There’s nothing more revitalizing than being witness to some of the greatest highlights of your favorite sport. And it gets even better when you talk about the most loved sports in the entire world – football and basketball.
NBA and NFL are arguably the centerpieces for world football and basketball fandoms. Both sports leagues have had a brilliant stretch of decade-defining moments over the course of history. While it’s not possible to list down all, we’ve cherrypicked the 17 best moments of American football and basketball.
- Riggins’ 43-yard Touchdown against Miami
- McNair Splits MVP
- The Catch
- Football Helps U.S. Heal After 9/11
- The Immaculate Reception
- Heidi Game (1968)
- The Comeback
- The Meadowlands Miracle
- Youngest MVP of All-time (2011)
- Knicks’ First-ever NBA title
- The Jordan ‘Shrug Game’
- Steal by Bird!
- Jordan’s Final Shot with the Bulls
- James Joins Basketball Royalty
- Kevin McHale Clotheslines Kurt Rambis
- Ralph Sends Houston Rockets to 1986 Finals
- Bob Pettit Grabs Title for Hawks
Riggins’ 43-yard Touchdown Against Miami
True NFL fans can never forget the historic touchdown that Redskins star John Riggins did for his team in the Super Bowl against Miami in 1983. Riggins was a former Kansas track prodigy and was known for his unbeatable combination of power and pace.
The player had about 11,352 yards of playoff runs and 116 touchdowns in the entirety of his career. But the iconic performance was during the 4th-and-1 play against Miami. The track star ran a long 43-yard superspeed touchdown to seal his team’s victory in the final moments.
The Redskins were by 27-17, and the Riggins took home a dazzling MVP trophy. Because of such magnificent performances, Riggins was nicknamed ‘Diesel’ by NFL fans.
McNair Splits MVP
There have been some special happy moments during the Super Bowl etched in football fans’ minds forever. One such was in the 2003 Super Bowl when Steve McNair split his MVP award with Peyton Manning. Both of their teams had the same records (12-4) and also tied on top of the AFC South.
Peyton’s Indianapolis Colts were almost edging the Steve’s Titans by winning two games and coming closer to the AFC South crown. But the star NFL passers received 16 votes each from a qualified panel of 50 members, leading to a deadlock.
It was the 3rd tie in the history of this award since 1957. However, both were quite grateful for the honor, and fans of both teams couldn’t have gotten a better finish to the season.
The 1982 NFC Championship Game in the Superbowl XXIII with the San Fransisco 49ers vs. the Dallas Cowboys, with the latter leading 27-21.
The game was drawing to an end, and the 49ers needed to drive 89 yards if they hoped to score the winning touchdown. And they did score the winning touchdown, courtesy of Joe Montana and Dwight Clark.
Montana avoided the Cowboys pass with a mere 58 seconds to go; he rushed past the opponents and threw a pass to Dwight Clark, called ‘The Catch.’ Clark jumped high, caught it, and hauled the pass in for the winning touchdown.
Football Helps U.S. Heal After 9/11
One of the most touching moments in NFL history would be when the games resumed after the 9/11 tragedy in the USA. The country was rife with fear, vulnerability, and shock.
Hence, it was tough for the NFL to resume playing just five days after the disaster.
However, sports have always brought Americans together; it did that Sunday and in the following games. The tears that fell as the Star-Spangled Banner played, the spirit the players brought to the game.
The Immaculate Reception
Awarded the greatest moment in football history by NFL, this happened during the Steelers vs. the Raiders 1972 playoff. The Pittsburgh Steelers had surprised critics in the season by hitting 11-3 with an outstanding defense called “The Steel Curtain.”
In the concluding minutes of the game, it was a 4-and-10 in favor of the Raiders with 22 seconds left. Hoping for a first down, Bradshaw took the lead, avoiding a blitz by Oakland, and made a pass down to the halfback Fuqua. But the Oakland defense Tatum laid a hit on Fuqua, and the ball rebounded towards the line.
Just then, Harris surprised everyone by scooping the ball off his shoe and ran for a winning touchdown.
Heidi Game (1968)
The New York Jets were facing off the Oakland Raiders on November 17, 1936. With only 1:30 left and the Jets leading 32-29, the game was headed to a nail-biting finish. However, NBC abruptly cut away from broadcasting the game to the movie ‘Heidi’ as part of the regular schedule.
Though in hindsight it is hilarious (and the Raiders won 43-32), football fans were livid that they couldn’t catch the end.
This particular NFL convinced networks that they had to continue broadcasting a game even if it exceeded the allotted 3 hours so that fans never missed another great finish.
Another defining moment in NFL history, the comeback happened during the 1993 NFL season in a playoff round between Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers. The latter got an early lead of 28-3 by halftime, which made many Bills fans lose hope.
But the backup quarterback Frank Reich didn’t lose hope and charged the Buffalo against a relaxed Oilers defense.
Several touchdowns later, the game reached 35-31, and hope emerged for the Bills. In the final minutes, Houstons led the game to overtime with a tie but later made a fatal ill-advised pass. The final score stood 38-35, marking the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL.
The Meadowlands Miracle
Miracles in NFL history are uncommon but not impossible. November 18, 1978, Giants Stadium. Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants.
The Giants were leading 17-12. They had the ball. Moreover, the Eagles did not have a single timeout left. All the Giants needed to do was run out the final seconds when the tables turned.
Joe Pisarick’s attempt to pass the ball to teammate Csonka was unsuccessful. Eagles cornerback, Herman Edwards, picked up the ball and ran 26 yards to the ultimate win. This was the ‘Miracle at the Meadowlands.’
Youngest MVP of All-Time (2011)
During the 2010-11 season, the young point guard Derrick Rose led the Bulls to the greatest records since marquee star Jordan.
The team finished at 62-20 and became the Eastern conference’s top seed reaching the playoffs. The 22-year-old could be heard saying he wanted to be an MVP in the training camp.
However, it looked like quite an impossible deal about 9 years away from his prime age. But a year later, and the prodigy was standing proud with an MVP trophy, stopping the two-year spree of LeBron James.
Knicks’ First-Ever NBA Title
You wouldn’t call the 1970 NBA finals between the Lakers and the Knicks the best one for Willis Reed. But having to sit out the last game because of an injury, even showing up for this game was quite impressive.
We could see the champ limping on the court and scoring two baskets for the Knicks early in the game. This haul swayed the game in the Knicks’ favor and led them to a glorious first-ever NBA title.
The Jordan ‘Shrug Game’
In the 1992 NBA finals between the Bulls and the Blazers, Michael Jordan was on fire. Jordan had snagged 6 outstanding three-pointers against the Blazers in the first half itself, contributing to the Bulls’ win.
But the best moment for all the Bulls fans was when Jordan nonchalantly turns to the announcers and shrugs as if wondering what was so special about his performance.
Steal by Bird!
In the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics were down by one against Detroit and in need of a miraculous save.
Being the NBA hero, Larry Bird stole an ill-advised inbound pass from Detroit and flipped it to Johnson.
This was the defining moment of the game which led the Celtics to a victory by a second.
Jordan’s Final Shot with the Bulls
The Chicago Bulls pitted against the Utah Jazz. A 35-year-old Michael Jordan against a younger Bryon Russell. There were less than 20 seconds left. That is Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals for you.
After Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone, his driving layup culminated into Jordan’s iconic last shot against the Chicago Bulls, and the evening ended with 45 points.
James Joins Basketball Royalty
Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals of Miami Heat against the Boston Celtics established LeBron James as a worthy contender for NBA Champion.
Miami Heat was down 3-2 in the series during this time. However, LeBron did everything that he could to turn the tide in favor of the Heat.
From scoring 45 points (on 19-of-26 shooting) to grabbing 15 rebounds, dropping five dimes in forty-five minutes, and a lockdown defense on the Celtic legend (and long-time nemesis), Paul Pierce, LeBron gave this game his all. Game 6 was a 98-79 win for the Heat.
Kevin McHale Clotheslines Kurt Rambis
We all know (and enjoy) the historic rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
This was highlighted in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, which proved to be exceptionally tough for the C’s. Anxious to save the game, McHale clotheslined Rambis a bit too hard. It resulted in a foul on the Celtics.
This foul further intensified their rivalry. However, it proved to be a refreshing recovery for the Celtics’ spirit, and they went on to a 129-125 win against the Lakers at the Great Western Forum.
Ralph Sends Houston Rockets to 1986 Finals
The game that finally ended the Lakers’ spectacular four-year streak of NBA Finals trips was Game 5 of the 1986 Western Conference Finals, with Houston Rockets against L.A. Lakers. How the game had progressed, the final score would have been a tie at 112.
All but for Ralph Sampson, who took an inbound pass from Rockets teammate Robert McCray, turned quickly and shot a risky basket.
The ball danced around the rim before dropping in, resulting in a shocking win against the Lakers.
Bob Pettit Grabs Title for Hawks
Out of the four times that they faced each other off at the NBA Finals, St. Louis’ Hawks’ single victory against the Boston Celtics was this epic game: Game 6 of the 1958 NBA Finals.
In this game, Bob Pettit, who played for the St. Louis’ Hawks, scored 31 points in the first half, driving up the score to an NBA-record of 50 points and drove the Hawks to victory.
These moments in the history of Basketball and Football will always be unforgettable. But there were many we couldn’t mention and many more to come.
After all, there are rarely any moments in these major ball sports that don’t bring excitement.