50 Most Shocking Moments in Sports

by Paul Knepper

Over the past twenty-five years there have been numerous incidents in sports that completely floored us, from an untimely death, to a gruesome injury, to a stunning upset, to the simply bizarre. Many of these moments have become universal experiences, memories shared by sports fans every where. As you head towards the top of the list, I guarantee many of you will remember exactly where you were when some of those shocking events occurred.

Here’s my list of the 50 most shocking moments in sports over the past 25 years. As always, let me know if you think there’s something I left out.

50) Dale Hunter viciously crosschecked Islanders’ center Pierre Turgeon in the back, separating his shoulder, while Turgeon was celebrating a goal in the decisive game of a 1993 playoff series with the Capitals.

49) The Metrodome roof collapsed during a snowstorm this past winter.

48) Nets star Drazen Petrovic was killed in a car accident during the prime of his career.

47) Fans at the Alamodome got drenched when the sprinkler system malfunctioned during the opening game of the Spurs season in 1994.

46) Thirteen-year-old Brittanie Cecil died after getting struck in the forehead by an errant slap shot off the stick of Columbus Blue Jacket center Espen Knutsen.

45) When the Cowboys blocked the Dolphins potential game-winning field goal attempt on Thanksgiving Day 1993, all the Cowboys needed to do was stay away from the ball and they would win the game. But Leon Lett came flying in and dove on the ball, giving the Phins another attempt, which they capitalized on. Of course, this wasn’t Lett’s first major blunder.

44) Marty McSorley struck Canucks forward Donald Brashear on the head with his stick in a game between the Bruins and Vancouver.

43) Jose Offerman hit the pitcher and catcher with a bat in an independent league game after being plunked by a pitch.

42) Roseanne Barr spit and grabbed her crotch after being booed for her pathetic version of the Star Spangled Banner at Jack Murphy Stadium.

41) Unprovoked, NBA “Bad Boy” Dennis Rodman kicked a cameraman in the nuts after tumbling out of bounds during a Bulls game.

40) Todd Bertuzzi brutally sucker punched Steve Moore, then slammed his head into the ice in a game between Vancouver and Colorado in 2004.

39) In 1989 the all-time hit king, Pete Rose, was banished from baseball for life.

38) Maple Leaf enforcer Tie Domi squirted water at a Flyers fan and then pummeled him when he jumped into the penalty box.

37) Oliver McCall started crying and refused to enter the ring for the fifth round of his Heavyweight title bout with Lennox Lewis.

36) Izzy Alcantara kicked the catcher in the facemask before charging the mound after being brushed back by a pitch in a minor league game.

35) Brandi Chastain took off her jersey after striking the winning goal against China in the final game of the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

34) In a 1993 game vs. the Nets, Shaquille O’Neal dunked the ball so hard that he brought down the entire backboard.

33) Pedro Martinez threw Don Zimmer to the ground by his bald head after Zim charged him during a brawl in the 2003 ALCS.

32) Less than a year after surgery to remove cancer from his pitching arm, Dave Dravecky’s arm snapped as he threw a pitch.

31) The Andrew Golota – Riddick Bowe fight turned into a brawl when Bowe’s people attacked Golota after he was disqualified for repeated low blows.

30) Millions of tiny bugs called midges swarmed Jacobs Field during Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS between the Yankees and Indians.

28) Roger Clemens threw a piece of Mike Piazza’s shattered bat at the Mets catcher during the 2000 Subway Series.

27) Double-A manager Phillip Wellman’s legendary tirade included crawling on the field, hurling bases into the outfield and throwing the rosin bag at the umpire as if it were a grenade.

26) Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy ended up swinging from Alonzo Mourning’s leg when he tried to break up a fight between the Heat and Knicks during the 1998 playoffss.

25) Twenty-six-year-old Robin Ventura was beat down by Nolan Ryan, 20 years his elder, when he charged the mound after being beaned.

24) Rosie Ruiz appeared to have won the 84th Boston Marathon, but was later exposed as a fraud who jumped out of the crowd near the end of the race.

23) After disposing of Lou Savarese in the first round, Mike Tyson turned his attention to the heavyweight champion: “Lennox Lewis, I’m coming for you man. My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable, and I’m just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise be to Allah!”

22) Replays confirmed that Diego Maradona used his hand to score a goal to secure Argentina’s victory over England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-finals, but the referees didn’t see it. After the game Maradona coyly stated that the goal was scored by “the hand of God.”

21) Michael Jordan retired from the NBA  for the first time at the age of 30 after back-to-back-to-back championships.

20) Minor league right fielder Rodney McCray ran through the outfield wall in pursuit of a fly ball.

19) A dove exploded on impact when it flew in the path of a Randy Johnson fastball in a spring training game.

18) Days after being drafted #2 overall by the Boston Celtics, Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose.

17) Warriors guard Latrell Sprewell savagely choked his coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice.

16) French midfielder Zinedine Zidane was given a red card after headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the finals of the 2006 World Cup.

15) Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers collapsed and died on the court during a game.

14) Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was shot and killed in Medellin, presumably for inadvertently scoring on his own goal in the 1994 World Cup.

13) Mookie Wilson’s slow roller to first went through the legs of Bill Buckner to win Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

12) “Fan Man” paraglided into the ring during a title fight between Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe.

11) Royals’ first base coach Tom Gamboa was randomly jumped by two fans at Comiskey Park.

10) Blood poured from Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk’s throat after it was accidentally slit by an opposing players skate.

9) In perhaps the greatest upset in sports history, Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson on February 11, 1990.

8)  Michael Sergio parachuted onto the infield at Shea Stadium during Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

7) An earthquake rocked Candlestick Park minutes before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between the Giants and Athletics.

6) On November 7, 1991 Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive and was retiring from basketball immediately.

5) A crazed Steffi Graf  fan stabbed Monica Seles in the back during a break in the action of her match at the 1993 Citizen Cup in Hamburg.

4) Tonya Harding’s ex-husband enlisted thug Jeff Gillooly to attack Harding’s rival Nancy Kerrigan.

3) Ron Artest started a melee when he attacked a fan in the stands at the Palace in Auburn Hills in what came to be known as the “Malice at the Palace.”

2) Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear. Then chomped down on the other one moments later.

1) Game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals was interrupted to show football Hall-of-Famer O.J. Simpson fleeing from the police in a white Ford Bronco.

Honorable mentions:

– Chris Webber called timeout in the closing seconds of the 1993 NCAA Tournament Championship game.

– Roberto Alomar spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck.

– Carl Lewis’ ceremonial first pitch in Seattle actually rivaled his unforgettable rendition of the national anthem.

– Browns tackle Orlando Brown knocked down the ref after being hit in the eye with a penalty flag.

– Donnie Moore committed suicide a few years after giving up the game-winning home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS.

– Barry Sanders walked away from football in his prime.

– Serena Williams threatened a lineswoman after being called for a foot fault during her semifinal match at the U.S. Open.

– Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to the Los Angeles.

– John Chaney threatens John Calipari

– Gilbert Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton pulled guns on each other.

– The tragic deaths of Reggie Lewis, Nick Adenhart, Darryl Kile and Korey Stringer

– Notre Dame student Declan Sullivan died after falling from a lift while filming football practice.


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  22. Nice list but I think “50 Most Shocking Moments in (mostly) American Sports” would have been a better title. How about:

    1. Ben Johnson being stripped of gold in 1988
    2. Sri Lankan cricket team shot at in Pakistan by terrorists
    3. Aryton Senna dying during San Marino Grand Prix
    4. South Africa winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup; the first time they were allowed to compete after the end of Apartheid
    5. Then, of course, there was the moment Eric Cantona Kung-fu kicked an opposing fan:

  23. Wow, how long did it take for you to come up with these? I think the Artest Melee has to take it for me. As someone who’s been to many sporting events, I never really felt concerned about all about the action entering the stands. I think that mess changed the way fans think about coming to games forever. Also in terms of pure shock value, I was watching that game live and it was certainly one of those “call all your best friends to make sure they’re watching” moments…..

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