Iconic sports moments that defined the '90s
When it comes to iconic sports moments, the 1990s were filled with awe-inspiring highlights, shocking revelations, unbelievable scandals, and award-winning performances.
Much of the decade can be defined by the changing of the guard. Michael Jordan took over the basketball world from Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Serena Williams and Tiger Woods broke down racial barriers by winning their first major championships. And extreme sports opened the door to undiscovered athletes from every walk of life.
In addition to new talents taking over the sports world, the ‘90s were also marred in scandals. New performance-enhancing drugs led to athletic feats that took years to unravel, turning heroes into villains, staining legacies, and destroying careers. Other athletes tarnished their reputations with bizarre acts in the field or illegal acts off the field.
Stacker brought together the most iconic sporting moments that helped define the decade. In scouring the history books, Stacker found 30 occasions that shocked, wowed, and inspired. Diehard and casual fans alike will likely remember where they were when these incredible events transpired.
Take a trip down memory lane because these are the most amazing moments from the 1990s.
You may also like: Iconic sports moments that defined the '80s
Chasing the white Bronco
In one of the all-time, “people remember where they were” moment in history, on June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson hopped into his white Ford Bronco and led the Los Angeles Police Department on a two-hour, 60-mile chase through Southern California. The chase also coincided with Game 5 of the NBA Finals, captivating sports fans and casual observers alike. Simpson was later arrested, and exonerated, for the murder of his ex-wife and her lover.
Mike Tyson is a biter
In the theater of the absurd, Mike Tyson is the all-time reigning champion. Fighting Evander Holyfield for the second time in eight months, Tyson was eager to regain the heavyweight championship belt. On June 28, 1997, during the third round of the contest, and after a series of headbutts from Holyfield, a frustrated Tyson lashed out by nearly biting off his right ear. Shockingly, Tyson wasn’t disqualified until he bit Holyfield’s other ear at the end of the same round.
The Dream Team
After the U.S. basketball team failed to capture gold in the 1988 Summer Olympics, a decision was made to allow professional players to compete in the 1992 games in Barcelona. With that decision came the greatest compilation of basketball players in history, headlined by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird. The Dream Team didn’t just win the gold medal, they beat teams by an average of 43.8 points per game, solidifying American dominance in basketball.
The home run race
Though the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa is now plagued by drug scandal, nothing was more exciting at the time. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961 and baseball players had been chasing the record ever since. In ’98, McGwire smashed the mark with 70 home runs, and Sosa also bested it when he hit 66. It has since been revealed that the players were using performance-enhancing drugs, but there was still nothing quite like the summer of ’98 to inspire baseball fans.
U.S. Women’s World Cup win
One of the most indelible images in sports history is of Brandi Chastain, crouched on the soccer field, shirt in hand, in celebration after scoring the winning penalty in the 1999 Women’s World Cup on home soil. It was the second World Cup victory for the U.S. team since the cup’s inception in 1991 and made Chastain an international superstar and icon for thousands of future soccer players.
Jordan’s switch-handed layup
The Chicago Bulls beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1991 NBA Finals, but the actual changing of the guard from Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan can be pinpointed to a single unforgettable play. After losing Game 1 on a last-second shot, Jordan and the Bulls knew they needed to win Game 2 or the series could be finished. In the fourth quarter, Jordan drove into the lane and flew through the air with the ball in his right hand. Sensing he would get blocked, he somehow switched hands, mid-air, kept soaring and banked in a layup with his left. The Bulls won the game by 21 points and never lost again, taking the title in five games.
The Atlanta Olympic bombing
In 1996, Atlanta played host to the Summer Olympics. On July 27, police received an anonymous call that a bomb was going to explode in Centennial Park, and within a half-hour, a pipe bomb exploded, killing two people, and wounding more than 100. The bomber was sentenced to four consecutive life terms and remains in prison to this day.
Tonya and Nancy
Leading up to the 1994 Winter Olympics, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked during a practice session. It was later discovered that the attack was masterminded by fellow skater Tonya Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and her bodyguard Shawn Eckhardt. Although Kerrigan had to withdraw from the U.S. Figure Skating Championship, she was still given a spot on the Olympic team and finished with a silver medal. Harding finished in eighth place and later pled guilty to conspiracy to hinder prosecution, had her U.S. Figure Skating Championship title revoked, and was banned from the United States Figure Skating Association for life.
Magic Johnson HIV-positive
On Nov. 8, 1991, Magic Johnson announced to the world that he was HIV-positive and would be retiring from basketball. The announcement shocked the world, and Johnson immediately became the highest-profile celebrity to have contracted the virus. Despite the prognosis, Johnson still played on the 1992 Dream Team in Barcelona and briefly returned to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1995–96 season before retiring for good.
Christian Laettner is widely regarded as one of the best college basketball players of all time. His Duke Blue Devils went to the Final Four in all four years he was at school and won back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992. But Laettner will probably be best remembered for his game-winning shot on March 28, 1992. Down by one point with 2.1 seconds left in the East Regional Final against Kentucky, Grant Hill threw a full-court pass to Laettner, who caught the ball at the free-throw line, turned, and made the last-second shot. The shot is still considered one of the greatest moments in college basketball history.2018 All rights reserved.