One of the innumerable selling points for sports is that fans have the chance to see something that's never happened before. (In a distant second, mascots throwing out free t-shirts.) The unknown is exciting, and we're in no position to get there, but there are some well-sculpted mammals out there that seem capable.
Will anyone ever match Lance Armstrong's seven Tour de Frances or Michael Phelps' eight gold medals? Probably not, but we never thought the Red Sox would ever win the World Series again. Or that an NFL team could go through the season undefeated after the '72 Dolphins did it. Or that Greg Norman and Tom Watson would return, as pentagenarians, to lead the British Open, only to completely piss it away. (They have a pill for that now.)
This list is for the unrepeatable. The once and never again. The "don't hold your breath because you could suffocate and your estate may litigate" moments.
Weight was given to:
• Prominence of the sport
• Novelty of the accomplishment
• How it makes me tingle at night when I can't sleep
So what sorts of deeds did we see that we shant see again in such magnitude?
(10) May 22, 2003: 18-year-old LeBron James signs $90 million endorsement deal with Nike
Will any individual player ever see that much money in endorsements before playing a minute in a professional sports venue? Keep in mind this was a month before the Cavaliers took him No. 1 overall.
In hindsight? What a valuable investment. But looking back at the LeBron phenomenon, it could have so easily not worked out.
(9) February 15, 2000: Martin Brodeur shoots game-winning goal in 4-2 victory
A total freak occurrence. Goalies have sometimes gotten the occasional empty netter, but in this case Brodeur merely cleared the puck. With the New Jersey Devils up 2-1, The Philadelphia Flyers, who pulled the goalie during a delayed penalty, mishandled the puck into their own net. Brodeur was the last Devil to touch it, and because he gave up another goal to Philly, he was credited with the better-than-it-sounds "game winning goal," the first goalie to ever do it, and perhaps the last.
(8) December 28, 2008: Detroit Lions finish 0-16
And the Dan Orlovsky, Rod Marinelli-led juggernaut found its final resting place.
The expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers went winless in a 14-game season, so they're not the first champions of futility, but with two more cracks at getting in the win column, and a league which parades the mantra of "parity" at every dogleg, this was a terrible team with terrible fortune.
(7) June 26, 2008: 4th seeded Fresno State wins College World Series
Between Utah and George Mason, I pick neither as the decade's college underdog. How many championships did they win?
Fresno entered the NCAA baseball tournament unranked and with a 37-27 record. Qualifying only because they won the WAC tournament, the Bulldogs knocked off No. 2 North Carolina, No. 3 Arizona State, No. 6 Rice, and No. 8 Georgia en route to the title.
This is like a 12-seed winning the NCAA basketball Final Four. And Mason was an 11-seed. Just reaching the semifinals? BORING!
(6) March 19, 2005: Blake Hoffarber hits buzzer-beater while flat on his ass to win the Minnesota state basketball title
There might be stranger shots to win basketball games. But the odds of swishing a basket while sprawled on the ground?
When it comes to game-winners, one will presumably not be using ideal mechanics. But quite often they know how far they have to push it.
However! When you're on your back, that's another six or seven feet you have to launch the arc. I hope kids around the nation practiced that shot in their driveway, and soiled their shirts in the process.
Hoffarber wasn't done. Three years later, while playing for Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals:
Standing upright. He practically cheated.
(5) October 17, 2001: Barry Bonds hits his 73rd home run
This may go up there with DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, batting .400, or throwing a no-hitter on LSD, as a record marked by the sign of the times. Between 1998 and 2001, there were six players who knocked 63 or more home runs (Sammy Sosa three times, Mark McGwire twice, and Bonds). Since then, there were only seven occurrences of 50 or more taters, with Ryan Howard getting as high as 58 in 2006.