Three years ago today, I wrote a blog ranking the ten greatest moments in Chicago sports history since 1980. It caused a fun debate amongst many of my friends and family, and is one of the more popular posts I’ve made here on Game of Sports.
A lot has happened since then, though, and changes need to be made to the list. My criteria for this list is simple: Pure. Bliss. If all the moment does is make you giddy inside, then it’s probably going to be on the list.
Before we start the list, here’s a quick list of some honorable mentions from the past 37 years.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: John Paxson’s three-pointer to beat the Suns in the 1993 NBA Finals; MJ’s “flu game” against the Jazz in game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals; Paul Konerko’s grand slam in game 2 of the 2005 World Series; White Sox win game 163 over the Twins in 2008; Marian Hossa’s goal vs. Nashville in game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference quarterfinals; Derrick Rose’s buzzer beater vs. the Cavaliers in the 2015 Eastern Conference semi-finals; Cubs beat the Cardinals in the 2015 NLDS; Addison Russell’s grand slam in game 6 of the 2016 World Series.
Okay, that might not have been a “quick” list, but there’s been so many great moments in the past 37 years that it’s hard to narrow it down. But now that we’ve mentioned some that won’t be on the list, it’s time to countdown the top 10 greatest moments in Chicago sports history since 1980.
10) Devin Hester makes Super Bowl history – Is there any better way to start a Super Bowl than returning the opening kick for a touchdown? That’s what happened 10 years ago on a rainy night in Miami, as Devin Hester etched his name into the record books by running 92 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bears a 7-0 lead 14 seconds into the game. The entire city of Chicago was losing their minds, and it seemed the Bears were poised to win their first Super Bowl in 21 years. That didn’t happen, of course, but the Hester return still resonates fondly with many Chicago sports fans.
9) Scotty Pods walks off game 2 of the 2005 World Series – There were many unsung heroes from the White Sox 2005 World Series run, and Scott Podsednik was one of them. Podsednik sent the U.S. Cellular crowd into a frenzy when he crushed a home run off Brad Lidge, giving the Sox a 7-6 victory and a 2-0 series lead over the Astros. What made it incredible was that it was only Podsednik’s second home run of the season, both of which came in the postseason. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
8) “The Fridge” plunges into the history books – The 1985 Chicago Bears is, arguably, the most dominant team in NFL history. The defense featured three Hall of Famers, and the offense also had Walter Payton. This dominance culminated in Super Bowl 20, as the Bears crushed the Patriots 46-10. The iconic moment of this game came late in the game with the Bears already up 37-3. Sitting at the goal line, poised to score again, Mike Ditka put William “The Fridge” Perry into the game. Perry took the handoff, lunged into the end zone, and scored to cement the Bears’ dominance. The spike Perry gave the ball afterwards would become an iconic image in Super Bowl history.
7) Geoff Blum helps end the longest game in World Series history – Two days after Podsednik’s heroics, Geoff Blum played hero for the Sox in game 3 of the World Series. In what ended up being the longest game in World Series history, Blum hit a triumphant solo home run in the top of the 14th inning, giving the Sox a 6-5 lead and subsequent victory. It was Blum’s first at bat of the postseason, and it gave the Sox a commanding 3-0 series lead. It may get lost in recent years, but the 2005 White Sox were one of the most dominant playoff teams of all-time. Moments like Blum’s home run helped that.
6) “The Shot” – Need I say more? Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo to win the first round series over the Cavaliers in 1989 is the most iconic shot of the 1980s, and inspired the logo for Jordan’s shoe brand. Jordan, falling away, nailed the 16-footer over Ehlo, then jumped up and pumped his fist multiple times. It was one of many clutch shots in Jordan’s career, helping elevate Jordan as one of the league’s all-time greats.
5) One shot cements the team of the ‘90’s – The last shot of Jordan’s Bulls career was arguably his greatest, as he buried a jumper over Bryon Russell with six seconds left in game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, giving the Bulls a one-point lead. It was the most iconic shot of the 1990s, as Jordan’s crossover leaves Russell on the court, giving MJ a wide-open shot from 16-feet out. It was the sixth title in eight seasons for MJ and the Bulls, cementing the legacy of both Jordan and the Bulls’ dynasty.
4) Duncan Keith blows the roof off the United Center – You knew going in that the Blackhawks were going to win game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, especially at home. There was no way the Hawks were going back to Tampa for a game 7. The game, though, was scoreless for the first 37 minutes, leaving a lot of fans anxious. But then, as he had done all postseason, Duncan Keith stepped up, fired a shot on Ben Bishop, then followed up the shot with another one, this one going over the left shoulder of Bishop and into the back of the net. It was an incredible goal from the Hawks’ best player in the 2015 playoffs, and it sent the UC into an all-time frenzy. 22 minutes later, the Hawks were hoisting their third Cup in six seasons, and Keith was the Conn Smythe winner.
3) Patrick Kane ends a 49-year drought – It’s such a great moment, yet nobody saw it. Patrick Kane’s game winning goal against the Flyers to win the 2010 Stanley Cup Final is one of the craziest, most surreal moments not only in Chicago sports history, but sports history overall. Nobody saw the puck go into the back of the net, expect Patrick Kane of course. After Philadelphia sent the game to overtime with a late third period goal, Kane won the title for the Hawks when he fired a shot under the padding of Michael Leighton and into the side pocket of the net. The angle the shot was at made it nearly impossible for anyone to see it go in, and it was a delayed celebration for Hawks fans everywhere. The shot did go in, though, and a dynasty was started.
2) 2 goals, 17 seconds, Cup #2 – I rank this moment higher than Kane’s goal because, simply put, we saw it happen. The 2013 Stanley Cup Final was poised to go to a game 7, but the Hawks had other ideas. It started with Bryan Bickell, who took an amazing pass from Jonathan Toews and put the shot through the five-hole of Tuukka Rask, tying the game with 1:16 left in the game. That wasn’t enough, though, as 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland took the rebound of a Johnny Oduya shot and put it into a wide-open net, suddenly giving the Hawks a 3-2 lead with less than a minute to go. It stunned the Boston crowd and gave the Hawks their second title in four seasons. It solidified the Hawks as one of the top teams of the decade and proved 2010 wasn’t a one-and-done for this core of players.
1) Goats be damned, the Cubs are World Series champions – Was anything else going to be number 1? Even if you aren’t a Cubs fan, this has to be the greatest Chicago sports moment of all-time. Finally, after 108 years of futility and frustration, the Cubs won the one thing nobody thought they’d ever win: the World Series. Not only did the Cubs win the Series, but they won it in grand fashion. Down 3-1 in the series, the Cubs staved off elimination twice, once in Chicago and once in Cleveland, to force a winner-take-all game 7 at Progressive Field. The game had everything you’d want in a baseball game and then some: clutch hitting, clutch pitching, drama on every pitch and every crack of the bat. Oh, and there was a FREAKING RAIN DELAY! It was a glorious, 4+ hour thrill ride of a sporting event, culminating with the greatest curse in sports history FINALLY being broken. It was the most viewed baseball game in 25 years, and will go down as one of the greatest sporting events of all time.
And that’s the list! Did I miss anything? Feel free to comment and embrace the debate!