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While thinking about what I would write for this week's Chillin, I saw a lot of great fireworks and that got me to thinking...
What comes to mind when I think about Independence Day is a lot of explosions and fire. I took a look in the sports history archives to try and find some "Independence Day-esque" sports performances...
REGGIE MILLER- 8 points in 9 seconds- 1995
The Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks were, once upon a time, great rivals and met each other in three straight playoffs including the 1995 playoffs where Pacers' great Reggie Miller made the Knicks look like choke artists in game one of the eastern conference semi-finals. With the Pacers down six points with 16 seconds to go in the game, Miller drains a three-pointer to cut the lead in half. He would then steal the inbounds pass, dribble back to the three-point line and drain another to tie the game in a 3.1 second span. On the other side of the court, the Knicks missed key opportunities and Miller grabbed the defensive rebound only to get mugged and sent to the foul line where he stroked two free throws to seal the game while taunting the New York crowd and holding his hands to his neck. Classic.
EMMITT SMITH- breaking Payton's rush record- 2002
The long-time Cowboy had 12 spectacular years running the football for Dallas and, in a feat that may never be broken with the NFL's new standard for back-up running backs on third down, broke Walter Payton's NFL rushing yards total with 16,727 yards. He had 973 yards in his final season, but is still only one of five players to have over 10,000 yards and 400 receptions as well as the one of two players (Jerry Rice) to score over 1,000 points in a career as a non-kicker.
NOLAN RYAN- throws no-hitter at age 44- 1991
Before the game against Toronto, Ryan looked at his pitching coach (who was also 44 at the time) and says, "I feel old today. My back hurts. My ankle hurts. I've been pounding Advil all day and it isn't helping." Not long after, he was in a groove. After throwing 131 pitches in a previous start, Ryan begins to feel dominant on the mound as he escapes trouble in the first despite a walk and two full counts. He had said that he was not sure he could go five innings...then he struck out the side in the second. Ryan then picks up his 10th and 11th strikeout of the day in the fifth and everyone feels like something is happening. Rangers' centerfielder Gary Pettis saves the no-no in the sixth with a diving catch on a blooped hit and it starts to feel real. Through seven innings, Ryan has 13 strikeouts. After a hard hit to right field, he gets K's 14 and 15 to enter the ninth still unscathed. Having thrown 12 no-hitters before, Nolan Ryan had already been crowned the oldest pitcher to throw a no-no when he did it the year before in Oakland at age 43. Roberto Alomar steps up to face Ryan with two outs in the ninth and becomes his last strikeout victim sealing the no-hitter with an amazing 16 strikeouts.
HE'S ON FIRE!!!
When we hear that expression in sports, it typically generates from the basketball court. These ballers were amongst the greatest all-time.
MICHAEL JORDAN- cements legend with 63 against Celtics- 1986 & drops 69 on Cavs- 1990
When discussing the greatest sports moments in history, I could write several columns about this guy. This one sticks out in particular as far as being "On fire". Having said that, the greatest playoff game Jordan played from a scoring stand-point came early in his career against the Celtics when he dropped 63 points in game two of the first round in only his second season as a Bull. The record still stands today for most points in a playoff game. Against the Cavaliers, Jordan put up 69 points in what has to be the greatest game in the shot-clock era (sorry Wilt). Jordan put up the number against a top-ten defense in Cleveland but he still shot 23-37 (62%). For those of you already trying to say that Kobe's 81 point game against the Raptors was the greatest scoring game, consider this...1.) the Raptors were ranked 29th in defense 2.) Kobe did it during a season that hand-checking was deemed illegal. 3.) Jordan also had 18 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and a block. 4.) Jordan shot 37 shots to Kobe's 46. I take Jordan's game.
I suppose I better stop at Jordan. I'd be hard-pressed to find something better to follow than his Air-ness. Thanks for reading.