There’s nothing sports fans love to discuss more than an iconic play. What makes a play iconic? Often it’s because of the magnitude of the occasion and the composure of the athlete in clutch situations. But sometimes it’s because of a unique piece of improvisation and individual brilliance.
These plays come in all kinds of sports. Today we’ll take a look at everything from NFL to NBA. We chronicled iconic moments from professional sports as well as college games. They’re all brilliant and entertaining. Check out the list below via Reddit and Bleacher Report.
30. The 4-Point Play
“Larry Johnson’s 4-point play for the win in the playoffs against the Pacers was the greatest sporting moment I have witnessed,” SheepishEffect wrote. New York Knicks fans haven’t had a lot to celebrate over the decades, but this was definitely an iconic moment. It occurred in 1999 against the Indiana Pacers in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Depleted after losing Patrick Ewing to injury in the previous game, the Knicks were up against it. But Larry Johnson turned it on and entered Knicks folklore with a stellar three-pointer while being fouled at the same time. Somehow, he held his nerve to score the game-winning free throw under pressure. All of this sent the crowd into a frenzy, which only added to the intensity of the moment.
“The craziest I’ve seen is the ending to the Iron Bowl (Auburn vs. Alabama football game) in 2013. I’m a hardcore Alabama fan but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Connor44533 revealed on Reddit. This was a glorious way for one of college football’s most iconic games to end. The kick-six was one of those plays that occur so rarely but is sensational to watch when it does.
Auburn came from behind twice to tie the game but it looked like Alabama was finally going to win with a field goal. But the 57-yard-kick was short and Auburn star Chris Davis ran the entire length of the field through players of both teams to score the most unlikely touchdown. Many believe that this is the greatest play in college football history and it’s definitely up there.
“I’m about to relive this LiverpoolBarcelona game. “Corner taken quickly”. It gets better every time,” @MoReeza_Khan tweeted. Those three words refer to Liverpool’s fourth goal in the second leg of their Champion’s League semi-final against Barcelona. After they lost the first game 3-0, they knew that they needed to score at least three at home to send the tie to extra time. But instead, they scored four to win outright.
Their fourth goal came late in the game after an ingenious play by Trent Alexander-Arnold. He quickly took a corner before the Barcelona defenders were prepared and caught them off-guard. Divock Origi was on hand to apply the finishing touches and send them to the final. Steve Hunter’s words ‘Corner taken quickly… ORIGI!” was the perfect companion to this wildest of goals.
In 2014, Yoenis Cespedes pulled off the throw of the year against the Los Angeles Angels. The Oakland Athletics star wiped out Howie Kendrick with this ridiculous throw Picture this: bottom of the eighth, scored tied at 1-1, and Cespedes lunges after Mike Trout’s liner into foul territory. But he recovered and unleashed a 300-foot heave that stunned the entire arena.
“As an Angels fan, this was one of those plays where when I saw it happen on TV I was on the floor groaning in despair and at the same time thinking “HOLY. CRAP. THAT WAS AWESOME,” Thorlolita wrote on Reddit. It was easier for the Angels to stomach because they won the game 2-1. However, it was still an iconic moment and a stellar piece of skill from Cespedes.
“Titans stopped at the one yard. I was salty after losing 3 times in one season to them but that made up for it,” Conbon7 wrote on Reddit. Football fans are a vengeful bunch but this was definitely a palate cleanser for the Rams fans. St. Louis met the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. After falling behind, a magnificent Kurt Warner pass brought the Rams back into the game.
But the Titans weren’t finished. They surged upfield and it looked as though they were about to score. However, they didn’t count on the presence of one man. Mike Jones took out Kevin Dyson just one-yard short of the endzone to save the day for his team. It was the wildest ending to the game and also heartbreaking for Tennessee. They came so near but in the end, were really so far away.
Ray Allen’s three-pointer in 2013 is one of the wildest NBA Finals moments ever. The Miami Heat star tied the game against the San Antonio Spurs in the most clutch of circumstances. He didn’t win the MVP award but deserved it for this moment alone. That’s because it sent the series to overtime and allowed the Heat to win that elusive Championship. If it wasn’t for Allen they would have fallen short again.
“What’s remarkable about the play is how quickly Allen measures the distance to ensure he’s shooting from deep,” a fan wrote on Reddit. “You can imagine a lot of players sensing a double-team closeout, panicking, and either shooting too close, passing or stepping out-of-bounds. Allen was born to make that shot.” In sum, he’s totally right because this was a career-defining play.
“It’s not the greatest, but Devin Hester’s opening return was awesome,” asheridan33 wrote on Reddit. “I remember watching and it seemed like everyone knew what was going to happen.” Of course, he referred to the Chicago Bears’ lone bright spot in their Super Bowl defeat to the Indianapolis Colts in 2007. It was a bad day for Chicago but Hester started the game off so well for them.
This was one of the wildest openings to any Super Bowl. He returned the opening kickoff for a 92-yard touchdown. It all went downhill from there for Hester and co, but at least they had that one bright moment. Meanwhile, Hester earned a reputation as the best return man of all time.
“Has to be this, considering it was a key play that led to Cleveland winning their first championship, and it was against the 73 win Warriors, and it was game 7, and they came back from being down 3-1,” Chunxxxx wrote. This was the most important moment in Cleveland Cavaliers history and a career-defining moment for the greatest player of the 21st century.
In short, his wildest play came late in the fourth quarter in the most clutch of circumstances. With less than two minutes left in the final game of the Championship series, LeBron produced when it was most needed. He blocked Andre Iguodala’s effort to set up and shot to keep the team’s level. Meanwhile, James was the series’ MVP after putting on the greatest NBA Finals performance ever.
“To this day I still get goosebumps watching the Aguero goal vs QPR even though I’ve watched it 97868685858 times,” @safaa631 tweeted. “One of the most ICONIC goals in Premier League history.” In 2012, nouveau-riche Manchester City was in pursuit of their first Premier League title. They knew that a win would see them over the line. Anything less could see Manchester United snatch it from their grasp.
QPR kept City at bay and it looked like United were on course to seal a title win in dramatic fashion. But then Sergio Aguero provided one of the wildest and most iconic moments in soccer folklore. His 94th goal sealed the win for City and ignited a new era. It was dramatic and sensational in equal measure. Furthermore, City made the transition into one of Europe’s strongest teams.
“Jordan’s final minute with Chicago is perfect basketball,” Klawbaka wrote on Reddit. “Two clutch free-throws, quick layup through a double-team to cut the deficit to 1, expert leak-out to force the turnover on Malone, excellent clock management, sneaky push-off to create space on a fake-out drive, buries the jumper. He essentially erased Utah’s three-point lead by himself.”
He is absolutely correct because Jordan went out on a high. Of course, this wasn’t officially the end of his NBA career because he also played for the Washington Wizards. But it definitely felt like it. Anyway, he reminded all of the league’s fans of his abilities and bowed out of the Windy City with a performance befitting a champion. Nobody is quite like him.
“The beast quake run was one of the best runs I’ve seen in my lifetime,” Cunhabear wrote. This was when Marshawn Lynch was the most ferocious running back in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks played the Saints in an NFC Wild Card Game in 2010. The stakes were high but nobody expected one of the most scintillating moments of play of the entire season.
Lynch went on the wildest run of his career. He broke nine tackles on his way to the endzone because he was like a battering ram. Finally, his 67-yard touchdown secured the win for the Seahawks. It marked the revitalization of Lynch’s career after arriving that season from the Bills. Furthermore, the ‘quake’ aspect of this run was literal because the Seattle fans celebrated so hard it triggered a seismograph reading.
“I’d say the Butler Interception, the momentum was all Seahawks at that moment, and it felt like the dynasty was about to be cemented,” BungoPlease wrote on Reddit. “And then wham Malcolm Butler knocks the air out of the whole franchise.” From one iconic Seahawks moment to another, unfortunately, this one isn’t good for the franchise at all. However, for the rest of the NFL, it’s one of the wildest Super Bowl moments ever.
With just 20 seconds left in the game, Seattle had the opportunity to seal their victory. Russell Wilson had to choose between offloading to Marshawn Lynch or floating a pass toward wideout Ricardo Lockette. He chose the latter option but then Pats rookie Butler picked off the pass to win the game for New England. It was a devastating moment for the Seahawks but a great one for the Patriots.
“Tyson Fury getting back up from that knockdown vs Wilder could be the greatest sports moment of my life,” Tony Watt wrote. After outclassing Deontay Wilder for most of their first fight, the Bronze Bomber finally caught Fury with a massive right hand. Fury was unconscious. But somehow, like Lazarus, he rose from the dead and even fought back to win the remainder of the round.
‘When I said five his eyes popped open like I startled him’ referee Jack Weiss revealed. It was the wildest boxing moment of the decade because Fury was out cold before suddenly snapping back to full alertness. The fact that he dominated Wilder for the remainder of the fight was almost equally incredible. Meanwhile, Wilder’s face after Fury rose to his feet was a sight to behold. Fury then defeated Wilder in a one-sided rematch.
“Definitely the helmet catch, it was by far the biggest play of that game, if not the season. If that play isn’t made, do the Patriots go 19-0?” NFLer247 wrote on Reddit. “If the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year then Tom Brady may have retired.” This is a fantastic point and all the more crazy in hindsight after Brady won his seventh Super Bowl ring with Tampa Bay.
This was one of the wildest moments in Super Bowl history. In 2008, the New York Giants played the Patriots and produced one of the craziest game-winning plays ever. Eli Manning threw to David Tyree who secured the pass by pressing the ball against his helmet, giving the play its famous moniker. Meanwhile, it ended the Pats’ hopes of finishing the season with a perfect record.
“Julio Jones sideline catch to end the game was the greatest play I ever saw,” rahimmoore26 wrote on Reddit. Of course, this is subjective but it definitely was a fantastic moment of athleticism by the Falcons’ wide receiver. This wildest of catches came against the New England Patriots in 2017. Jones produced the poise of a ballet dancer as he defied the laws of physics and gravity.
Furthermore, he pulled off the move not once but twice, with an even more dramatic second catch. Jones received a lot of criticism after the Falcons went crazy trying to sign him. But he was a major part of Matt Ryan’s MVP season and was also one of the most naturally talented wideouts in the league. This was the kind of play that fans expect these super-athletes to pull off.
DC United played Orlando in 2018 with the scores tied at 2-2. D.C needed a win but wasted a corner late in the game. Orlando surged upfield with a foot race between their striker and DC’s iconic striker Wayne Rooney. The veteran forward charged back and made a crunching tackle to save his team from conceding another goal. Then, he picked out the perfect pass to assist the winning goal.
It was a testament to his quality and desire that he was able to find the legs to get back and then make the pass. “One of the best plays in football ever,” bratmojmojbrat commented on YouTube. “I’m not even prisoner of the moment this is just something you think you are never going to see.” This comment encapsulate’s Rooney’s hunger for soccer because he gave everything.
“James Harrison running 101 yards and Larry Fitzgerald running 102 yards to just miss running him down,” NoleJawn wrote on Reddit. This iconic moment was one of the most scintillating in Super Bowl history. In short, it’s exactly as the fan described. Pittsburgh’s Harrison surged upfield and scored the touchdown as Fitzgerald fell agonizingly short of preventing him.
Harrison required oxygen after the run because he poured so much energy and exertion into it. The big linebacker spent 14 seasons with the Steelers but he didn’t end his career there. He finally left Soldier’s Field for the New England Patriots. Then, many Pittsburgh fans burnt their jerseys. However, this incredible play deserves respect because it was so exciting.
“Off the top of my head, I think it’d be The Flip. Like, say what you will about Jeter and all, but that was some 200+ Baseball IQ s**t right there,” Mozilla_Fennekin wrote. This iconic play was one of the best of the decade and a highlight moment of Jeter’s career. The Yankees were in big trouble against the Oakland Athletics but nobody counted on Jeter’s ability to change the momentum of the game.
As Oakland’s Giambi approached third base, it looked like the game was leaving the Yankees behind. But Jeter nipped in to pick up the ball and flip it to Posada in style. It totally reversed the outcome of the game and the Yankees went on to win. The intelligence of Jeter’s movement and the pass itself were both things of beauty for MLB fans to behold.
“My fav is Kobe game-winner on DWade on one leg,” sirfartsalot10 wrote. This is definitely an iconic play because it perfectly encapsulates Bryant’s ability in the clinch. The Lakers played the Miami Heat in 2009. The Heat were leading with less than four seconds left on the clock. It looked like Dwayne Wade was too much for Bryant on the day, but the Black Mamba stepped up to the plate.
Wade stuck with Bryant all the way over to the left side when the latter pulled off a stunning buzzer-beater. On one leg he got off his shot while floating to the left and sealed the win for his team. It just goes to show that nobody could write off Bryant in his heyday. Meanwhile, it was a phenomenal duel between two future Hall of Famers. To sum up, he was in a different class.
“One of my favorite highlights of all time!” @eighthokage8 tweeted. “A struggling Fernando Torres scoring a crucial goal against one of the best Barcelona teams to send Chelsea to the final of the Champions League and ended up winning the whole thing against Bayern in their own backyard in Germany.” To sum up, this wildest of moments sealed Torres’s unlikely place in Chelsea folklore for eternity.
The Spaniard was magnificent for Liverpool but failed to win any trophies during his time on Merseyside. Then he left the Reds for Chelsea after the Blues paid $55 million for his services. Injuries took their toll and he failed to deliver the goals the team expected. However, this goal in 2012 instantly earned him the status of a cult hero. Nobody can take that away from him.
Conor McGregor’s destruction of Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds was one of the wildest moments in combat sports history. Sure, it’s not exactly a play like the NFL, but in terms of opportunism in the clutch, this is up there. In short, after months of receiving ferocious antagonism, Aldo waded forward toward the Irishman. But the Notorious caught him with an iconic left hand and finished his foe with some unneeded ground and pound.
This was one of the most anticipated MMA fights of all time because McGregor’s rise was unprecedented. Meanwhile, Aldo was one of the top fighters in the world up until that point. “Seems McGregor brought about the end of Aldo’s prime,” @SpankDrDeerheim tweeted. “Got in his head, destroyed him, and he was never the same afterward. Still an all-time great, but McGregor subverted his reign.”
“The bomb from Vick to Jackson on the first play from scrimmage starting the Monday Night Massacre was unbelievable,” JeddHampton wrote on Reddit. The Monday Night Massacre took place in 2010 and was Michael Vick’s single best performance as a quarterback. Andy Reid got the best out of him that season but it culminated in an iconic display on the road against the Redskins.
He threw six touchdown passes on the night, but the first was the best. It was a phenomenal 88-yard touchdown pass that saw Vick throw the ball through the eye of a needle. Meanwhile, it was one of the best games by an Eagles quarterback in franchise history. Even though he endured mixed fortunes during his time in Philadelphia, Vick was glorious in this game.
“Big Ben to Santonio Holmes in the corner over 3 guys with only his toenails touching in bounds. For the W,” kander12 wrote on Reddit. This moment came in the culmination of the 2008 season. The Pittsburgh Steelers played the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl but the game was in the balance. That was until the Steelers quarterback combined with Holmes for an iconic moment.
Roethlisberger’s six-yard pass to Holmes was a thing of beauty between the two men. ‘Big Ben’ avoided the pick-six while Holmes demonstrated perfect composure to pluck the ball from the air. Meanwhile, it continued the Cardinals’ miserable Super Bowl run. Furthermore, Holmes won the game’s MVP award for his phenomenal contributions. What a performance it was.
“The Philly Special was cool because it renamed a very common trick play. It’s been a thing for decades before and will be for decades since, but now it’s the Philly Special,” NaruTheBlackSwan explained. Doug Pedersen made one of the biggest gambles of his career in 2018 with one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history. It became known as the Philly Special after Nick Foles’ one-yard touchdown.
It came at the end of the first half when Nick Foles caught Trey Burton’s pass. After lining up in an I Formation, Foles snuck into the endzone where he was on-hand to complete the audacious move. It set the Eagles on the road to win the coveted Super Bowl title. After the game, many questioned the legality of the move. Furthermore, Pedersen explained Philadelphia knew that they needed to be clinical at every opportunity.
The Sooners played OSU in a 2011 college grudge match. While the former won the game, it was Oklahoma State who pulled off the play of the game. It looked like Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones was trying to pass the ball away when OSU defensive back Broderick Brown intervened. In short, he went airborne. It instantly became an iconic moment for OSU because it was so dramatic.
He tipped the ball into the hands of linebacker Shaun Lewis to pull off an incredible interception. “Broderick Brown saved the ball as it was flying out of bounds like he was playing basketball and it landed in Shaun Lewis’s hands for the INT,” Wes___Mantooth described. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.” To sum up, it was a brilliant piece of improvisation and sheer dedication to the cause.
It’s difficult to describe most combat sports’ moments as ‘plays’ because they are so spontaneous. But in this case, strategy played a massive role in one of the most iconic UFC knockouts ever. Jorge Masvidal fought Ben Askren in 2019 in a high-stakes welterweight clash. He knew exactly what Askren planned to do. As the former Bellator and ONE champion leaned forward for a takedown, Masvidal surged into him with a brutal flying knee.
Askren went out cold and stiff like a cadaver after just five seconds of action. “It was a calculated and well-presented knee that also was a product of fortunate circumstance (luck helped),” @CallahanKeah tweeted. “Everyone knewAskren was gonna shoot for a double knee, and Masvidal played it cool until he didn’t. IMO they should run it back.”
“I think Kawhi’s buzzer-beater vs the 76ers has a case considering what it led to,” Jedi-Master-Kenobi wrote on Reddit. He might not be the real Jedi Master but this is definitely a wise take. His iconic moment in game seven of the NBA semifinals against Philadelphia and sealed the win for Toronto. It bounced off the rim four times before finally, agonizingly, falling through.
It was a moment of iconic magnificence in the clutch. Then, the Raptors went on to win the NBA Championship in the most unlikely of circumstances. However, if it wasn’t for Leonard they would never have got their hands on those rings. This was arguably the most important play of their entire run because the tension was so thick and the stakes were so high.
“Nebraska’s Jordan Westerkamp’s behind the back catch was insane and a pretty underrated catch, something I’ll never forget,” AlwaysHuskin wrote on Reddit. Westerkamp isn’t the most famous football player on the planet but he did have one iconic highlight-reel moment. It came in a game for Nebraska against Northwestern and was a truly scintillating piece of skill.
As he ran a route toward the sideline, a defender tipped the throw and forced Westerkamp to improvise. Somehow he managed to catch the ball behind his back before running out of play. Furthermore, it won the college football play of the year in 2014. Westerkamp never managed to achieve a brilliant professional career. He signed for the likes of the Toronto Argonauts but only made their practice squad.
“I was in the upper tier right behind the goal you could see it was going in the minute it left his foot,” @kglfc96 described. In 2006, Liverpool played West Ham in the FA Cup final. With just seconds left on the clock, Liverpool trailed by a single goal. Then, their phenomenal captain Steven Gerrard pulled out a magic trick. The ball rebounded out to him and he hit a first-time shot into the net from 30 yards.
Shaka Hislop dived in the West Ham goal but couldn’t get near it. Gerrard’s iconic shot sent the game to extra time and, finally, Liverpool won the penalty shootout. Without their captain’s contribution, Liverpool had no chance of winning the game. But he dragged them kicking and screaming over the line. This also sealed his legacy as one of England’s greatest midfielders.
“Randy Moss’ hook and ladder may be one of the most underrated plays of all time,” Randy_____Marsh wrote on Reddit. This glorious moment came in 2003 when Moss was one of the Minnesota Vikings’ biggest stars. He caught Daunte Culpepper’s 50-yard pass and unleashed the hook-and-ladder to Moe Williams for the touchdown. It was one of the wildest and smoothest plays of the season.
The play came in week seven of the season but still captured iconic status because it was so well-executed. Meanwhile, it’s still mad to consider how good this Vikings team was and the fact that they never won a Super Bowl. Moss and Culpepper were a dynamic duo and two of the best in the positions of their era. To sum up, this is a great play to end this list.