The 100 Most Phenomenal Sports Pictures Ever

Published on 03/01/2021
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When a person plays any sport at a professional moment, they are bound to enjoy at least several magnificent achievements in their careers. These are the moments where David beats Goliath, or Goliath continues to dominate the competition. Sports Illustrated is one magazine that employs a highly talented group of photographers who have skillfully captured some of the most jaw-dropping examples of sporting achievements throughout several decades. Here we have 100 photographs of some of the most wonderful instances of athleticism.

Muhammad Ali and Cleveland Williams

It was on November 14, 1966, that the man originally called Cassius Clay managed to hit Cleveland ‘Big Cat’ Williams straight onto the canvas in the third round of their boxing match. This explosive knockout was captured at the Houston Astrodome where Muhammad Ali successfully hung on to his heavyweight title. This was the most widely attended boxing match for its time, with 35,460 people cramming into the Astrodome to witness the clash of the titans.

Muhammad Ali And Cleveland Williams

Muhammad Ali And Cleveland Williams

Willie Mays

On September 29, 1954, at the World Series of that time, Willie Mays, who won the Gold Glove 12 times, pulled off the best defensive play of his career during Game 1. Dashing as fast as he could to make a home run, he pulled into the centerfield with a deep fly ball, securing the Giants’ 5-2 victory. You can be sure that Willie was given the NL MVP title during 1954, leading his team to clean up Cleveland and secure the title.

Willie Mays

Willie Mays

Chuck Bednarik and Frank Gifford

This dominating scene snapped on November 20, 1960, during the Eagles at Giants shows a pitiful Frank Gifford, the running back for the New York Giants, spread eagle on the floor after being slammed by Check Bednarik, the linebacker of the Philadelphia Eagles. This brutal takedown seen at the Yankee Stadium would be devastating for Gifford, who would be hurt to the point that he would need to take a fair amount of time off football.

Chuck Bednarik And Frank Gifford

Chuck Bednarik And Frank Gifford

Dwight Clark

You might recognize this superhero-like photograph which is called “The Catch”, taken on January 10, 1982, during an NFC Championship Game. Here Dwight Clark, the wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers stepped into a reception that would lead to Joe Montana receiving a six-year touchdown pass that would lead to a 28-27 win for the 49ers against the Dallas Cowboys. This led the 49ers to be permitted into the Super Bowl, where the Bengals lay awaiting their defeat.

Dwight Clark

Dwight Clark

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is pictured here on August 16, 2008, at the Beijing Olympics where he managed to stretch further than Milorad Cavic of Serbia by out-touching him by an immeasurable 0.01 seconds as the final of the 100-meter butterfly came to a heart-racing finish. Phelps nabbed his seventh gold medal with this win, an Olympian performance that would end with his unprecedented 8 gold medal basket. Few swimmers will ever be able to match even a fraction of this winning streak.

Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps

David Tyree and Rodney Harrison

February 3, 2008, at the Super Bowl XLII. David Tyree, the receiver for the New York Giants, snatches a catch using his helmet for balance while Rodney Harrison does his best to slam the precarious receiver to the ground. The New York Giants might not have been able to dethrone the Patriots without this valiant catch, where Tyree held onto the pigskin like it was his baby, securing a 17-14 win for the New York Giants.

David Tyree And Rodney Harrison

David Tyree And Rodney Harrison

Greg Olson

October 19, 1991, at the World Series Game 1. Greg Olson, the catcher for the Atlanta Braves, lands painfully on his head after he tagged Dan Gladden, the left fielder for the Minnesota team. This bizarre acrobatic tumble was captured at the 1991 World Series during Game 1. It took seven games for The Twins to take the Series, with this featured Game 1 being taken with a 5-2 score. We hope that Olson relearned the laws of physics

Greg Olson

Greg Olson

Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston

This is perhaps the most iconic photo of Muhammad Ali, and possibly even in all sporting history. This picture was taken at the heavyweight title rematch of May 25, 1965, where Liston was floored by Muhammad Ali. The champion roars victoriously at the stunned Liston, who does not seem to be in the proper state to feel the sting of Ali’s triumphant mocking. Following his win, Ali would keep the heavyweight title until his imprisonment in 1967 for becoming a conscientious objector.

Muhammad Ali And Sonny Liston

Muhammad Ali And Sonny Liston

Antwaan Randle El

January 5, 2003, at the AFC Wild Card playoffs. Antwaan Randle El, the receiver of Pittsburgh, had his head violently snapped back when the Cleveland Browns player Chris Akins (36) decided to grab El by the mask. The Browns would end up being beaten by The Steelers with a 36-33 victory throughout this AFC Wild Card Playoff match. Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field was the setting for this desperate instance of face masking. Let’s hope that no one tries a dangerous attack like this one anytime soon.

Antwaan Randle El

Antwaan Randle El

Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield

June 28, 1997, at the Heavyweight Bout. Evander Holyfield grimaces in agony as Mike Tyson chomps a chunk out of his ear at the shocking conclusion of their 1997 heavyweight fight. In a brutal act of desperation at what seemed to be a losing effort for Tyson, the brutal boxer decided that nibbling on Holyfield’s ear was the only way out. Tyson was then fined $3 million and had his boxing license taken away for some time.

Mike Tyson And Evander Holyfield

Mike Tyson And Evander Holyfield

Bobby Martin

September 24, 2005, at Belmont High at Colonel White High. Weighing in at 112-pounds and measuring three feet, Bobby Martin was the Dayton Colonel White High Backup varsity noseguard that played kickoff and punt coverage. Martin was born free of lower limbs, meaning that he could not fasten prosthetic legs due to his lack of thighs on which to fasten them to. Martin did not allow such a disadvantage to stop him from playing ball, however.

Bobby Martin

Bobby Martin

Juan Marichal

March 8, 1965, at Spring Training. Juan Marichal, the pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, puts his entire body behind a comet pitch throughout a Casa Grande, Arizona training match. Marichal was famous for his unique windup, where he would shoot his leg vertically into the air with what was considered to be one of the major league’s most elevated leg kicks ever. You can bet that putting that much momentum behind any throw would result in a blindingly fastball speed.

Juan Marichal

Juan Marichal

Tiger Woods

April 8, 2001, at the Masters. An enormous crowd vies for the best look at the teeing off Tiger Woods during the Masters’ final round where David Duval lost to Woods with just two strokes. This victory sealed what would come to be known as the “Tiger Slam”, or Tiger’s successful quadruple leading championship victories. If it was unnerving having so many people intently gazing at you during the crucial opening swing, Tiger did not seem fazed at all.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Brandi Chastain

July 10, 1999, at the Women’s World Cup. Brandi Chastain of U.S. women’s soccer fame falls to her knees in victorious euphoria following her explosive successful penalty kick during the 1999 Women’s World Cup final. Chastain’s dead-eye precision and careful positioning of her kick led to a dramatic and classic World Cup win during a breath-taking penalty kick. If anyone doubted that women’s soccer was less appealing or worthwhile than the male version, a match like this would change any bigot’s mind.

Brandi Chastain

Brandi Chastain

Joe Montana

January 22, 1989, at the Super Bowl XXIII. Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers finds a gap during the earth-shattering rumble to secure a winning pass safely away from much opposition during the last few minutes of his team’s assault on the Cincinnati Bengals. This Super Bowl XXIII game saw Montana leading the 49ers down the field for a total of 92 yards in a 20-16 win against the Bengals. This was a truly crowd-pleasing win for the 49ers

Joe Montana

Joe Montana

Javier Torres

September 21, 2004, at the Paralympic Games. Vicente Javier Torres of Spain begins the Paralympic Games’ 150-meter individual medley. Before diving into the competition, Torres gracefully took off his prosthetic legs and made his way to the podium. This artfully taken aerial shot of Torres was captured a millisecond before his entire body submerged into the water. Torres would walk away with the silver medal for this race after an incredibly inspiring and rousing performance.

Javier Torres

Javier Torres

Vince Lombardi

January 14, 1968, at the Super Bowl II. Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Green Bay Packers is hoisted onto his team’s shoulders following they defeated the Oakland Raiders with a 33-14 victory. You can be sure that the team and its leaders had much to celebrate, given that it was their second Super Bowl in a row. The Packers did not hesitate to show their glorious and heartwarming appreciation for their coach after such a phenomenal run.

Vince Lombardi

Vince Lombardi

Don Larsen and Yogi Berra

October 8, 1956, at the World Series Game 5. Catcher Yogi Berra (8) gives a bracing and jubilant leaping hug to the pitcher Don Larsen as the New York Yankees begin celebrating their magnificent perfect game thanks to Larsen’s immaculate performance. This perfect game achieved by the Yankees (and specifically Larsen) would be the only one to be witnessed in the entire World Series’ running, enjoyed at the Yankee Stadium. This would end in a seven-game winning streak for the Yankees.

Don Larsen And Yogi Berra

Don Larsen And Yogi Berra

Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain

On April 5, 1968, the titans truly lashed as the 76ers’ Wilt Chamberlain and the Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell came face to face high above most of the other players on their already sizeable respective teams. You would struggle to find players (or people in general) much taller than these towering athletes, who stood head and shoulders above the competition in more ways than one. The two players also seem to bear an uncanny familial resemblance!

Bill Russell And Wilt Chamberlain

Bill Russell And Wilt Chamberlain

Michael Jordan

February 6, 1988, at the All-Star Weekend. Michael Jordan embodies his flying nickname ‘Air Jordan’ as he escalates through the air off the free-throw line to seal a flawless 50-point score. Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins at this Slam Dunk Contest final. This thrilling 1988 competition between Wilkins and Jordan has yet to be matched in its quality or popularity. The rivalry between the two NBA legends came to an epic climax during that year’s Slam Dunk Contest.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Bobby Orr

May 10, 1970, at the Stanley Cup finals. Bobby Orr, the defenseman for the Boston Ruins, flies through the air triumphantly as his flying goal secured his team’s Stanley Cup Game 4 win while they battled against the St. Louis Blues. The MVP title would go to Orr for his acrobatic winning shot, but more incredibly, this would be the first Boston Bruins victory in almost three decades. And no, Orr was not tripped by the player behind him!

Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr

Joe Namath

January 10, 1969, during the Super Bowl III. Joe Namath of the Jets QB assures the many fawning reporters around him that his underdog team would conquer the Baltimore rivals, who were the 18-point favorite. Better known for his nickname, ‘Broadway Joe’, Namath would put his money where his mouth was when his MVP-awarded performance secured a 16-7 win for the Jets. Namath sure seemed confident in the provided picture, where his easy-going smile and relaxed posture show an absolute confidence in his ability and eventual winning play.

Joe Namath

Joe Namath

U.S. Hockey

February 22, 1980, at the 1980 Olympics. The Soviet Union and the United States had been competing with each other since the beginning of the Cold War in many different ways, but this 1980 Olympics hockey win was one of America’s most triumphant defeats of the Eastern European forces. Despite their seemingly indomitable presence on the ice, the Soviet Union was finally beaten by their American rivals with a 4-3 win. It was Mike Eruzione’s Miracle on Ice winning play advance that secured the winning gold medal for America.

US Hockey

US Hockey

Kerri Strug

July 23, 1996, at the Atlanta Olympics. Even an agonizing ankle injury could not stop Kerri Strug from striking a sensational pose after she stuck her vault landing. Strug had mangled her ankle in her previous and initial attempt. With the entire United States Olympic team’s chances of taking the gold medal riding on her shoulders, Strug put her body on the line for a golden title. This is the kind of endurance and commitment that goes down in sporting legend.

Kerri Strug

Kerri Strug

Carmen Basilio and Tony DeMarco

It was on November 30, 1955, that Tony DeMarco hit the canvas after Carmen Basilio smashed his opponent out of consciousness. Basilio then took the welterweight title after 12 grueling rounds with DeMarco. The ecstatic Basilio is pictured being embraced midair by his coaches while DeMarco’s team tries their best to revive their fallen competitor. This magnificently angled shot, with the dramatically unconscious DeMarco being cradled by a concerned coach makes for an epically spectacular composition.

Carmen Basilio And Tony DeMarco

Carmen Basilio And Tony DeMarco

Billy Kilmer and Manny Fernandez

January 14, 1973, at the Super Bowl VII. Manny Fernandez, the defensive lineman for the Dolphins (75) leaps over a lineman for the opposing Redskins to try and block Billy Kilmer’s (17) throw. Fernandez would complete one of the most aggressive football performances ever with 17 total tackles which were vital for depleting the Redskins’ efforts and eventually winning against them with a 14-7 final score. This also secured the Dolphins’ place as the only undefeated team in an NFL season.

Billy Kilmer And Manny Fernandez

Billy Kilmer And Manny Fernandez

Wayne Gretzky

April 18, 1999, in New York. Here we have a truly emotional scene. The crowd at Madison Square Garden erupted with a glorious sendoff for Wayne Gretzky as he paid his last respects to his adoring supporters, and vice versa. This was a ceremonial sendoff for the star player as number 99 waved his goodbyes following his conclusive match in his time with the NHL. Few people in history have ever been honored in such an epic way.

Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

Usain Bolt

August 20, 2008, at the Beijing Olympics. Usain Bolt of Jamaica is seen here with his mouth open and his eyes wide as he tries to process the fact that he has just broken the men’s 200-meter final record thanks to a 19.30 seconds timing. This would be the sprinter’s second record-breaking performance with his first being during the 100-meter sprint. The Jamaican superstar shattered all expectations of him as he proved himself to be a virtually superhuman athlete.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt

Babe Ruth

This enormous and adoring crowd was captured in 1926 as they swarmed their hero, Babe Ruth, the legendary outfielder for the New York Yankees. They had good cause to celebrate, as Ruth’s season of that year included 146 RBI with a .372 hit rating and 47 home runs. This was a man that was more than just a sportsman, he was an icon and a source of constant inspiration for his countless and obsessed fans.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Jack Nicklaus

It was on April 13, 1986, at the Masters that Jack Nicklaus victoriously swung his putt as he managed to sink the golf ball that gained him the victory. Nicklaus managed to best Greg Norman and Tom Kite both as he shot 65. As you can see, the golfer was no spring chicken at this time, being the most mature player to take the Masters at 46 years old. It just so happened to be his 18th professional major, which was a sensational record.

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus

Hank Aaron

March 30, 1957, at the Spring Training. Hank Aaron, the outfielder for the Braves at the time, begins his sprint during a 1957 training game during spring. Aaron was enjoying season number four with the majors, a period where he was awarded his sole MVP title during his Hall of Fame total performance. His ability to land home runs was spectacular, being a pioneering first with a total of 44. His fixed gaze and determination are inspiring.

Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron

Reggie Bush

December 3, 2005, during the USC vs. UCLA match. Reggie Bush, the running back for USC is pictured here leaping high into the air over Marcus Cassel’s failed challenge. As soon as he landed, he bolted for the end zone in seconds with a rousing touchdown. The 2005 Heisman Trophy was proudly handed to Bush after this magnificent season. Shockingly, Bush would soon lose this honor when it was uncovered that he was being bribed by the Trojans.

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush

Penn State Football

September 8, 2007, and Penn State’s Notre Dame. You might be wondering why the crowd is almost entirely clad in white. This was a 110,078 strong event called a ‘White Out’, where Penn State urged attendees to dress in white for the game held in September 2007. The Beaver Stadium saw its penultimate population ever, as if more people could possibly be packed in! The Notre Dame Fighting Irish team was bested by The Nittany Lions with a final score of 31-10.

Penn State Football

Penn State Football

Mary Decker

This tragic scene was taken at the 1984 Olympics, where Mary Decker, the former world champion, accidentally barged into Zola Budd of Britain. The clash went down nearly midway into the 3,000-meter dash. Decker was left floored as she was dramatically bashed out of the race. While Budd lost her first place and fell to seventh after recovering from the pounding, all that Decker could do was weep from the sidelines. Thankfully, her ego was the only thing injured.

Mary Decker

Mary Decker

Maxwell Fornah and Victor Musa

April 6, 2006, and Sierra Leone. We now move to a very different part of the world to our usual entries with the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club of Sierra Leone where a thrilling soccer game is underway. Pictured are Maxwell Fornah and Victor Musa scrambling for the ball. These were two of the 6,000 people who were dismembered by a bloody civil war in the country. Not that these atrocities stopped these gentlemen from living their lives to the fullest!

Maxwell Fornah And Victor Musa

Maxwell Fornah And Victor Musa

John McEnroe

July 4, 1981, at Wimbledon. John McEnroe is famous for his theatrics and emotional outbursts, with his victory over Bjorn Borg during this decisive 1981 Wimbledon match being one of his most sensational celebrations. Similar performances would be witnessed two more times on the Wimbledon courts in 1983 and 1984. If you thought that today’s tennis superstars are emotional, you should know that this culture of tantrums and exultations is decades’ old. This isn’t surprising given how intense and stressful some matches can become.

John McEnroe

John McEnroe

Lynn Swann

January 18, 1976, at the Superbowl X. Lynn Swann of Steelers wide receiver fame seems about to trip over Mark Washington, the fallen defender for the Cowboys as he catches the ball. The Super Bowl had never handed the MVP award to a receiver before Swann’s sterling performance. He covered 161 yards with four passes and the 21-17 Pittsburgh victory could not have been achieved without his touchdown. Swann then became something of an inspiration for wide receivers.

Lynn Swann

Lynn Swann

Bill Mazeroski

7 October 13, 1960, at the World Series Game. Bill Mazeroski, the second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, shoots off the beginning of a home run that would take the game for the Pirates. The pitching player is Ralph Terry of the New York Yankees. While this picture might not seem like much, this home run would be the sole walk-off home run to go down in Game 7, ever. Mazeroski’s record remains bound in iron, it seems!

Bill Mazeroski

Bill Mazeroski

Julius Erving

This picture from January 1977 shows Julius Erving of Philadelphia 76ers fame seemingly defying the laws of gravity and physics a second before landing his full extension while dunking a superbly magical dunk with just one hand. All that his Denver Nuggets opponents could do was watch on helplessly. The way that Erving seems larger than life and takes up so much of the frame gives him a godlike appearance. He was one of the tallest players of his time, too!

Julius Erving

Julius Erving

John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson

April 10, 1961, at Opening Day. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and President John Kennedy marvel at a particularly stunning moment along with the rest of their VIP crowd. The venue? Griffith Stadium while it was enjoying its Opening Day. This stadium was constructed in Washington, D.C., where the expansion Senators roosted. This was one of the more exciting moments in the late president’s life, where he sat down among the people looking like any other person.

John Kennedy And Lyndon Johnson

John Kennedy And Lyndon Johnson

Jacques Plante

December 18, 1957 – Canadiens at Rangers. Jacques Plante, the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, puts his teeth on the line as he scans the rink while the rest of his team furiously skirmishes with the New York Rangers. This game took place at Madison Square Garden, with a strangely sedated crowd looking on blankly. Plante would soon become a lot more safety-conscious, however, becoming the initial goalie in the NHL to begin donning a goaltender mask regularly.

Jacques Plante

Jacques Plante

John Havlicek and Chet Walker

April 15, 1965, at the Eastern Conference Finals. John Havlicek capitalized on his team, the Boston Celtics’ 110-109 lead as this guard swooped in and snatched the ball passed by a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. Havlicek then rushed to dunk the final hoop that would seal the win for the Celtics. This then opened the way for the Celtics’ eventual NBA Finals victory in five games’ time against the Lakers. An interception like this one is hard to find in NBA history.

John Havlicek And Chet Walker

John Havlicek And Chet Walker

Phil Mickelson

If this April 11, 2004 photograph taken at the Masters of Phil Mickelson and his adoring crowd jumping for joy doesn’t put a smile on your face, nothing will. Mickelson managed to secure a one-stroke win after he reached the 18th hole and plopped the ball in with a sensational 18-foot putt. This was a truly emotional moment for ‘Lefty’, seeing as he had finally overcome his nine-under-par habit to finally take a much-deserved win. Mickelson would win the Masters twice more after this, in 2006 and 2010.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

Pete Rose

August 1975 – Reds vs. Cubs. Pete Rose of Cincinnati hurls himself onto the third base while grimacing for impact. Given how grueling the competition from the Cubs had been, you can bet that all the players were putting their bodies on the line at this Wrigley Field game. That being said, Rose was (and still is) the eternal hits leader in baseball, and at this game, he enjoyed eight walks with 4-for-9. This was an incredible time for the players during this Chicago series.

Pete Rose

Pete Rose

Roger Bannister

August 7, 1954, at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games. Better known as the “Miracle Mile”, Roger Bannister shattered the mile-long four minutes record for the first time while dashing against John Landy. Landy happened to be the sole breaker of this record before Bannister outran him. Upon his victory, Bannister was handed the “Sportsman of the Year” award by Sports Illustrated, a first for any athlete. This was the beginning of Bannister’s eternal legend.

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister

Pittsburgh Pirates Fans

October 13, 1960, at the World Series. An energetic bunch of students at the University of Pittsburg cheerfully support their team from a dizzying height. The stadium far below the students is the Forbes Field, which the Cathedral of Learning campus looms over. The youths had good cause for celebration, as the Pirates had just taken their initial World Series against the Yankees after 35 years of disappointment. Bill Mazeorski whacked the initial walk-off home run in Game 7 seen in the World Series. This resulted in the Pirates taking a 10-9 victory.

Pittsburgh Pirates Fans

Pittsburgh Pirates Fans

Joe Namath

December 8, 1974 – Bills at Jets. Joe Namath, the quarterback for the New York Jets, keenly tunes into the game’s narration from the sidelines caked head to toe in mud. This was an incredibly muddy New York Jets-Buffalo Bills Game. Thanks to Namath’s two passing touchdowns and 131 yards of domination, the Jets would take the match with a score of 20-10. The game was far from over when Namath walked off the field, and his anxious face showed how intense the competition was.

Joe Namath

Joe Namath

Nadia Comaneci

August 2, 1976, at the Montreal Summer Olympics. Romanian Nadia Comaneci gracefully flips through the air at Montreal’s 1976 Summer Olympics. If she seems completely perfect, it is because she managed to actually land a perfect score for her performance, something that had never happened before in a gymnastic bout at the Olympics. She also bagged three gold medals at the Canadian Olympics, making her one of the most angelically talented gymnasts of her time.

Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci

Bob Cousy

November 19, 1955 – Pistons at Celtics. Bob Cousy, the point guard for the Boston Celtics, nimbly dodges a pair of defenders of the Fort Wayne Pistons in a heart-racing moment of their 1955 game. An arsenal consisting of no-look passes and behind-the-back dribbling made Cousy’s unconventional style difficult for other players to manage. Most of the players at the time had been traditionally trained, and could not properly or effectively respond to Cousy’s unusual method.

Bob Cousy

Bob Cousy

Ted Williams

March 1956 – Spring Training. Ted Williams explains his hitting style (that won him six championships) to a keen crowd. Williams and his Red Sox team were taking a break from their Floridian spring training when Williams began holding court. At the age of 37, Williams hit .345, with a .479 on-base percentage as his major-league best throughout this season. When one of the best players of your time has some tips to share, you will be sure that everyone will crowd in to listen!

Ted Williams

Ted Williams

Dick Butkus

September 28, 1969 – St. Louis. Dick Butkus, the linebacker for the Chicago Bears, leaps into the fray with a fearsome expression. You don’t get called “The Most Feared Man in the Game” by Sports Illustrated for no reason. Whichever Cardinals members were on the other side of this vicious tackle probably crumbled quickly. Butkus would receive the defensive player of the year title from the NEA NFL after the conclusion of a highly successful 1969 season

Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus

Carl Lewis

August 8, 1992 – Summer Olympics. Carl Lewis throws his arms ecstatically in the air as he takes the gold medal and breaks the 4×100-meter relay world record. It only took Lewis 8.85 seconds to dash through his final leg, a record which would not be beaten until 2007 when another athlete overcame Lewis’s anchor leg achievement. Breaking any sporting record is a rare occurrence, and whenever an athlete manages to do just that, you can be sure that there will be an incredible cause to celebrate.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis

Brandon Day

December 19, 2007, at the NAIA College Football Championship. Brandon Day, the linebacker for Carroll College, falls to his knees with joy following his team’s NAIA College Football Championship win against the University of Sioux Falls. This was one of the six Carroll College NAIA Championships victories, another which happened during 2010. When you and your team manage to win any game, it is an incredible feeling, but coming out at the top of a championship is an indescribable event.

Brandon Day

Brandon Day

Serena Williams

January 21, 2007 – Australian Open. No, Serena Williams had not won this match yet against Maria Sharapova. She had just scored a point. But if you are a tennis fan or player, then you know how heated each rally can get, and how incredible it is just to get a scoring ball over the net. Despite her World no. 81 ranking leading to Williams’ unseeded status, this did not stop her from dominating Sharapova and taking the tournament cup home.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Jackie Robinson

September 28, 1955 – World Series Game 1. Jackie Robinson, the second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, snatches the New York Yankees’ home during the 1995 World Series’ Game 1’s eighth inning. Although Robinson had managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat with his take, his team would sadly not take the victory with a final score of 6-5. That being said, Robinson would be vindicated when they would top the Series seven games later.

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson

Dennis Rodman

March 7, 1997 – Pacers at Bulls. Dennis Rodman, power forward for the Chicago Bulls, redefines gravity as he soars horizontally through the air to recover a lost ball while the Pacers and Bulls teammates watch on from a distance. The crowd at Chicago, Illinois’ United Center cannot believe their eyes as Rodman claims his rebounding title for the sixth time throughout the season between 1996 and 1997. This ended with a rebound average of 16.1 per match.

Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman

Alan Ameche

December 28, 1958 – NFL Championship Game. Alan Ameche, the fullback for the Baltimore Colts, drives his way through Jim Patton, the defensive back for the New York Giants. This then led him to score the victor’s touchdown during this 1958 NFL Championship Game’s overtime. Simply put, this moment was known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”. While there have been plenty of stunning instances of football glory that followed this epic display, none of them matched this one.

Alan Ameche

Alan Ameche

Jim Brown

November 29, 1964, at Cleveland. Jim Brown, the running back for the Browns, artfully dodges past the defense of the opposing Philadelphia team. This stunning display of agility was witnessed in the season of 1964. Brown is pictured moving much, much faster than the challenging opponents at a clearly unstoppable pace. Even if the whole team happened to swarm around Brown, he would probably have still managed to shoot through the gaps. This is what it takes to become a leading running back.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown

Lew Alcindor

April 1, 1968 – Final Four. Fans of the historical player, Lew Alcindor, will appreciate this vintage Sports Illustrated cover showing the UCLA baller pulling off his classic skyhook. Huston sadly stood no chance against Alcindor and his team, losing 101-69 as the national semifinals came to a thrilling close. Better known as “The Game of the Century”, Alcindor and company would secure the vengeance for their January loss against UCLA when the Bruins concluded their seventh consecutive securing of the national title.

Lew Alcindor

Lew Alcindor

Vasily Alexeyev

January 1969 – Clean & Jerk. Vasily Alexeyev of Russia powers through a 1969 weightlifting competition as he clears through a supernatural Clean & Jerk. The 70s were an unprecedentedly monumental time for Alexeyev, as the years 1970 to 1977 saw the king himself smash 80 world records. As few have ever managed to match Alexeyev’s overall performance, he is still to this day known as the best weightlifter in the heavyweight bracket ever to pick up weights.

Vasily Alexeyev

Vasily Alexeyev

Roberto Clemente

June 16, 1972 – Padres at Pirates. Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates game focuses on the ball with laser prediction as it leaves the pitcher on the San Diego Padres’ side. The Pirates would end up taking the win with a 2-1 final score. Clemente would tragically lose his life when an airplane he had taken plummeted from the sky in December of that year. This photograph shows Clemente in his final season of play.

Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente

Julie Leparoux and Sanibel Storm

April 28, 2006, at the Keeneland Race Course. The flying Julien Leparoux desperately attempts to keep a fleeting grip on his saddle’s bridle. The jockey was launched from his seating when his horse, Sanibel Storm, slammed into a rail throughout a particularly dangerous stretch run. Thankfully, neither suffered any injuries, even if it seemed like Leparoux was hurtling into a hospital bed. As for the cameraman and the surrounding media, they all managed to dodge the flying jockey.

Julien Leparoux And Sanibel Storm

Julien Leparoux And Sanibel Storm

Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Larry Bird

March 26, 1979 – Salt Lake City. Larry Bird and Ervin Johnson might have had some idea that they would eventually be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, but at this moment all that they could focus on was what seemed to become a confusing issue on the court. The debate commenced during a 1979 Championship play where Indiana State and Michigan State came head-to-head. This humorous scene, where Johnson points accusingly at the ball, while Bird seems at a loss for words, is one of the most hilarious in NBA history.

Earvin Magic Johnson And Larry Bird

Ervin Magic Johnson And Larry Bird

North Carolina and Michigan State

November 11, 2011 – San Diego. Few basketball games enjoyed a more awe-inspiring venue than the 2011 bout between Michigan State and North Carolina during that year’s college basketball season. Someone had the bright idea that hosting a basketball game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson as it anchored itself in sight of the San Diego beaches. A final score of 67-55 to The Tar Heels should have been celebrated by firing the ship’s guns!

North Carolina And Michigan State

North Carolina And Michigan State

Mark McGwire

September 7, 1998, at the Busch Stadium. Mark McGwire, head slugger of the Cardinals, successfully knocks home run number 61 through the air, joining Roger Maris for a tied record. But McGwire would go on to surpass Maris by hitting another home run the following afternoon. He would end up finishing off with 70 for his respective season. It would be three years later in 2001 that the record would be broken once more with 73 home runs from Barry Bonds.

Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire

Randy Moss

December 22, 2001, Vikings vs. Steelers. Randy Moss, the wide receiver for the Vikings, snatches the ball that flew 62 yards through the air by the tips of his fingers. This completion occurred throughout the fourth quarter of an eventual Pittsburgh victory over Minnesota with a 21-16 final score. The way that Moss managed to pinch the ball out of the air was phenomenal, with this photographer managing to capture the exact millisecond that the ball balanced precariously in Moss’s hand.

Randy Moss

Randy Moss

Rainbow Trout

January 22, 2001 – Anchorage. We now take a quick and fishy break from our human athletic achievements. A rainbow trout peers out of a northern pike’s mouth after it was swallowed whole. This interesting scene is held at the Anchorage Alaska Department of Fish & Game exhibit within one of its lobby aquariums. The Anchorage Alaska Department of Fish & Game used this natural display to highlight the overly large population of the northern parts’ pike.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

LSU Baseball Team

June 17, 2000 – College World Series. This riotous celebration erupted after the victorious run was landed by Ryan Theriot, who immediately took off his helmet and hurtled it into the air during the fantastic conclusion of the 2000 College World Series. They had a superb cause to celebrate, as they had managed to tear back from a three-run shortage to rock the Omaha Rosenblatt Stadium with an unexpected 6-5 victory in the Stanford Cardinal cup.

LSU Baseball Team

LSU Baseball Team

Ben Johnson

September 24, 1988 – Summer Olympics. Ben Johnson inches forward as he begins his pull ahead of the rest of the runners during the 1988 Summer Olympics during the 100-meter dash that took place in Seoul, South Korea. This would be Johnson’s world record-breaking run that would also nab him a gold medal. Johnson had plenty of illegal help getting these wins, however, only holding on to his titles for three days when steroids were discovered in his system.

Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson

Vince Young

January 4, 2006 – Rose Bowl. Vince Young, the Texan quarterback, is doused in confetti as he hoots with jubilation. USC was dethroned by the Longhorns with a 41-38 national championship win. A combination of 200 yards run and 267 yards thrown would be topped off with a touchdown that would secure the Longhorns’ victory. Young was rightfully put on a podium for his performance, even if the man behind him doesn’t seem too impressed with him.

Vince Young

Vince Young

Bob Beamon

October 18, 1968 – Summer Olympics. You might not believe that this gentleman did not have a springboard at hand. Bob Beamon of American track and field legend becomes a human-sized grasshopper as he soars 8.9 meters past any previous record. This superhuman jump was witnessed during Mexico City’s 1968 Summer Olympics. From that point onward, any jump that even resembled this one would be known as ‘Beamonesque’. Beamon’s record would not be broken until 1991

Bob Beamon

Bob Beamon

Ron Turcotte Aboard Secretariat

June 9, 1971 – Belmont Stakes. The magnificent horse called Secretariat carries Ron Turcotte along at high speeds at this 1973 shot of that year’s Belmont Stakes race. Turcotte took a nervous peek behind to see if anyone was on his tail. The jockey and racehorse partnership would take a 31 lengths victory with a time of 2:24, making this the biggest gap between the lead and followers ever seen in horse racing. This victory brought the Triple Crown horse to a pioneering victory, the initial in a quarter of a century.

Ron Turcotte Aboard Secretariat

Ron Turcotte Aboard Secretariat

Leon Spinks

February 27, 1978. Despite his dental problems, Leon Spinks happily gives the camera a wide grin after his February 15 dethroning of Muhammad Ali after the decision as made following 15 grueling rounds with the former champion. Spinks’ phenomenal talent, strength, and speed allowed him to snatch the heavyweight title following just eight professional scraps. No other boxer has ever managed to rise as quickly as Spinks did, making him an unparalleled champion in terms of the time that it took him to soar above the competition.

Leon Spinks

Leon Spinks

Referee Jack Vaughn

December 31, 1988 – Eagles at Bears. The hardly visible ball flies through a foggy sky with Jack Vaughn, the referee of this match, struggling to keep track of it. This kick was launched during the 1988 NFC Fog Bowl by Luis Zendejas, the placekicker for the Eagles at the divisional playoff match in Chicago, Illinois where the Bears and the Eagles duked it out. The Soldier Field was draped in a thick foggy blanket throughout the game’s second quarter. This limited the visibility to just roughly 10-20 yards.

Referee Jack Vaughn

Referee Jack Vaughn

Cal Ripken, Jr.

September 6, 1996 – Angels at Orioles. Cal Ripken, Jr. is honored by a collection of fans of the Orioles team following Ripken’s beating Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played. As impressed with their hero as the Orioles fans were, they would have plenty more to celebrate in the coming years. But Ripken’s career was far from over, as he continued to play until 1998 with a total of 2,632 matches. This beat the previous record by 502 matches.

Cal Ripken Jr

Cal Ripken Jr

Roger Staubach

November 9, 1963 – Annapolis. Indeed, even the navy can achieve greatness on the field! Here we have Roger Staubach of the seamen’s team smiling contently during the official team’s victory against Maryland. We cannot tell if the seamen behind the team are singing or shouting their praise. Either way, Staubach jumped for joy when he saw his boys win as the time was called. There were plenty more victories to be enjoyed by the 60s Navy football team to come!

Roger Staubach

Roger Staubach

Joe DiMaggio

June 29, 1941 – Yankees at Senators. Joe DiMaggio of Yankees fame knocks a ball through the air during the AL MVP season of 1941 to the horror of the Washington Senators players. You can bet that any team that went against DiMaggio would see its players quaking in their boots. His .357 hit track resulted in a 125 RBI for that year along with 30 home runs. Few pitchers could throw a ball past Joe’s phenomenal swinging ability.

Joe DiMaggio

Joe DiMaggio

Tommie Smith and John Carlos

October 16, 1968 – Summer Olympics. John Carlos in third place and Tommie Smith in first were sprinters for the American team that took an opportunity during their stand at the podium during the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City to show their support for the Black Power movement. This brave act resulted in the bronze medalist Carlos and gold medalist Smith being ousted from the competition for what was deemed to be a too controversial political stunt.

Tommie Smith And John Carlos

Tommie Smith And John Carlos

Casey Sanders and Julius Peppers

March 4, 2001 – Chapel Hill, N.C. Duke’s Casey Sanders desperately attempts to match Julius Peppers of North Carolina’s elevation at a particularly spectacular and dramatic confrontation at the Dean. E. Smith Center. These two athletes look more like ballerinas performing one phenomenal acrobatic stunt. This must be one of the more fantastic confrontations that we have seen on a basketball court, where No.4 North Carolina eventually lost to No. 2 Duke 95-81. We must give our praise to the photographer that captured this moment!

Casey Sanders And Julius Peppers

Casey Sanders And Julius Peppers

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

September 29, 1988, at the Summer Olympics. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the four-time gold medalist, flies through 7.40 meters at Seoul, Korea’s momentous Olympics, breaking the record distance for the time. Joyner-Kersee would not walk away untainted by this stunning achievement, however, as allegations of performance-enhancing drug use surrounded her. Regardless of the finger-pointing, Joyner-Kersee’s related tests never revealed any trace of such substances. When you perform at a superhuman level, you can be sure that the hate will flow in.

Jackie Joyner Kersee

Jackie Joyner Kersee

Abebe Bikila

September 10, 1960 – Rome Olympics. The Ethiopian Abebe Bikila nears the victory line beneath the Arch of Constantine as he verges on breaking the Olympic world-record with his 2:15:16.2 time. This historically dramatic scene unfolded at night, as the blistering sun of Italy’s fierce summers was deemed too punishing for athletes to run under. The Colosseum watches Bikila’s performance from a distance as an ironic comparison between ancient and modern sports. There was plenty of blood, sweat, and tears at this event, however!

Abebe Bikila

Abebe Bikila

Pau Gasol

NBA Finals, 2010 – Game 7: Celtics at Lakers. At the center of this explosive celebration is pictured Pau Gasol of the Lakers, who cannot believe what just happened. This was the yellow team’s historical triumph over their long-standing and bitter rivals, the Celtics. The home crowd is erupting as their boys finally overcome their years’ long obstacle in the form of the seemingly indomitable Celtics. Speaking of which, number 9’s disappointment is a stark contrast to the festivity!

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol

Tiki Gelana

August 5, 2012, at the London Olympics. Pictured is Kenyan Priscah Jeptoo, who completed her London Olympics 2012 effort with the silver medal. She came in five seconds after Ethiopia’s Tiki Gelana in one of the most fiercely contested women’s marathons ever. Once the race ended, Jeptoo dropped to her knees in what seems like a combination of exhaustion and prayer. After a brutal slog like this one, the cold, wet ground feels like a bed for the gassed athletes.

Tiki Gelana

Tiki Gelana

Gordon Hayward

NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game – 2010: Duke vs. Butler. Gordon Hayward, considered the star of Butler, was given a show-stopping chance to turn things around when the score was 61-59 to Duke and the buzzer was seconds away from blasting. Sadly for Gordon and Butler, his impressive-looking throw bounced off the backboard and then the rim noisily and disappointingly. Duke walked away with the victory and Hayward with a bruised ego. This would be title number four for the winning team.

Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward

Matthias Steiner

August 7, 2012, at the London Olympics. The German Matthias Steiner is seen here in a painfully alarming state of collapse which struck as the Olympian was halfway through his attempt to defend his heavyweight title. Almost 432 pounds dropped on Steiner as he failed to keep the barbell aloft. Thankfully, Steiner quickly recovered and assured the onlookers that he was fine with a cheery wave. This was the end of his presence in the bout, however, with Steiner ending up withdrawing.

Matthias Steiner

Matthias Steiner

Barry Bond

August 7, 2007, in San Francisco. Barry Bonds knocks the ball out of the park, simultaneously landing his 756th home run as the ball was ejected from the AT&T Park while the opposing Washington Nationals team members could do nothing but watch haplessly. The 33-year long record of home runs was broken by the skyrocketing hit. The dazzled crowd behind watch in amazement as they capture or simply stare at the marvelous feat never seen before.

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds

Virginia Tech vs. Boston

November 26, 1999 – Blacksburg, Va. A romantic sunset encases the Lane Stadium as November began drawing to close. The Boston College Eagles and Virginia Tech Hokies’ game might have been incredible, but even the greatest performance would struggle to hold anyone’s attention against such a magnificent sky. This is an unusual entry to this list, where nature takes the true award. Athletes will perform under all manner of skies, from fiery cloud formations like this one to miserable downpours.

Virginia Tech Vs Boston

Virginia Tech Vs Boston

Santonio Holmes

February 1, 2009 – Super Bowl XLIII. Santonio Holmes, the wide receiver for the Steelers, narrowly ducks under an Arizona Cardinals attacker before diving into a touchdown grab that would secure Pittsburgh’s defeat of the Cardinals with a 27-23 victory. This conclusive playing win was pulled off with less than a minute left on the clock: just 42 seconds. They may be clichéd, but last-minute (or last-minute) wins like these are always the most thrilling and satisfying.

Santonio Holmes

Santonio Holmes

Lorenzo Charles and Jim Valvano

April 4, 1983 – Albuquerque. Jim Valvano, the coach of N.C. State, and star player Lorenzo Charles, are paraded around as they commend each other on a shocking and unexpected beating of Houston. The NCAA Championship game ended in a completely game-changing manner when Charles managed to lead his team into victory. Valvano was humorously adorned with his side’s basketball net. Charles was also handed a record number of high-fives by his teammates lining up to congratulate him.

Lorenzo Charles And Jim Valvano

Lorenzo Charles And Jim Valvano

Kyle Whitaker

March 17, 2005 – Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo. The only part of Kyle Whitaker that managed to hang on to this bucking horse called Dump Wagon was his boot. The Nebraskan rodeo star would plunge head-first into the sand at Pocatello, Idaho’s Circuit Finals Rodeo. We wouldn’t blame you for finding this accident humorous, but Whitaker certainly wasn’t laughing as he came third-last out of 24 other bronco riders. The rest of the cowboys in the photo’s background watch on blankly.

Kyle Whitaker

Kyle Whitaker

Abel Kirui and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich

August 12, 2012, at the London Olympics. We return to the London Olympics 2012 where Wilson Kipsang and Abel Kirui, the Kenyan marathoners, run seconds ahead of Uganda’s Stephen Kiprotich. This section of the marathon wove within the Leadenhall Market as these runners traversed through an incredible range of London’s most amazing parts. The city’s iconic cobblestones were reserved for the various marathon runners, who enjoyed a self-guided tour like no other. Certainly, a great inspiration for anyone to take up running professionally!

Abel Kirui And Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich

Abel Kirui And Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich

Wayne Gretzky

March 23, 1994 – Kings vs. Canucks. Wayne Gretzky, the center for the Kings, slips in career goal number 802 as he maneuvers around Gordie Howe with an unprecedented and as of yet unmatched scoring rate. No one in the NHL has yet to surpass this high-score, which ended at 894 when Gretzky finally put his hockey stick down for the last time. This graceful hockey master would buzz around the rink unchallenged, making challengers seem like bulky inconveniences.

Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky

Hank Aaron

April 8, 1974 – Atlanta. Hank Aaron, the outfielder for the Atlanta Braves swings through with his 715th home run in a dazzling career that would outperform even Babe Ruth as the king of the home runs. Aaron still had forty further home runs left in him, however, with his final home run score coming to 755. Who could step up to the challenge of beating this record, other than Barry Bonds? He would surpass Aaron in 2007.

Hank Aaron

Hank Aaron

Randy McMichael

August 15, 2002 – Saints at Dolphins. Randy McMichael, the tight end for the Dolphins, unleashes his inner Superman as he clears two defenders (Mel Mitchell on the right, and Michael Hawthorne on the left of the Saints). These two golden helmet-wearing guardians would be the final challenge for McMichael, who would land a sensational touchdown during this preseason match. This junior tight end managed to safely deliver across 485 yards 39 successfully handled passes throughout 16 games that would culminate in this season’s 4 touchdowns for Randy.

Randy McMichael

Randy McMichael

Kirk Gibson

August 9, 1995 – Royals at Tigers. Pat Borders, the catcher for the Royals, is plowed into by Kirk Gibson in an accidental crash that sent both men painfully to the ground. While baseball is a relatively peaceful game, accidents are bound to happen. Especially when players desperately rush between bases, where the threat of being caught out turns opposing players in their way into living obstacles. We are not sure if Gibson managed to stay in!

Kirk Gibson

Kirk Gibson

Maurice Stovall and DeMario Suggs

September 21, 2002 – Notre Dame at Michigan St. Maurice Stovall, the wide receiver for Notre Dame, is snapped here a split-second before successfully snatching a touchdown from the opposing DeMario Suggs’ (number 19’s) best efforts. It seemed that Suggs was just a little too late (and a little too low) to properly block Stovall’s catch. This would end up being a fatal failed interception for Suggs and the Spartans in general when the scores hopped to 21-17.

Maurice Stovall And DeMario Suggs

Maurice Stovall And DeMario Suggs

Manny Ramirez

June 3, 2007 – Yankees at Red Sox. It was seconded following his successful doubling that Manny Ramirez leaped onto the second base as his helmet trailed behind. Hopefully, he didn’t end up landing head-first, or that would have been a headache indeed. Despite his best efforts, going 2-for-4, the Boston players would still find that victory was beyond their reach with a final score of 6-5. Ramirez might have gotten a Nike endorsement out of this photograph, however.

Manny Ramirez

Manny Ramirez

Magic Johnson

October 22, 1991 – Lakers vs. Celtics. Magic Johnson, the point guard for the Lakers, lobs a blind past beyond Ed Pickney, the forward for the Celtics, in this climactic moment in the preseason event. Unbeknownst to the pictured enthusiastic Johnson, his life would be turned upside down in a fortnight when he would reveal to the world that his basketball career was over, and that he had tested positive for HIV. A sad end to an enchanting career.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

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