Greatest sports finishes
The U.S. Women's National Soccer team completed one of the most improbable comebacks we've ever seen Sunday morning. The drama at the World Cup quarterfinals in Dresden, Germany, was at an all-time high as it seemed Brazil had everything working for them — refs included. After losing a player earlier in the second half to a red card, the U.S. women went down another goal in extra time.
As time wore on and the game entered the 122nd minute of 123, Abby Wambach connected with a beautiful header to tie the game with just seconds remaining. At that point entering the penalty kick shootout, the U.S. had all the momentum, especially with rock Hope Solo in goal. Sure enough, she came through saving one ball. With the U.S. women not missing a single penalty kick, they secured their advancement.
The U.S. win over Brazil obviously got us thinking, What are some of the best sports finishes in recent memory?
It was an amazing moment in sports — not women's sports, not just soccer, not U.S. sports, but sports as a whole. The stage was grand and the stakes were high. Two superpowers dueling in a battle that captivated every person watching in the stands and across the globe. The crowd actually seemed to be fully behind the U.S. as it booed every time Marta and Brazil touched the ball. The interviews with the players and coaches were amazing as they genuinely seemed to be in shock.
This obviously got us thinking, What are some of the best sports finishes in recent memory? This list is by no means exhaustive, and it deserves a few points of clarification:
- To be included here, the stage needs to be grand and the stakes need to be extremely high. (This is why we won't include all of those bizarre finishes that Les Miles' LSU Tigers had in 2010.)
- Second, there has to be some sort of connection to us as Texans or Americans. We're sure there are plenty of Argentinean basketball finals that mean more to them then does an Astros walk-off playoff win, but for purposes of this article, we will not include them.
- Third is that we're going with recency. Of course the Bills' comeback versus the Oilers was an all--time finish. Any NCAA buzzer beater from the '80s and '90s are all great moments, but we're going to focus it to the past decade. (Christian Laettner would have for sure made this list.)
- The last thing is there is no preference of sports bias. We are weighting soccer just as much as football, baseball, basketball, golf and swimming. We understand that some of you don't like soccer and think that a college football regular season game is more important than a women's World Cup game. That's your prerogative, but we politely disagree.
Here is our list, in no particular order, of the greatest finishes in sports in the past decade ...
US Men's National Team defeats Algeria 1-0 to advance in 2010 World Cup
Hard to top this one. The reaction videos speak for themselves, but Landon Donovan's goal in the 91st minute versus an Algeria team that seemed content to draw brought America to a halt that morning. Unbelievable.
Craig Biggio's 3,000th Hit Game
The reason this makes the list not just because of the milestone, but that it ended in the 11th inning, won with a walk-off grand slam from Carlos Lee. Some of the magic would have been lost if they didn't win the game. Biggio gets hit 3,000, goes 5 for 6 and scores the game tying run. What a great game for any Houstonian.
2006 Rose Bowl: Texas defeats Southern California 41-38
Vince Young leads that famous march down the field that culminates in a game winning 9-yard TD run on fourth-and-five with 19 seconds left to play. The drama leading up to that play was thick as well, with UT stuffing LenDale White on fourth down to get the ball back. Everyone knew VY was going to run it in, but he did it anyway.
2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State defeats Oklahoma 43-42
This game had it all. It was the David vs. Goliath match we all wanted. Boise State pulled out three of the most improbable plays to finish a game that we've ever seen. What's often forgotten is Adrian Peterson's 25 yard touchdown run on the first play in OT. Then of course Ian Johnson proposes to his girlfriend after the game. Amazing all around.
Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS: Astros defeat Braves 7-6 in 18 innings
The Atlanta Braves were up 6-1 in the eighth. Lance Berkman hits a grand slam off Kyle Farnsworth in the bottom of the eighth to make it 6-5. Brad Ausmus in bottom of the ninth with two outs ties the game on a massive homer to left center field. Then we got nine extra innings of baseball that included three innings of relief from Roger Clemens. Chris Burke hit the game winning shot in the bottom of the 18th off rookie Joey Devine to win the game. This was the longest game in postseason history and the only playoff game to feature two grand slams. Arguably the greatest game in Astros history. Also of note is the same guy caught both Berkman's grand slam and Burke's home run balls.
Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers defeat Cardinals 27-23
Perhaps the most entertaining Super Bowl ever. James Harrison's 100-yard interception for a touchdown to end the first half was drama enough, but the last 7:33 of that game was incredible. Arizona is down 20-7 and it drives 87 yards in 3:57 to score a TD to make it 20-14. Then the Cardinals get the safety on Pittsburgh with 2:58 left to make it 20-16. They follow this up with a 64-yard Kurt Warner TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 left. And then the Steelers broke Cardinal nation's hearts with that unbelievable Santonio Holmes catch in the back of the end zone with 35 seconds left.
2010 Wimbeldon: John Isner defeats Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68
No, that's no typo on the final set. The match took 11 hours and five minutes. The final point was actually scored 46 hours and 39 minutes after the first point was played. The match started on a Tuesday and ended on a Thursday. Almost as unreal as the game was for the players, think about those poor announcers who had to call that whole thing.
2008 US Open: Tiger Woods defeats Rocco Mediate in sudden death playoff
There's not a lot of drama surrounding a Tiger Woods major win, but this one was particularly special. If you watched the match, you could tell that Tiger was ailing the entire playoff. Sure enough, he needed knee surgery after the match and was out for the remainder of the golf season. So the fact that he had to play four rounds of golf, then an 18-hole playoff, and then a sudden death hole makes this win pretty astonishing. This could very well be the last major championship for Tiger as well.
Super Bowl XLII: Giants defeat Patriots 17-14
The Patriots had already completed a perfect regular season and showed no signs of slowing down in the playoffs. They were scoring at will and it didn't seem like anyone could stop them. They were 12-point favorites heading into the game. Then the Giants pass rush happened. Tom Brady was flustered for the first time all year and eventually Eli Manning (the game's MVP) led the Giants on that final drive that featured David Tyree's ridiculous helmet catch and the final TD strike to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left.
2007 Game 5 of Eastern Conference Finals Playoffs: Lebron James defeats the Detroit Pistons Pistons in Double OT 109-107
Lebron has taken quite a beating lately after failing to win a championship in his first season with the Miami Heat. His heart and character have been called into question. No one was questioning his drive and “want to” after this epic performance. 48 points total including the Cav's final 25 and 29 of their final 30. He could not be stopped. It was definitely Jordan-esque.
2008 Beijing Olympics: Michael Phelps wins his seventh gold medal
On his quest to break Mark Spitz's Olympic record, Michael Phelps, looking for his seventh gold medal, trailed Milorad Cavic in the 100-meter butterfly the entire race only to come back and touch the pad to beat Cavic by .01 seconds. Michael Phelps is the greatest U.S. Olympian. I don't know how people argue Spitz. Phelps got more golds. It's as simple as that.