The sports world as we know it has come to a halt. March Madness and the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, tennis, and golf seasons have been either canceled or postponed. On Tuesday, the Olympics officially announced that the 2020 Tokyo Games will instead take place in 2021. With the COVID-19 crisis escalating across the globe, athletes, fans, and media members alike are social distancing in an effort to limit the spread of a global pandemic.
So what should people do to get their sports fix in the coming weeks? For that, it’s best to turn to the past. The Ringer staffers have compiled a list of 40 games and moments to revisit from the 1970s to the 2010s. Consider this your streaming guide for classic sports moments—especially if you consider Corey Brewer dropping 51 points a classic sports moment.
Without further adieu, let’s get to the list.
Jeremy Lin Arrives on the Scene
February 10, 2012
Jason Concepcion: Let’s start before the beginning. Between December 26, 2010, and February 2, 2011, 57.6 inches of snow staggered Gotham. Defeated vehicles—taxis, buses—sat sullen and stranded on the streets. The city was waylaid by the fury.
So, the following year, when the temperature soared into the 60s on February 1, it felt illicit. Like getting away with something. A warm winter. That was nice. That was enough. Then something incredible happened. The Knicks, suddenly, became relevant. Not just relevant, but must watch. An event. A happening. And that was because of Jeremy Lin. On February 10, the New York Knicks hosted the Los Angeles Lakers. Lin had played starter minutes for three games, all wins, spanning one week, scoring 25, 23, and 28 points, respectively. Jeremy was a ball-dominant slasher with a shaky jumper. He could only go right. He was Asian American. He was sleeping on a couch. Is this real life? Nothing made sense in the best way possible. Kobe and the Lakers would expose him. Or, so the thinking went.
I took a cab home to Brooklyn because I didn’t want to miss a second. All along the BQE, I could see televisions tuned to the game. I can tell you the play when my spirit left my body and went to commune with my ancestors: just under three minutes left in the first half, Knicks up 45-38. Lin snatches the rebound, goes coast-to-coast, sea-to-shining-sea, puts Derek Fisher into a fucking puree for the layup in traffic. Thirty-eight points, four rebounds, seven assists, Knicks win. Less than two weeks later, the dream was over.
Here Comes Lezak!
August 17, 2008
Chris Almeida: Frankly, I’d forgotten about this part:
Alain, my man, are you serious? Why would you do this to yourself? You were favored to win a relay race against a 4x100 team featuring Michael Phelps, the star of the 2008 Beijing games, the swimming guy who trained for four years without taking a day off. This is not a great time to talk shit.
Even here, Bernard has to feel great. He talked his trash to reporters; he’s coming into the final 50 meters with a body-length lead; he’s already the record holder for the fastest 100-meter split in history; and he’s not even swimming against Phelps. Who has to make up that massive gap for the Americans? The 32-year-old Jason Lezak! Ha!
Even the American commentators on NBC, just two finals into Phelps’s quest to win eight gold medals, weren’t optimistic. “I just don’t think they can do it,” Rowdy Gaines muttered at the beginning of the final leg, before Bernard even started to pull away. But Bernard tightened up in his second 50, and Lezak, the old man, swam a blistering split nearly half a second faster than any other swimmer in the race. Gaines, suddenly reanimated, nailed the call: “Here comes Lezak, unbelievable at the end!” Phelps won (debatably) his most exciting race standing outside of the pool.
“Alain is wounded,” the director of the French team said shortly after the race. “When you are the last swimmer in a relay and that you have the opportunity to bring a title of this importance to your country, you don’t get out of this unhurt.” Ouch.
The Warriors Finish Blowing a 3-1 Series Lead
June 19, 2016
Haley O’Shaughnessy: This was an instant classic before it even tipped off. No team had ever rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. And then the finale was outstanding. Let’s play a game. Say these strings of words out of context, and I promise you, the people around you will think of Game 7. The Block. The 3. The possession when Kevin Love transmogrified into an agile defender to shut down Steph Curry.
Cavaliers 93, Warriors 89. Losing this series was so devastatingly embarrassing for the Warriors that it became a tagline: “Don’t let [banal news item X] distract you from the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead.” I got that printed on a birthday cake. I was a 3-1 lead for Halloween.
I was waiting tables in 2016. After Game 5, I threatened to quit if I couldn’t get off work in time to watch games 6 and 7. I got the OK eventually. Even if I hadn’t, Game 7 was so iconic that it would’ve been worth quitting three million and one times over.
The Aaron Boone Game
October 16, 2003
Zach Kram: The core of the modern Yankees–Red Sox rivalry is the 2003 and 2004 ALCS battles, both seven-game affairs that are represented on this list (see below). The 2003 version is more compelling as a single game. Game 7 in 2003 featured a Pedro vs. Clemens pitching matchup with extended relief appearances from future Hall of Famers Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera. It included clutch hits from the likes of Derek Jeter and David Ortiz. It went 11 innings—meaning more time to watch, a plus for social-distancing hours—periodically punctuated by a raucous crowd that still bleeds through the broadcast 17 years later. (Also still glorious: the old MLB on Fox theme music.) Above all, this Game 7 featured a monumental comeback—and an accompanying managerial debacle, courtesy Grady Little—and a walk-off home run. Aaron Boone’s blast is one of just two in a Game 7 in MLB history.
Dave Roberts’s Steal
October 17, 2004
Jack McCluskey: These days, Boston sports fans can claim an overabundance of riches. But back in 2004, the same couldn’t be said. Sure, the Patriots had upset the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI … but the other teams hadn’t tasted glory since at least the ’80s, and the Red Sox famously hadn’t won since 1918.
It’s easy now to forget just how momentous Dave Roberts’s steal was. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, the Yankees led 4-3 in the game and 3-0 in the series, and Rivera—the future first-ballot Hall of Famer and the greatest closer of all time—was on the mound. After Kevin Millar worked a walk, Terry Francona brought in Roberts to pinch run. Everyone watching knew why. Rivera threw over once … twice … three times, to keep Roberts as close to the bag as possible. It didn’t matter. Roberts took off, Rivera delivered, Jorge Posada rifled the ball to second, and Jeter applied the tag … a split-second late. Safe! The crowd lost it.
When Bill Mueller drove Roberts in with a single up the middle a couple of pitches later, it didn’t win the Sox the game. It only tied it. But that made Boston fans delirious; the hope of more and better to come was enough.
Secretariat Wins Belmont by 31 Lengths
June 9, 1973
Riley McAtee: If your goal is to kill time while social distancing, the 1973 Belmont Stakes isn’t going to do much for you. If your goal is to see one of the greatest achievements in athletic history, though, you’ve come to the right place—and you can experience it all within the span of a couple minutes.
Every year, humans set records and reach new pinnacles in sporting achievement. We’re constantly chipping away at milestones, from sprinting times to passing yards to shooting efficiency. Humans evolve to get better.
Horse racing, however, doesn’t work that way. In nearly half a century, no racehorse has come close to matching Secretariat’s performance at the 1973 Belmont Stakes. The greatest racehorse ever won by a stunning 31 lengths to claim the first Triple Crown in a quarter century, and his time of two minutes and 24 seconds remains the record for any race of a mile and a half on dirt. Just look at how the camera continually zooms out to try to fit Secretariat on the screen with his nearest competitor, Twice a Prince. In an area of fuzzy antenna TVs, this was far too wide a field of vision for the broadcast—but it was left with no choice.
“He is moving like a tremendous machine!” gives me chills every time I watch. There’s simply never been another performance like this one.
The Reggie Miller Choke Sign Game
June 1, 1994
Matt Dollinger: I was 8 years old in 1994, but I remember everything. I remember the shots, the satisfaction, the choke sign. And, of course, I remember Spike Lee.
The Pacers have never won an NBA title. Chances are, as a small-market team, they never will. But the ’94 Eastern Conference finals gave this Hoosier a memory just as good: David slaying Goliath on Goliath’s home court in the most gratifying and dramatic way imaginable.
Go back and watch Reggie pour 25 points (!) on the Knicks in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He looks like a man possessed, talking shit, swishing jumpers, and focusing solely on destroying the opponent (thanks, Spike). Reggie hits shots from everywhere, and Marv Albert provides the pitch-perfect narration as Miller puts New York away.
Everyone remembers the choke sign Reggie flashed Spike. But my favorite scene in this game came at the very end of the night, when Reggie spiked the ball on the floor of the most famous arena in the world, putting a fitting exclamation mark on his masterpiece.
Sure, the Pacers would go on to lose the series. But as a young kid from Indiana, watching Reggie beat the big, bad Knicks on their home floor in a peak-hostile-playoff atmosphere meant everything.
Two decades later, I moved to New York and ran the 2018 NYC Marathon. I knew that I’d need extra motivation to get through 26.2 miles, so I wore a Reggie no. 31 Flo-Jo jersey and ran through all five boroughs letting everyone know that Reggie Miller still runs these streets.
Hundreds of people yelled at me. Every “REGGIE, YOU SUCK!” brought a smile to my face and extra bounce to my legs. I imagine Spike did the same thing for Reggie back in ’94. To cap it off, Reggie saw my post and gave me the ultimate compliment: “Way to be a baller in enemy territory.”
Malcolm Butler Steals Super Bowl XLIX
February 1, 2015
Kevin O’Connor: I curled into a fetal position and bawled when the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. I was such an entitled baby. As if celebrating three Super Bowl wins wasn’t enough before turning 18. But heartbreak is relative. As a Pats fan, going 18-0 before losing to Peyton Manning’s goofy little brother on an improbable helmet catch caused profound pain. That grew only worse in the next couple of years.
Tom Brady tore his ACL. Deflategate happened. The Patriots kept falling short in the playoffs, including dropping a second Super Bowl to the Giants. Brady said in 2005 that his favorite Super Bowl ring was his “next one.” For a while, it felt like that next one would never come.
But then came Super Bowl XLIX. Brady engineered a 10-point fourth-quarter comeback to take a lead over the Seahawks, but any New England thrill quickly turned to fear when Russell Wilson found Marshawn Lynch down the left sideline and then Jermaine Kearse did his best David Tyree impression to bring Seattle to the brink of the end zone. With the clock ticking, the dread of every heartbreak and nightmare rushed back all at once. Until Malcolm Butler happened.
My dad and I had never screamed any louder. The pain was gone. There was only joy. It took winning again to make me understand it, but almost immediately I felt thankful for all the losses. The losing makes the winning sweeter. In sports and in life, we must savor it all.
Mike Piazza’s Home Run After 9/11
September 21, 2001
Dan Devine: As much as the sound itself—the all-encompassing cacophony that followed Mike Piazza’s go-ahead moonshot off of Braves reliever (and Queens native) Steve Karsay in the bottom of the eighth inning—I remember the speed of it. When Piazza extended those massive arms to cover the outside corner, the first thing you heard was the barrel of his bat destroying Karsay’s 96 mph fastball. (“A bellowing sound,” then-Mets manager Bobby Valentine would later describe it. “Mike’s sound.”) And then—immediately—the exultation.
In an instant, a tangible roar exploded out of the mouths of the 41,235 people who’d attended the first pro sporting event in New York City since the terrorist attacks on September 11. In an instant, it seemed, everybody in the Shea Stadium stands sloughed off the weight of the fear and grief they’d shouldered for the 10 days since the Twin Towers fell. The crowd instinctively and immediately joined in what Piazza would later call “just this incredible release of emotion.”
“People want to find refuge in sports, especially in baseball—want to find comfort in a crowd, being around other people,” Piazza said. “Maybe that has a tendency to ease the pain, even if it’s just a little bit.”
We can’t find comfort in crowds right now. We can’t know how long it’ll take for us to be able to share a euphoric moment like this again. But while we wait, it’s good to have a reminder of what pure rapturous joy can sound like, and how quickly it can overtake you, even in our darkest nights.
Lionel Messi Breaks Bayern Munich
May 6, 2015
Paolo Uggetti: When it comes to Lionel Messi highlights, I care less about the goals themselves than all the little things that precede the finish. He’s the ultimate process-over-results superstar, and no moment of his career embodies that better than this one from five years ago, when he broke Jérôme Boateng’s ankles. The picture-perfect chip Messi guides into the net is just icing on the cake. The move immediately became legendary.
The entire game is a classic, with Messi scoring twice and toying with the Munich defenders throughout the entire night. I mean, just watch what he does at the 35-second mark of the embedded clip.
Messi has had better goals and better games throughout his illustrious career. I can’t stop myself from always coming back to rewatch this one.
Allen Iverson Steps Over Ty Lue and Into Immortality
June 6, 2001
Tyler Tynes: You knew there was gonna be some shit because Iverson wasn’t wearing a headband. And his cornrows were so fresh they looked like they got done in the hallway right before the game.
So many of the Sixers stars were hurt or ailing during this matchup against the Lakers, who had just swept their way through the Western Conference playoffs: George Lynch was on the sidelines dressed like Tyrese in a music video; Shaq had his way with Dikembe Mutumbo until Matt Geiger started knocking down jumpers; Eric Snow was, I don’t know, dead? So Iverson decided that this was his game. He had five steals and six assists. He also finished with 48 points—30 of which he dropped in the first half.
After the game went into overtime, Iverson went off. Knockdown jumpers. Killer crossovers. You have to remember this team kinda sucked. It was a bunch of role players and pound-for-pound the best player on the planet.
What happened next should have come as no surprise then. With 50 seconds left and Philly up by two, Iverson took Ty Lue—who after this fiasco embarked on a career coaching basketball—baseline before hitting a snatch-back crossover and drilling one in Lue’s face. Lue fell down and Iverson stepped over him. An iconic sports highlight was born.
I can’t tell you what happened after that because as far as I can tell this clinched Philly every title from 2001 to now. No need to fact check it.
Christian Laettner Hits The Shot
March 28, 1992
J. Kyle Mann: In sports, I’d argue that belief is often the seed of despair.
We Kentuckians adore basketball in a way few regions can match, but in the years leading up to this game, our right to believe had been ripped away from us. True, it was our cheatin’-ass program’s own fault, but the despair of being without belief in Kentucky basketball was bottomless. That’s why this left such a wound: In 1992, we were feeling the pure euphoria of belief for the first time in years.
This iconic overtime thriller was like a conversation: two impassioned and refined styles deadlocked in debate for 45 minutes. Duke was remarkably talented. Kentucky was undermanned and relied on gimmicks that would later become gospel. Back and forth, point and counterpoint, deficits and runs, belief and then despair. All of it was punctuated by the most famous (and loathsome) shot in the history of college hoops. I’m fair—Duke was a worthy victor and eventual champion—but I’m still a Kentuckian.
Christian Laettner should’ve been kicked the hell out of that game.
Kemba Walker Ends Pittsburgh
March 10, 2011
Justin Verrier: Rewatching this game in its entirety feels like waiting for the shark to appear in Jaws, if only the shark looked more like the bear from Annihilation than papier-mâché powered by a tandem bicycle. Kemba Walker’s overall performance in this one is actually kinda rough (8-of-22 from the floor, including a few shots stuffed at the rim by Pitt’s try-hards and a missed pull-up just before his final dagger). But every so often, he breaks out a too-athletic-for-college move that provides a peek of the big reveal to come—a sharp stepback into a long 2; a split of three defenders into a corkscrew finish at the rim; another stepback into an open look from 3 that he reluctantly passes up.
Finally, with the score tied and 18 seconds left on the clock, there it is, in all its glory: Gary McGhee, a human potato, foolishly switches on the screen; Walker pulls the ball out and drains some clock, shooing everyone away from the paint; Walker makes one hard right-to-left crossover, a hard jab step toward the foul line that sends McGhee falling headfirst into his teammate, steps allll the way back to just inside the 3-point arc, and swishes the jumper at the buzzer. If you look closely, it seems like Kemba is already talking shit before the ball goes through the net.
Find me a better shot in the past 20 years of college basketball. Or just anything that’d make Jim Calhoun smile.
The Isner–Mahut Marathon
June 22, 2010
Ben Lindbergh: When you’re watching classic sports moments to survive self-isolation, the longer-lasting the event, the better. And no tennis match has lasted longer than the 11-hour, five-minute sadistic torture session from the first round of 2010 Wimbledon that pitted Nicolas Mahut against the eventually victorious John Isner. Twice suspended because of darkness, Isner–Mahut broke records, scoreboards and, for a few months, Mahut’s spirit. A 2018 rule change ensured Wimbledon would never see such a stalemate again. Available on YouTube (minus the first set) in three parts, one for each day of the match, Isner–Mahut will not only help you pass the indoor hours, but will also make you feel fortunate to be so sedentary. And if you’re still social distancing when you’ve reached the end of the 183rd game, you can squeeze another hour out of screening 7 Days in Hell and listening to “Isner & Mahut.”
The Phillies End Philly’s Title Drought in Game 5
October 27, 2008
John Gonzalez: I suspect the reflexive answer to this exercise for many Philadelphians would be the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII win against the Patriots. That was a blast, but it’s easy to forget just how bleak the city’s sports landscape looked before the 2008 Phillies came along. That team ended a 25-year championship drought in the town—at the time, the longest period without a title for any city that had four pro franchises. But in typical Philly fashion, the win didn’t come easily. The Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays, but because of biblical rainfall in Philly, the decisive Game 5 was split into two parts over three loooooooong days. After waiting all those years for a title, the city had to wait a bit longer. The end result was worth it. When Brad Lidge closed out Game 5 Part II, he didn’t just get the save—he relieved an entire town of two-and-a-half decades of disappointment and frustration. The memory alone is enough to make you fall to your knees.
The Sid Bream Game
October 14, 1992
Jordan Ritter Conn: Pick a team you love. Now pick a game from your team’s lore, a game you know, but were too young to appreciate in full.
I picked Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, known in Atlanta as the Sid Bream Game. And let me tell you what this experience is like. The game starts; pleasant, if a little dull. Then something happens. A hit, a catch, a steal. Your heartbeat rises, but just a little. You shout, but not too loud. You know where you’re headed but don’t know how you’ll get there.
Until you reach the end. This, you know. The runner slides; the tag misses. You cheer. You can’t help it. This is still your team, winning a game you’ve never watched them win. And then you shut your laptop and walk around your house with a stupid smile, somehow energized and soothed at the same damn time.
The Bad Boys Pistons Take Over the Basketball World
June 6-13, 1989
Craig Gaines: In my mind’s eye, Pistons-Lakers on the precipice of the ’90s is a clash of titans. My Bad Boys descend to not only end Showtime, but also to be the bridge between the Bird-Magic renaissance and the Jordan-led hegemony of my tormented teen years. Worlds colliding to the smooth narration of Dick Stockton. Instead, as I unplugged from the world for a bit last weekend to reach back to my personal sweet spot, I was struck by how quiet the affair is to me now.
My beloved maulers—Mahorn, Salley, Laimbeer, and Rodman—seem slight compared to today’s land sharks. The production values are lessons in restraint, as opposed to today’s visual blitz. (Please, someone give me the option to watch today’s games with the score shown onscreen only for a moment after every basket.) The only player whose performance aligns with my memory is that of my hero, Finals MVP Joe Duuuuuuumars (loved hearing Ken Calvert on the PA). The lockdown defense was there, as were the quiet intensity and high, arcing shots. It’s no good to indulge too deeply in nostalgia during dark times, but every Dude needs his serenade of tumbling bowling pins, ya know?
Tiger and Rocco at the U.S. Open
June 16, 2008
Megan Schuster: Forty minutes into the USGA’s dramatic retelling of the 2008 U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate explains sports in the simplest and most effective way. “Great players do great things,” Mediate says. “Hence, great players. Normal players do normal things. They’re normal players. There’s only been a handful of great ones.”
Just before footage rolls of his final putt of the tournament—one that could’ve tied him with Tiger Woods and kept him alive in a sudden-death playoff—an off-camera producer asks, “So, are you a normal player, or a great player?” Seconds later, as Woods is shown violently hugging caddie Steve Williams and Mediate hangs his head, we get our answer.
Tiger, playing on one leg and for the first time in three months, won his 14th career major that day. He wrung out every ounce of greatness in his body during that 2008 week, and that’s why people still reference this performance in hushed tones. But I don’t rewatch the ’08 Open to witness greatness. There are plenty of other Tiger highlights for that. Instead, I rewatch it for Mediate.
Look at that face and tell me if you’ve ever seen a human being look more internally terrified. This is the clubhouse shot that will live in infamy, the one that shows exactly what it must feel like to know that the best golfer of all time is bearing down on your lead. Mediate’s role in one of Tiger’s greatest feats may be largely lost to time, as is the rest of his career. But I keep rewatching because moments like this remind us of how vast the gulf between normalcy and greatness really is.
Roy Halladay Throws a No-Hitter in Game 1 of the NLDS
October 6, 2010
Michael Baumann: I could make a pitch for this game as an example of an all-time great athlete delivering an all-time great performance when the lights shined the brightest, and it is. I would also like to think that this game holds up regardless of partisan rooting interest. But mostly this submission is about reliving the warmest, fuzziest memory in my life as a partisan sports fan. It came at a time when the bars were not only open but packed with Delaware Valley folks wearing red hats and ill-advised facial hair, when hugs and high fives were not only safe but mandatory.
This is my happy place. Go forth and find yours.
The One (and Only) Corey Brewer Game
April 11, 2014
Mose Bergmann: “What is that mass of whirling limbs and sweat, streaking down the court like a blur?” you ask. “Is that some kind of creature from another world?”
No, simple friend. That’s just Corey Brewer dropping 51 points in a game against the Houston Rockets.
When you see a shooting star, you’re supposed to make a wish. Well, on April 11, 2014, I watched the Brewer-led Timberwolves beat the Rockets 112-110, and that’s precisely what I did.
Brewer was 2-of-6 from 3-point range. He had six steals, two rebounds, and one assist. And he finished with 51 points. It was a strange statline because, well, it was a strange game. Brewer ran, threw the ball at the basket, and scored, time and again. It was the platonic ideal of his playing style: All of his manic, herky-jerky moves and long-armed layups thrown from impossible angles worked out. It was an All-Star performance from a career role player. It was an all-timer.
The Rangers Outlast the Devils in Game 7
May 27, 1994
Katie Baker: There were only three goals scored in the Rangers’ 2-1 victory against the Devils in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference final, but all of them were epic. Eventual Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch’s deft spin-o-rama in the second period will make you gasp even when you know it’s coming, as will the Devils’ tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. And then there’s the game-winner, best known by one word in triplicate: “Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!”
That famous call actually isn’t in this video; it was delivered on the radio, by Howie Rose. But the television broadcast is delightful anyway, featuring the all-time great pairing of Gary Thorne and Bill Clement; those classic organ sounds of MSG; and extremely watchable shots of Mark Messier glowering and Jeff Beukeboom-ing and two competing old-timey-movie-villain-lookin’ coaches in Mike Keenan and Jacques Lemaire.
The entire series was a thing to behold, with three games that went into double overtime and the Messier pre-Game 6 guarantee that culminated in him scoring three goals in the third period for a 4-2 win. Watching Game 7 may eat two hours and 18 minutes of your time, but you’ll regret none of them. (Well, unless you’re Greg Wyshynski or David Puddy.)
The Shot Before the Shot: Marcus Paige Against Villanova
April 4, 2016
Jacqueline Kantor: In my version of events, Kris Jenkins’s shot doesn’t exist. I didn’t see it. I was a Tar Heel far from home, months into a year of multicontinental transience, watching the NCAA men’s championship in a Paris hostel. A VPN gave me access to a streaming service, but the connection was weak. It crept closer to dawn local time, and with less than five seconds remaining, Marcus Paige—four-year starter, record-breaking 3-point shooter, paragon of the Carolina Way—leapt, twisted, and heaved from long range, hitting a breathtaking, off-balance, game-tying shot with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game.
The Carolina bench spilled out onto the court ... and then my stream froze. By the time I reconnected, my texts warned me not to bother. It was over.
Paige’s shot was the last play I saw of that game, but it’s all I need. It’s worth rewatching three times: once to remember the feeling of witnessing the improbable play; once to remember the gut-punch of the eventual loss; and once because it’s just a fantastic snippet of basketball.
Four years later, it still draws a lump in my throat that’s more from gratitude than despair. How sweet it is to have a team that tethers you to home from afar—reminding you where you come from and what you represent.
Drew Bledsoe Airs It Out Like Never Before
November 13, 1994
Alan Siegel: The Patriots have played far more consequential games than this 26-20 win against Minnesota in the last quarter century, but few are as rewatchable. After falling behind Warren Moon and Co. 20-0 in the first half, New England stormed all the way back to force overtime. There’s just something hypnotic about watching a deep-dropping Drew Bledsoe fire bullet after bullet across the chewed-up Foxboro Stadium turf.
The ’94 Pats weren’t great, but they were fun as hell. That team had five players who finished the season with 50 catches or more, which was pretty remarkable for the era. In overtime, Bledsoe hit a member of that quintet, fullback Kevin Turner, for a 14-yard touchdown to give New England the win. It was the quarterback’s 70th pass attempt of the afternoon, which remains a single-game NFL record.
The José Bautista Bat Flip Game
October 14, 2015
Bobby Wagner: I’m just going to come right out and say it: The seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers is the one of the worst innings of baseball ever played. It is also one of the best innings of baseball that can possibly be watched.
We all remember the Joey Bats home run and ensuing bat flip, the three Texas errors, and the Rougned Odor right cross as retribution a year later. But do you remember the top of that seventh inning? All-Star and former Gold Glove winner Russell Martin accidentally (checks notes) threw the ball off Shin-soo Choo’s bat (checks notes again) between pitches, leading to the (let me check my notes one more time) go-ahead run of a playoff elimination game.
I implore you to go watch this whole game, and if not, at least the whole seventh inning. It’s 53 minutes of genuine unpredictability.
Ray Allen Downs Georgetown in the Big East Tournament
March 9, 1996
Conor Nevins: For several decades after its inception in 1979, the Big East was the premier college basketball conference in the country, and its tournament at Madison Square Garden was the most anticipated event on the sport’s calendar outside of March Madness. People may dispute this characterization. These people are wrong. Other conferences may have boasted better top-end teams and more storied rivalries, but no league could match the original Big East from top to bottom, and none could compete with the atmosphere at MSG.
By “original” Big East, I mean the league as it was constituted before being ravaged by conference realignment driven by football and media-rights deals. The Big East still exists—it even boasts some credible basketball, namely from recent national champion Villanova, a founding member. But you have to go back into the archives to find games from the league’s zenith.
My recommendation is the 1996 Big East tournament final between UConn and Georgetown, featuring the no. 1 and no. 5 draft picks from that year’s NBA draft: Allen Iverson and Ray Allen. The two future Hall of Famers didn’t play particularly well: Allen went 21 minutes of game time without scoring; Iverson was in foul trouble most of the game, and finished with 13 points. Few players, however, were as captivating while struggling. The Huskies won 75-74, finishing on a 12-0 run that culminated with an Allen jumper. Allen made almost 9,000 field goals in his NBA career, but none were as ugly as that game-winner. In that way, it was a perfect college basketball game: ugly, improbable, and utterly brilliant.
The USWNT Beats Brazil With a Goal for the Ages
July 10, 2011
O’Shaughnessy: This match had more in common with Uncut Gems than any Celtics game. It involved no insider gambling (at least not that I know of—soccer can be messy) and had no Kevin Garnett cameo, but United States-Brazil in 2011 brought on the same stabbing pain of helplessness with the stress of every second. Where to start, the misery or the joy?
The misery: The referees were so bad that this match could have easily been defined by the officials, had the players not been so individually and collectively excellent. The USWNT played down a man after Rachel Buehler was booted in the second half and still forced extra time and ultimately penalty kicks with only 10 players.
The joy: There was Megan Rapinoe, 25-year-old Marta, Abby Wambach, pre-problematic Hope Solo, and Ali Krieger coming through in the clutch. There was the 122nd minute of stoppage time and the most gorgeous goal I’ve ever seen, a cross sent from Rapinoe on the left to Wambach’s head on the back post. I tear up each time I watch this.
Pretty skilled! Eat your heart out, Carlos Cordeiro.
Texas A&M Takes March Madness to a New Level
March 20, 2016
Shaker Samman: How much do you think you could accomplish in 40 seconds? This isn’t rhetorical: How much do you think you could do? I might be able to get most of the way around a track in that amount of time. I could probably wash a dish or two. Fine feats, sure. But not miraculous.
In the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament, now-NBA cult hero Alex Caruso’s third-seeded Texas A&M Aggies were trailing 11th-seeded Northern Iowa 69-57. It was as over as a game can be. The Panthers had presumably pulled the upset and were headed to the Sweet 16.
And then something strange happened. The gap shrunk to 10. With 26 seconds, it was down to eight. With 22 seconds, it was merely six. Two seconds later, it was three.
Even when the lead grew back to five, a miracle felt inevitable. There was Caruso, to cut it to two. A second Northern Iowa turnover in the waning seconds tied the score at the end of regulation. The Aggies faced another late deficit in overtime. It didn’t matter. They trailed again in double OT. It mattered less. When the final horn sounded, A&M stood victorious, 92-88. It remains the maddest I’ve ever seen March become.
Andrew Luck Has His Playoff Moment
January 4, 2014
Jomi Adeniran: It wasn’t long ago that Andrew Luck was known as one of the best young signal-callers in football. In just his second season after replacing Peyton Manning, Luck led the Colts to an AFC South title and a showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round.
Things looked ugly for Indianapolis early. The Colts fell behind 28 points in the third quarter, and their season seemed set to end with a disappointing thud. That is, until the Colts engineered the second-greatest NFL playoff comeback in history, finishing the game on a 35-6 scoring run that included Luck scoring on a fumble recovery (!!!). Indy won, 45-44.
This seemed like just the start of Luck’s brilliant career; it now stands as one of the defining highlights of a player who retired at age 29. Regardless, it was one of the great playoff performances of all time.
The Spurs End the Heat’s Big 3 Dynasty
June 15, 2014
Isaac Levy-Rubinett: Like so many other classic productions, Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals can be neatly broken down into three acts. In Act 1, an all-powerful LeBron James wills the Heat to a 22-6 lead. In Act 2, the Spurs roar back on a jolt of Ginobilian energy and take the lead on a Kawhi Leaonard PUJIT 3. In the third and final act, Spurs great Patty Mills buries the Heat under a deluge of high-arcing and extraordinary 3s. (Jeff Van Gundy: “That man can shoot!”)
This game is also imbued with historical significance: It’s LeBron’s final game with the Heat, the last gasp of Miami’s mini-dynasty, and the culmination of the Spurs’ redemption tour. And for our social-distancing purposes, there’s an entire 2014 Spurs Extended Universe to get lost in.
The Lob City Clippers Get a Moment of Triumph
May 2, 2015
Isaac Lee: First-round NBA playoff series are not supposed to be especially fun. But every once in a while, with a staggering amount of Regular Season Load Management™ (in 2015, Kawhi led the Spurs in minutes per game with just 31.8!) and the now-defunct rule that ensured the division champions a top-four seed (Portland got the no. 4 seed over Memphis and San Antonio in 2015), you get a thrilling Game 7 like this.
The defending champion Spurs were felled by Blake Griffin’s triple-double outing and Chris Paul’s absolutely sensational performance; the latter hit what felt like a million elbow jumpers, went 5-of-6 on 3s, and converted the game-winning layup right over Tim Duncan’s outstretched hand. These Lob City Clippers, of course, would go on to blow a 3-1 lead against the Rockets in the next round. Sigh.
Steph Curry Becomes Steph Curry
April 28, 2013
Uggetti: I distinctly remember watching the third quarter of this game and feeling like I was having a religious experience. Who was this guy pulling up from 30 feet? The ball seemed tethered to him as he bounced around like something inside of a pinball machine. I don’t know if this was the night that Steph became Steph, but it was the night that it became clear to me that the basketball I was watching wasn’t just different and potentially landscape-changing, but also a hell of a lot of fun.
Robby Andrews Roars Back to Win the 800
June 10, 2011
Kram: I imagine that nobody reading this piece has ever watched this race before. I implore you all to do so! It’s shorter than two minutes—so go watch it and then continue reading this blurb.
Was that exciting? Do you feel the peripheral adrenaline coursing through your veins? Then use Robby Andrews’s breathtaking kick—he was in last place 75 percent of the way through the race!—as a gateway to the world of YouTube race videos.
Middle-to-long distance running videos all follow a similar pattern, ideally suited for casual viewing. They start off soothing, with the steady, hypnotic rhythm of fast feet on pavement; you can watch closely for the strategic nuances of competitive racing or merely float in the calmness. But the videos don’t stay quiet forever: The runners begin to pick up their pace, the announcers raise their voice, and the crowd intensifies its hubbub. And the final turn and straightaway are full of tension, because at the elite level, nearly every championship race finishes in a close sprint.
Let the YouTube algorithm introduce you to thrilling race after thrilling race; just click on the next recommended video and the pattern will repeat. Best of all: Unlike most other entries on this list, you probably won’t already know who won before watching.
The 4x100 Freestyle Relays Before the One You Know
September 16, 2000 and August 15, 2004
Baumann: Until 2000, the United States had never lost the 4x100 freestyle relay at the Olympics. Then their archrivals Australia, led by wunderkind Ian Thorpe, squeaked by the overconfident Americans on home soil. In 2004, both teams got blown out by South Africa in Athens to end Michael Phelps’s first run at Mark Spitz’s record. Pay attention to what Pieter van den Hoogenband does to Jason Lezak on the anchor leg.
Now scroll back up and rewatch Lezak’s performance four years later. The 2008 race is the best three minutes in sports history. It’s better in context.
Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr. Duel at the Rising Stars Game
February 16, 2014
Keith Fujimoto: What happens when irrational confidence meets irrational confidence? Well, you get something magical, like what happened with seven minutes remaining in the second half of the 2014 Rising Stars game. Dion Waiters and Tim Hardaway Jr. traded bars like Jay-Z and Biggie on “Brooklyn’s Finest.” It was cinema. Bucket after bucket. Epic 3 after epic 3. And a whole lot of you-can’t-fucking-guard-me face.
Future All-Stars like Giannis, Dame, and AD could barely get a bucket in during the Waiters-Hardaway Jr. duel. Dion finished with 31 points in 22 minutes; Hardaway put up 36 in 24. Andre Drummond won the game’s MVP hardware, but we all know who the true MVPs were that night. If All-Star Weekend is looking for another big event, I say we run this back.
The Slipper Fits for George Mason
March 26, 2006
Richie Bozek: There are two hyperspecific pieces of information that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. One is the entire menu at Jersey Mike’s, where I worked for about three and a half years during high school and college. The second is the George Mason men’s basketball starting lineup for the 2005-06 season.
George Mason’s campus sits five minutes away from my childhood home. My dad took me to games each year, and I even attended head coach Jim Larrañaga’s basketball camps each summer. Anyone can enjoy revisiting this game because it was an overtime Elite Eight upset in which a no. 11 seed beat a no. 1 seed. For me, it was also the first time I felt truly close to something special happening in sports.
I remember spending a day of my 2006 spring break waiting to buy Final Four T-shirts. George Mason’s bookstore is lovely at that time of year.
Zinedine Zidane at the 2006 World Cup
June and July 2006
Samman: We all like a good story. We especially like when a good story ends with our hero riding off into the sunset. That’s what was at stake for Zinedine Zidane and France during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. For a while, things were going according to plan. After a lackluster group stage that saw the 34-year-old dynamo suspended for a decisive tie against Togo, Zidane showed life against Spain, and then put together the greatest individual performance in the history of the sport in the quarterfinal against Brazil.
For 90 minutes, Zidane toyed with the Brazilians, directing traffic and controlling the flow of the game. As was true eight years prior, Zizou was Brazil’s kryptonite. His fearlessness on the ball, and grace with it in tow, eventually sent France through to the final, looking to capture its second title in three tries. He scored seven minutes into his last match, on a skillful, cheeky penalty. But no one cared much after what happened next.
Here’s to Zidane, whose career ended with a bang.
1990s and 2000s College Football Games, in General
Kevin Clark: I have, in the two weeks of working from home, cycled through a handful of different YouTube rabbit holes. Did I spend an afternoon working with old British Open golf highlights on in the background? Absolutely. Did I at one point get really into the ’90s Red Wings for some reason? Look, it’s a weird time for all of us. But YouTube’s true sports gift is its library of full college football games. The appeal is simple: awesome players taking over games in front of raucous crowds.
See: Sean Taylor in Tallahassee in 2003. These games seem dated, which is part of the glory of it: Not only do the players change quickly, but so too does the style of play, the broadcasts, the fortunes of entire schools, and well, everything else. Every game is a slice of a time and place.
Other sports change much more slowly. Mind you, Tom Brady was in the midst of his second Super Bowl-winning season by the time Taylor was showing his heroics. You get great broadcasters like Brent Musburger (I recently took in his call of Darren Sproles’s 2003 destruction of Oklahoma) and Keith Jackson (he describes rivalry weekend 1997 as a “weekend with whiskers” before Ohio State-Michigan). The broadcasts overall are gems. My favorite slice of this is the incredible Florida State-Notre Dame intro from 1993 that features a Bob Costas poem paired with a song from the Rudy soundtrack. It’s not for everyone. It is, inexplicably, for me.
The U.S.-Canada Olympic Men’s Hockey Final
February 28, 2010
Andrew Gruttadaro: Most of the time, the United States and Canada are cool with each other. We both eat bagels and appreciate the comedy of Seth Rogen. But more pointedly, I suspect us Americans are chill with Canadians because of some (however misguided) belief that we are superior to them. We have 29 NBA teams, they have one; we have New Orleans, they have Calgary; we drink milk out of cartons, they drink milk out of bags. But the one thing at which Americans are assuredly, admittedly worse than Canadians is hockey. In men’s hockey, Team USA has won gold at the Winter Olympics twice while Team Canada has won gold nine times. The NHL’s top 10 scoring list is 90 percent Canadian. They also invented the dang sport.
Which is why the 2010 men’s gold medal game was such a momentous event. Matching up these two North American rivals for a championship game was high drama—setting the game in Vancouver only heightened it. Featuring nearly every important hockey player at the time, a mix of past, present, and future—on the U.S. side: Patrick Kane, Ryan Miller, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner; on the Canada side: Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Jonathan Toews, Chris Pronger, even an aging Martin Brodeur, and on and on—ensured that the game would be one of the best showcases of on-ice talent in hockey’s history. And with the U.S. positioned as surging underdogs—the team went undefeated in their group and then outscored Switzerland and Finland 8-1 on the way to the gold medal game—the stage was set.
I won’t spoil what happened for those who haven’t seen the game. Just know that it lived up to the hype.
Pete Weber Tells the World Exactly Who He Is
February 26, 2012
Almeida: I spent a lot of time bowling growing up. The Bowl America in my town was cheap and only somewhat structurally unsound, and it gave you a free game for every “A” on your report card.
I didn’t watch a lot of bowling as a kid, but as an adult living in a big city, far removed from cheap lanes and report card-subsidized games, I’ve found that watching pro tournaments can help approximate the calm I found at the bowling alley. Recent events have pushed me to watch and rewatch even more bowling, mostly online. And when talking about bowling in the internet era, there’s one moment that stands far above the rest.
Pete Weber, one of the winningest bowlers of all time, the muse for an inspired Tim Robinson parody, the man who, somehow, brought the crotch chop to the least crotch-choppy sport in existence, will be preserved in mainstream memedom forever because of this outburst, which came after he won his ninth major title at the 2012 U.S. Open. Throughout the match, Weber had been sparring with a member of the crowd who’d been cheering against him and moving into his peripheral vision. So, naturally, after throwing a strike on his final ball to win by one pin, Weber tore off his signature sunglasses and incoherently bombarded his tormentor.
“Yes! God damn it! Yes! That is right, I did it! I’m … number five, are you kidding me? That’s right!”
He then turns to the crowd.
“Who do you think you are? I am! Damn it right!”
Weber, to his credit, has had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. He says that he was too happy about winning to care about his somewhat embarrassing enshrinement into meme canon. And who do you think you are to tell him he should think otherwise?
The Enduring Legend of Linsanity
February 14, 2012
Daniel Chin: While the 38-point performance against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers may have been Jeremy Lin’s most iconic outing, his game-winner in Toronto is what truly solidified the Linsanity legend.
By this point in the former Knicks guard’s 2012 run, New York was riding a five-game winning streak behind five straight 20-plus-point showings from the Harvard product. Down big to the Raptors at halftime, it looked as if that streak was about to end. But Lin—who finished this one with 27 points and 11 assists—got the Knicks going in the fourth quarter before dramatically sealing the comeback. With the game tied 87-87, Lin gathered himself at the 3-point line and let it fly. “BANG!” Mike Breen screamed over the MSG broadcast. “Jeremy Lin from downtown, and the Knicks take the lead!”
Despite being almost a full decade removed from Lin’s magical season, I still find myself traveling down that YouTube wormhole every now and then. That speaks to the endless plight of being a Knicks fan, and also to the way that the best sports moments forever stick with us. I’ll be revisiting this one regularly over the next few weeks—and also for years to come.