As you may be aware, life isn't fair. And in the sporting world, some men are seemingly destined to be celebrated forever as Joe Cools, while others turn out to be Buffalo Bills. Behold 10 top jocks who came through big when it mattered most. (Quit looking for your name, Tony Romo!)
10. Eli Manning He goes into battle with a facial expression less “confident” than “confused,” and analysts still debate whether he’s “elite.” But in the playoffs, Peyton’s bro is 8-3 with 17 TDs, plus two miraculous Super Bowl game-winning drives, two Super Bowl MVPs, and two years that took an unexpectedly grim turn for Tom Brady.
9. Robert Horry After 16 seasons, this is the full list of regular season honors Horry accumulated: All-Rookie Second Team. He did a little better with the hardware come playoffs, as seven seasons ended with him on the league champ. And in three of those title runs, he drilled an iconic game-winner to help propel his team to glory. “Big Shot Bob” indeed.
8. Dan Jansen You’re considered one of the world’s most gifted speed skaters, yet after three Olympics, no medals. It’s now 1994 and you’re down to the final race of your career, which happens six years to the day of your sister’s during-the-Olympics death. And… gold. No one’s ever had a moment with more pressure and handled it with greater grace than Jansen.
7. Curt Schilling This above-average regular season hurler took it to another level in the playoffs, where he went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA. Schilling reached the World Series with three different teams, won at least one Series start for each and collected three titles. Meanwhile, the words “Bloody Sock” still pierce the heart of every Yankee fan.
6. Gerd Müller Lionel Messi may have broken his goals-in-a-calendar year mark, but Der Bomber has something Messi doesn’t: a World Cup title. He scored the Cup-winner for Germany in 1974, part of a then-record 14 goals in just 13 Cup games. And at the club level he led Bayern Munich to three straight European Cups, leading the competition in scoring four times. That’ll do.
5. Mark Messier By the time he issued The Guarantee that the Rangers would beat the Devils in Game 6 of the ‘94 Eastern Conference Finals, Messier was already an all-time great, having won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton. Then he scored a third-period hat trick as the Rangers won the game, then the series, then the Cup itself for the first time in 54 years, earning Messier the nickname “The Messiah”, which is equal measures blasphemous and accurate.
4. Joe Montana Joe Cool’s legend began in college, as he led Notre Dame to a national title and staged the greatest bowl comeback ever, rallying the Irish from a 34-12 fourth-quarter deficit to a victory over Houston at the Cotton Bowl. As a pro, he went 4-0 in Super Bowls with 11 TDs and zero picks and was responsible for “The Catch”, the pass to John Taylor, and the coolest John Candy anecdote ever.
3. Ben Hogan Seven. After surviving a head-on collision with a bus in 1949, that was the most tournaments Hogan could play in a season, as he was physically unable to walk any more than that. Post-almost dying, he won six majors in his first nine tries, three times rallying from a deficit after 54 holes and once winning in a playoff. Which just goes to show golf is not really a sport.
2. Michael Jordan He hit a shot to win the NCAA title at UNC; he hit a shot to win his sixth NBA title and claim his sixth Finals MVP to conclude his NBA—er, Bulls—career. And he did it with style, so that a generation grew up dreaming of switching the ball from hand to hand in mid-air while at the same time shrugging because they just hit their sixth three-pointer against Clyde Drexler before at last seeking treatment for the flu. You’re great, LeBron, but we all know who’s king.
1. Babe Ruth His career postseason line was .326 average, .467 on-base percentage, .744 slugging... oh, and a 0.87 ERA. He hit three home runs in a game in the Series twice while going 3-0 as a starting pitcher. He nailed the legendary “Called Shot” in the 1932 Series and set a Series record for consecutive scoreless innings. It adds up to seven World Series titles and an athlete who is statistically impossible. Much like his waistline.