The Most Iconic Sports Moments in History

By: Isabel Sociedade | Published: Mar 16, 2022

Sports have been part of our life since the dawn of recorded history. We all know some people who are a little too fascinated with their favorite sporting events, but who could blame them? There’s NBA, MLB, NFL, FIFA, boxing, golf, and so many more incredible leagues to follow. Just watching these talented athletes play is enough to get your heart racing, your legs shaking, and your stomach doing flips.

Today, in celebration of all things athletic, we’re taking a moment to look at some of the most iconic sports photographs of all time. They are incredible works of art that were captured at just the right time by talented (and lucky) photographers. So, grab your favorite snack, relax, and enjoy the most iconic sporting pictures ever captured.

Michael Jordan 1988 All-Star Weekend

Who doesn’t know Michael Jordan? Seriously, it’s impossible not to know the legend of basketball. The only people we’ll excuse are newborn babies and people who live under rocks. It’s common knowledge that Michael Jordan is one of the best athletes to have ever walked the earth.

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Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

It’s fascinating how someone can become a household name all over the world, but with Michael Jordan, it seems he was just born for greatness. This photo was taken from an All-Star Weekend in 1988. In the Slam Dunk Contest finals, he took off from the free-throw line and soared to a perfect score of 50, defeating Dominique Wilkins. What can we say? The Air Jordan strikes again.

Usain Bolt's Record-Breaking 200m Sprint

When we talk about sprinting, we can’t help but think of Usain Bolt. He wasn’t nicknamed the “Lightning Bolt” for nothing. He earned this name because he holds the world record in the 100-meter sprint. He is the perfect real-life interpretation of the Flash – of course, without the special effects and the suit.

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Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated

This photo was taken during the Beijing Olympics on August 20, 2008. We can see how amazed Bolt was when he finished the competition. That look represents how it feels to have just broken the world record for the men’s 200-meter final in a time of 19.30 seconds. Given that he also broke the world record for the 100-meter dash, the reaction seems warranted!

Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods at the 2001 Masters

Tiger Woods was a genius golfer. He was able to direct a golf ball through a challenging course with astonishing precision. He often dominates the game, and his story is full of dramatic twists and turns. Tiger Woods becomes an inspiration to up-and-coming golfers, despite his problematic personal life. 

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Fred Vuich/Sports Illustrated

Woods became the first golfer to win five PGA Tour events – an achievement most golfers want to earn. This picture was captured at the Masters 2001 finals. He beat David Duval by two strokes in the last game. He completed a “Tiger Slam” of four straight major championship titles with this victory.

Muhammad Ali vs. Big Cat

There’s no doubt that every one of us has heard of Muhammad Ali. He’s the most famous boxer in history, and he’ll go down as one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was so revered for his boxing skills that he won fights many thought impossible.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

This shot was taken inside the Houston Astrodome in November of 1966, during Ali’s boxing match against Cleveland’s ‘Big Cat’ Williams. Big Cat had hoped to wrest the championship from Ali that day, but he was unsuccessful. In three rounds, he was knocked out. The fight drew a crowd of 35,460 people, and as you can see, they all got plenty of value for money!

Willie Mays in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series

In 1954, Mays, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, made his best defensive play in the history of his career. His performance in Game 1 of the World Series was truly remarkable. He helped the Giants win that game with 5-2 on the scoreboard. Willie Mays earned the Nation League MVP that year, to the surprise of no one.

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AP/Sports Illustrated

Mays announced his retirement after a legendary 22-year career. But before he stepped off the field, he hit his final (660th) home run – a track record most players would be thrilled to achieve. Known as the “The Say Hey Kid” by his fans, Mays retired at 42.

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Dwight Clark: "The Catch"

Nicknamed “The Catch,” Dwight Clark helped the San Francisco 49ers bag a win over the Dallas Cowboys at the NFC Championship Game on January 10, 1982. Joe Montana threw a six-yard touchdown pass, giving the 49ers a 28-27 victory over the Cowboys.

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Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

Dwight Clark was never projected to be a star in the NFL, much less make one of the most outstanding catches in league history. Many people were surprised that Clark was picked and made it onto an NFL team’s roster. Nonetheless, his exceptional abilities helped his team reach the Super Bowl, beating the Bengals.

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Mike Tyson's Suspension

Who hasn’t heard of “The Baddest Man on the Planet”, Michael Gerard Tyson? Mike Tyson was a boxing legend who won 18 fights – all by a knockout or technical knockout – before finally losing a bout to James ‘Buster’ Douglas.

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V.J. Lovero/Sports Illustrated

In this picture, you can see Mike Tyson with a mouthful of Evander Holyfield’s ear in the third round of their rematch on June 28, 1997. The incident resulted in his disqualification from the fight and his suspension from boxing. He was asked to pay a whopping $3 million fine. We’ve not sure why he would bite someone’s ear, but we’re sure he learned his lesson from the incident.

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Michael Fred Phelps II Wins by 0.01 Seconds

Michael Phelps is widely regarded as the greatest Olympian of all time. Phelps, a professional swimmer, won a total of 28 medals. These are a combination of individual and team medals, indicating just how exceptional of a swimmer the man truly is.

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Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated

Phelps, who participated at the Beijing Olympics on August 16, 2008, can be seen in this picture, having beaten Serbian swimmer Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds in the 100-meter butterfly final. This was his seventh gold medal in the Olympics.

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Bobby Martin as Varsity Nose Guard

Nothing can stop some people from doing what they love the most, and Bobby is proof of this concept. Bobby was born with Caudal regression syndrome, so he doesn’t have legs and hips. Honestly, we all could use some of his determination in our own lives.

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Thomas E. Witte/Sports Illustrated

He is indeed an inspirational human. Nothing can hold him back, not even his condition. This photograph was taken on September 24, 2005, at Colonel White High School, Belmont, Tennessee, where he played as a backup varsity nose guard for Dayton’s Colonel White High.

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Juan Marichal's Windup

On July 19, 1960, Juan Marichal made his major league debut for the Giants against the Phillies. With 12 strikeouts and only one walk, he retired the first 19 hitters and carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, restricting the Phillies to one hit en route to a 2-0 complete-game victory.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

This photo was taken at Spring Training in 1965. In it, we see Marichal of the San Francisco Giants preparing to throw a pitch during a spring training game in Casa Grande, Arizona. Marichal was recognized for his unique windup, which included one of the highest leg kicks ever seen in a major league game. Clearly, the technique worked! 

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Brandi Chastain Scores Game-Winning Goal in 1999

Brandi Chastain was one of the most successful women ever to play soccer. She has two FIFA Women’s World Cup titles and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She scored 30 goals in 192 appearances for her team, predominantly as a defender and midfielder.

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Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

In the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, she scored the game-winning penalty shootout goal against China. Look how happy she was in the picture – undeniably one of the most memorable events in her life. Due to her impressive career, she was honored with induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2017 and the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame the following year.

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Joe Montana Winning Super Bowl XXIII

On a scale of 1 to 10, how unbothered are you by the things going on around you? One look at this picture, and it’s clear that Joe is 10/10 not bothered. We aspire to be as focused as him while there’s chaos going on all around. Nothing could shake his focus, which is why he’s still remembered as a football legend.

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Richard Mackson/Sports Illustrated

During the Super Bowl XXIII, Montana took his team in the final minutes against the Cincinnati Bengals. With 3:10 left on the clock, the 49ers grabbed the ball on their own 8-yard line and marched 92 yards down the field in under three minutes. With just 34 seconds left, they scored the game-winning touchdown on a Joe Montana throw to John Taylor.

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Vicente Javier Torres at the 1996 Paralympics

You can indeed go anywhere and achieve your goals if you have determination. Bobby Martin proved this point, and now Javier Torres is here to reinforce it. Torres was a professional swimmer who competed at the 1996 Summer Paralympics, winning gold in the 150-meter individual medley, silver in the 4 x 50 meters 20 points freestyle relay, and bronze in the 4 x 50 meters 20 points medley relay.

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Bob Martin/Sports Illustrated

In 2004, Torres placed second in the 150-meter solo medley and third in the 4 × 50-meter 20-point medley relay. He retired from competitive swimming after the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. Given his great success, he opted to concentrate on coaching.

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Coach Vince Lombardi Celebrated After Super Bowl Victory

Behind all great athletes is a great coach. Coaches build this foundation for athletes to excel at their game from day one, and once they leave the team, it’s easy for them to carry what they learned over into other fields of life (whether they relate to sports or not).

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

As we can see in the photo, players from the Green Bay Packers carried Lombardi, their head coach, after winning 33-14 over the Oakland Raiders. This was their second consecutive Super Bowl victory. We can see how great a coach Lombardi was by looking at how his players appreciate him.

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Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain

Are giants real? Here we are looking at these great players whose height is considered tall even by today’s standards. Does anyone know what type of vitamins or milk they drink? We’d be willing to invest in them! Seriously, they are not just tall – they are giants!

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Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain were eye-to-eye during an NBA game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers. Bill was positioned to box out Chamberlain, preventing him from getting the ball. Anyone else would have been intimidated, but Chamberlain just kept his eye on the ball. 

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A Win for US Hockey

Hockey is often referred to as the fastest game on Earth, and when you watch a hockey game, it is easy to see why. Even as an audience member, these games produce an incredible adrenaline rush that surges through your body. The game is physically and mentally intense.

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Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated

During the 1980 Olympics, the US Hockey team faced the Soviet Union – an unstoppable squad. The Soviet Union’s winning streak ended as the United States Hockey team surged to an unexpected victory. As seen in the photo, the US team didn’t hold back when celebrating Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal.

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Antwaan Randle El's Facemask

Imagine being in the center of the field holding the football and seeing those towering athletes running towards you, ready to slam you down into the ground. Just the idea of it is horrifying! No wonder football players get injured much more often than athletes in sports like basketball.

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Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated

This photograph was captured during the AFC Wild Card playoffs on January 5, 2003. The Pittsburgh Steelers took on the Cleveland Browns, and Chris Akins, who was wearing number 36 for the Browns, was called out for “face masking.” You can clearly see his fingers wrapped around Antwaan Randle El’s mask. In the end, the Stealers still beat the Browns.

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Kerri Strug With An Injury

Athletes are prone to injuries and strains to their bodies, making training difficult and physically taxing. Not only that, but they are also challenged by all the emotional pressure that tests them mentally. Kerri Strug knows that feeling all too well.

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Al Tielemans/Sports Illustrated

After a clumsy landing from the vault, Strug seriously hurt her ankle. But that didn’t stop her. She persevered in doing a second vault – on her damaged ankle – and achieved the landing on one foot. The United States gold medal dreams were riding on her shoulders, and despite her injuries, she kept going and claimed the title for the US. Now that’s a true champion.

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Carmen Basilio and Tony DeMarco in the 1955 "Fight of the Year"

Cameron Basilio gained popularity among boxing fans because of his crowd-pleasing manner and incredible ability to endure damage. He won 56 of the 79 games he played, lost 16, and drew seven. Meanwhile, Tony DeMarco defeated Johnny Saxton by TKO in the 14th round to claim the welterweight title.

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Hy Peskin/Sports Illustrated

Basilio and DeMarco fought on Nov. 30, 1955, in what was dubbed the “Fight of the Year”. In the end, DeMarco lost. As you can see, Basilio was enjoying himself while DeMarco lay in the ring with his coach. Both fighters were valiant, giving the crowd a great night out.

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Wayne Gretzky's Last Game

It is heartbreaking to see your favorite athlete retire from their sport. In this photo, Wayne Gretzky waves to the crowd after playing his final game. Although we can’t see his face, we can feel how thankful he would have been for the people who believed in him and his team.

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Lou Capozzola/Sports Illustrated

Dubbed the most outstanding hockey player of all time, Gretzky retired at 38, just before the 1998-99 NHL season ended. He retired when he was on top, leading the league in assists for two of the last three seasons and leading the Rangers in coming out on top for the third straight season.

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George Herman “Babe” Ruth and His Adoring Fans

Babe Ruth, dubbed “The Great Bambino,” began his Major League Baseball career as a standout left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox but rose to prominence as a slugging outfielder with the New York Yankees. Ruth is widely recognized as one of America’s greatest sporting heroes, and many believe him to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

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Corbis/Bettmann

We can tell how much people adored and appreciated Ruth in this shot. He was spotted socializing with a crowd of his supporters. One of his most highlighted years came in the 1926 season. He hit .372 with 47 home runs and 146 RBI.

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Penn State Football Beats Notre Dame

Americans love football. They look like white ants in the photo – the stadium was so jam-packed! Football is a big deal for many reasons, particularly in the US. Even if you don’t have a team that you root for, it is still one of the most popular sports in America. 

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David Bergman/Sports Illustrated

This game played out between the Nittany Lions and Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish went down by 31-10. Oh no! For Penn State, this game was a massive win, representing the second-largest attendance in Beaver Stadium history.

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John McEnroe at Wimbledon

John McEnroe is a famous tennis champion who created a name for himself when he reached the Wimbledon semifinals at the age of 18 (when we were 18, all we could do was sit in front of the television and watch Friends). 

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Tony Duffy/Sports Illustrated

This photo was taken at Wimbledon in 1981, where he faced Bjorn Borg. His reaction after beating Borg was indeed one that we cannot forget. After this, McEnroe went on to win two more tournaments in 1983 and 1984.

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Vasily Alexeyev Makes Heavyweight History

Weightlifting is a sport for those who are not afraid of hard work. It demands daily attention, training, and discipline to become good at it. When you see weightlifters with their veins almost popping, that’s evidence of how heavy those weights truly are.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

Vasily Alexeyev is known to be the greatest heavyweight weightlifter of all time. He set 80 world records between 1970 and 1977. This photo was taken during a competition held in 1969. Vasily was the first weightlifter to lift 500 pounds. He is really something, don’t you think?

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Hank Aaron at Spring Training, 1957

Hank Aaron is recognized for having hit more home runs in baseball history than any other player. During his 23 seasons in the major leagues (1954–76), he broke records set by some of baseball’s best hitters. His professional career began in 1952.

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John G. Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated

Following the 1976 season, Aaron retired from baseball and returned to the Braves as an executive. When Braves owner Ted Turner appointed him vice president of player development, he became one of the first Black Americans in upper-level administration in Major League Baseball.

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Julius Erving and the One-Handed Slam Dunk

Julius Erving, also known as Dr. J, was a professional basketball player. During his 16-year career, he became recognized for his elegance and grace on and off the court and is largely regarded as one of the best basketball players in history.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

During this game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Denver Nuggets, Julius Erving got full extension on a one-handed slam. Slam-dunks will always make the crowd go wild because they show off a player’s power and athleticism. Sometimes, when you’re slammed on, all you can do is watch in astonishment.

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Bill Mazeroski's Walk-Off Home Run in Game 7

Bill Mazeroski, often known as “The Gloves”, was a Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher who spent 17 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His greatness in baseball led him to hit more than twice as many home runs on the road (93) as he did at home (45) during his career.

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AP

Bill Mazeroski hit the game-winning ninth-inning home run in Game 7 of the World Series. This was the only time a winner-take-all World Series game concluded with a home run. It remains the only walk-off home run in Game 7 history to this day.

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Jacques Plante Before Face Masks

In 1957, the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers met at Madison Square Garden. As you can see in the photo, Jacques Plante surveyed the ice without his mask during their game. He ended up being the first goalkeeper in the NHL to use a mask.

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John G. Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated

Can we also talk about the audience for a second? They look so serious! It’s exciting to see people play hockey, but this audience kept their cool. Perhaps the lack of players face protection made people a little more serious during hockey games of the past.

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John Havlicek and Chet Walker in 1965

With a too close for comfort lead of 110-109, the Boston Celtics needed to finish out the game strong. John Havlicek’s iconic steal from the Philadelphia 76ers helped them surge to victory.

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Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

The game ended with Havlicek earning 26 points and 11 assists. Let’s not forget the legendary steal that help solidify their win in the 1965 Eastern Conference. With this win, the Celtics went on to play the Lakers in the NBA finals. Boston ended up beating out the Lakers in five games.

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Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Masters

This picture was taken during the Masters in 2004. Phil Mickelson can be seen celebrating after securing a one-stroke win. Because he played golf with his left hand, he was given the nickname “Lefty.” Lefty finally broke through with his nine-under-par effort after years of being dubbed the best golfer without a major victory.

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Dave Martin/AP

We were amazed to discover that Mickelson lived his whole life as a righty and only played golf with his left hand. We’re sure he can play either way if he wants, but why would a right-hand-dominant person make such a choice? We’re still curious about what drove him to play with his left hand, but it appears to be working for him!

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Pete Rose Diving Into Third Base

Known by his nickname “Charlie Hustle”, Pete Rose was an American professional baseball player. In 1975, during their game between the Reds and the Cubs, Pete Rose dove onto third base. This was a truly spectacular moment, and it was perfectly captured by a photographer who was in the right place at the right time. 

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Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated

Although he was a great player, Rose’s career had a sad ending. In 20004, he finally acknowledged having placed bets on games that he shouldn’t have bet on as a player. Due to his gambling problems, he was suspended from Major League Baseball for the rest of his life.

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Roger Banister's Mile Time

Roger Bannister was the first athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes. During the Commonwealth Games of 1954, Roger Banister competed against John Landy, the only other man to also break this record that year. Banister won the duel and was named “Sportsman of the Year” for the first time by Sports Illustrated.

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Mark Kauffman/Sports Illustrated

Banister was an English neurologist. If you’re wondering how he became such a great athlete, his background in science actually played a part. He conducted extensive research into running mechanics, proving that a great mind is just as crucial to athletic success as a strong body.

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Nadia Comaneci's Historic Perfect Score

Nadia Comaneci was a professional gymnast who started her career at 14 years of age. She went on to become a five-time Olympic gold champion in gymnastics. Comăneci was the first gymnast to receive a perfect score of 10.0, and she did so at the 1976 Olympic Games.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

On August 2, 1976, Nadia Comaneci of Romania somersaulted during the Montreal Summer Olympics. She won three gold medals and of course that historic perfect Olympic score. She bagged multiple awards over her career, but in 1984, Comaneci finally retired.

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Bob Cousy, 1955

Bob Cousy is known among basketball fans for his unconventional playing style. With his behind-the-back dribbling and no-look passes, he was both entertaining and impressive. Cousy’s style contrasted sharply with the rest of the league, which at the time was dominated by a more basic approach.

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Hy Peskin/Sports Illustrated

During a game in 1955, Bob Cousy can be seen driving past two Pistons defenders. Those players were taller than him, yet he still surpassed them with his playing style. In basketball, height certainly helps, but having a unique and brilliant game plan will save the day.

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Dick Butkus Against the Cardinals

Known as “The Most Feared Man in the Game”, Dick Butkus made an impressive move during a game against the Cardinals in 1969. At the end of the season, Butkus was named the NFL defensive player of the year.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

Along with his natural talent and passion for the game, Butkus’ commitment was evident. With speed, agility, and lightning-fast instincts, he moves from sideline to sideline, intimidating opposing quarterbacks and ball carriers. Butkus had appeared in eight consecutive Pro Bowls by the time he retired in 1973.

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Carl Lewis at the 1992 Summer Olyumpics

Carl Lewis was nicknamed “son of the wind” because of his impressive professional athletic career. He remains one of the most respected sportsmen in history. Carl won nine Olympic gold medals, one Olympic silver medal, and ten World Championship medals, eight of which were gold.

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Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated

During the Summer Olympics of 1992, Carl can be seen celebrating after winning gold and setting a new world record in the 4×100-meter relay. He is undoubtedly the son of the wind. Just look at him in the photo – he appears to be preparing to fly. Until 2007, Lewis’ last leg, which he completed in 8.85 seconds, was the quickest anchor leg on record.

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Serena Williams' Australian Open Win

In this image, Serena Williams celebrates a point against Maria Sharapova in the 2007 Australian Open finals. She went on to defeat Sharapova in this match and win the title. This was her third Australian Open singles victory and her ninth major singles win overall.

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David Callow/Sports Illustrated

Williams was a true inspiration to many; she was ranked 81st just before the Australian Open finals in 2007 and went on to win against a great player. Williams began playing tennis with her father on public courts in Los Angeles and became pro in 1995, one year after her sister Venus did.

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Dennis Rodman, Pacers vs. Bills, 1997

Dennis Rodman, known as “The Worm”, was not your typical NBA player. While playing for the infamous Detroit Pistons, Rodman earned a bad-boy reputation. Things changed when he was traded to the Chicago Bulls. 

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Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images

During a game against the Pacers at the United Center in Chicago, as you can see in the photo, Rodman went horizontal for a loose ball. With the Bulls, he went on to win three NBA Championships and establish himself as one of the best defensive players in NBA history.

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Roberto Clemente's Last Season

During a 2-1 Pirates victory, Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates tracks a ball from a San Diego Padres pitcher. Clemente’s 1972 season would be his final, as a cargo plane carrying Roberto Clemente, a future Hall of Fame baseball star, crashes off the coast of Puerto Rico, killing him and four others.

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

Roberto Clemente was the first Hispanic player to be named a major league MVP, as well as the first Hispanic athlete to earn a World Series MVP award. He was a delight to watch, whether catching a ball, throwing out a runner on his way to third, or making a catch and spinning around as he tossed it back into play.

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Randy Moss and His Fingertip Catch

Randy Moss accumulated 1,200 yards or more – a record that few others have ever achieved. He led the NFL in touchdown catches three times during his career. He’d already joined Jerry Rice as the only player in NFL history with three 15-touchdown seasons by the age of 26.

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Damian Strohmeyer/Sports Illustrated

In this picture, Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss makes a fingertip catch for a 62-yard pass during the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s 21-16 loss to Pittsburgh. Although Moss was a great player, he retired without achieving any rings.

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Ben Johnson's 100-Meter Dash

At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, Ben Johnson pulled ahead in the men’s 100-meter dash. Johnson would go on to win gold and set a new world record. In a show of power never before witnessed in track and field, he smashed the world record in seconds against the strongest field of sprinters ever.

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Ronald C. Modra/Sports Illustrated

Unfortunately, when he tested positive for performance-enhancing chemicals three days later, his medals were taken away from him. Prior to this race, Johnson had given a controversial interview in which he hinted at the fact that many athletes were taking performance-enhancing drugs.

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Mark McGwire's Home Run Legacy

Nicknamed “Big Mac”, Mark McGwire hits his 61st home run of the season, tying Roger Maris for the most in a single season. Hitting a home run is not a piece of cake. You have to be a great player to do that. In that sense, Mark McGwire passed the qualification.

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V.J. Lovero/Sports Illustrated

McGwire didn’t stop showing his brilliancy as he blasted his 62nd home run the next day, giving him a total of 70 for the season. After the 2001 season, McGwire announced his retirement from baseball. He hit 583 home runs and drove in 1,414 runs in his career.

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Vince Young Celebrate After the 2006 Rose Bowl

After nearly single-handedly winning the Rose Bowl in 2006, Texas quarterback Vince Young earned the nickname “In-VINCE-able”. Here, he can be seen celebrating after his team defeated USC 41-38 to win the national title. Young threw the pass for the game-winning touchdown.

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John Biever/Sports Illustrated

The celebrated quarterback announced his retirement on June 14, 2014. Following his retirement, Young announced that he hoped to work at the University of Texas in some capacity. He achieved this dream, moving back to Austin to work at the University’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

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Bob Beamon Sets A World Record Long Jump

Track and field is a game of geometry, force, and speed. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American track and field athlete Bob Beamon flew through the air during his world record long jump of 8.9 meters. For 23 years, Beamon’s jump inspired a new word for extraordinary achievements: “Beamonesque.”

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Tony Duffy/Getty Images

Bob Beamon entered the season with two former Olympic winners and the joint-world record holders. What’s going on with him in this picture? He looks just as shocked about the history he is about to make once landing.

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Referee Jack Vaughn in the 1988 Fog Bowl

A lot can go wrong with outdoor games, and the weather is a major factor. It can be very unpredictable, with some games happening in rain and fog, making it hard to play. Wild weather can be dangerous and may even make the players sick.

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Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated

This picture was taken during the Fog Bowl – a 1988 NFC divisional playoff game between the Eagles and the Bears in Chicago. Referee Jack Vaughn struggled to monitor a field goal attempt by Eagles placekicker Luis Zendejas. Thick fog blanketed Soldier Field, reducing the visibility to 10-20 yards for the game’s duration.

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Cal Ripken Junior Breaks Lou Gehrig's Record

Cal Ripken Jr. earned the nickname “The Iron Man” after appearing in major league baseball for a record 2,632 straight games. He must have been so in love with baseball that he never missed a game. In 2007, Cal Ripken was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Walter Iooss Jr./Sports Illustrated

As seen in the picture, shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. was receiving compliments from Baltimore Orioles supporters just after he surpassed Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. In 1998, Ripken broke Gehrig’s record by 502 games, ending his own run at 2,632 games.

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Pau Gasol Celebrates Lakers' Victory

Pau Gasol celebrates the Lakers’ stunning Game 7 victory against their long-time rivals in front of home fans in the NBA Finals in 2010. This game was an intense one because they were facing their ultimate rivals – the Boston Celtics. 

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John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated

We understand how Pau felt at the time. Winning the championship in your hometown must be such a wonderful experience. Can we talk about Atest, known as Metta World Peace? He looks so funny here, and we don’t know if he’s about to cry or run at someone for a hug. 

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Kyle Whitaker at the 2005 Rodeo

Athletes don’t always enjoy a flowery path. They have to face difficulties and losses and gain strength from defeat to become the greatest players of all time. This is what happened to Kyle Whitaker during the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo on March 17, 2005. 

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Dan Hubbell/Sports Illustrated

At the Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, Kyle Whitaker of Chambers, Nebraska, lost his boot when bucked from Dump Wagon. His fall looks so painful in the photo. Whitaker came in 22nd out of 24 contestants in the saddle bronco riding. After his retirement, Kyle became a head coach for the Bobcats rodeo team.

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Barry Bonds Hits Record-Breaking Home Run

Barry was a Major League Baseball left fielder who spent 22 years in the league. From 1986 to 1992, Bonds was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and from 1993 to 2007, he was a member of the San Francisco Giants. He is regarded as one of baseball’s greatest players of all time.

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Brad Mangin/Sports Illustrated

Fans of Barry gave him many nicknames, including “The Asterisk”, “The Sultan of Shot”, and many more. In a game against the Washington Nationals, Barry Bonds watched his 756th career home run fly out of AT&T Park. The shot shattered Henry Aaron’s 33-year career home run record. Bonds retired in 2007. 

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Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Summer Olympics

Tommie Smith and John Carlos were African-American athletes who successfully received both gold and bronze medals at the Summer Olympics of 1968. As we can see in the photo below, they both raise their black-gloved fists to symbolize Black Power. 

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Neil Leifer/Sports Illustrated

Sadly, they were both booted out of the Games because of their actions. Both of the athletes just wanted to raise awareness regarding what was truly happening behind the cameras. Smith and Carlos were great athletes, and history eventually bestowed upon them the respect they deserve.

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