Last April gave you the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, MLB regular season and NFL draft. This April, all we got was commissioner Roger Goodell chilling in an ugly sweater on Zoom while awkwardly announcing draft picks, and Michael Jordan reemerging in The Last Dance documentary to strengthen his claims as the greatest basketball player and pettiest human being of all time.
As the Notorious B.I.G. once exclaimed, “Things Done Changed.” With live sports on pause, save for a few UFC fight cards and Korean baseball airing at 4 a.m. on ESPN, you’re best bet to scratch the itch previously alleviated by incredible athletes, is to hit the rewind button and take a deep dive into the nostalgic end of the pool. Here are six instant classic sporting contests that will capture your imagination as we wait for the live stuff to restart.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Rams, November 19, 2018
Result: Rams 54 – Chiefs 51
One-Sentence Pitch: Quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff compete in the greatest duel of gunslingers in NFL history.
The two best teams with the two best offenses on Monday Night Football: what could go wrong? For NFL fans, nothing. These two units and their innovative playbooks put on a firework show, with a final score more similar to high school games than your average pro result. Playmakers littered the field including Todd Gurley, Tyreke Hill, Kareem Hunt, Robert Woods and this guy and that guy, adding up to a back and forth shootout featuring 14 total touchdowns and four lead changes in the fourth quarter. No one wowed more than Mahomes, as the 2018-2019 MVP and eventual 2020 Super Bowl MVP made dynamic plays for both teams, as he tossed six touchdowns and turned it over four times. Watch on YouTube.
Nate Diaz vs. Conor McGregor II, August 20, 2016
Result: McGregor wins by majority decision (48–47, 47–47, 48–47)
One-Sentence Pitch: MMA’s biggest star in Conor McGregor seeks revenge against the first man to beat him in the UFC Octagon and talk shit about it, Nate Diaz.
Before the first Diaz fight, opponents who stepped in the cage with McGregor were already defeated, buried under an avalanche of trash talk and intimidation tactics. The formula didn’t work with Diaz. Words that crumbled other fighters, he laughed off. And in the cage, his methodical approach proved the perfect foil for the explosive, quick twitch McGregor as he weathered an early storm before submitting the Irishman. Talk surrounding this rematch was all about how McGregor would be more measured in his advances to keep him from gassing out. After a round and a half of him battering Diaz, the narrative was in place, until about the last minute of the second round. There, Diaz turned up the pace and what followed was a back-and-forth technical brawl. This bout has everything you’d want in a memorable prize fight – momentum swings, violence and drama. Watch on UFC Fight Pass.
Las Vegas Aces vs. Washington Mystics, September 17, 2019
Result: Mystics 97 – Aces 95
One-Sentence Pitch: The Washington Mystics kick start their championship run against the upstart Vegas Aces.
Honestly, I could have picked any game from last year’s Washington Mystics title run. The squad was so uniquely talented and forward thinking in their ball movement, player motion and outside shooting, it achieved basketball nirvana by season’s end. With league MVP Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver and eventual WNBA Finals MVP Emma Meesseman on the roster, the team never encountered a moment where it didn’t have at least two top-level players on the floor. Vegas was no slouch in this series, but the reason to watch Game 1 is Delle Donne. She’s simply a tour de force of basketball genius: silky turnaround jumpers, a bruising post game, brilliant passing and an automatic 3-point shot. You name it, she’s got it. Watch on YouTube.
U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Netherlands Women’s National Football Team, July 7, 2019
Result: UWNT 2 – NWNFT 0
One-Sentence Pitch: The USWNT takes home the 2019 World Cup gold medal after battling hot takes about their cockiness and swagger, oh and the Netherlands.
I don’t generally care about soccer, but I loved this team. In addition to obliterating other squads throughout the 2019 World Cup tournament, they also battled for equal pay and fought off a strange wave of social media vitriol. People on the Internet seemed to rush at any chance to criticize this group, including claims that they were cocky, showboated after goals and disrespected their opponents. Guess what: who cares? This rendition of the national team was loaded with superstar players including Megan Rapinoe and the Washington Spirit’s own Rose Lavell who laid waste to the competition. The only team to give them a game was this stingy Netherlands squad that kept the U.S. scoreless for nearly an hour of game time. But in the end, overwhelming talent usually wins out . Watch on Youtube.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, June 19, 2016
Result: Cavaliers 93 – Warriors 89
One-Sentence Pitch: LeBron James brings a title to Cleveland and vanquishes what could have been the greatest team in NBA history.
Hoop heads remember this series as the time the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, and they’re absolutely right. In Game 4 of the series, Steph Curry and the Dubs were coasting to their second consecutive title and the winningest single season in league’s history. But then mercurial forward Draymond Green kicked LeBron James in the groin “area” and all hell broke loose. Green, the Warriors third best player, was suspended for Game 5 and the Cavs battled back to even the series forcing this Game 7. From start to finish, the intensity is palpable, which causes a downright ugly game. At times playoff basketball looks more like football, and there’s no one better at that than the physically imposing James. Watch on the NBA app.
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, May 7, 2018
Result: Capitals 2 – Penguins 1
One-Sentence Pitch: Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals finally get over the Penguin-sized hump en route to capturing the Stanley Cup.
After years of falling to the mean, angry birds in Pittsburgh, Ovi and the crew blasted their rivals, conquering them in six games during the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. The closeout contest required an extra period to decide the victor, which was no surprise given the teams’ shared history. At this point in the rivalry, the two teams knew each other intimately after years and years of postseason matchups. Luckily, the Capitals didn’t let the ghosts of past failures interfere and at 5:27 in overtime, Ovi dished the puck to Evgeny Kuznetsov who split the defense and sealed the victory. You know the rest. The Capitals went on to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. Watch on YouTube.
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