<
>

The ESPN Take

7/12/2004

ESPN.com's Page 2 writers provide their memories of the 100 moments ...

61Luis Gonzalez's blooper wins Game 7 of 2001 World Series
I was sitting in the right-field press box during Game 7 and remember seeing colleague -- and fellow Yankee-hater -- Jim Caple after Alfonso Soriano's homer off Curt Schilling in the eighth inning gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Jim was sitting in the row in front of me and turned around, raised his arms to the baseball gods, and just shook his head with a sad grin of disbelief: Not again.

Another World Series title for the Yankees. I feverishly began typing up a sidebar on Soriano's exploits, how the skinny rookie had just become the latest Yankee legend, how his home run was the frozen moment we'd now remember from this amazing World Series. By the time Mariano Rivera retired the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the 8th and Randy Johnson did the same in the top of the 9th, I had finished the story. I closed down my laptop, stood up and looked down at Caple. Other reporters were heading down to the locker rooms, but we'd stay in the press box and watch the invicible Rivera finish it up.

The crowd was loud even before Mark Grace singled. And then Rivera threw away the bunt. And then Scott Brosius messed up (he could have turned a double play on the next bunt, when Rivera forced the runner at third). And then Tony Womack -- why did Bob Brenly not pinch-hit for him? -- doubled down the line. Game tied. Crowd going crazy. Caple turned around and raised his arms again to the baseball gods, with a big grin of disbelief: You're not saying ...

A few months later, I dug out my notes from the game. As I scrawled the play-by-play on my notepad, my writing became illegible; I remember why -- my hands were shaking so much from the excitement, I could barely write. So imagine Luis Gonzalez as he stepped in with the bases loaded, tie game, World Series on the line, best reliever on the planet on the mound.

I guess his hands weren't shaking quite so much.

Although I think that was a grin of disbelief on his face after his hit fell.
--David Schoenfield

62Hank Gathers collapses and dies
I was walking in NYC a few months ago, and I saw a guy
wearing a Loyola Marymount No. 44 retro jersey, which
I had never seen before. I was hit with a wave of
nostalgia about how immortal he seemed while playing
-- but how his mortality became his legacy.

Hank Gathers was college basketball's Superman. At
6-7, he might have been under-sized at power forward,
but he was larger-than-life on the court.

Leading the nation in scoring and rebounding as a
junior -- no question he was the beneficiary of Loyola
Marymount's rush-n-shoot system, but that's not fair:
To be the key trigger player in that hurry-hurry-hurry,
don't-let-the-shot-clock-run-more-than-six-seconds
offense, he had to be the most athletic college
basketball player in the country, and arguably one of
the top 5 most athletic college basketball players
ever.

That's why his fatal, on-court heart attack was so
shocking: How could Hank Gathers have a heart
not strong enough to support the amazing things he did
on the court? He was a living college hoops mythology --
half-scorer, half-rebounder, all-American -- but yet
there's the TV shot of him collapsing on the court.
On the damn court ...
--Dan Shanoff

63Magic fills in for Kareem, leads Lakers to title
Magic's night was amazing -- at that age, under those circumstances, it's the night that gives him the edge over Bird in the all-time greats discussion.

But let's not forget Jamaal "Silk" Wilkes when we remember that night. He poured in 37 in Kareem's absence.

And I do mean "poured." Silk's shot was melted butter, it was a straight shot of bourbon. He rolled those elbows and hands around and behind his head and let fly like he was just stretching, just chilling.

Magic's 42, 15, and 7 get all the credit, and the credit is deserved, but Wilkes, who was so smooth he seems to have slipped completely off the radar over the years, should be in every story about May 16, 1980, as well.
--Eric Neel

64Justin Leonard's putt wins Ryder Cup
For some reason, I can't get past those shirts, which have to rank as the ugliest golf attire ever seen. And I also have trouble getting past the U.S. celebration, running and jumping onto the green, even though Jose Maria Olazabal had a 20-foot putt left in an attempt to halve the hole and keep the match going. And I can't get past the U.S. team not admitting it broke all standards of golf etiquette, which, while sometimes a tad bit ridiculous, were violently broached in this situation.

In a way, it really summed up what the rest of the world likes to term American arrogance. Olazabal still has a crucial putt left? Who cares? Fans treating the European team with heckles and name-calling? Who cares, this is our turf. We'll wear these godawful maroon-print shirts your grandfather would lock away in his closest? Who cares, somebody is probably paying us a lot of money to wear them.

And Justin Leonard sinks a dramatic putt? Who cares, we're golfers, we're usually so freakin' boring all the time we actually don't know how to celebrate when the occasion actually calls for it. So, yes, great moment. But also a moment of disgrace.
--David Schoenfield

65Magic's hook shot beats Celtics in '87 Finals
What's interesting to me is this question: What if Magic hadn't made that hook shot? What if the Celtics win that game, grab the momentum and win the series in six games instead of the Lakers? Then what? Then maybe the Celtics become the team of '80s instead of the Lakers. Maybe the Lakers don't win again the next year (beating the Pistons). Maybe the Celtics don't lose the East finals to Detroit in '88.

Instead, the answer is clear: the Lakers won five titles in the decade, the Celtics three. The Lakers beat the Celtics twice in the Finals, the Celtics beat the Lakers just once (two of Boston's titles in the decade came against the Rockets). The Lakers were the dominating team of the '80s -- no doubt about it. True, you can argue the Celtics had the tougher conference -- they had to beat the Sixers and the Bucks early in the decade or the Pistons later in the decade. The Lakers never had a consistent rival in the West.

But in the biggest of games -- NBA Finals, Lakers vs. Celtics -- the Lakers won two of three. End of discussion.
--David Schoenfield

66'No Mas': Duran quits against Leonard
Duran seemed so invincible in the first fight. Like a lot of kids in the
States, I was a Sugar Ray guy, and like a lot of Sugar Ray guys, I thought
he'd win the first fight. But Duran beat him like a drum. There was nothing
spectacular about him, but there was no mistaking his strength and will,
either. He came on Leonard like a storm rolling unchecked across the plains,
like a roller smoothing out asphalt on a hot summer afternoon. He was a
force.

By the time the second fight rolled around, the way people once felt
about Ali going in the ring with Foreman, us Sugar Ray guys were just hoping
our guy wouldn't get hurt. The outcome seemed inevitable. Even when Sugar
Ray started bobbing, weaving, and windmilling, it was hard to see how he
could would be able to get to Duran. But then he did. Repeatedly. And, it
turned out, completely.

Duran was suddenly done. He sat in that chair like a
deflated balloon and said "No mas." We overuse the word "shocking," but this
was shocking. This was such a reversal, such a switch of the script. Now
Leonard was the bully. Now Duran was the one getting run down, run over, and
run out of town. I never knew quite what to make of it. Was Sugar Ray that
good at getting in the other guy's head? Was Duran out of shape or
depressed? What I did know, from that night on, was that anyone, even
someone with hands of stone, was beatable.

67George Brett and the great pine-tar incident
Most arguments on a baseball field are cheesy. You can't take Lou Piniella kicking dirt seriously. He looks like a drunken sailor stumbling and sliding across a ship's deck. Earl Weaver losing his gourd every other night was funny the way a dog chasing his tail is funny: "Oh, look, he's doing the thing again!" The anger always seems canned, the outcomes are never in doubt.

But Brett's charge out of the dugout was different. He really sold it. Arms waving, knees high, tobacco juice spilling out of his mouth. The man was outrage itself. Not a touch of camp in him. Pure fury. That's what separates the great ones: focus, dedication.
--Eric Neel

68Elway's gutsy run inspires Broncos to Super Bowl win
I was at Super Bowl XXXII to actually see this moment
live, but it was one of those sports moments where
"You had to be there" simply doesn't hold any weight
whatsoever. Elway's helicopter maneuver was so
ridiculous, so aesthetically improbable that it needed
a TV replay ... or 12. "Super-slow-mo" technology
only crystallizes it.

But first, a relevant digression: There's this classic
"Simpsons" scene where Ralph Wiggum publicly professes
his love to Lisa Simpson on TV, only to be rejected.
Later, using the family VCR's replay function, Bart is
able to pause the tape at the precise moment where
Ralph's heart is broken.

That was Elway's whirly-gig spin-move. It was the
precise moment when you could tell the favored
Packers were thinking, "We're actually going to lose
this game." On the other side, you could feel the
Broncos' vibe approach something close to "We aren't
just outplaying the Packers -- we're going to
win this championship."

It was an ultimate act of desperation by a Hall of
Fame QB whose resumé was only missing a Super Bowl
ring. Physical punishment was of no consequence to him
as he jumped off the ground, eyeing that critical
first down; the psychological punishment of not
making the leap would have been much more severe.

And instead, it was Elway who inflicted the
psychological punishment on the Packers -- and
inspired the Broncos to that unlikely first Super Bowl
title.
--Dan Shanoff

69Abdul-Jabbar passes Chamberlain to become NBA's all-time leading scorer
Kareem did it the right way, scoring the bucket that overtook Wilt's mark on a sky hook, the shot that Bill Russell aptly called "the most beautiful thing in sports." Another thing that happened just right: the call on the shot that gave Kareem 31,420 and 31,421 was made by Eddie Doucette, who was doing the game's play-by-play on cable's USA Network. Doucette had coined
the term "sky hook," in Jabbar's early days in Milwaukee.

I confess I didn't see the game, or if I did, I probably turned it off before the moment occurred in the fourth quarter. There had been a long buildup, of course, and Jabbar topping Chamberlain as all-time leading
scorer was inevitable.

I don't regret missing it, but I do regret dismissing the achievement as "Goliath passes Goliath." I got that all wrong. Jabbar was a graceful, elegant, and tough athlete, and the kind of person who I like -- smart, thoughtful, independent, and, it appears, almost painfully shy.

So I'm glad to see that Isiah Thomas is giving him a chance to do something meaningful for the Knicks. I'm rooting for him to get a chance to coach in the NBA, because I think he'll be, if not a great coach, a great mentor. It's a feeling that Kareem is ready, after a lifetime of what appeared to be inner turmoil, to turn out, and give. The world will be
better for it.
--Jeff Merron

70Mary Lou's magical moment
Mary Lou Retton didn't have the perfection and grace of Nadia
Comaneci; she was no pixie like Olga Korbut. But she was a smiling bulldog,
and put on one of the best pressure performances in American sports history
when she stuck the vault for the only score -- a perfect 10 -- that could
have won her the all-around gold.

Mary Lou's stunning victory also vaulted Bela Karolyi into our collective
consciousness. Prowling the sidelines from behind a barrier (he wasn't the
team coach), a bear of a man, Karolyi was almost too big for the small
screen. But the pairing with Retton worked, cut him down to size a little
(in a good way).

Retton's vault also provided the perfect metaphor for what it takes to rise
up when you're down. She'd done all that hard work, and battled Ecaterina
Szabo of Romania throughout the all-around competition. In the end, it came
down to one thing: sticking it. In gymnastics, that means a perfect,
unflinching landing. For Retton, it also meant sticking to it,
keeping on against the odds, on a bum knee, against fatigue. She was one
tough athlete.
--Jeff Merron