The NCAA Tournament is nearly upon us, and we’ve got bracket fever!
This week, we’re looking back on the 1990s, a decade in which everyone had the same set of enduring sports memories, before the Internet splintered our culture into an endless series of insular communities. If you lived through these moments, you remember them well.
The field is now down to the final eight; you can see the first round voting here. Over the next couple days, vote for which ones stand out the most in your mind. The final four will begin on Saturday, March 19!
No. 1 O.J. Simpson’s Bronco Chase (1994)
Last round: Beat Desmond Howard striking the Heisman pose
It was only a “sports” moment in that it involved a former athlete, but you could also argue that it turned rubbernecking into a national pastime. It was surreal, unbelievable and a more universally shared moment than anything in the Internet age — which makes it possibly the most quintessentially ’90s moment there is.
No. 4 Michael Jordan’s Finals Dagger Over Bryon Russell (1998)
Last round: Beat Chris Webber’s technical timeout
M.J.’s picturesque, title-winning jumper was the perfect ending to the greatest career in NBA history, push-off or no push-off. What do you mean, he came back again, only as the oldest Wizard not named Gandalf? That’s crazy. This here’s the ’90s, so Jordan still rode off into the sunset for our purposes.
No. 2 Christian Laettner’s Game-Winning Shot (1992)
Last round: Beat Leon Lett’s snow game fumble
Outside of Durham, Laettner’s not exactly a well-loved figure, even decades later. However, unlike his sore-thumb appearance on the Dream Team, no one can argue that his perfect game in the 1992 National Championship, capped by an all-time great buzzer-beater, earned him legend status.
No. 3 Scott Norwood’s Super Bowl Kick Goes Wide Right (1991)
Last round: Beat John Elway’s Super Bowl helicopter
Imagine how much harder that already gut-wrenching loss would have been for Bills fans if they had known that in four-straight Super Bowl appearances, their first would be the closest they’d ever come to winning. Also, that kick was 46 yards. Many remember it as a chip-shot, but it was far from it.
THE OTHER SPORTS REGION
No. 1 Mike Tyson Bites Off Evander Holyfield’s Ear (1997)
Last round: Beat Joe Carter’s walk-off World Series homer
Tyson entered the ’90s on top of the boxing world, but after spending three years in prison for rape and losing his title to Holyfield, he was desperate to grab onto what once was — even if it was Holyfield’s ear, and he was grabbing with his mouth. This was one of the biggest Did you see that?! moments of the decade.
No. 4 Brandi Chastain Wins World Cup (1999)
Last round: Beat Tiger Woods winning his first Masters
The 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team is still the most famous group of female athletes in American history, but who knows if that would be the case if Chastain hadn’t put away China in penalty kicks? Mia Hamm may have been the superstar of the team, but Chastain’s wild, shirtless celebration is the image we all remember.
No. 2 Nancy Kerrigan Assaulted (1994)
Last Round: Beat Nolan Ryan pummeling Robin Ventura
It was a story straight out of a telenovela, with the jealous Tonya Harding precipitating the downfall of the ascendant Nancy Kerrigan. The fact that it was a horrific assault with the aftermath caught on camera made it all the more insane, and the drama that unfolded titillated the nation.
No. 6 Cal Ripken Breaks Consecutive Games Streak (1995)
Last round: Beat Mark McGwire hitting homer 62
This one was less a shocking climax than the satisfying end of a great, long movie. Ripken’s streak defined the early ’90s for many baseball fans, before the rest of the decade was swept up by home run fever. The night he actually pulled it off was one of the biggest sports parties of the decade.