Epic Sports Moments Caught On Camera

Whenever athletes land foot on the playing field or court to compete, it’s as though they undergo a transformation. We are able to witness greatness the greatness of these masters who seem to redefine discipline through their hard work and display of skill.
Getty Images Photo by Madison Images, Inc.
Getty Images Photo by Madison Images, Inc.
Read on, be inspired, and witness priceless moments when these professional athletes show us what they are made of, in victory, and defeat. From boxing to baseball, these sports photos are a collection of the greatest moments in athletic history.

BEN JOHNSON

This picture of Ben Johnson, a Canadian former sprinter, was taken during the Summer Olympics, Sept. 24, 1988, in Seoul, South Korea. Prior to the competition, he had lost to his American rival, Carl Lewis, eight consecutive times, the last in 1985.

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Ben Johnson set a world record in the men’s 100-meter dash, scoring along with it an Olympic gold medal. However, after an extensive doping investigation, he was found guilty and was stripped of his medal; his world record invalidated.

JACKIE ROBINSON

This picture shows Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers running to first base in a game against the New York Yankees. He was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball, and the team started him at first base in April 1947. This photograph was taken during the 8th inning of the first game of the World Series, Sept. 28, 1955.

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Jackie Robinson raised brows in his very first season, where he won the Rookie of the Year award. In just two years he also earned the league’s MVP award. The Dodgers would go on to win the World Series by beating the Yankees in seven games.

LYNN SWANN

Super Bowl MVP awards are mostly given out to quarterbacks who control the tempo of the game, but Lynn Swann would not be denied the honor when the Pittsburgh Steelers clashed against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X. His win documented Lynn’s catching 4 passes for 161 yards, and a touchdown.

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As a result, he became the first-ever wide receiver to become a Super Bowl MVP. Up to this day, there are still very few names added to the list. In this photograph, Lynn makes a difficult catch while he floats over Mark Washington of the Dallas Cowboys.

MARY DECKER

Prior to the 1984 Olympics held at Los Angeles, world champion distance runner, Mary Decker, had won gold medals in the 1983 Summer Olympics in the 1500m, and the 3000m category. She had high hopes coming in, due to her preparations, until she got herself tangled in the middle of the 3000m run.

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The picture shows her trying to get up, but overcome by pain. She came into a jumble with Britain’s Zola Budd who was able to continue, although she was also quite shook up. Zola was leading the race before the incident happened, and she dropped considerably to seventh place. Mary Decker, however, did not finish the run after she injured her hip.

MAXWELL FORNAH AND VICTOR MUSA

This touching photo shows members of the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club of Sierra Leone competing for the ball. This shot was taken in Freetown, and from it one sees the lasting pain caused among its citizens from the decade-long civil war, and the human spirit that still dares to be great despite its scars from a horrible past.

Getty Images Photo by Laurent Bagnis

The Single Leg Amputee Sports Club was founded by survivors of the war. Most of them are victims of landmines, have lost a leg or both due to gunshot wounds. They formed this club to show to their society, and the world, that they are capable people; that they don’t want to beg for food, but would rather empower themselves. They are fighting against marginalization in their own communities.

MUHAMMAD ALI AND SONNY LISTON

In 1964, Cassius Clay fought Sonny Liston for the first time and won the heavyweight championship in a major upset. The 22 year old champion then decided to change his name to Muhammad Ali, and he had no qualms about giving Sonny Liston an immediate rematch the following year.

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Liston was an intimidating figure at his peak, and he was often associated with the mob for his criminal record. However, he wouldn’t stand a chance against Ali when they fought the second time, as captured in this picture. They fought on May 5, 1965, and Ali would keep the title until 1967.

JACK NICKLAUS

Unlike most professional golfers, Jack Nicklaus tried to manage his schedule for competitions by focusing more on the Masters Tournament, The U.S. Open, Open Championship, and the PGA Championship. He avoided competing in too many events, and yet after his 25-year career, he still finished with 73 victories.

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Had he competed a bit more aggressively, perhaps he wouldn’t land third on the list, behind Sam Snead (82), and Tiger Woods, who has won 80. This photograph was taken on April 13, 1986 when Nicklaus became the oldest golfer, at age 46, to win the Masters Tournament.

BOBBY ORR

This photograph is generally regarded as the most famous in NHL history. It was taken on May 10, 1970 during the Stanley Cup finals between the Boston Bruins and the Saint Louis Blues. Bobby Orr, defenseman, and one of the greatest players of all-time, leads Boston to victory during overtime.

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He scored “The Goal,” and is tripped as he celebrates their win. 1970 would also be Bobby Orr’s most awarded season. He won the James Norris Memorial Trophy (total of 8), Art Ross Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, and The Hart Memorial Trophy. No player in NHL history has ever won the four major awards in the same season.

WILLIE MAYS

On September 29, 1954, during the World Series, “The Say Hey Kid,” Willie Mays, runs in full throttle with eyes on the ball as it sails through the air. He would snag a defensive play, a maneuver he was well-known for, and the crowd was ecstatic, it was the first game of the 1954 World Series.

Getty Images Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios

Willie Mays’ career spanned 22 years, and was decorated with a number of National League MVP awards. This photograph gives us a glimpse of one of his heroic moves, conveying a deep fly ball to the centerfield. It was a crucial point in the match, and this helped the Giants maintain a 5-2 lead to win that game, and eventually sweep Cleveland for the title.

ANTWAAN RANDLE EL

Pittsburgh wide receiver Antwaan Randle El is known for his athletic prowess and versatility. He went to college in Indiana University where he played college football, basketball, and baseball, too. He was chosen by the Steelers in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

Getty Images Photo by Doug Pensinger

Antwaan Randle El’s physicality would be tested in the NFL, as is shown in this photograph. His head would be turned around by Chris Akins like an owl’s, as the Steelers competed against the Cleveland Browns. This was on Jan. 5, 2003 during the AFC Playoffs, and Pittsburgh would win it 36-33.

MIKE TYSON AND EVANDER HOLYFIELD

When Evander Holyfield fought “Iron” Mike Tyson in their heavyweight bout on June 28, 1977, he knew he had to take advantage of his height and reach to negate his opponent’s power. Tyson had tremendous strength, and was the world’s scariest knockout fighter who relentlessly attacked his opponents from post to post.

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Evander Holyfield’s fighting style would soon frustrate Tyson, as it did during their first fight. In this rematch, however, fans wouldn’t see the end of the fight as Tyson was disqualified in the third round for biting Holyfield’s ear twice; a moment Tyson would never live down.

TIGER WOODS

Tiger Woods turned professional back in 1996 at the age of twenty. He had an outstanding amateur career, and much was expected of him right from the outset. Tiger Woods would exceed people’s expectations to become one of the most successful golfers of all-time.

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In this photograph, Woods tees off in the final round of the Masters Tournament on April 8, 2001. He won by two strokes over David Duval, and went on to win a total of four Masters tournaments throughout his career. It was that year, he would complete the “Tiger Slam,” in winning four consecutive major championship victories.

JOE MONTANA

Photographed above is Joe Montana, known aptly as “The Comeback Kid.” Following his success in college football, he signed signed up with the San Francisco 49ers, where he would showcase his skills as a quarterback. He competed in the NFL for 16 years, but during his early stint in San Francisco he’d already won 4 Super Bowls. He was the first to win the Super Bowl MVP Award three times.

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This photograph captures Joe Montana during the Super Bowl XXIII in January of 1989. This was a tight matchup against the Bengals where Joe would lead his team in the waning minutes, marching 92 yards down the field to finally win the game 20-16.

VINCE LOMBARDI

Vince Lombardi is a great motivator. His thoughts on football, and sports in general remain popular to this day, almost four decades on from his death. This photograph shows the great coach being lifted up by the Green Bay Packers after he led them to their second consecutive Super Bowl victory, after which, more would follow. They played against the Oakland Raiders and won with a score of 33-14.

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Vince Lombardi was named Coach of the Year twice in the years 1959 and 1961. A year after his death, his name was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

DON LARSEN AND YOGI BERRA

On October 8, 1956, then American Major League pitcher for the New York Yankees, Don Larsen, was feeling it in his veins. He wasn’t too excited, nor intimidated by the importance of the event—the World Series Game 5, versus the Brooklyn Dodgers. He went on to pitch a no-hitter, the extremely elusive perfect game that day; the only one on record during a World Series.

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This once in a lifetime moment is captured in this photograph. Don Larsen runs to hug his teammate, and catcher Yogi Berra at the Yankee Stadium. They won the Series in 7 games.

BILL RUSSELL AND WILT CHAMBERLAIN

Double the greatness, NBA legends Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are photographed boxing out against each other, apparently positioning to grab the rebound. Both are NBA Hall of Famers.

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Both centers are known to be perennial rivals; composing the greatest on-court rivalry of all-time. Unlike most basketball rivalries, these two giants shared a common position and, therefore, directly guarded each other. Chamberlain is known as an individualist, while Bill Russell is a team player, known for his defensive and rebounding skills. This photo was taken on April 5, 1968.

IAN MILLAR

In 2012, the Canadian equestrian rider Ian Millar set an Olympic record by making his number 10 appearance in the Olympic Games. The then 65-year-old began his streak in 1972,  at the doomed Summer Games in Munich.

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There have only been an additional two other Olympians who have made 9 appearances at the Olympics. Ufortauneyly, Millar did not make his 11th Olympic appearance in Rio due to an injury to his horse that will require an operation.

U.S. HOCKEY

The United States does not send out pro hockey players to compete on the world stage. It gives young athletes this opportunity instead, and it has never reached higher than fourth in standings in international competitions. But back in the 1980 Olympics, what was deemed an impossible feat was accomplished.

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Called the “Miracle on Ice,” the US Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union which, at the time, was considered unbeatable. This is a picture of that Feb. 22, 1980 game where the Americans went berserk after realizing that they had won it 4-3 on Mike Eruzione’s goal that would seal their victory. Riding on such momentum, they also won their gold medal match next.

KERRI STRUG

Kerri Strug was a member of the US gymnastics team, The Magnificent Seven. They won the US its first ever gold medal in the women’s team competition back in 1996 at the Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.

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Kerri Strug suffered an ankle injury during her first performance at the vault. She was visibly in pain, but refused to quit. This photograph captures the moment she lands after her second attempt, holding her pose, while her teammates held their breaths from the sidelines. Her performance was critical to the team’s gold medal hopes.

BILLY KILMER AND MANNY FERNANDEZ

On January 14, 1973, the Miami Dolphins played against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. The Dolphins’ defensive lineman, Manny Fernandez had a dominant game where he recorded a total of 17 tackles.

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He also sacked the Redskins’ quarterback, Billy Kilmer, and he is shown in this picture hurdling past a Redskins offensive lineman in pursuit of that goal. The Dolphins defeated the Redskins, however, Manny Fernandez didn’t win the MVP Award when he definitely should have. Dick Schaap, who was selected as the MVP recipient, admitted he didn’t know Fernandez had 17 tackles in that game because he was out late the night before and wasn’t focused.

WAYNE GRETZKY

The National Hockey League itself acknowledged Wayne Gretzky to be the greatest hockey player ever. Sports analysts, writers, and professional players consider him to be suitably called The Great One, and who knows when there will ever be another athlete as gifted as him.

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Wayne Gretzky played in the NHL for 20 seasons. He holds a total of 61 league records that still remain unbroken up to this day. This photograph shows Gretzky waving to the crowd during his farewell game in New York on April 18, 1999.

USAIN BOLT

Jamaican retired sprinter, Usain Bolt, dominated the track and field events of the Olympics, namely the 100 meters, 200 meters, and the 4 x 100 meters relay for a span of three Olympic events. He was declared the fastest man on earth a number of times, and he’s the only sprinter to win both the 100m and 200m titles in three Olympic events successively.

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This picture shows Bolt making another world record in the 200m final on Aug. 20, 2008. He became very famous for his double victory, both shattering world records (100m, 200m), in the Beijing Olympics.

BABE RUTH

Checking the Baseball Hall of Fame, one will see Babe Ruth’s name among its “First Five” inaugural members. He played in Major League Baseball for 22 seasons, starting in 1914, yet his slugging percentage record of .690 remains untouched. “The Bambino” is considered to be the greatest baseball player of all-time.

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1926 was considered as one of Babe Ruth’s most successful year as a player where he hit .372 with 47 home runs. In this picture, Ruth takes a short break from training and spends time with hundreds of baseball fans that can’t seem to get enough of him.

HANK AARON

For 21 seasons in Major League Baseball, Hank Aaron would rarely hit below 24 home runs each year. He was a consistent player who’s held an MLB record for most home runs for 33 years. In another milestone, Aaron is one of only two players in the league to hit at least 30 big ones in a single season, and he’s done so at least 15 times. The master sportsman still holds various records up to this day.

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He starts his run to first base in this picture with the bat still in his right hand. This was in Spring Training, March 30, 1957, when he played for the Atlanta Braves.

JOHN MCENROE

One could never accuse John McEnroe of being a bore on the tennis court. The American retired tennis player is considered by many to be one of the greatest in the sport’s history. He always dazzled fans with his volleying skills, and creativity in shot-making. However, his volatile behaviour was possibly an even bigger part of his charm.

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In this picture, John McEnroe exults after beating Bjorn Borg to win the Wimbledon Title on July 4, 1981. McEnroe and his rival met 22 times throughout their careers. He would return to the tournament in 1983 and 1984, and win again.

BILL MAZEROSKI

In a walk-off home run, Bill Mazeroski delivers the ultimate blow to the competition that ends the game. The members of the Pittsburgh Pirates turn their backs to celebrate, not even bothering to finish the inning. “Maz” Mazeroski remains the only player in World Series history to record such a feat in the ninth inning of the seventh game.

Getty Images Photo by Hy Peskin

This photograph has memorialized that moment. Here, you can see Bill Mazeroski smashing that baseball out of there, taken on Oct. 13, 1960.

JULIUS ERVING

This is a photograph of Julius “Dr. J” Erving taken in January of 1977. At the time, he became wildly popular for revolutionizing the game with his modern style of play. He was a high flying small forward who played for the Philadelphia 76ers for over a decade.

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He liked to drive around the baseline, or run the basketball and elevate above everyone else for the jam. Here, he is shown in full extension, gracefully delivering a one-handed dunk against the Denver Nuggets to score an easy two.

JOHN KENNEDY AND LYNDON JOHNSON

Before the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota where they would later on transition to become the Minnesota Twins, the MLB decided to create an expansion team in 1960. They would retain the team’s original name, and even it’s old records and history. They would soon change locations, too, from Washington to the new District of Columbia Stadium.

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In 1961, the team played at the Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C., and in this photo then President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon Johnson are seen on opening day, April 10, 1961, looking up high to what must be a home run.

JACQUES PLANTE

Jacques Plante’s career in ice hockey spanned more than thirty years. But he was also more than just a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens, he was also a great innovator of the sport. He was the first goaltender for the NHL to have pushed for the use of a mask. He used one himself regularly, and he tested many variations of it, too.

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This photo shows Jacques Plante examining the ice without putting on a mask. It was taken on Dec. 18, 1957 when the Canadiens played the New York Rangers at Madison Garden. During his tenure, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup six times.

PHIL MICKELSON

Phil Mickelson has won all the major golf tournaments, except for the U.S. Open. For some reason he can’t seem to break through its barrier, although he has been consistently listed in the Top 50 for over 25 years. His highest career ranking is at number two in the world, and he’s achieved that several times.

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This photo shows Lefty before winning his first Masters Tournament. Dated April 11, 2004, he leaps victoriously after he made an 18-foot putt on the 18th hole, successfully seizing a grand one-shot victory.

PETE ROSE

This August 1975 photo shows American retired pro-baseball player, Pete Rose, in a Superman position diving into third base. In many ways he is a super athlete, and he still holds the all-time league record in hits, at-bats, and outs. Rose was the perennial player with 3,562 games to his name.

Getty Images Photo by Joe Robbins

This picture takes us back to his days with the Cincinnati Reds, at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, Pete Rose’s career has been marred by betting scandals, which have sadly prevented him from being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

ROGER BANNISTER

Two years before Roger Bannister, a British middle-distance athlete, even thought of breaking the mile run record, he broke the British record in the 1500m as a participant in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. This would inspire Bannister to go for “The Miracle Mile.”

Getty Images Photo by George Silk

He couldn’t train as hard as he wanted to because, at the time, he had been working as a junior doctor. The goal was to make the mile run in under four minutes and, while he didn’t quite make his high benchmark, he still accomplished it in four minutes and 59.4 seconds. This photo shows Bannister during the British Empire Commonwealth Games on Aug. 7, 1954 against John Lundy. He snagged Sports Illustrated magazine’s first “Sportsman of the Year” award.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES FANS

Oct. 13, 1960 was the biggest day of Bill Mazeroski’s baseball career. He recorded the first and only walk-off home run in the ninth inning of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series, ending the New York Yankees’ bid for the title. Fans went crazy after he cracked that baseball, amplified by the fact that the Pirates would be winning their first World Series in 35 long years.

Getty Images Photo by George Silk

Oct. 13, 1960 was the biggest day of Bill Mazeroski’s baseball career. He recorded the first and only walk-off home run in the ninth inning of the 7th game of the 1960 World Series, ending the New York Yankees’ bid for the title. Fans went crazy after he cracked that baseball, amplified by the fact that the Pirates would be winning their first World Series in 35 long years. .

JOE NAMATH

Joe Namath’s rise to stardom was propelled by his shocking forecast that his team, the New York Jets, would defeat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. In an interview after their win, he was asked if the Colts’ defense was the toughest he has ever faced, he replied, “That would be the Buffalo Bills’ defense.”

Getty Images Photo by Barton Silverman/New York Times Co.

This photo shows Joe Namath standing on the sidelines on December 8, 1974. On this day, the Jets faced the Bills in a messy game. They went on to win it 20-10, with Namath scoring 131 yards, and successfully passing two touchdowns.

NADIA COMANECI

Nadia Comaneci is pictured completing a somersault during the 1976 Summer Olympics. This was taken on Aug. 2, 1976, and it perfectly captures her brilliance in a sport where she would become a five-time Olympic medalist.

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She went on to become the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0, making the sport more popular around the globe. She received a perfect score from this performance, and added six more, winning three golds in total. She garnered two more perfect scores during the 1980 Summer Olympics, held in Moscow, and earned two additional gold medals.

BOB COUSY

Bob Cousy is known by many nicknames, such as “Mr. Basketball,” and “The Houdini of the Hardwood,” for how he changed the ball-handling style, and for his passing skills in the NBA. Basketball games were like magical performances to him that would make him exceedingly successful. He led the league in assists for eight years, and won the MVP award in 1957.

Getty Images Photo by Hy Peskin

Bob Cousy is pictured here, trying to weave his way into the Pistons defense on Nov. 19, 1955. His dribbling prowess would throw his defenders right off, blinding them with no-look passes that they just couldn’t predict the trajectory of.

TED WILLIAMS

Teammates surround Ted Williams during Spring Training in March of 1956. Everyone would be curious as to what Williams had to say when it comes to the sport of baseball. He was a six-time American League batting champion, also an MVP award recipient, and in this photograph he is acting out his batting form to his audience in Florida.

Getty Images Photo by Frank Scherschel

In 1956, Ted Williams hit .345, with a Major League best of .479 that season. He played for 19 years solely as a left fielder for the Boston Red Sox.

DICK BUTKUS

This is a photograph of Dick Butkus hustling his way through a game with the St. Louis Cardinals. This was taken on Sept. 28, 1969, the same season that he would be awarded the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He won it again the next season for his relentless efforts.

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Dick Butkus was regarded as one of the most intimidating linebackers of the game, and this picture shows us a little bit of how “The Most Feared Man” operates in the field. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973.

CARL LEWIS

Carl Lewis has set many world records in track and field, winning sixty-five consecutive competitions in ten years, and earning ten Olympic gold medals, and so much more, in fact, he went on to be voted as the “World Athlete of the Century” and “Sportsman of the Century by track and field organizations.

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Lewis’ winning moment is captured in this photograph, as he celebrates during the Summer Olympics on Aug. 8, 1992. He set another world record, this time in the 4x100m relay. He ran the final leg in just 8.86 seconds—a record that would remain unbroken until 2007.

FLORENCE GRIFFITH-JOYNER

The famously controversial track and field athlete achieved her suspiciously good record and was accused multiple times of using PEDs. She does go down as one of the most tested athletes in sports history! Not once did she fail. Her 200m time in the 1988 Olympics still has yet to be challenged.

Getty Images Photo by Russell Cheyne

The closest anyone has come was Allyson Felix at the 2012 Olympics, and even she was well short with a time of 21.69.

SERENA WILLIAMS

In 2015, Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova to claim her sixth Australian Open title. It also marked her 16th consecutive victory over the Russian pro-tennis player. This photograph shows Serena Williams in 2007 as she celebrates winning a point against Sharapova.

Getty Images Photo by Cynthia Lum

This was the year she would start with renewed vigor, challenging herself to rise up in the rankings once more. She was unseeded in the 2007 Australian Open tournament after dropping to number 81 in the world rankings, regarded as out of shape. She ousted Maria Sharapova in the tournament, marking the start of her journey back to the number one spot.

ALAN AMECHE

As the Heisman Trophy winner in his senior year, Alan Ameche was signed up by the Baltimore Colts the following year to start his professional football career. In spite of his overwhelming potential, he only played from 1955 to 1960, limited by an Achilles tendon injury.

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Alan Ameche may have only played for a relatively short period in the NFL, but he could always look back to the day in this picture where he played and scored a touchdown during overtime play of the 1958 NFL Championship Game. The New York Giants’ defensive back, Jim Patton, is seen trying to stop Ameche who would continue to plow his way through. Sports historians would refer to this as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”

JIM BROWN

Jim Brown’s eyes burn in this photograph as he perforates Philadelphia’s defense. It was taken on Nov. 29, 1964; just a year before he would retire from pro-football. When he called it quits, he had already shattered most of the NFL’s major rushing records.

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Jim Brown was the AP NFL MVP three times. He averaged more than a hundred yards per game throughout his eight-year career. In 2002, he was hailed as the greatest pro-football player ever.

LEW ALCINDOR

Born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was one of the NBA’s top scorers. Before he turned professional, he played for UCLA in college where he shattered the school’s single-game record by scoring 56 points in his first game. His scoring prowess was known even before he’d officially stepped inside the basketball court.

Getty Images Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a major force in UCLA’s three-year reign of 88 wins. They only had 2 losses, and this picture shows one of those, in a game versus Houston in the semi-finals. This was taken on April 1, 1968. This game was referred to as “The Game of the Century,” where UCLA lost 101-69.

VASILY ALEXEYEV

This is a photograph of Russian weightlifter, Vasily Alexeyev. He wasn’t as big as most super heavyweights, so when he was just starting up, his trainer would encourage him to add more weight in order to gain more strength. Vasily Alexeyev trained with a personal coach until 1968.

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This photograph was shot in January of 1969, just a year after Alexeyev decided to train solo. Remarkably, he was able to clean & jerk 500 pounds in official competition, the first man ever to do so in 1970. He set a total of 80 world records and is considered to be the greatest weightlifter in history.

ROBERTO CLEMENTE

Roberto Clemente started his baseball career in Puerto Rico but was able to attract the attention of the Brooklyn Dodgers who offered him a contract to play with one of their Triple-A affiliates. Moving from his home country, he had to adjust to a different climate and adapt to a new language.

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Clemente wouldn’t be stumped by these challenges. In fact, he would excel as a baseball player, even winning the MVP award in 1966. He is photographed tracing a pitch, in a game they won 2-1 versus the San Diego Padres. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirate star’s career ended abruptly in a plane crash that same year.

MARK SPITZ

While the 1972 Munich Games was struck with tragedy, it was the time where Mark Spitz made some unimaginable accomplishments by setting seven world records in the span of eight days.

Getty Images Photo by Tony Duffy

Spitz took the world by storm when he won the gold medal in the 100- and 200- meter freestyle and butterfly events, the 4×100- and 4×200-meter freestyle relay, and the 4×100-meter medley relay. That was unbroken for 36 years until Michael Phelps came along.

EARVIN ‘MAGIC’ JOHNSON AND LARRY BIRD

Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird are photographed together here, in a game between Michigan State and Indiana State on March 26, 1979. They seem to be in a bit of a discussion about ball possession. Their iconic rivalry that would go on for years into pro basketball all started here, where Magic’s Michigan State basketball team would go on to beat Indiana to win the 1979 NCAA finals.

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They both retired from the NBA as legends and turned their rivalry into a lasting friendship. Whenever basketball fans talk about the 80s—the Lakers, and the Celtics in particular—these two rivals are reborn.

MARK MCGWIRE

When former pro-baseball first baseman, Mark McGwire, joined the MLB, he was already all about breaking league records. As a rookie, in 1987, he set the record for most home runs hit by a rookie (49). He would go on to become one of the most prolific home run hitters ever.

Getty Images Photo by Vincent Laforet

He is photographed here looking up, at the end of a follow through swing that would give him home run number 61. The Cardinals star player tied Roger Maris’ record, and would easily surpass him the next day. He finished that season with 70; a record that would stand for three years.

RANDY MOSS

Randy Moss had always dreamt of playing for the Dallas Cowboys, but the team passed on him due to his many legal problems. This irked Moss who claims that the Cowboys management promised to draft him, so he made a point of beating them whenever the opportunity arose.

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Randy Moss is photographed doing what he does best, as a wide receiver. During his first year in the league, he made 17 touchdown receptions, and he still holds the NFL single-season record for most touchdown receptions with 23. Taken on Dec. 22, 2001, Moss makes a fingertip catch for Minnesota. The Vikings lost to Pittsburgh 21-16.

LSU BASEBALL TEAM

Ryan Theriot is featured in this photograph throwing his helmet up in the air. He started his career with LSU as a starting second baseman, but was moved to shortstop in 2000, the same year this shot was taken.

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Ryan Theriot has every reason to celebrate as he scored the game-winning run in a tough game between LSU and the Stanford Cardinal. They were rallying a three-point deficit before Theriot pulled off the game winner to edge them ahead 6-5 at the Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha.

VINCE YOUNG

This photograph features former American football quarterback, Vince Young, the man of the hour. He stands on top of the world, celebrating after the Longhorns’ win against USC 41-38 during the national championship.

Getty Images Photo by Gina Ferazzi

On January 4, 2006, Vince Young helped his team rally against their opponents, ultimately sealing the deal with a game-winning touchdown. He threw 267 yards, valiantly ran for 200 more. His game winner was listed at number five in an ESPN compilation of the top 100 plays in college football history.

BOB BEAMON

This photograph of Bob Beamon was taken during the Summer Olympics, Oct. 18, 1968. Beamon is well-known for what he would accomplish on this day in Mexico City. He set the world record for long jump of 8.9 meters, a record that would remain unbroken for more than two decades.

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Whenever a track and field athlete would come up with a remarkable performance, it would be described as “Beamonesque,” in reference to Bob’s spectacular feat, a byword to greatness.

ROGER STAUBACH

Roger Staubach is photographed in a jump of glee as the Navy wins against Maryland in a game played on Nov. 9, 1963. The shot was apparently taken during the waning seconds of the game where the result had been a foregone conclusion.

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Annapolis, Nov. 9, 1963, | Navy quarterback Roger Staubach shows his glee during Navy’s win over Maryland.

HANK AARON

In this April 8, 1974 photograph, Hank “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron shows where he got his nickname from by batting another baseball out of the stadium for home run number 715. This would break the record for most home runs previously set by the legendary Babe Ruth.

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Hammerin’ Hank continued to compete for two more years and by the time he retired he had accumulated a total record of 755 home runs. This record was unbroken for 33 years until Barry Bonds upped the ante in 2007.

RON TURCOTTE ABOARD SECRETARIAT

Ron Turcotte began his career as a hot walker, but he would soon win races, and become an apprentice in thoroughbred racing. He rose to prominence with his triumph aboard Tom Rolfe. This photograph of him was taken on June 9, 1973 in a race at the Belmont Stakes that would make him internationally famous.

Getty Images Photo by Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery

Ron Turcotte is featured riding Secretariat, a combination that would result in a phenomenal finish. He won the first Triple Crown in 25 years, and he did it dominantly against the competition, by a 31 length lead—the widest margin in the race’s history. A statue was built of Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line in Grand Falls, New Brunswick.

REFEREE JACK VAUGHN

This is a photograph of the Fog Bowl which, in American football, was a playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles. The latter did very well that day until the second quarter of the game where they could no longer see the crowd, nor the first-down markers.

Getty Images Photo by Jonathan Daniel /Allsport

The visibility was so low, nobody was getting to the end zone because of the dense fog, as featured in this picture. Referee, Jack Vaughn, can be seen here trying to pierce his vision over Soldier field, tracing the projectile of the ball after an attempt by Eagles placekicker, Luis Zendejas, to score.

JOHN HAVLICEK AND CHET WALKER

Being such a high level of competition, you never know what’s going to happen in an NBA game where so many things can tip the tide of an assumed victory. The Boston Celtics only needed to inbound the ball and let the final five seconds play out to secure a 110-109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals on April 5, 1965. However, Bill Russell would cause turnover after passing a ball that struck a wire, giving the 76ers a final opportunity to win it.

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Havlicek pulled a trick out of his sleeve as he guarded Chet Walker. He spun around and leaped at the exact moment the ball was thrown inbounds, tipping it to his teammate, which secured a Boston victory. The Celtics went on to beat the Lakers in the Finals.

CAL RIPKEN, JR.

Nobody thought Lou Gehrig’s record would be broken. It had withstood generations of baseball players without being threatened. His record for playing consecutive games is 2,130, and it remained untouched for 56 years.

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Then came Cal Ripken Jr., nicknamed “The Iron Man,” a shortstop for Baltimore. The two-time (AL) MVP is featured in this photograph when the Angels faced the Orioles on Sept. 6, 1996. He jogs around the crowd that congratulated him for breaking Gehrig’s record, surpassing it by 502 games.

Oscar Robertson The Offender

The NBA had a crazy year from 1961-62. The defense playing practically disappeared and the number of possessions each team had per game sky-rocketed. Beyond Wilt Chamberlain, almost no one gained anything more from this offensive boom. Unless you were Oscar Robertson. His triple-double average was buoyed by the fact that the team points per game average that year (118.8) was the highest in the league’s history.

Getty Images Photo by Cincinnati

Of course, we will never see that little emphasis placed on defense ever again, so the probability of a player being able to maintain that kind of output for an entire season is non-existent.

JUAN MARICHAL

Avid baseball fans don’t have to watch a game to appreciate Juan Marichal. Just watching him train, winding up for a right-handed pitch can be entertaining enough. Marichal is known for his pinpoint accuracy. However, it is his high leg kicks, perhaps the highest in Major League history, that immediately distinguishes him from his peers.

Getty Images Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios

This picture was taken on March 8, 1965, where Marichal was warming up for Spring Training. He played for the San Francisco Giants for thirteen years.

JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE

By simply judging this photograph, one would not know that Jackie Joyner-Kersee used to suffer severe asthma. But her discipline and dedication as a track and field athlete would help her overcome this and many other obstacles. She is ranked among the greatest athletes in long jump and heptathlon.

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On Sept. 29, 1988, the four-time Olympic gold medalist leapt 7.40 meters to set what was then an Olympic record in long jump before an ecstatic crowd in Seoul, Korea. There were many rumors at the time linking her to supposed illegal substance use, but investigations would never prove any such claims.

ABEBE BIKILA

Before Ethiopian marathon runner, Abebe Bikila, started his athletic career, he first joined the Ethiopian Imperial Guard, and rose to the rank of captain. It was part of his regular exercise to run 20km a day through the Sululta Hills, and he was subsequently trained for the marathon by a Swedish coach who was the first to spot his potential.

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Abebe Bikila runs barefoot in this photograph as he crosses the Arch of Constantine. With a time of 2:15:16.2, he set the Olympic world record on Sept. 10, 1960. Such competitions are held at night to avoid the sweltering heat of the daylight hours.

PAU GASOL

Spaniard professional basketball player, Pau Gasol, found himself at the tail end of a basketball rivalry that spanned decades. A rivalry that started even before the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird era, back when the Lakers and Celtics first met in the NBA finals in 1959.

Getty Images Photo by Larry W. Smith-Pool

This picture was shot during Game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals, where the Lakers won against the Celtics, and Pau Gasol was an instrumental figure in that game scoring 19 points, and grabbing 18 rebounds. Here, he celebrates as he finds himself at the successful end against their long-time rivals.

TIKI GELANA

Tiki Gelana was the long-distance runner to beat during the 2012 London Olympics. She had trained as hard as she could to give honor to her country, and prior to London, she had won the 2011 Amsterdam Marathon, then the Rotterdam Marathon after that.

Getty Images Photo by Streeter Lecka

Not far behind her is Priscah Jeptoo of Kenya, like a shadow that pushes, instead of just follows. This photograph shows Priscah pausing for a prayer in the middle of the path after she finishes second to Tiki Gelana. It was a hard-fought marathon and both have each other to thank for their optimal performances.

GORDON HAYWARD

Gordon Hayward was given the opportunity to win it all for his team during the 2010 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship between Duke and Butler. In the heat of the 2009-2010 season, the Butler star was named Player of the Year, averaging 15.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.

Getty Images Photo by Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos

This was the time when his skills would be put to the extreme test as they had last possession of the ball, trailing 61-59. He was able to shoot the ball from half court before the shot clock went off, and it looked like it was going to go in up until the last second where it hit the backboard and rim then, to the dismay of their fans, bounced away.

MATTHIAS STEINER

Austrian weightlifting champion, Matthias Steiner, only had a nick of time to adjust himself before about 432 pounds of sheer force would fall brusquely on his neck. In the picture, he looks as if he’s waving his left hand to an audience while the barbell plants itself close to the side of his head; all after he fell off balance trying to lift it during the London Olympics.

Getty Images Photo by Lars Baron

Luckily, Steiner was all right, but he begged to discontinue. He had won the gold medal during the 2008 Summer Olympics and was likely confident (or at least hopeful) of another win.

BARRY BONDS

Former professional baseball player, Barry Bonds, whacks the ball hard and looks up high as if he’s witnessing, in real time, the old career home run record set by Henry Aaron shattering in the sky. It was Bonds’ 756th career home run set at the AT&T Park against the Washington Nationals. He replaced Aaron’s record that had been standing for 33 years.

Getty Images Photo by George Gojkovich

Barry Bonds played for 22 years in MLB, and during his tenure he received seven NL MVP awards. After retiring from the game, he returned to coach for the Miami Marlins for a single season.

VIRGINIA TECH VS. BOSTON

Featured is a beautiful photograph taken on Nov. 26, 1999 at Blacksburg, Va. The Lane Stadium is filled with football fans as the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Boston Eagles game is about to start.

Getty Images Photo by Michael Shroyer

The Hokies remain undefeated after they clash with the Eagles in the twilight. However, in the following year, they would lose for the very first time to Florida State during the 2000 Sugar Bowl. If you’re wondering what the word Hokies stands for, it is derived from the “Old Hokie” spirit yell when the college’s name was changed, coined by Oscar M. Stull.

SANTONIO HOLMES

American football wide receiver, Santonio Holmes, was enjoying his best season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, which reached its zenith as they faced the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Homes had 79 catches, and 1,248 receiving yards, and this photograph shows him plowing through enemy defenses before he leaps for a touchdown grab with 42 seconds remaining.

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In a brusque turn of events, this would be his last year with the team, and he would be traded due to his legal troubles. His game-winner gave the Steelers the edge 27-23 over the Cardinals.

LORENZO CHARLES AND JIM VALVANO

Lorenzo Charles may not have flourished as an NBA player, where he played as a small forward for the Atlanta Hawks, and then traveled abroad to play for several European teams; but he did have a stellar college basketball career with North Carolina State University.

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Imagine playing against a young Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in the same team, for Charles would valiantly find a way for his team to rally against the heavily favored Houston Cougars. He scored the last eight points of the game, including an alley-oop in the final seconds to eke out a win, as memorialized in this photograph, showing Charles celebrating with coach, Jim Valvano.

KYLE WHITAKER

This picture perfectly captures the danger and excitement involved in any rodeo event; from being stomped on by a beast, to falling in awkward postures resulting in broken bones and other such injuries. Taken on March 17, 2005 at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo, Kyle Whitaker plunges to the ground head first. Championships.

 

Riding on this momentum, Abel Kirui, won a silver medal in the London Olympics. Such is the occasion captured in this picture as he and Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich pass through the Leadenhall Market, trailed by Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda.

WAYNE GRETZKY

This photograph was taken at least five years before Wayne Gretzky, aka “The Great One,” would bid farewell to the NHL, widely regarded as the best hockey player ever. This image captures the moment when he scored his 802nd career goal to surpass the record set by Gordie Howe, and become the league’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Getty Images Photo by Bernstein Associates

By the time he retired, Wayne Gretzky broke almost all major records in the league as well. He played for 20 seasons and finished his career with a total of 894 goals.

RANDY MCMICHAEL

When Randy McMichael was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2002 NFL Draft, like most rookies turning pro, he was just bursting with energy and ready to prove his worth in the big league. Here, he is photographed flying above the competition to score a touchdown.

Getty Images Photo by Mark Konezny

This was taken on April 15, 2002 when they played the Saints during the preseason. McMichael started all 16 games where he caught 39 passes for 485 yards. The Dolphins released him in 2007. He was later cut by the Chargers in 2013.

Oscar Robertson The Offender

The NBA had a crazy year from 1961-62. The defense playing practically disappeared and the number of possessions each team had per game sky-rocketed. Beyond Wilt Chamberlain, almost no one gained anything more from this offensive boom. Unless you were Oscar Robertson. His triple-double average was buoyed by the fact that the team points per game average that year (118.8) was the highest in the league’s history.

Getty Images Photo by Cincinnati

Of course, we will never see that little emphasis placed on defense ever again, so the probability of a player being able to maintain that kind of output for an entire season is non-existent.

MAURICE STOVALL AND DEMARIO SUGGS

Maurice Stovall is photographed critically catching a touchdown past DeMario Suggs on Sept. 21, 2002, when Notre Dame played against Michigan St. When he was chosen for USA Today’s first-team high school all-American list, he picked The University of Notre Dame, but wouldn’t start as a freshman.

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Stovall played consistently all throughout his first year in college and finished with 18 catches for the year, including three touchdowns. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006.

MANNY RAMIREZ

Former pro-baseball outfielder, Manny Ramirez, was not one to shy away from tough competition. In fact, he certainly likes to show up when the going gets tough, as is shown in this photo; diving into second base after he doubles.

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Manny Ramirez has played for 19 seasons with various teams. This is from the time when he played for the Boston Red Sox, where they lost to the New York Yankees 6-5. Ramirez still holds the record for most home runs in the postseason (29), and he’s one of only 25 players to record 500 career home runs.

LOU GEHRIG

Lou Gehrig was nicknamed “The Iron Horse” during his days with MLB were played as first baseman. His career spanned 17 seasons, and through those years he has deemed the most durable player after setting the record for most games played (2,130). Not only was Lou Gehrig consistent, but he was also a powerful hitter, too. He was named AL MVP twice.

Getty Images Photo by Stanley Weston

This photo, however, speaks of Lou Gehrig’s prowess beyond the field. Just weeks after his diagnosis with an incurable neurological disease, he can be seen calmly sharing a carefully written speech with the crowd in the New York Yankee stadium, where he called himself, “the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” What an amazing attitude in the face of adversity.