On Sunday, the Ravens’ Jamal Lewis shattered the NFL’s single game rushing record with 295 yards on only 30 carries. The astonishing performance brings to mind other remarkable single game performances in the history of team sports.
So, I ranked my top 10 performances in sports history. I would like to point out that I am biased by the fact that I am from New York and also because I am not a big hockey, soccer, or insert name of your favorite sport that I did not include fan.
Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is arguably the most incredible accomplishment in sports, but it won’t be on this list. I am looking for gritty, put the team on your back types of games, not a bunch of finger rolls against a group of vertically challenged players.
And the most important performances occur in playoff/championship games, not the regular season. No, Jamal Lewis is not on this list. He is just an excuse for this column. That said, here it goes:
10) Pedro Martinez: 6 IP, 10 K, 0 R, 0 H. This performance was just gutsy. In Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, Pedro entered a tie game in the fourth inning. Pedro was injured and incapable of throwing faster than the mid-80s. Nevertheless, he dominated and carried the Sox to a 12-8 record. Of course, they did lose to the Yankees in the LCS.
9) Phil Simms: 22-25, 268 yards, 3 TDs. In Super Bowl XXI, Phil Simms was phenomenal against the Broncos in the Giants 39-20 victory. This game is a tough call because Steve Young threw 6 TDs and Kurt Warner threw for 414 yards in Super Bowl wins. Chalk it up to NY bias or the fact that nobody has ever been this close to perfect in a game of this magnitude.
8) Magic Johnson: 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists. With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar injured in the 1980 NBA finals, the Lakers were in trouble despite a 3-2 lead in their series against the Sixers. When the series shifted to Philadelphia, Magic replaced Kareem at center and played every position as a rookie.
7) Bill Walton: 21-22, 44 points. In the 1973 NCAA tournament final against Memphis, Bill Walton was even closer to perfection than Phil Simms.
6) Michael Jordan: 63 points, a playoff record. Michael Jordan has to be on this list at least once, but for which one his memorable performances? A great argument could be made for Jordan’s last game with the Bulls. In Game 6 of the 1998 finals, Jordan scored to draw the Bulls within one of the Jazz, then stole the ball from Karl Malone before finishing the series with his memorable jumper. Game 2 during the first round of the 1986 playoffs is higher on my list though. In 1986, Jordan was a second year player who only played 18 games in the regular season because of injury.
5) Christian Laettner: 10-10 field goals, 10-10 free throws, 31 points. In what many consider the greatest college basketball game ever, Laettner was actually perfect for Duke in the team’s 104-103 OT win against Kentucky in the 1992 East Regional Final. Also, Laettner hit the ultimate buzzer beater, receiving Grant Hill’s full court pass with 2.1 seconds left before nailing the 17-footer that won the game.
4) Reggie Jackson: 3-3, 3 HR. Another perfect performance. Mr. October hit three homers on three consecutive swings to carry the Yankees over the Dodgers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series.
3) Don Larsen: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 E. In keeping with the last three performances, this one was also perfect. On the biggest baseball stage in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen threw a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Yes, it is no coincidence that two Yankees have ended up in the top 5.
2) Jack Morris: 10 IP, 0 R. Okay, this wasn’t a perfect game. But, in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Morris shut out the Atlanta Braves for 10 innings before the Twins scratched out a run in the bottom of the 10th. The game was arguably the greatest baseball game played in THE greatest World Series ever.
1) Kellen Winslow: 13 catches, 166 yards, 1 TD, 1 blocked field goal. In the 1981 AFC divisional playoff, the Chargers beat the Dolphins 41-38 in OT. Winslow is No. 1 on this list because of overwhelming individual effort. Not only did he put up huge receiving numbers, he saved the game by blocking a 43-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Throughout the four-hour game, Winslow was being carted off the field while being treated for a pinched nerve, severed lip, dehydration, and severe cramps. This performance was gritty, clutch, and the best I could think of.