The 5 Greatest Moments in Sports History

Zach MentzContributor IIIJuly 14, 2011

The 5 Greatest Moments in Sports History

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    Sports are great. Millions upon millions of people every year across not only the United States, but the entire world, involve themselves with sports one way or another. Whether it be coaching a team, playing for a team or whatever the case may be, it's safe to say that without sports, the world we live in today would be much, much different from the world we currently know.

    There are dozens of different sports in the world, ranging from baseball to skiing, football to cricket, basketball to croquet. There are also dozens of different reasons that people involve themselves with sports, no matter the level. One of the most common reasons as to why people love sports is because of the way that sports can lift us and the way that they can make us feel on top of the world and invincible, albeit sometimes only for a moment.

    Ever since sports were first played, there have been millions of special and iconic moments. To narrow down the five greatest moments in sports history is no easy task, however the five moments I chose are on this list for a few different reasons.

    To be considered one of the greatest moments in sports history, the moment has to be special. It has to be a moment where people remembered where they were when it happened or when they heard the news; it had to have uplifted a large group of people; and it must be an iconic moment in time that will stand on its own forever.

    In the following slides, I'll unveil to you what I believe the five greatest moments in the history of sports are. Feel free to comment and let me know what moments you think I missed, what moments I nailed on the head and anything else.

5. Jackie Robinson Breaks the Color Barrier

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    Sure, this moment isn't a game-winning shot or a championship win, but it was one of the most significant moments in the history of not only Major League Baseball, but sports in general.

    On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In the process, Robinson also became the first African-American player to have ever played in the major leagues, marking the end to segregation in baseball as Robinson officially broke the color barrier.

    Robinson made his debut in front of a crowd of 26,623 fans that day, with a majority of the fans being African-American as well.

    Dodgers manager Leo Durocher supported Robinson when some of his teammates said they would rather sit than play alongside a black man, as he stated:

    "I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a (expletive) zebra. I'm the manager of this team, and I say he plays."

    Over 60 years have gone by since Robinson debuted in the MLB, and now, not only are African-Americans prevalent in the MLB, but sports of all kinds. Make no doubt about it, Jackie Robinson not only broke the color barrier in baseball, but in all sports really as other leagues followed suit afterward.

4. Jesse Owens Dominates at the 1936 Olympics

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    At the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, American track and field athlete Jesse Owens dominated the competition. Owens claimed gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters, the long jump and was a member of the gold medal-winning American quartet that won the 4x100 meter relay.

    Why was Owens' performance so historic though? Well, not only was Owens an African-American man who was dominating the rest of the world's best athletes, but Owens also debunked the "Aryan Myth."

    You see, Hitler used the 1936 Olympics to show the resurgence of Nazi Germany. Hitler and the Nazi propaganda thought that Aryans were a superior race, and therefore, African-Americans were considered inferior.

    Well, Owens proved that school of thought to be nothing but nonsense as he finished the 1936 Olympics with four gold medals, and opened the gateway for African-American athletes to not only participate in sports, but dominate.

    Fun fact: Owens also became the first male African-American athlete to receive a sponsorship when Adi Dassler (the founder of Adidas athletics) convinced Owens to use his shoes.

3. Michael Jordan's Final Shot in a Bulls Uniform

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    In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, the Chicago Bulls trailed the Utah Jazz in the final minute of the game. Trailing by a score of 86-85 with the game clock under 30 seconds and the Jazz with possession of the ball, the Bulls needed a big play.

    Michael Jordan stole the ball from Jazz forward Karl Malone and headed to the opposite end of the court with the Bulls needing a score. Jordan headed to the top of the key, and with less than 10 seconds remaining, he shook defender Bryon Russell off with a crossover (and a bit of a push) and nailed a mid-range jumper, giving the Bulls the slim 87-86 lead over the Jazz.

    The Jazz couldn't answer back, and Jordan's shot proved to be the difference in the game as the Bulls went on to win Game 6 and claimed their sixth NBA title in eight years.

    Jordan had plenty of iconic and memorable plays in his career, but why did this one stand out? For starters, this shot clinched Jordan's sixth NBA championship. This shot was also the last shot Jordan ever took while wearing a Chicago Bulls uniform, as Air Jordan fittingly went out on top.

    This shot is one of the most memorable and clutch shots in the history of basketball, and of course, it was taken by the greatest athlete to ever live in Michael Jordan.

2. Hank Aaron Breaks Babe Ruth's Home Run Record

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    On April 8th, 1974, Hammerin' Hank Aaron clobbered home run No. 715 into left center and broke the career home run record of 714 home runs that was once set by Babe Ruth.

    Aaron ended the 1973 season with 713 home runs and was afraid that he would not live to see the 1974 season due to constant death threats he received from people who did not want to see a black man break a white man's record, especially one as glorious and meaningful as the all-time home run record in Major League Baseball.

    Fortunately, Aaron did live to see the 1974 season and broke the home run record in front of a crowd of 53,775 in Atlanta.

    Only 27 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, an African-American man had now become the proud owner of perhaps the most prolific record in all of baseball, if not sports.

    With this accomplishment, Hank Aaron set new standards for African-Americans in sports as he claimed the all-time home run record.

1. Miracle on Ice

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    The 1980 "Miracle On Ice" was quite frankly the greatest moment in the history of sports, along with the greatest upset in the history of sports as well.

    The United States Olympic hockey team was made up of a bunch of talented college players, but they were no match for the USSR Olympic hockey team, which had won the gold medal in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976.

    Or so we thought.

    Only months before this game took place, the American team lost to the USSR team in a 10-3 drubbing, proving that the Americans were far outmatched by the Soviets.

    The United States team proved how much they had improved though, as this time around the Americans won the game by a score of 4-3, capping off the greatest upset in the history of sports, as well as the greatest moment in the history of sports.

    This game was the ultimate David vs. Goliath moment. For a country that was struggling economically during this time period like the United States was, the Olympic win over the Soviets was something that Americans could finally hang their hats on and embrace as it was something that was much needed.

    The US team completed this Cinderella story by defeating Finland in their next game and clinching the gold medal in the 1980 Olympics. If you're looking for uplifting, inspiring and iconic moments in sports history, you won't find one better than this.

    (Side note: This moment is that much better just because Al Michaels is the one making the call in the video above.)