Top 10 Most Influential Moments in Sports

We're not talking about just any slam dunk, touchdown, or hole-in-one. We're talking about the events that sent shockwaves beyond the stadium walls, the moments that you'd tell your grandkids about, the occurrences that became about so much more than the sport itself. These are the moments that have shaped not just athletic history, but our own personal histories as well.
The Top Ten
1 1980 USA Hockey Team Defeats the USSR In a monumental upset during the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the underdog U.S. men's hockey team defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union team 4-3. This moment became known as the "Miracle on Ice," symbolizing not only athletic prowess but also national pride during the Cold War era.

The United States was emerging from a troubled decade. The 1970s had been marked by an ugly end to the Vietnam War, a demoralizing Watergate spectacle, rampant inflation, unemployment, and an energy crisis. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan, rejuvenating the Cold War.

The Soviet hockey team had won 8 of the last 9 Olympic gold medals, including 4 in a row. Their Olympic winning streak was now at 21 straight games. They had not lost an Olympic hockey game since 1968. The Soviets were widely recognized as the best team in the world.

In the dressing room before the game, Coach Herb Brooks told his team, "The moment is yours." Team USA won the game 4-3.

2 Michael Johnson Breaks His Own 200m World Record At the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, American sprinter Michael Johnson broke his own world record in the 200-meter race with a time of 19.32 seconds. Johnson's gold shoes and unparalleled speed captivated the world, making him an icon of track and field.

No one has ever run that fast! This record is almost eleven years old, and no one has come close to beating it yet!

3 Jackie Robinson Breaks the Color Barrier in Baseball In 1947, Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier by becoming the first African American to play in the league. Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and endured racial prejudice and discrimination while demonstrating exceptional talent, thereby opening the door for other Black athletes in professional sports.

Without Jackie Robinson, the world would be way worse.

4 Wilt Chamberlain's 100-Point Game On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks. This still-standalone feat took place in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and has never been equaled or surpassed in NBA history.

A man who is 7'0 tall and plays like a man who is no more than 200 lbs. He was simply amazing that game. His record still holds today, which is a good example of the legendary stars and the old-timers. His record still holds strong, and the closest person that I think to him is Kobe Bryant with 81 points.

I just love this because this is the one record that I'm convinced will never get broken by anyone. Kobe got close, and that's as close as anyone will ever get.

5 Jesse Owens Debunks the Aryan Myth at 1936 Olympics At the 1936 Berlin Olympics, African American sprinter Jesse Owens won four gold medals, dispelling Adolf Hitler's notion of Aryan supremacy. Owens' victories were a powerful counter-narrative to the racial ideologies being propagated by Nazi Germany at the time.

Most influential moments in sports, come on here, people. I can't pick just one. On the biggest stage in the world, the Olympics, you have Jesse Owens, the Black Power salute from the '68 games with Tommie Smith and John Carlos, or watching Derek Redmond fall, get up, and finish the race with the help of his dad. Tell me you don't tear up.

I understand the hockey game was huge, but just to Americans. Please tell me, when Michael Johnson broke his own record, you got the chills. Oh wow, he broke his own record. Wow, I'm inspired. Good for him. Wilt had a 100-point game. Wow, no one saw it. How does that inspire you? Dear God, someone tell me how selling Babe Ruth is influential. Haha, come on, people. This is a joke. Learn to read and think a bit.

6 Lou Gehrig's "Luckiest Man" Farewell Speech On July 4, 1939, Lou Gehrig, suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stood before fans at Yankee Stadium to announce his retirement. Gehrig declared himself "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth," delivering a poignant speech that has since become legendary for its grace and humility.

Let's forget sports for a minute. This didn't just influence sports fans. This influenced everyone. He was the Iron Horse, never missed a game, and then came this speech. It was a dying man spreading appreciation to all of his fans. He gave it all for the game, and the game blessed him back. That is the beauty of sports, my friends.

I was going to go with the '80 Olympic hockey team, but nothing compares to the "Pride of the Yankees."

This isn't just sports. This is life.

7 Manchester United Wins Triple Crown In the 1998-1999 season, Manchester United achieved a remarkable feat by winning the English Premier League, the FA Cup, and the UEFA Champions League. This unprecedented "Treble" cemented Manchester United's status as one of the most successful football clubs in history.

The only English side to win the Premier League, FA Cup, and European Champions League all in the same year. Now that's an awesome season! I doubt this feat will ever be achieved again.

8 Hank Aaron Surpasses Babe Ruth's Home Run Record On April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth's long-standing record of 714. Aaron faced intense scrutiny and racism in his pursuit of the record, making his achievement all the more significant.

This gives me chills to watch this footage. When the two white males pat him on the back, I honestly get emotional. It wasn't just for Hank. It was for America.

9 Liverpool Wins 5th European Cup In 2005, Liverpool FC won their fifth European Cup/UEFA Champions League trophy in dramatic fashion. After being 3-0 down at half-time against AC Milan, Liverpool staged a miraculous comeback to draw 3-3 and eventually win on penalties, in a match often referred to as "The Miracle of Istanbul."

Legendary history. With four already to their name, Liverpool reached the finals against all odds, taking out Leverkusen, Juventus, and Chelsea on the way. They faced AC Milan in the final. Down 3-0 at halftime, Captain Fantastic Steven Gerrard rallied the troops and led the fightback with a superb header, followed by a long-range shot from midfielder Vladimir Smicer. Gerrard then broke through the defense and, one-on-one with Dida, was tripped from behind by Gattuso. Alonso's penalty was saved by Dida, but he scored on the rebound to make it 3-3. After heroics by Jerzy Dudek in extra time, he was called upon again and became the hero in the penalty shootout, giving Liverpool their fifth European title.

10 Babe Ruth Sold to the New York Yankees In one of the most controversial transactions in sports history, Babe Ruth was sold by the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees in 1919. This move set the stage for the Yankees' dominance in baseball and initiated the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" for the Red Sox, who didn't win another World Series until 2004.
The Contenders
11 Joe Namath Guarantees Super Bowl Victory Before Super Bowl III in 1969, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath boldly guaranteed a victory over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. Namath and the Jets delivered on the promise, winning 16-7 and giving the AFL its first Super Bowl victory.
12 Brett Favre Throws 399 Yards, 4 TDs the Day After His Father's Death On December 22, 2003, Brett Favre played an emotional game the day after his father's passing. He threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Green Bay Packers to a 41-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders. The performance is remembered as one of the most poignant and impressive in NFL history.
13 Cal vs. Stanford "The Play" In a 1982 college football game between the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University, Cal executed a last-second, five-lateral play to win the game as the Stanford marching band prematurely rushed the field. The play, simply known as "The Play," remains one of the most famous and debated moments in college football history.
14 Munster Wins the Heineken Cup In 2006, the Irish provincial rugby team Munster won their first Heineken Cup, defeating Biarritz 23-19 in the final. This victory was a significant milestone for Munster rugby, as they had previously reached the final but had never won the competition.
15 Ali vs. Frazier I The first boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, also known as the "Fight of the Century," took place on March 8, 1971. Both fighters were undefeated at the time, and Frazier won by unanimous decision after 15 grueling rounds. The bout is still considered one of the greatest fights in boxing history.
16 Michael Jordan Dunks from the Foul Line During the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, Michael Jordan leapt from the free-throw line to dunk the basketball, earning a perfect score of 50 and winning the contest. This iconic moment further solidified Jordan's reputation as one of the greatest and most electrifying players in basketball history.
17 Sachin Tendulkar Scores 200* in an ODI Match On February 24, 2010, Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar became the first male player to score a double century in a One Day International (ODI) match. Tendulkar's unbeaten 200 runs against South Africa in Gwalior set a new benchmark for batting in the limited-overs format.

Sportsmen around the world are considered 'heroes,' but in India, Sachin is considered a god. With a billion people behind him, irrespective of religion or state, even away fans in the IPL cheer for him rather than their home team.

18 Pelé Scores 1,000th Career Goal On November 19, 1969, Brazilian soccer legend Pelé scored his 1,000th career goal during a match between his team, Santos FC, and Vasco da Gama. The milestone added to Pelé's mythical status and further confirmed him as one of the greatest footballers of all time.

One of the greatest footballers to ever grace the pitch, hitting 100 goals was a moment we should all be proud to have witnessed.

19 Appalachian State Defeats Michigan at The Big House On September 1, 2007, the Appalachian State Mountaineers defeated the heavily favored Michigan Wolverines 34-32 in an NCAA football game. The monumental upset occurred at Michigan's home stadium, commonly known as "The Big House," and is considered one of the greatest upsets in college football history.

Ugh! What an infamy. How do we live it down? Go Blue - Beat the Bucks.

Jesus! Did they have to put this game in here? Will it ever end? Go Blue!

20 John Aloisi's Penalty Goal for Australia in 2006 FIFA World Cup In November 2005, during the qualification playoff for the 2006 World Cup, John Aloisi converted a decisive penalty kick that sent Australia to the World Cup for the first time since 1974. The goal ignited celebrations across Australia and remains a landmark moment in Australian soccer.
21 Tony Dungy Becomes First African American Coach to Win the Super Bowl On February 4, 2007, Tony Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI, becoming the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy's accomplishment broke significant racial barriers in the NFL and had a lasting impact on the league.
22 Magic Johnson Announces He Has Contracted HIV On November 7, 1991, NBA superstar Magic Johnson announced that he had contracted HIV and would be retiring from basketball. Johnson's announcement brought attention to the AIDS epidemic and changed perceptions about the disease, leading to increased awareness and research.
23 Tiger Woods' "Hello World" Press Conference in 1996 In August 1996, Tiger Woods held a press conference to announce his decision to turn professional, famously declaring, "Hello, world." Woods would soon live up to the hype, winning the Masters the following April and quickly ascending to the top of the golfing world.
24 Joe Louis Defeats Max Schmeling On June 22, 1938, American boxer Joe Louis avenged an earlier loss by defeating German boxer Max Schmeling in just the first round. The fight took on symbolic proportions, serving as a morale boost for Americans in the years leading up to World War II and breaking down racial barriers in the process.

A win for the country and the world. The Nazi regime would have become more powerful if Schmeling had won. This fight changed history and lives.

25 Michael Jordan Wins NBA Finals on Father's Day After His Father's Death On June 16, 1996, Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to an NBA Finals victory over the Seattle SuperSonics on Father's Day. Jordan was visibly emotional, as this was his first championship since his father's murder in 1993, adding a poignant layer to his legacy.
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