5 Career Defining Mistakes in Sports History

Game 1 of the NBA Finals went down to the wire in regulation. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors were tied at 107 a piece with 4.7 seconds remaining in regulation. George Hill was on the free throw line for the Cavaliers after sinking his first of two attempts to win the game for Cleveland. Hill missed the free-throw but the unlikeliest out of all the Cavaliers, JR Smith, skied for the offensive rebound. Smith with 4.7 seconds remaining on the clock was in prime position to take a floater or a flip shot to win the game. Smith, well, you know the rest by now. 

In lieu of the Smith debacle, here are some other cringeworthy blunders in sports history. 

The Timeout

The Michigan Wolverines were facing off against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA National Championship. The stage was set for a hardwood classic in college basketball’s biggest spotlight. Two top seeded teams from their respective regions would go through a 40-minute war for basketball immortality.

It went down to the wire with UNC’s Pat Sullivan made a free throw to extend their lead to three points. Future lottery pick at the time, Chris Webber, Michigan, rebounded Sullivan’s missed free throw and drove the ball up the floor with 20 seconds remaining in regulation. Webber went on to move to the frontcourt where he was trapped and forced to take a timeout. Michigan was out of timeouts though. The call by Webber resulted in a technical foul granting the Tar Heels two free throws and possession of the ball. UNC won the game, but the hallmark of that game will be the mishap by Webber.

Chris Webber’s NBA career was nothing short of amazing. He is a future Hall of Famer and was a valuable first option for the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

His legacy at the collegiate level will always be stained with that T-shape he made with his hands in one pressure-filled championship moment.

The Goal

June 22nd, 1994, the 15th FIFA World Cup was well underway with the highlight of the day being the Group A matchup between Colombia and, the host country, the United States.

In the game’s 35th minute, Andres Escobar, Colombia, attempted to block John Harkes’, USA, shot by lunging and sliding to the ball with his right foot. Consequently, Escobar’s leg ricocheted off of his leg and the ball ended up in his own Colombian goal. 17 minutes later, Earnie Stewart scored a goal to give the Americans a 2-0 lead. Ultimately, the Colombians lost 2-1 and the team’s World Cup run ended early as they finished last in their group.

Escobar’s mistake will forever summarize his career not due to the lack of talent he possessed on the soccer field, but the weeping amount of magnitude that came with the error. Unfortunately, five days after Colombia’s elimination from the World Cup, Escobar went to the El Indio nightclub in Medellin where his life was taken. It was   

The Thanksgiving Classic

The 1993 Thanksgiving special for the NFL highlighted the Miami Dolphins and the Dallas Cowboys. The frozen tundra that was Texas Stadium became the stage for the most viewed regular season football game within the past 20 seasons.

The fourth quarter came about with the Cowboys holding a tight lead on the Fins, 14-13. Jimmy Johnson, Dallas, elected to make a rotational adjustment on special teams, inserting Leon Lett to block a field goal with his height and athleticism. Dolphins’ Kicker Pete Stoyanovich received the snap and had his attempt blocked by the Cowboys with the ball bouncing towards the Dallas end zone.

The Dallas unit communicated to veer away from the live ball. However, surrounded by three Miami players, Lett slipped on the snow and unintentionally tapped the football, making it live. The Dolphins recovered the ball on the Cowboys one-yard line. With mere seconds remaining on the clock, Miami kicked a chip shot field goal to win the game, spoiling the food that await families all across the Lone Star state.

This is not the only play that infamously haunted Lett throughout his career. Lett had another mishap a season before in the Super Bowl in which he did not recover a fumble. Dallas won that game so all was forgiven, but the Thanksgiving blunder? Not so much.

The Wrong Way

More comical if anything, Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall was playing a routine game against the San Francisco 49ers in the 1964 season. Considered to be the most embarrassing moment in NFL history, Marshall recovered a fumble in stride in a prime position to go score a touchdown. He ran with determination as he thought that no one would catch him. Then again, was anyone trying to tackle him? It turns out Marshall ran to the opposite end zone and threw the ball out of bounds within his own pay dirt. Marshall scored a two-point safety for the Niners.

In sheer disbelief, confusion, and embarrassment, Marshall ran to his sideline with his hand on his head probably asking himself “what have I done”? Despite the humiliation Marshall endured, the Vikings defeated the 49ers 27-22. Marshall would go on to have a lengthy career in the NFL with 20 seasons allocated under his belt. However, no play will be remembered more than “The Wrong Way Run” in his career. 

The Boot

Over 30 years ago, the 1986 World Series seemed in the bag for the Boston Red Sox. In a critical Game 6, in Queens, New York, the Red Sox were atop the New York Mets with a 3-2 lead. A victory would give Boston their sixth title as they were in the midst of a 70 year drought.

At the bottom of the 10th inning, a routine ground ball casually bounced towards Boston’s Bill Buckner. It was a fairly easy ball to catch and step on the bag to ensure an out and to keep the game alive. However, Buckner had arguably committed baseball’s most consequential error. A careless play made the ball roll in between his legs. The Mets stole Game 6 when they had no business winning in the heat of the moment.

Buckner was traded the following season and went on to finish his career with 2,700 hits along with a batting title in 1980.

If feeling self-guilt wasn’t enough, Buckner and his family, nearly five years following the unfortunate event, would receive insensitive and disturbing comments regarding his error in 1986. Certainly, there is no love lost between Buckner and the Boston faithful. 

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