Sunday, February 17, 2008

The 10 Greatest Things I Have Witnessed in Sports


1. 2004 Boston Red Sox ALCS Come Back From 0-3

Watching the Boston Red Sox pull off this impossible victory is simply put, the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed in sports. On October 17th, 2004 the Red Sox were down 0-3 in the series, essentially the point of no return in a 7 game series. Only 2 teams in the history of pro sports had ever pulled off this feat: the 1942 Detroit Red Wings and the 1975 New York Islanders. The Red Sox were written off once more until they hung 6 runs to the Yankees 4 by the end of the game. The Red Sox continued into game 5 then game 6. Certainly, there was no way they could actually come back and win this thing, right? The Boston Red Sox defeated their hated nemesis (at Yankee stadium nonetheless) on October 20th, 2004 by a score of 10-3. The Red Sox went on to win another 4 straight games in the World Series to defeat the heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals, merely an afterthought to their slaying of the Yankees.

2. 2007 New England Patriots Season

I understand that the final record will always read 18-1 and that this will always be the crux of the Patriots "near perfect" season. When I sat down and watched their first game on September 9th, 2007 I knew I was watching a team built to win the Super Bowl. The Patriots did not score less than 34 points in their first 9 games. The Patriots were an offensive juggernaut. From a week 9 victory of their rival Indianapolis Colts, to their improbable comeback against Baltimore in week 13 and down to the wire against the New York Giants in Week 17...the Patriots simply kept winning football games. Tom Brady and Randy Moss broke single season records for TD's by performing at the highest level for 16 weeks. The Patriots were perfect in the playoffs, beating a very dangerous Jacksonville Jaguars team and then onto a hobbled but relentless San Diego Chargers team. The Patriots were 18-0 marching into Super Bowl XLII. For the first time all season, the Patriots offensive assault was shut down. Defense wins championships and the New York Giants proved this at the end of the game by defeating the "unbeatable" Patriots 17-14 with smothering defense. Despite the loss, I still regard the 2007 Patriots season to be the most amazing thing I have ever seen in the NFL.

3. 1991-1998 Michael Jordan Wins 6 NBA Championships

Michael Jordan is widely considered the greatest basketball player of all-time. His legacy will almost certainly never die. A true living legend. Jordan fought his way through the toughest teams of the late 1980's (Detroit Pistons, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks) to become the premiere player of the NBA. By 1991, the Bulls had tasted defeat at the threshold of the NBA Finals 3 straight times. There would be no fourth to speak of. Jordan willed the Bulls to their first championship in franchise history. 1992, The Bulls defeated the Portland Trail Blazers for their 2nd straight NBA title. 1993, the Bulls defeated the Phoenix Suns for the remarkable "3-peat". As history will always remind us, Jordan retired from the NBA after the death of his father. After a forgettable stint as a minor league baseball player, Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995. Led once again by the greatness of Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls won another NBA title against the Seattle Supersonics. In 1997 the Chicago Bulls were back in familiar territory, winning their 5th NBA Championship against the Utah Jazz. In 1998 the Chicago Bulls won their 6th NBA Championship, defeating the Utah Jazz in back-to-back years. Michael Jordan had won 6 titles. Essentially, six championships in a row when one looks at his "retirement" as a break in his career. I dare say that no one player will ever touch this milestone again.

4. 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls Record of 72-10

Upon Michael Jordan's return to the NBA in 1995, the Bulls had slipped back into mediocrity without the services of their superhero. The Bulls lost to the upstart Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. Many people believed that the Bulls would never regain their dominance in the NBA. By the start of the 1995-1996 season, the Bulls were ready to prove everyone wrong. Jordan and the Bulls systematically rack up 72 wins during the 82 game season. They were the closest that any team had come to avoiding back-to-back losses in a season, allowing this just once in mid-season. The Bulls lost only one game by more than 10 points, which is the closest that any team has come to avoiding a blowout loss in a season. Quite simply, the Chicago Bulls played like nothing we will ever see again.

5. 1991-1994 Buffalo Bills 4 Straight Super Bowl Appearances

The perennial loser award of the early 90's would certainly have to go to the Buffalo Bills. When one looks at 4 straight losses, there are not many positives you can draw from that. However, when you really begin to look at what the Buffalo Bills did from 1991-1994, you have to be amazed. No other team in NFL history has made 4 straight Super Bowl appearances. Think of the degree of difficulty to just reach the Super Bowl? A team must maintain a winning regular season record and win every game of the playoffs, much easier than it sounds. The Bills lost their 1st Super Bowl to the New York Giants on arguably the most memorable missed field goal in league history..."Wide RIGHT!!". Scott Norwood missed from 47 yards and the Giants walked away with a 20-19 victory. The following year, the Bills repeated as AFC champs and found themselves facing the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXVI. The Bills also found themselves losing again in the Super Bowl. The Redskins defeated the Bills 37-24. The third time was not a charm for the Buffalo Bills who faced the dominating Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX. The Cowboys destroyed the Buffalo Bills 52-17. Improbably, the Buffalo Bills were back in the Super Bowl and ready to avenge their loss to Dallas the previous year. Unfortunately for the Bills, they were facing a similar task: beat the Dallas Cowboys. For the fourth time in the last four years, the Buffalo Bills lost the Super Bowl by a score of 30-13. The four straight losses will never be viewed as anything but that, losses...but in the scope of the NFL, remember that just making the Super Bowl is maybe the second hardest thing to accomplish, let alone 4 straight times.

6. 1994-Present Jason Kidd 99 Career Triple-Doubles

Jason Kidd is arguably the best point guard in the NBA and his 99 (and counting) career triple-doubles are nothing short of amazing. In the event you do not know what a triple-double is: a triple-double is a basketball term, defined as an individual performance in a game in which a player accumulates double-digit totals (i.e., 10 or more) in any three of these categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots. A triple-double is extremely difficult to pull off in the course of a game. Triple-doubles are considered rare in the NBA, unless of course you're discussing Jason Kidd. Kidd is 3rd all time in career triple-doubles, 39 behind Magic Johnson and 82 behind the all-time leader Oscar Robertson. Jason Kidd also ranks 2nd all time in Playoff triple-doubles with 11.

7. 1986-1994/1989-2005 Bo Jackson/Deion Sanders Dual Sport Careers

To be able to play professional sports, one has to consistently play at the highest level. To be able to play 2 different professional sports, one has to be from another planet. This was the case with Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders. Jackson was a Heisman winning running back at Auburn before entering the 1986 NFL Draft. Despite being drafted 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson opted to play Major League Baseball for the Kansas City Royals. In 1987, Bo began playing in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders. Jackson was widely considered a freak of nature, performing at All-Star levels in both baseball and football. On January 13, 1991 Jackson suffered a severe hip injury during a playoff game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The injury ended Jackson's football career and threatened his baseball career. When he announced soon after his surgery that he would play baseball again, many thought that goal to be unrealistic. Before returning to his true professional sports, Bo tried his luck in basketball. Being a natural athlete Bo played briefly for a semi-pro basketball team in L.A. Bo quickly retired. Jackson was able to return to the Chicago White Sox in 1993, and at his first at-bat, against the New York Yankees, he homered on his first swing. In 199, Bo was signed as a free agent by the California Angels for one final season, where he hit another 13 home runs in 201 at bats, before retiring.

Deion Sanders was a star in three sports for the Florida State Seminoles, participating in football, baseball, and track. Sanders played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing 641 games with 4 teams. During his most productive year, 1992, he hit .304 for the Braves, stole 26 bases, and led the NL with 14 triples in 97 games. During the 1989 season, he hit a home run and scored a touchdown in the NFL in the same week, the first player to do so. Sanders is the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and World Series. During his 14-year NFL career, Sanders was a perennial All-Pro and one of the most feared pass defenders to ever play the game. Sanders 19 defensive and return touchdowns are an NFL record.

8. 2007 8th Seed Golden State Warriors defeat 1 Seed Dallas Mavericks in 6 games

On May 3, 2007, the Golden State Warriors eliminated the Mavericks and became the first #8 seed to beat a #1 seed in a seven-game series. This was the Warriors' first playoff series win in 16 years. The Warriors had closed out the regular season with a record of 42-40, with a 16-5 ending run. The Mavericks who finished with a 67-15 record were the obvious favorite in the first round of the playoffs. During these 6 games, the Warriors displayed some of the most phenomenal team play ever seen in the NBA.

9. 1997 & 2003 Florida Marlins win the World Series

By in large, expansion teams do not bode well in oh, say...their first 10-20 years of existence. The Florida Marlins broke this tradition by winning their first World Series after only 4 seasons in the Major Leagues. With a crew of "has been's" or "never was" players, the underdog Marlins faced the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series, and won in seven games. By 1998, the team that brought a championship to south Florida, was systematically dismantled by ownership. Once again, the Marlins were written off. Never to be heard from again. That was until 2003. The Marlins fought back from a 3-1 defecit to beat the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. The Marlins were then met with the challenge of defeating the heavily favored New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series. With a payroll nearly 1/4 that of the Yankees, the Florida Marlins beat the New York Yankees in six games. An expansion team had somehow won 2 World Series titles in only 10 years of existence. Amazing.

10. 2006 George Mason to the NCAA Final Four

March Madness is filled with just that, madness. However, in 2006, George Mason University took the madness to a whole other level. Sure, the NCAA 64 team tournament is rife with upsets and "Cinderella" stories...but George Mason is the most amazing I have ever seen (note: I was only 2 years old when NC State beat Houston). I will simply list the teams that George Mason beat on their way to the Final Four:

Michigan State Spartans
North Carolina Tarheels (defending champions)
UConn Huskies

Their remarkable tournament run ended in Indianapolis, in a Final Four matchup with the Florida Gators, the eventual national champion. The Patriots were the first team out of the CAA to reach the Final Four and also became the second team to reach it as a two-digit (11th) seed.

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