Are you aware of the greatest moment in United States sports history? Reflecting the unlikely beginnings of the nation, American teams and athletes have long embodied the story of the victorious underdog. Whether it was a ragtag group of hockey players defeating the world champion Russians or an African American sprinter standing up to the Nazi propaganda machine, the United States has a long history of overcoming insurmountable odds on its way to victory, and its sports teams are no different. Sports have played an important role in creating the American identity. In fact, all of the countries most popular sports, like baseball, basketball, and American football are purely American inventions. Of course, they built upon previous sports like cricket and rugby, but the uniqueness of the games is undeniable and they have taken on their own flair. Several of those sports have gone on to take the world by storm, primarily basketball, which is now one of the most watched sports in the world after football (soccer). The United States is known for its competitiveness and its love of sports is no different. If you want to fit in at the water cooler, you’re going to have to know what happened during the big game last night. Or you can just read this list. These are the 25 greatest moments in United States sports history!
The Redeem Team
In 2004 the USA men’s basketball team got a disappointing bronze medal. In 2008 the USA team defeated Spain 118-107 for the gold.
The Famous Five
During the 1976 Olympics 5 American boxers won gold medals, including Sugar Ray Leonard.
When Rulon Gardner went up against Russian Aleksandr Karelin during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, he had never won a major title. Karelin, on the other hand, was on a 13 year undefeated streak. Gardner won.
The Indomitable Spirit
When Dan Jansen found out about his sister’s death just before competing in the 1988 Olympics, the speed skater didn’t manage to win any medals. At the 1994 Olympics, however, he ended up not only winning the Gold, but also setting a world record for the 1,000 meter event. He dedicated it to his late sister.
From 2nd to 1st
Although sprinter Carl Lewis finished second in the 100 meter dash during the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he was bumped up to first when Canadian Ben Johnson failed a drug test. This made Carl a two time gold medal winner for the same event.
2014 Men's World Cup
John Brooks’ header against Ghana during the World Cup brought the US out on top and electrified the nation with soccer fever.
The Dunk Of Death
When Vince Carter dunked on 7’2″ Frederic Weis during the 2000 Olympics, it was possibly one of the most surprising and humiliating starts to any Olympic basketball game in history. Today it is remembered as the “dunk of death”.
A Son's Promise
Although Oscar De La Hoya’s mother died in 1990, after the 1992 Olympics he brought home the gold medal he had promised her before she died.
An Unlikely Vault
When Kerri Strug’s ankle gave out she could barely stand. She knew, however, that with one more vault she could get the gold for her team. She went ahead and vaulted receiving a nearly perfect score of 9.712 from the judges.
The Black Power Salute
During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City African-American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos accepted their medals with their fists raised in a black power salute. Originally they had intended to wear black gloves on both hands but John forgot his gloves. Australian silver medalist Peter Norman suggested that they split Tommie’s pair which is why John had his left hand raised instead of his right.
Muhammad Ali lights the Olympic Torch
In spite of Parkinson’s Disease Muhammad Ali lit the torch at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and it has become one of the most memorable moments of recent sporting history.
Phelps' 8 Gold Medals
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Michael Phelps won a record breaking 8 gold medals to beat Mark Spitz’s record of 7 that was set in 1972.
The Silver Refusal
During the 1972 Munich Olympics, the USA and Russian men’s basketball teams went head to head. The championship game boiled down to a controversial 3 final seconds. Although the Russians came out on top, the US team refused to accept the silver. Today the medals are still held in a vault in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The Dream Team
Prior to 1992, the United States didn’t let professional basketball players compete in the Olympics. After getting bronze in 1988, the NBA changed its stance in order to take back American basketball dominance. Not surprisingly, the 1992 USA men’s basketball team won decisive victories across the board.
1999 Women's World Cup
In 1999 the American women’s soccer team won the World Cup by beating China in the final through a penalty shootout. This victory transformed women’s soccer in the United States.
The Head Crack
During the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Greg Louganis hit his head on the springboard during some preliminary dives. In spite of being bloodied and concussed, he finished the prelims and went on to win the gold.
The 7 Golds
Before Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals, Mark Spitz won 7 golds at the 1972 Munich Games.
Landon Donovan’s clutch goal against Algeria during the 2010 Men’s World Cup in South Africa is among some of the best memories in US soccer.
Voted the greatest female athlete of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated For Women, Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s most memorable feat may have been setting a still standing heptathlon record of 7,291 points during the 1988 Olympics.
Brian Boitano (American) versus Brian Orser (Canadian) was one of the largest rivalries in Olympic history. During the 1988 Olympics they had a showdown and Boitano edged out Orser 5-4.
During the 2008 Olympics the world was left wondering how on Earth the USA women’s soccer team could be so good while the USA men’s soccer could be so bad, especially the way they beat Brazil that year.
Miracle On Ice
If you’ve ever seen Disney’s Miracle then you know that this event took place before America let pros compete in the Olympics. Comprised completely of college players, the 1980 American team was not expected to perform very well but in the end they defeated the Soviet Union and came home with the gold!
Another Unexpected Victory
The first and only time that the US soccer team reached the quarterfinals was during the 2002 World Cup in Korea.
Abby Wambach's Header
During the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Dresden, Abby’s forehead brought the US into a penalty shootout against Brazil which the Americans won. In spite of losing to Japan in the final, this was a memorable moment for the women’s soccer team.
Jesse Owens vs Hitler
During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Jesse Owens’ numerous victories singlehandedly destroyed the Nazi propaganda machine that kept claiming the superiority of the Aryan race.