gerard Phelan. Game over, Boston College wins.
32. 2004 Masters: Phil Mickelson Late Surge
Phil Mickelson had never won a major. He was a great tournament winner without a big fish for his wall. Then came the back nine in the 2004 Masters.
Mickelson was on fire. He was placing shots perfectly and not wasting any putts. Down one, he remarkably catches and surpasses the leader in two holes. It was truly one of the better finishes in golf. It also netted a truly gifted golfer with the big prize, a green jacket.
31. 2010 World Cup: Landon Donovan Goal
Every four years, American fans flock to the television sets for the World Cup as if they actually have an affinity for the game. Something inside them tells them that they could be in for some memorable moments.
They were not let down in 2010. The US team had an exciting run into the knockout stages. None was more exciting than the goal by Landon Donovan. The US was held scoreless all game against Algeria. Needing a goal badly, Tim Howard threw an outlet pass to Landon Donovan.
His distribution on the play was spot on. Donovan drove the ball down to the box when he passed off to Jozy Altidore. Altidore slung it back in to a driving Clint Dempsey. Dempsey hit it off the Algerian goalie.
Sighs of disappointment could be heard nationwide. That is when a trailing Donovan took the rebound and netted it. It is without a doubt one of the best goals in US soccer history.
30. Bill Buckner Boots Ball
It is hard to remember it now. With all the money the Red Sox spend on free agency every year, we sometimes fail to remember that these guys were the lovable losers. The cursed bunch from New England could never quite do enough to win.
One such instance is the ninth inning of Game 6 in the 1986 World Series. Mookie Wilson was at the plate and battled for what seemed like eons. The Mets lives were in his hands. He then slapped a dribbler to the usually sure-handed Bill Buckner. The ball went under his legs and through to the outfield. The Mets won the game and later the series.
Boston fans still have yet to exonerate Buckner for the travesty.
You can watch the play here.
29. 1988 Finals: Lakers Win After Crowd Rushes Floor
Sometimes a game is so exciting that by the end of it, the fans are ready to tear the place apart. Such was the scene at the end of the seven game finals between the Lakers and the Pistons. The Lakers were up by five with 20 seconds to go. But they refused to put the nail in the coffin.
Bill Laimbeer hit a huge three to bring the game within one. But a quick inbounds pass to Magic followed by a long toss down court for the bucket sealed the Pistons fate. All the while, the crowd seemed to be pushing closer and closer in on the court. It is amazing that Isiah Thomas was even able to run down court for a final desperation shot.
28. 2005 Capital One Bowl
The Iowa Hawkeyes were dead in the water. JaMarcus Russell had all but sealed a victory with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. But then something funny happened. The sea parted.
The Hawkeyes were able to get two quick passes to start a late drive. Tate was able to hook up with receivers up the middle as if it were a practice game.
It must have caught LSU off guard that they were not going for the sidelines to stop the clock. It also caught them unaware when Tate failed to call a timeout. He instead mozied to the line and snapped the ball, ensuring that the next pass would be the game’s last.
He connected on a 56-yard pass to Warren Holloway for the win.
27. 1982 NCAA Title Game
Little did John Thompson know that he would be attempting to win a title against the future greatest player in NBA history. He was confident that he had the bigger and better roster led by center Patrick Ewing.
It would be James Worthy that would lead the Tar Heels most of the game. That is until Michael Jordan got the ball with seconds on the clock. Jordan did what he has done his whole career, sinking the game-winning shot.
The shot must have been grand because the Hoyas were perplexed. They turned the ball over immediately on the next play, icing the victory.
You can watch the video here.
26. 1950 Stanley Cup Finals: Game 7
This could have possibly been one of the best Stanley Cup Finals ever. The Rangers picked up wins in overtime in Games 4 and 5. Both goals were scored by Don Raleigh. The late-game antics were not nearly over.
The Red Wings then took Game 6 with a third-period rally to force Game 7 in Detroit. That game went into a second overtime. The game was all tied at 3-3 when an American stepped up to the plate. Detroit's Pete Babando hit an overtime goal for all the glory. He was one of the few Americans represented in the series.
25. Carlton Fisk: “Stay Fair”
The Red Sox never had a shot against the Reds in 1975. But instead of rolling over and cowering to their might, Boston pushed Cincinnati to a dramatic seven-game finish.
The iconic moment happened in the ninth inning of Game 6. The Red Sox were all tied up and needed a big hit to get over on the Reds that had been hitting home runs all game. Fisk, the team leader, came to bat trying to get a hit in the gap so he could get into scoring position. Instead, he hit one of the most famous home runs and most beloved in Sox lore.
As the ball sailed out towards the left field pole, Fisk leaped into the air urging the ball to stay fair. It worked.
24. Music City Miracle: 2000 Wild Card Game Titans
How about a little controversy for the list. A booth review was needed in a 2000 Wild Card game between the Bills and the Titans.
On the last drive for the Bills, quarterback Brad Johnson took the Bills down to the 24-yard line with one shoe. He lost it and had to make due. The Bills kicked the field goal giving them a 16-15 lead with only 14 seconds remaining.
That set the stage for a miracle. Lorenzo Neal received the kick. Neal handed the ball off to Titans tight end Frank Wycheck, who threw a lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson, who then ran down the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown. The Bills were in an uproar as they thought the lateral went forward making it illegal.
The lateral has since been reviewed by NFL films and has shown that the correct call was made. The pass never made its way forward. It was a legal lateral.
23. 1966 World Cup: Geoff Hurst Scores Two in Extra Time
The 1966 World Cup is the only one to be captured by the English side. Besides having that special note, it is also the only final to feature a hat trick. This one was netted by English phenom Geoff Hurst.
But Geoff Hurst didn't only manage to win the Cup for England; he also stirred controversy with his goals. The third was the winning and most controversial. Alan Ball crossed a pass into Hurst, who nailed a strike into goal. The ball hit the underside and bounced back down. The officials called a goal.
West German fans have always stated that the ball never crossed the line. In soccer, the ball must fully cross the line for it to be considered a goal.
The controversial overtime goal is at 1:30.
22. 1957 NBA Finals: Double Overtime Game 7
A dynasty was born out of the closing minutes of the 1957 NBA Finals. This series was back and forth for the entirety of the matches. No team won by more than five points. Games Six and Seven both went to double overtime.
The last a deciding game saw Russell sink a late bucket. Then St. Louis had a chance to steal the show, but Bob Petit’s layup rimmed out, and the Celtics had the first of a long line of NBA titles.
21. 2008 Stanley Cup: Game Five Triple Overtime
An overtime game in a Stanley Cup series is remarkable to watch, but three is just downright amazing.
This game had it all: stunning defensive measures, hard hits and timely goals. It also featured Maxime Talbot's goal with 34.3 seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 3-3.
The overtime periods went much the same way. Neither goalie gave an inch. Then, with a little over nine minutes remaining, Petr Sykora scored the game winner, a feat he promised he would do.
20. Barcelona 1992 Olympiad: Britain's Derek Redmond
The Olympics is a tough business. You train your whole life for one shot at attaining your goal. You have one shot out of a lifetime to fulfill all of your hopes and dreams. So when they get taken from you in a flash, you must feel like a million miles from home.
Britian’s Derek Redmond came into Barcelona with hopes of finishing in the top three in the 400m event. But along the final stretch, he tore his hamstring. Now it was just about finishing. He spent his whole life dreaming of the moment; he just wanted to finish.
As he hobbled to the finish line, you can see officials trying to stop him from injuring himself further. Then came his father. The man that brought him up was going to help him to the finish line. The moment proved, once again, it’s alright to cry sometimes.
19. 2010 Gold Medal Game: Sidney Crosby Scores in Overtime
The gold medal game for hockey in the 2010 Winter Olympics was magical. There was a great anticipation leading up to the event. The USA was an underdog, but that did not cease US fans from hoping for a miracle.
The US quickly fell behind and had to play catch up all game. They would trail 2-1 until the very end of regulation. The Americans, in desperation, pulled their goalie from net and made a play on the puck on Canada’s side. With 20 seconds to go, the USA scored.
That sent the game into overtime, where Sidney Crosby clinched the gold with a stunning goal.
18. 1987 NCAA Final: Indiana Vs. Syracuse
Many times, a title winning team needs an extra little push at the end to get them over. That spark was given to the 1987 winning Hoosiers by Keith Smart.
The Indiana guard had the weight of Hosiers nation on his shoulders when he got the ball with nine seconds remaining. He also had the knowledge that head coach Bobby Knight watching his every move.
That is enough pressure to make anyone crack. Instead, Smart hits the jumper like it was a regular season game. Indiana wins and Bobby Knight keeps his cool for at least one day.
17. 1999 Champions League Final
Manchester United and Bayern Munich battled out a barn burner in the 1999 Champions League Final. The game was all level at one in the second half when Sir Alex Ferguson decided to bring on Teddy Sheringham to get some offense going. The substitution came at the fifth minute but would have huge impact later in the game.
As the final minute clicked to zero, the officials signaled that three minutes would be added. At that time, Manchester won a corner. David Beckham set the ball and sailed one into the box.
The ball fell to Ryan Giggs’ foot when he tried to strike a goal through. The lazy attempt was parried towards Teddy Sheringham. Sheringham struck a ball into the back of the net. Out of the confusion and complexity of the corner kick, United came away champions.
16. Christian Laettner: NCAA East Regionals
You want a last second shot? How about the most famous in all of NCAA history. The Duke Blue Devils were in danger of being ousted from the tournament by Kentucky. That is, until Bobby Hurley threw a cross court inbounds pass to Laettner, who was magically able to catch the ball unguarded.
He dribbles once, turns and fires. Duke would not lose the game. Instead, Laettner would be an instant hero and Duke would go on to the Final Four, where they would win their second straight championship.
15. 1999 Stanley Cup Finals: Game 6
Brett Hull gave the Dallas Stars the 1999 Stanley Cup in an overtime victory. But this finish is noted for its controversy.
Hull scored off his own rebound against Buffalo Sabres goalie Dominik Hašek. Once rebounded, Hull maintained control of the puck and scored as his skate went through the crease. The rules state that you can do so as long as you have control. Sabres fans have always maintained that Hull’s control on the puck was tenuous at best.
A further review shows the referees got the call right or, at the very least, had very little evidence to go back on their initial judgement.
14. Bobby Thompson: Shot Heard Round the World
The 1951 Giants were dead in the water to start September. Then a miraculous set of wins had them tied with the hated Dodgers at the end of the season. A one game playoff would decide the pennant.
One of the best calls in sports history stemmed from the Giants Bobby Thompson getting a hold on one in the ninth inning. The ball soared over the left field fence, netting the Giants the victory. Dodgers fans submit to this day that the Giants were stealing signs from center-field using binoculars. It was just one more item to fuel this heated rivalry.
13. 1983 NCAA Finals: Lorenzo Charles
The closing minutes of this game are truly special. Houston came into this game as the favorites with marquee dunkers that made up the Phi Slamma Jamma.
In a fitting end, the game ended on a put back dunk to send Houston home losers. North Carolina State’s Lorenzo Charles gets a wayward three point attempt and puts the ball back just as the buzzer sounds. It remains to this day as the only buzzer beater to close out a finals game.
12. Super Bowl XLIII
With 43 seconds left on the clock, the Super Bowl was on the line. The Steelers were on the Cardinals own seven yard line facing 2nd and goal.
Ben Roethlisberger took the snap and looked to his right. He threw a pass to a very well covered Santonio Holmes. That is when a bunch of bodies fell to the ground and the referee signaled a touchdown. It happened so fast that it was hard to capture on television.
But Holmes made one of the better catches I have ever seen. He took a bullet from Big Ben and held on while having the mind to keep two feet in the field of play. It was a combination of a brute’s strength and a ballerina’s balance.
11. 1984 Orange Bowl
This was your classic speed over brawn. Nebraska came into this game as the big dogs. They were supposed to wipe the floor with Miami and their speedsters. Instead, the heavy underdog Hurricanes jumped out to a quick lead.
Nebraska clawed back into the contest and had one last play to tie the game. Nebraska coach Tom Osborne was given the choice of kicking for an extra point or going for two after a late game touchdown. The NCAA had not yet introduced overtime, so this would be the last play of the game either way. A tie would have netted Nebraska a national championship. But this back and forth game needed something more.
The fans wanted an out right win. Osborne, ever the sportsmen, went for the win.
The two point conversion failed and Miami won in dramatic fashion.
10. 1970 Stanley Cup: Game Four
Bobby Orr gave the Boston Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 29 years in 1970. He did it with the an amazing acrobatic play that is considered as one of the greatest in hockey history.
Orr set it all up when he out skated Blues player Larry Keenan to a loose puck. He then passed to Derek Sanderson. who was behind the net. Coming from the wing, Orr then sprinted to the goal. Sanderson was perfect in his timing. He waited for the perfect moment to hit Orr back with a pass.
Once he received it, Orr slapped the puck into the net for an overtime victory. Upon scoring, Orr was immediately tripped up and sent flying through the air. The iconic image transcends even hockey. It is one of the most memorable moments in championship history.
9. Kirk Gibson Home Run
Here you had one of the greatest games in World Series history. The Cinderella Dodgers were going into game one against the Oakland A’s and their slugger filled lineup without their leader. Kirk Gibson was sidelined with multiple injuries.
But in a crazy ninth inning, skipper Tommy Lasorda rolled the dice. Baseball fans were treated to a masterful at-bat between two legends of the game, Gibson and closer Dennis Eckersley. It all ended on a backdoor slider that Gibson hit into the pavilion.
The only thing that made it better was Vin Scully’s call. “In a season that was so improbable, the impossible has happened.” It was a storybook ending to game one in the 1988 World Series. The shock sent the A’s reeling and the Dodgers would eventually win.
You can watch the video here.
8. 2002 NCAA Title Game: OSU Vs Miami
Sometimes a game ends on a fantastic defensive call. Facing a Miami attack on the Buckeyes two yard line, the “Luckeyes” dug deep and forced a little extra luck. Ohio State had been in close games all year long, and pundits felt the fortuitous bunch deserved the “Luckeyes” moniker.
Well, they certainly had a bit of that when defensive end Cie Grant went completely unblocked in the final play. He went straight for Ken Dorsey, who only had time to throw a pass that went uncaught. It was a fitting end to a game that saw two overtimes.
7. Superbowl XLII
It isn’t often that a Super Bowl lives up to expectations. But Super Bowl XLII did just that. Tom Brady had just put the Patriots up with a late fourth quarter drive. The Giants would then turn to Eli Manning in the waning moments of an exciting contest.
Manning would take the ball at the 17 and proceed a magical drive. It included one of the best catches in Super Bowl history, an up the gut lob to David Tyree. Tyree went up and mashed the ball to his helmet and held on as he fell back to the ground.
Manning now had the ball near the red zone. You could sense the Patriots gripping. That’s when Manning unleashed the game winner to Plaxico Burress into the end zone.
6. Miracle on Ice
The finish to the miracle on ice is spectacular for the anticipation of what was to come. It seemed like the USSR controlled the puck for the entire final minutes of the game. All the time, you expected them to break the hearts of Americans that put a vested interest in this game.
But the tragedy never came. The seconds ticked down, and all that was left was the certainty that the USA had just pulled off the greatest upset in hockey history.
5. Havlicek Steals It
One of the more famous radio calls in sports history came at the end of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers needed a bucket to get the win. They were on their side of the court with Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer inbounding the ball.
The game seemed to be in the 76ers hands as they had chipped away and now had the score at 110-109. Greer lobbed it into the looming figure, Wilt Chamberlain. Out of nowhere, John Havlicek comes and steals the ball. He runs down the court and is mobbed by fans. The buzzer sounds as Havlicek heaves the ball in the air.
4. Joe Carter: World Series Home Run
The Toronto Blue Jays were, for a couple years, the best in all of baseball. They can thank characters like Joe Carter for that.
In a deciding game, Carter came up against the Phillies Mitch Williams. The closer was among the best hurlers in baseball. He was prone to wild streaks and had just put a runner on. It would have served him to pitch around Carter as well. The Blue Jays slugger hit a walk off World Series clinching home run.
He was instantly transformed from an aging ball player into a little kid as he danced around the base paths.
3. 2005 Champions League Final
You never want to fall behind in soccer. It is just too difficult to come back and equalize. So falling back 3-0 in the Champions League Final, Liverpool was dead where they were standing. AC Milan had one of the better halves you have in soccer. Their passing was pristine, and their shots on goal were precise. They only needed 44 minutes to net three goals.
Then came one goal for Liverpool. Stephen Gerrard heads it in, giving Liverpool hope. Then in the 56th minute another came, and the AC Milan defense began to worry a bit. That led to a ridiculous foul in the box late in the game. Liverpool’s Xabi Alonso took the penalty kick and was denied. But the ball rebounded out and Alonso ran up and crashed it in tying the game.
The already exciting ending went on 3-3 until the final overtime. It then went to kicks, where Liverpool finished off their masterful comeback and won on kicks 3-2.
2. 1998 NBA Finals
This play is dynamic and a bit depressing. It gave the Bulls their sixth championship in eight seasons. But it also happens to be the last shot Jordan would take in a Chicago uniform.
His shove of Byron Russell into a game winning jump shot was the last iteration of the unstoppable version of Michael Jordan.
After he sank the shot, the Jazz had one play left to net them a title. The ball would land in the hands of John Stockton, whose desperation shot fell short. That would end the best shot the Jazz have had for a title.
1. Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 World Series Winning Home Run
The 1960 World Series would be the Yankees in the end. At least that is what sports writers at the time believed. The Pirates had no shot against the juggernauts from the Bronx. But the Bucs would not go quietly.
They fought and clawed into a game seven where anything could, and did, happen. Diminutive Bill Mazeroski went to the plate in the ninth inning of the last game determined to get over on the Yankees. He accomplished that and more. He hit a towering World Series clinching home run. It is widely considered to be the best homer in history.