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Twenty for Twenty

The 20 Greatest Acts of Sport Since 1992
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Jeremy Irons, March/April 2013

(continued from page 5)

The 2004 comeback remains singular: Boston overcame a three-games-to-none deficit against the New York Yankees. In 2007 they won again, sweeping Colorado.

The team’s victories in 2004 and 2007 owed in large part to two sluggers—Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz—both of whom were found to have used performance enhancing drugs. If grown men want to celebrate dubious events, such as David Ortiz’s 400th home run in 2012—which many baseball writers did, without a word of context about the cheating revelations years earlier—let them. Likewise, Yankee fans should see the Mitchell Report before recalling fondly their victory in the 2000 World Series. Clemens, David Justice, Chuck Knoblauch and others on that team have all been accused of using performance enhancers.
   
15. Dream Team
Forever Unequalled

We can recall Seoul in 1988, when collegians, led by David Robinson, watched the Soviets take gold, Yugoslavia silver, and America bronze. An 82–76 semifinal loss to the Soviets sealed the fate of college players.

Then came the varsity in ’92. In Barcelona America thumped its opponents by 43.8 points per game. Its 117.3 points per game were 15 more than the 1960 team in Rome that included Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. The closest anyone came in ’92 was Croatia, which lost 117–85 in the final. In 2012, James and company posted 106 points per game and won by a margin of 32.1 points. But the original dreamers had perimeter bombers with Bird, Mullins and Jordan; half-court maestros in John Stockton and Magic Johnson; rebounding in Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Robinson, and Patrick Ewing. Against that frontcourt, who would board for the London boys? Kevin Love? Carmelo Anthony?

Chuck Daley was right 20 years ago: “You will see another team of professionals, but I don’t think you will see another team like this.”
 
16. New York Giants
Two Upsets

Giants’ president John Mara explained Super Bowl XLII was the “greatest victory in franchise history; we beat a team that was 18–0.” The Giants were 12-point underdogs, the fourth biggest in Super Bowl history. After Brady drove the Patriots to a 14–10 lead, Eli Manning had 2:42 to play with. “Isn’t this the way you like it?” one ref asked another. Manning’s third-and-five Houdini escape from a rush and David Tyree’s circus catch for 32 yards set up a slant-and-go 11-yard touchdown to Burress. Even Brady couldn’t maneuver with 0:39 remaining. The Giants sacked Brady five times and knocked him down 23 times.

Four years later, Manning started on his 12, trailing 17–15 with 3:46 remaining. He redialed the Tyree moment, dashing left from the pocket and arching a 38-yarder along the left sideline to Mario Manningham, who caught it fully extended and righted his feet to stay in bounds. Manning couldn’t have handed it to Manningham any better. Aerials to Manningham and Nicks and runs by Bradshaw gave the Giants a 21–17 victory.

Amid discussions of his status as an “elite” quarterback—and, later, an absurd ranking by his peers as just the 31st best player in the league—Manning delivered again. His 15 passing touchdowns in fourth quarters broke the record of brother Peyton and John Unitas.

17. Pittsburgh
The “Sixburgh” Steelers

Could it be that Steel Town—following the ’70s juggernaut of Bradshaw, Harris, Swan, Stallworth and a skeleton-rearranging defense—didn’t win for another 26 years? Super Bowl XL between Pittsburgh and Seattle was a sleepy affair, won by Pittsburgh 21–10. With a setlist that included “Start Me Up” and “Satisfaction,” the Stones were the liveliest act that day.


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