Every pro sport, over time, contains moments that seem to stop the world in its tracks. Broken records, brutal attacks, and astounding feats despite injuries can take fans’ breaths away. There are so many such moments in pro sports history, but the following twenty-five accomplishments have shaken the world in one form or another. Most of these moments are connected to a person who represented a sport at its best. There may never be another Tiger Woods, Joe Namath, Wayne Gretzsky, or “Magic” Johnson. There may never be moments like the “Immaculate Reception,” or the time Joe Lewis became a national hero because of a 124-second knockout that personified the rivalry between nations. Any sports manager would salivate for those moments, although some moments aren’t that great, and even a movie can change a sport forever…
- The Fog Bowl: New Year’s Eve 1988, a dense fog rolled over Chicago’s Soldier Field during the 2nd quarter, cutting visibility to about 10-20 yards for the rest of the game. The fog was so thick that the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles were forced to use their running game because receivers could not see the long passes thrown to them. TV and radio announcers, and the fans in the stadium had trouble seeing what was happening on the field. The Bears won 20-12.
- Joe Namath’s Guarantee: Three days before the third World Championship game between AFL team New York Jets and NFL team Baltimore Colts, on January 9, 1969, Namath, quarterback for the Jets, declared that the Jets would win the game. Namath then completed 17 out of 28 passes for 206 yards, and was named the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.
- The Immaculate Reception: Voted by NFL Films as the Greatest Play in NFL History, this moment came from a divisional play off game between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers on December 23, 1972. Facing a 4th and 10 on their own 40 yard line and trailing the Raiders by a score of 7-6 with time running out, quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw to his running back. The pass was deflected and then caught, inches from the ground by rookie fullback Franco Harris, who ran the ball for a touchdown to take the lead with five seconds remaining. The play was called the “Immaculate Reception” by a Pittsburgh fan.
- The Heidi Game: On November 17, 1968, the Oakland Raiders defeated the New York Jets, 43–32. The game is remembered for its exciting finish, as Oakland scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32–29 New York lead. The Heidi Game obtained its name because the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) controversially broke away from the game with the Jets still winning to air the television film Heidi.
- Monday Night Football is Born: On September 21, 1970, this American phenomenon began, accompanied by Howard Cosell’s nasal announcing. The Cleveland Browns played host to the New York Jets, with the Browns winning 31-21. This loss followed the Jet’s Super Bowl win in 1969.
- Babe Ruth Breaks Home Run Record: George Herman Ruth, Jr. hit his 60th home run on September 30, 1927. Ruth was the leader of the famous 1927 Yankees, also known as Murderer’s Row because of the strength of its hitting lineup.
- Babe Ruth’s Record Broken: On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron broke the career home run record set by Babe Ruth. This event was notable because he received death threats and a large volume of hate mail from people who did not want to see a black man break Ruth’s record.
- The First Perfect Game: A perfect game is defined by Major League Baseball as a game in which a pitcher (or pitchers) pitches a victory that lasts a minimum of nine innings and in which no opposing player reaches base. It can be a no-hitter and a shutout. That first perfect game occurred on June 12, 1880, when John Lee Richmond, pitching for the Worcester Ruby Legs, beat the Cleveland Blues 1-0, with the only run scoring on an error.
- Boston Red Sox Finally Win: Since their last championship in 1918, the Red Sox were supposedly cursed. But on October 27, 2004, the curse ended when the Red Sox beat the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving the world in a state of shock. With the win, pitcher Derek Lowe became the first pitcher to ever win three series clinching games in a single post-season.
- The Only World Series No-Hitter: Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. He was pitching for the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 8, 1956. But, he had help from Gil McDougald, when the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson hit a liner that caromed off third baseman Andy Carey right to McDougald, who threw out Robinson by a step.
- 100 Points in a Single Game: On March 2, 1962, a young Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA (National Basketball Association) single-game scoring record by racking up 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks in Hershey, PA.
- Five Positions: In what would be the final game of the 1980 NBA series, 20-year-old Earvin “Magic” Johnson played all five positions on the court and started the game at center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists en route to his first title for the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Torn Muscle Plays: During the fifth game of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reed suffered a torn thigh muscle. He was expected to sit out the rest of the series, but he didn’t. He reentered the fray in the seventh alone. As he walked onto the court from the tunnel, he stopped warm ups and churned the New York Knicks fans into a frenzy. The story is that his presence inspired the Knicks to a 113-99 victory and the franchise’s first NBA Championship.
- Longest Game Ever: And, maybe the greatest game, too — especially for the Phoenix Suns. On June 4, 1976, in the fifth game of the NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics and the Suns went into three overtimes, the first Finals game ever to last that long. Phoenix took the game 128-126; but, two days later, the Celtics beat the Suns 87-80 in Phoenix to wrap up their 13th NBA championship.
- The Longest Shot: The shot that made Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the NBA’s career scoring leader on April 5, 1984, was familiar: a graceful, high-arching sky-hook from the baseline, the shot that had become his trademark in a long and successful career. It was his 31,420th point of his career, breaking the NBA’s all-time scoring record, which had been held by Wilt Chamberlain.
- Tiger Woods, Youngest Masters Champ: At the tender age of 21, and only his fifteenth appearance as a pro, the highly touted Woods became the youngest player to win the Masters in the 61-year history of the tournament on April 13, 1997.
- The Old St. Nick Wins Six: At 46, Jack Nicklaus, a 46-year-old “antique,” had won his 20th major golf championship, his first green jacket in 11 years, his sixth Masters Tournament in over three decades. Nicklaus won his first Masters, in 1963. With the sixth win in 1986, Nicklaus became the oldest Masters winner in history, a record which still stands.
- A Woman Rocks the Boat: Annika Sorenstam challenges the men at the Bank of America Colonial tournament in 2003, becoming the first woman to play a PGA Tour event in 58 years. Before stepping away from competitive golf at the end of the 2008 season, she won 90 international tournaments as a professional, making her the female golfer with the most wins to her name.
- Caddyshack Cracks Golf: Caddyshack would become arguably the most quoted film ever, adored by golfers and non-golfers alike. Opening in the summer of 1980, this comedy forever changed the golf lexicon, pitting the “snobs against the slobs.”
- Cassius Clay Defeats Sonny Liston: On February 25, 1964, a brash, young speed-talking Olympic champion stood firm against a seemingly indestructible heavyweight champ. The controversial bout created Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxing icon of the latter 20th century.
- Rocky Marciano Undefeated: Rocco Francis Marchegiano was an American boxer and the heavyweight champion of the world from September 23, 1952 to April 27, 1956. Marciano is the only champion to hold the heavyweight title and go untied, undefeated throughout his career. His last title bout was against 38-year-old Archie Moore on September 21, 1955.
- Joe Louis Annihilates Max Schmeling: Within 124 seconds on June 22, 1938, Joe Louis beat a Nazi star athlete. Fought at Yankee Stadium, the contest was as much between the United States and Nazi Germany as between two superbly skilled athletes. There were almost 70,000 spectators and an estimated 100 million radio listeners throughout the world: “the largest audience in history for anything.”
- Another Woman Rocks the Boat: On October 24th, 2009, undefeated boxer Lucia Rijker (17-0, 14 KOs) became the first female inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.
- NHL’s All-Time Leading Scorer: On October 15, 1989, Wayne Gretzky bacems the greatest hockey superstar when he surpassed Gordie Howe’s total of 1,850 points in a remarkable third of the time played. Even after retirement, he remains the leading point-scorer in National Hockey League (NHL) history, and his jersey number, 99, has been retired by all NHL teams.
- Rogues’ Gallery: On May 29, 1996, Claude Lemieux hit Red Wings center Kris Draper from behind in Game 6 of the 1996 Western Conference finals. This brutal incident left Draper with a concussion, broken jaw, cheek and orbital bones and would require extensive reconstructive facial surgery.