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Which Athlete’s Eight-Hour Highlight Reel Would You Watch?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration
Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Watching highlights has always been part of the joy of sports, and it’s never been easier than it is right now to find hundreds of clips of just about any famous athlete. But who would you want to watch on tape for a full eight hours? As inspired by Reddit, our staff has some thoughts:

Allen Iverson

Michael Baumann: First of all, it’s tough to find any athlete with eight hours’ worth of true highlights, but you could probably manage it with AI, who was the perfect storm of attributes for a highlight reel: quickness, handle, creativity, and the willingness to go after any opponent — from Tyronn Lue to Michael Jordan. But it’s not just about his crossover — a surprising number of his highlights came on the offensive glass, of all places, emphasizing that, even as the smallest guy on the court, his go-to move was “whatever the hell I feel like.” The turn-of-the-century Sixers were built to make Iverson the first, second, and third offensive option — he pretty much had to score 40 1-on-3 hero ball points for the Sixers to stay in games, and he did. If Steph Curry is the mind-expanding avatar of the modern pace-and-space game, Iverson was the Steph Curry of the physical, ugly, Jordan-obsessed late 1990s.

Randy Moss

Robert Mays: Most of the Moss plays we remember come from only two seasons of a 14-year NFL career. That’s not meant as a slight. It actually plays into his greatness. The guy caught 156 touchdowns, but we need only 40 of them to be reminded of what Moss could do. After the Patriots broke the all-time points record in 2007, the two highest-scoring offenses of all time were New England and the ’98 Vikings. The only constant for those two teams was that their leading scorer was a jump ball–snatching pterodactyl that fed on cornerback bones.

But what makes him worth eight hours is all that happened in between those seasons: Moss teleporting from the line of scrimmage to the goal line in the 2000–01 playoffs, a punt return TD — the only one of his career — against the Chiefs in ’99, and two twists and a touchdown from Jeff Freaking George. The heights of Randy Moss are higher than anything I’ve seen, but the day-to-day wasn’t far off.

Megan Schuster: As a person who grew up a Packers fan living in Minnesota, I am ashamed to admit that I would watch hours, days, even months of vintage Randy Moss footage. I know, I know, I’m a traitor of the highest accord. But Moss was one of the scariest beings to ever step onto a football field, and I got to watch him work every Sunday. Skipping in for a touchdown against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, pulling down a one-handed grab in Tampa Bay, tip-toeing his way to a touchdown in the back of the end zone, even mooning the Green Bay crowd — it was all fascinating theater that I could never bring myself to totally hate. Though each of his touchdown catches resulted in a Daunte Culpepper arm-roll celebration (the dumbest celebration in sports), I endured it because Randy Moss was a monster, and it was impossible to turn away for even a second.

Matt Le Tissier

Jason Concepcion: The thing about Matt Le Tissier’s career and YouTube oeuvre that speaks to me is how his genius on the ball — his magically velvet touch and bombs-away long-range goal ability — clearly flows from his colossal laziness. He didn’t like to run and he wasn’t interested in playing defense, because that also involved running. So he made the logical choice to minimize his need for doing both by developing an ability to control the ball like a deeply embedded hypnotic suggestion and to bang away at the sticks from stupid far away. His decision to stay with his boyhood club of Southampton, despite offers from bigger clubs, is often painted as loyalty. Hogwash. He was probably just too lazy to pack.

Ed Reed

Mallory Rubin: If you’re looking for another reason to mistrust the NFL, consider this YouTube compilation from May 7, 2015, in which the No Fuckingway League attempted to boil down Ed Reed’s career highlights into 2:28:

Two minutes and 28 seconds to sum up one of the greatest safety careers in NFL history? Two minutes and 28 seconds to honor a Super Bowl winner and defensive player of the year?

I’m hurt, dawg. Don’t ask me if I’m all right.

Ed Reed highlights are so amazing, they occasionally awe Ed Reed himself:

But like Reed, his highlights need room to roam, need space to hawk and dazzle. Watching eight hours of Reed interceptions, pick-sixes, and bone-crunching open-field hits would be a joy, not a burden — and with a halftime speech or two dotted in as interludes, we’d all be ready to put our hearts into this shit.

Maya Moore

Sam Donsky: I’d never watched a WNBA All-Star Game before. I watch a decent amount of WNBA in the regular season, and usually become pretty devoted once the playoffs roll around — but for whatever reason I’d never caught the All-Star Game. Until last year, that is — when I went and saw it live. And here is my experience at the 2015 game summed up in two words: Maya Moore. You know how some players just sort of seem meant to play with other great players? Like, how there’s Knicks Melo … and then there’s Olympics Melo? That’s Maya Moore. A first-team all-league player, on her own, on any day … but put her on the court with four other all-stars? And suddenly she’s transformed — into the all-star. Moore went off for 30, 6 and 5 (in 20 minutes) that day, on 10-for-16 shooting — including 6-for-10 from 3. She took over. And it wasn’t just that. There was something about the way she took over: a smoothness, a magnetism, a “this person was born to get buckets” swag.

Her performance hit all of my basketball fan tastebuds: a little prime Paul Pierce, a little “James Harden can win an MVP someday, I swear”–level James Harden, and yeah — a little Olympics Melo. Actually, here’s my best comp: Maya Moore is like if Peak-Peak Tracy McGrady was WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS. Anyway, after the All-Star Game I was hooked. It was like hearing a great song, out of nowhere, and then having to rush home to listen to all of that artist’s other hits on YouTube. And that’s exactly what I did. So if I had to pick an athlete to watch for eight whole hours? I’d probably want to watch someone do what Maya Moore does better than anyone else on the planet right now: get buckets.

Shaquille O’Neal

Gabe Fisher: The idea of sitting down for eight hours straight makes me want to run around in circles. I love watching grainy YouTube highlights just as much as the next guy, but eight hours? That’s a lot to ask.

That’s where Shaquille O’Neal comes in. Of course the basketball highlights are endless, and watching loops of The Diesel breaking backboards makes you wish that Vine existed during his playing career. But the beauty of Shaq is that he’s always blurred the line between on-court and off-court entertainment. Almost immediately after he entered the NBA, Shaq became more than just Shaq the Basketball Player, transforming himself into Shaq the Rapper, then Shaq the Questionable Actor, and, finally, Shaq the Media Personality. Now that he’s hung up those giant boots, we still get to laugh at him as he’s Shaqtin’ a Fool:

Between the post-ups, dunks, blocks, acting, rapping, commentating, and the gift from God that is his show Shaq Vs, I believe Eight Hours of Shaq is a spectacle everyone can get behind.

Barry Sanders

Craig Gaines: The most populated parts of Michigan, the flatlands stretching from Grand Rapids to Lansing to Detroit, are a visual void. Linear, scrubby land punctuated by recreational lakes and the few patches of forest allowed to remain by postwar development, all under an unceasingly gray sky. Barry Sanders’s 10-year one-man ballet would have been captivating anywhere, but set against such a mute backdrop his highlights were an ecstatic burst of color. No one had ever seen such movement: low to the ground, able to stop and change direction on a dime, all played out at a dizzying variety of speeds on a single play. It got to the point where I didn’t care that Emmitt Smith had the vastly superior offensive line; I perversely wanted to see a defender blast through an unforgivable gap just so Barry could add another fool to his list. Rooting for the continuation of bad football expresses the Stockholm syndrome that is a Lions fan’s birthright, and only a habitual violator of the laws of physics like Barry could justify such a sick rooting interest.

Mo Farah

Zach Kram: It might seem counterintuitive to put “highlight” and “distance runner” together, but with Mo Farah, who’s another golden Olympics away from entering the GOAT conversation, every moment he’s on the track is a highlight.

Since 2010, the Somalian-born British champion has won 12 individual titles between the Olympics and outdoor World and European Championships. In those races, Farah ran — no, glided — for a total of three hours, 53 minutes, and 55.65 seconds.

If I had eight hours to spend on an athlete’s highlight reel, I’d watch each of those races in full. Twice. And then turn on his pair of indoor European titles to round out my time.

Arvydas Sabonis

Sam Schube: Arvydas Sabonis was a sturdy, productive center for the Trail Blazers teams of the late ’90s. Check the footage: Dude played like a burly rhino with an exceedingly elegant spin move. Now forget those highlights. Because the stuff I want to cue up for eight hours features a different man entirely. We’re talking Young Arvydas wrecking shit for the USSR, scored to a series of fake-ass interpolations of “Eye of the Tiger.” Dude looked like the future in 1986: 7-foot-3 and svelte, before a series of leg injuries robbed him of his explosiveness. He seemed as much a product of the Bolshoi as the basketball court, and passed like he thought “glasnost” referred to court vision, not politics. The Sabonis we met in Portland was old (a rookie at 31!) and mostly broken down. But the Sabonis on tape — Bill Walton, but doper — lives on.

Ken Griffey Jr.

Danny Kelly: That swing, man, that swing.

I could easily watch eight straight hours of Ken Griffey Jr. hitting a baseball. An entire generation of hitters emulated that swing: the tight bat circles of his pre-pitch routine, the easy forward-step, the uppercut motion as he got his hands through the strike zone with viper-strike quickness, the long, one-handed follow-through, and the first few shoulder-rocking steps of his home run strut. Just goddamn beautiful.

Griffey’s power wasn’t derived from hours in the weight room; it was a preternatural understanding of leverage and bat speed. Absolutely no wasted movements, no frills. He was just as good pushing a dinger to the opposite field as he was golf-swinging one out to the right. His lead arm was always arrow-straight as his hips rotated smoothly through contact. Thwack. Junior was right to admire the shit out of all those crushed pitches. What he did at the plate was pure art.

Andrea Pirlo

Chris Ryan:

This is my ASMR. Some people respond to the sight and sound of a knife cutting sand. I prefer languid, precise, suggestive, and glorious long- and mid-range passing from Andrea Pirlo. Initially, I was thinking “Eight hours? BRIAN DAWKINS, OBVIOUSLY.” But wouldn’t watching Weapon X end dudes for that amount of time start to feel like the aversion therapy from A Clockwork Orange? So let’s go with something decidedly more mellow. From 2001 to 2015, at A.C. Milan and Juventus, Pirlo waged war on the harried, frantic pace inherent in midfield play. He took his time. He seemed to take time away from opposing players. His passing imagined different angles. Even when he shot, it looked like a pass.

The only thing better than watching eight hours of this wizard making other people look good would be if the eight hours was scored by this track from the Moneyball soundtrack. Maybe enjoy it with a glass of 2011 Pratum Coller.

<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx7rhSiIr3c">Goal UK</a>
Goal UK

Rob Van Dam

Sean Fennessey: I would watch eight consecutive hours of just Van Daminators. Or Monkey Flips. Or Chair Surfs. Or Split-Legged Moonsaults. Or Rolling Thunders. Or Five-Star Frog Splashes. Or Van Terminators. RVD, who called himself “The Whole F’n Show,” was a human spotfest, a wrestler who existed to make you stand up and blurt — he was only highs (and only high). I loved to watch him ascend the ropes with one thrust. He was all torque and muscle and a ponytail. But he was a mellow fellow, too — a paradox in professional wrestling. He was laconic, but soaring. Somnambulant and extraordinary. A star in his own mind, and also mine. (If not the most beloved worker in wrestling history.) But rather than watch eight hours of highlights set to a mediocre Pantera cover, I might prefer one match, looped 19 times.

This is ECW’s Heatwave PPV, from 1998. RVD appears with his then-partner, the death-defying, primal Sabu. They are pitted against Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki, two Japanese exports appearing in their first televised ECW event. It isn’t even a very good match, the product of four men used to the spotlight, unfamiliar with each other’s rhythms, grasping for chemistry. But I watch it all the time, to decompress, to distract. Because the spots! Oh, the spots are glorious. Van Dam, in particular, is at the heights of his powers at 27 years old. And he is one of the more astounding athletes I’ve ever seen. After each spot, he bounds to his feet and does a gentle, hopping 360 in place, both arms raised in exultation. He knows he’s done something fun. So do we.

Gilbert Arenas

Chris Almeida: Of course, Gilbert Arenas’s career wasn’t all highlights, but for a few years, Arenas was as entertaining as he could have been without playing in any games that actually had large-scale implications.

Arenas gave himself nicknames. He scored a lot of points. It didn’t matter that his teams barely finished over .500 and were doomed to early playoff exits. Arenas was so confident, so [sighs] clutch, that the big picture didn’t matter. Gilbert Arenas made me excited to watch SportsCenter. And when I watch his brightest moments, I feel that way again.

Ronaldo

Ryan O’Hanlon: There isn’t another parallel-universe scenario I’m more confident in than this one: If Ronaldo had better knees, he would’ve been the greatest soccer player of all time. The dude was a hurricane in ballet slippers. He could plow through a back line or snake his way in on goal — but more often than not, it was a little bit of both:

Hell, I’d watch eight hours of highlights of other teams talking about Ronaldo:

As his career (and his knee ligaments) started to wind down, he put on a little too much weight and lost so much of that electric, field-shrinking range, but even Ronaldo at one-eighth speed could turn a defense into a graveyard:

Eight hours of Il Fenomeno might be a debilitating exercise in fending off existential angst — if we can’t even get a fully realized career from Ronaldo, then what’s the point? — but I think I’d find myself in a better place come the end: Despite all the what-ifs, the performances Ronaldo gave us were still plenty good enough.

Marshawn Lynch

Kevin Clark: Every Marshawn Lynch run was a Die Hard reboot — there he is, surrounded by multiple defenders in an impossible situation, and you know that something awesome is about to happen. He gets out of his sticky situation, every time. We’ve become so conditioned, as fans, to move on from a play and look at our phones or laptops as soon as major contact is made between a defender and the ballcarrier. With Lynch, that is not an option. He’s not only going to extend the play, but he seems to get stronger as the run goes along. His “Beast Quake” run and his Beast Mode run — in the 2010–11 playoffs against the New Orleans Saints and in 2014 against the Arizona Cardinals, respectively — get tons of pub, but those are just larger versions of the plays Lynch made routinely. There’s easily eight hours worth of this — and each and every one has the same theme: This can’t keep going. And then it does.

Barry Bonds

Jonathan Tjarks: From 2001–2004, Barry Bonds was as dominant a hitter as has ever lived. He has three of the top-four OPS seasons of all time (the other is Babe Ruth) and he did that the ages of 36, 37, and 39. I’ve always found baseball more interesting as an intellectual exercise than an actual sport, but I loved watching peak Barry Bonds. There was no pitching to him. If you threw the ball over the strike zone, he was going to crush it 400 feet. If you threw the ball out of the strike zone, he was going to take the walk. Everything in baseball is designed to give pitchers the advantage, and Barry Bonds completely turned the dynamic on its head. He won the unwinnable game. He saved the Kobayashi Maru.

The common objection is that he did so by turning himself into a walking pharmaceutical lab, but that conveniently ignores the fact that everyone else in baseball was cheating, too. The only difference is that Barry was better at it.

Johnny Manziel

Ben Glicksman: This is weird and sad and maddening to think about, because of what Manziel has already become: In 2016, at 23 years old, the QB is a cautionary tale. He’s an alleged domestic abuser whose own father labeled him as a “druggie,” a guy who NFL teams feared might go astray in the months leading up to the 2014 draft, and then did — only more quickly and recklessly than anyone dared to imagine.

Still, if I had to watch eight straight hours of one athlete’s footage, it’d be of Johnny Football from his time in College Station. Watching him play for the Aggies wasn’t all that different from staring into the sun. It was terrifying, thrilling, and occasionally blinding — a rare instance in which seeing didn’t so much produce belief as it did questions about how it was even possible: his unlikely touchdown scampers; his ability to run in circles and somehow heave the ball to exactly the right spot; his knack for bouncing off defenders before miraculously locating his receiver in the end zone.

Then there was his iconic moment, in A&M’s upset of Alabama from 2012. Manziel cut to his right, lost control of the ball, and corralled it in midair before firing a dart to Ryan Swope.

We’ll probably never see that type of thing from Johnny again. His meteoric rise is now colored by his dizzying descent, and understandably so. But his college tape remains a relic of simpler times: In two years on the college gridiron, Manziel turned in one of the most transfixing highlight reels we’re ever likely to see.

Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson

Chuck Mindenhall: There’s something about Michael “Venom” Page’s rubber man shimmy in the heat of a fight that becomes instantly hypnotic, like he’s trying to snake-charm an opponent just before lighting them up, but as for a trance-inducing elegance that could be watched on a forever loop? Give me the UFC’s Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, who uses his legs to not just beat a guy, but to utterly loot his human property. What he did to Johny Hendricks in February was mesmerizing. He was angles and footwork and aerodynamics — a sniper in underwear. His movements looked choreographed for film. Hendricks, a wrestler who many expected to nullify a kickboxer/karate guy, was bewitched, and then he was destroyed (he even showed up for his next fight against Kelvin Gastelum like he was still suffering from shell shock). Thompson took out Jake Ellenberger with a spinning hook kick that was so quick and clean that it looked like it went through his face — like Ellenberger was a hologram. In a game that’s not a game at all but a literal dictation of one person’s will over another, Wonderboy makes violence seem graceful.

Jaromir Jagr

Katie Baker: I’d happily view the 2008 men’s 4x100 freestyle relay in Beijing on a loop for eight hours, but I’m assuming that’s probably against the spirit of this exercise. So I’ll opt for the opposite instead: rather than a single event involving a group of billiard-bald men, how about a sprawling epoch-length career represented by one majestic mullet? The beauty of a Jaromir Jagr screening is that it’s also a romp through hockey history.

There he is, hair flowing, in the 1992 Stanley Cup Final, tying things up in the third with a goal that CBC’s Harry Neale described like so: “There’s only four people in the whole rink he didn’t deke, and three of them are ushers.” (At the 11-minute mark of this video, Jagr bewilders a dog while reenacting the play.) There he is, playing alongside Mario Lemieux in Pittsburgh gold and making Wayne Gretzky sad over Olympic gold. There he is, lighting the lamp for eight different NHL teams. He scores shorthanded for the Capitals; goes end-to-end in overtime during his stint playing in Russia; and, as a 42-year-old Devil, records a hat trick against the Flyers. And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of his whimsical off-ice antics. Given the source material, you’d likely need a whole ‘nother eight hours for that.

Kevin Owens

David Shoemaker: WWE is spinning itself off into two brands this week to try to create some internal competition. And even though it’s churning out more pro wrestling than ever, its real competition isn’t on TV — it’s the never-ending YouTube rabbit hole of old-school wrestling. I could watch clips of the Dusty Rhodes–Four Horsemen feud for eight weeks, not just eight hours. Hell, there are some wrestling moments so inane that I probably dedicate a couple of hours to over the span of any given month, laughing hysterically. (I’m looking at you, Shockmaster and Gobbledy Gooker.) There’s nobody better in history than “Macho Man” Randy Savage, if you combine his mic work and skill in the ring. But if there’s one person I’ve spent more time watching on YouTube over the past few years, it’s Kevin Owens (née Steen).

Just start with this video of his best moves in WWE. If you want more of that, the best 95 moves (ninety-five!) from his indie days are right here. You have 20 minutes to kill and want a minor symphony? Check out his match against AJ Styles from 2014. These are two of WWE’s current biggest stars wrestling on an indie show and giving it their all. If that’s not indie enough for you, here’s Owens against WWE headliner Seth Rollins (née Tyler Black) in a gym in 2006, which is fitting because they both looked like high schoolers. He had a great pre-WWE match against Cesaro in a VFW hall. But for my money, nothing can top his last match against El Generico in Ring of Honor. Oh, did I forget to mention that they used to be friends and tag-team partners? Their entire years-long rivalry is out there too. Now, I’ll awkwardly segue to his current job at WWE and his ongoing rivalry with Sami Zayn who, it should be noted, has a rather similar physique to the aforementioned Mr. Generico. But it was his beef with John Cena that cemented his place in WWE, and elicited career matches from both men. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go slap a package piledriver on a sofa cushion.

Rasheed Wallace

Tate Frazier: Highlight-worthy supremacy should do more than just provide a “wow” result on repeat. Like Christopher Walken explains, an athlete worth choosing must have layers, many layers. And most of all, the drama should be dynamic, not just the same static “signature play” over and over. There’s only one who has been able to capture the many marks of sportsmanship and showmanship into one career: Rasheed Abdul Wallace. You want records? How about an NBA-record 30 ejections and 317 technical fouls — including an ejection within just 85 seconds of playing time! You want an iconic catchphrase? Sheed’s been preaching “ball don’t lie” since ’95! You want fights? Yep, Rasheed’s been there, done that. He’s punked Austin Rivers, been thrown out of a game for his glare, purchased nine replica WWE belts for his teammates after winning the 2004 championship against the Lakers, had one of the most memorable press conference moments, and single-handedly out-screamed the Cameron Crazies in 1995. All in all, Rasheed always brought it and wore his emotion like sleeves sewn deep into his being. Here’s to hoping the ball never lies and Francis Ford Coppola takes the time out to make this epic series starring SHEEEEED!

Colt Lyerla

Molly McHugh: I could watch Colt Lyerla — yes, that Colt Lyerla — jump out of or on top of any ridiculous platform. Sure, the video might say he makes it out of the pool and onto the cement, but that makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, and I sit there, waiting for him to gash his shins against something and topple backwards. It never happens. This is all I have left of the once-promising football star. If that couldn’t fill eight hours (dude’s career was — thus far, don’t count him out!? — a blip), then I’d switch over to videos of Rasheed Wallace doing absolutely anything. Anything. Eating, talking, yelling, dancing, driving, sure, OK, playing basketball, but then more dancing please, and then some singing and also more singing.

Joey Crawford

Jason Gallagher: Having Joey Crawford officiate a game you cared about was like finding out Vince McMahon was the special-guest referee in your wrestling match. Will he hit me with a chair? Will he eject my opponent for laughing? Either way, he’s definitely dancing. Some might roll their eyes at the idea of watching Joey Crawford highlights, but the man was an absolute showman. I will not apologize for preferring my craftsman with a hint of unwarranted artistic expression. Any man who yells at a mop boy (for not mopping correctly …?) is a man I want to watch on YouTube for eight solid hours. Seeing that crotchety Elmer Fudd–like figure pretend to negotiate with players for 15 seconds before ultimately informing them of their wrongness is gravitas at its finest. And never forget Joey’s unnecessary physical acts of heroism during the most mundane moments of a basketball game. At the time it was so infuriating that you could pass out. But now that the legend is retired, I dare you to go back and watch this Joey highlight reel and not laugh (while wishing for seven hours and 55 minutes more).