- Public domain via Flickr
- Heavyweight champion George Foreman (r) and Muhammad Ali (l) exchange punches during their world heavyweight title boxing match in 1974.
A Hollywood Reporter story found that in 2018, across just four channels—ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports 1, and NBC Sports Network—American viewers watched more than 1 trillion minutes of sports (or over 16 billion hours). With COVID-19 pandemic shutting down every sector of the economy and public life, all major sporting events have been postponed or cancelled, from March madness to MLB preseason to Wimbledon, taking away a beloved American pastime.
If you are stuck at home and experiencing withdrawal, this is a great time to watch (or rewatch) some of the most classic, defining moments in sports history. Here are some of the must-see highlights of the last 50 years.
Margaret Court Wins the Grand Slam
In 1970, Margaret Court became only the second woman in history to win the singles Grand Slam. Her winning match at the Wimbledon final against Billie Jean King was a record-setting 46 games long, and at many points during the tense face-off it looked like the result could’ve gone either way. But Court pulled out the victory, and by 1975 had 24 titles to her name—a record that contemporary tennis great Serena Williams is still trying to chase down. To this day, Court has the best singles record of any tennis player, man or woman.
Muhammed Ali Beats George Foreman
One of the few sporting events to attract over one billion viewers, the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match between undefeated heavyweight champion George Foreman and once heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali went down in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1974. Ali became the second boxer in history to ever regain the heavyweight title after he knocked Foreman out in the eighth round using his patented rope-a-dope tactic. Watch the highlight reel below, or, if you really want to get into it, make some popcorn and view the entire fight here.
The 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, directed by Leon Gast, gave the world an intimate look at the young and charismatic underdog, Muhammad Ali, and one of the most monumental fights of his career. A lesser known fact about the event: one of the three undercard matches of the night featured middleweight Joe Hadley of Catskill, who won in the first round.
Cold War Glory: US Beats USSR in Olympic Hockey
Possibly one of the most celebrated wins in American history is the Miracle On Ice. The anticipated match between the men’s hockey teams from the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1980 winter olympics in Lake Placid took place during the height of the Cold War. Both teams were undefeated, but the Soviets were favored to win the match, having won gold in five of the six previous Winter Olympic Games. The Americans recovered from their one-point deficit in the last period of the match, and with ten minutes left, scored the goal that would win them the game. The win was so celebrated that people often forget that the match against the Soviets wasn’t the final step towards Olympic victory. The US men’s hockey team then went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal. Check the highlights reel below, or settle in for the full two-hour game.
Baby-Faced Tiger Woods Wins the Masters
In 1997, Tiger Woods became the youngest Masters winner in history by a record 12 strokes. Woods, who was 21 at the time, was the first African-American to win the Masters Tournament. Two month later, he was ranked number one in the world.
Michael Jordan Beats the Buzzer
In game six of the 1998 NBA finals, the Chicago Bulls were tied with the Utah Jazz with one minute left in the game. The Jazz quickly made a basket, giving them a two-point lead, and only a few seconds later they had possession of the ball again. It was not looking good for Chicago. Then, Michael Jordan stole possession, tripped up the defender, and scored a three pointer with only six seconds left on the clock, winning the last game of his Chicago Bulls career. Iconic.
Red Sox Reverse the Curse
The Curse of Bambino allegedly started when the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to their bitter rivals, the New York Yankees, in 1918. After that fateful move, the American League team went 86 years without winning a single World Series pennant. The Sox finally managed to break the curse in the 2004 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl that same year, making it the first time in 20 years that a US city had won both the World Series and the Super Bowl. After lifting the curse, the Red Sox went on to win again in 2007, 2013, and 2018. Watch the full three-hour game here.
Michael Phelps Destroys the 2008 Olympics
Michael Phelps broke all sorts of records, some of which were his own, during his astonishing performance at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After setting a new world record for his time in the 400-meter individual medley during the preliminary heats, the 23-year-old swimmer went on to win eight gold medals, the most any American swimmer has won at any Olympics.
US Women’s Soccer Wins Third World Cup
In 2015, the US Women’s National Soccer Team played in its seventh World Cup in Canada. In the final game against Japan, the team easily won its third World Cup, but the victory went far beyond that. The game garnered over 22 million viewers, making it the most watched soccer match (men’s or women’s) in US history. Two years later, the women’s team was able to negotiate a higher pay deal with FIFA, and in 2019 they won their fourth title in the World Cup final against the Netherlands.
Cubs Win World Series for First Time in Over a Century
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs became the second baseball team to defeat an apparent curse after winning their first World Series game since 1908. The suspense was nearly unbearable: The series went to the full seven games and the final game went into extra innings after a rain delay between the ninth and 10th inning. In 10th, the Cubs ended their 108-year dry spell by beating out the Cleveland Indians by a single point. Watch the highlights below, or relive the drawn-out excitement with the full game.