Career-Launching Sports Moments

By Mark Riddix | April 23, 2010 AAA

We all know of highly-touted athletes who have produced great plays in the biggest of games. But history is also full of ordinary players that were able to step up and produce extraordinary results in a single game. These unlikely heroes may have hit the game-winning shot in the NBA Finals or smashed the tie-breaking home run in the MLB playoffs. It only takes one breakout performance on the big stage to launch a player into the national spotlight. Here are a few of the athletes who have risen from relative anonymity to super stardom in one brilliant move. (Keep the kids out of your hair and wallet by saving on summer camps, sports leagues, day trips and more. Find out how, in Budget-Friendly Summer Fun.)
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  • Aaron Boone
    Aaron Boone is remembered by Yankees and Red Sox fans alike for hitting a game winning walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game seven of the 2003 American League Champion Series. Boone was having a miserable series with just three hits in 20 at bats, but that all changed with just one crack of the bat. The home run vaulted Boone into legendary status in Yankee lore and made him a hated man in the city of Boston.

    ESPN rated Boone's home run as the 39th most memorable moment of the past 100 years. Before hitting the historic home run, Boone toiled in anonymity, He was best known for being the son of former major league All Star catcher Bob Boone and the brother of three-time All Star second baseman Bret Boone.

  • David Tyree
    It is simply referred to as "The Catch II." Everyone remembers the 18-0 Patriots on their way to capping off an undefeated season in the Super Bowl. With just a minute remaining and the Giants trailing 14 to 10, Tyree hauled in a miraculous 32-yard reception. The ball was pinned to his helmet, just barely a few inches off of the ground. Tyree's fingertip catch put the Giants in position to score the game winning touchdown, thereby ending the Patriots undefeated campaign. NFL Films named it "The Play of The Decade" and ESPN voted it "The Greatest Play in Super Bowl History."

    The catch thrust Tyree onto the national scene. He went from being a fourth-string wide receiver to a media darling with appearances on major television networks. Tyree even wrote a book titled More Than Just The Catch. (Can butter production help you predict the market's next move? Find out, in World's Wackiest Stock Indicators.)

  • James "Buster" Douglas
    In 1990, Buster Douglas shocked the world by knocking out heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan. Douglas knocked Tyson out in the 10th round of the boxing match to complete one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. "Iron Mike" was considered unbeatable with 37 wins, 0 losses and 33 knockouts. Tyson was a heavy favorite in the fight, having disposed of previous foes with ease. Douglas was a relatively unknown in the world of boxing before his stunning upset of Tyson. He was an average boxer who most experts gave little chance of beating Tyson.

    After the win Douglas reaped the rewards of his win with appearances in television programs and movies. He also had his own video game titled "James Buster Douglas Knockout Boxing." (Blood, sweat and tears should belong in the gym, but your money deserves some training time too. Read more, in Get Your Budget In Fighting Shape.)

  • Robert Horry
    Robert Horry made a name for himself by hitting a game winning shot with 6.5 seconds left in the first game of the 1995 Western Conference Finals. Horry's jump shot gave the Rockets a 94-93 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

    This was just the start of things to come for Horry. He earned the nickname "Big Shot Bob" because of his knack for hitting clutch shots with the game on the line. He has knocked down game-winning threes in the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, and made the famous last second winning three-pointer against the Sacramento Kings. Horry has won seven NBA championships throughout his illustrious career. (People often compare stocks to gambling, but how close are they really? Find out, in Going All-In: Comparing Investing And Gambling.)

  • Roger Bannister
    In 1954, the British medical student became the first man in the world to run a mile in under four minutes flat. Bannister's time of 3:59.4 seconds set a new world record. This was an amazing accomplishment for the runner, who failed to medal during the 1952 Olympics. Bannister finished a disappointing fourth place in Helsinki. Two years later, he ran his record breaking time in Oxford, England before 3,000 spectators. The win brought Bannister recognition around the globe and he was voted the first ever "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated in 1954.

  • Larry Brown
    The little-known Dallas Cowboys cornerback became a household name after his performance in the Super Bowl. Brown intercepted two passes from Neil O'Donnell to win the MVP award in Super Bowl XXX. Brown parlayed his breakout performance into a five-year $12.5 million dollar contract from the Oakland Raiders.

The Bottom Line
Many athletes have become household names by stepping up under pressure and making the most of their moment in the sun. By capitalizing on their opportunities, these athletes will now be remembered in sports history.

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