World-class athletes can seem immortal. They run faster, jump higher, and hit harder than any other human beings on the planet. But when these mythical players trip, fumble, or screw up in hilarious ways, fans get to relish in the briefest of moments when these surreal characters prove themselves to be mere mortals after all. Fans—even in their laughter—are able to empathize with a player's plight on the field, finding a momentary connection to the humanity of their heroes.
Thanks to technology like instant replay and social media, sports goofs are indelible. Adoring fans around the world can like, share, and laugh over and over again at the often-tragic moments that occur in these rare, fallible instances.
Stacker investigated some of the most embarrassing, craziest, and strangest sports goofs in history to help fans and wannabe athletes alike get a good laugh and feel a little less bad about their feats in their own sporting lives. The unique list draws from a number of sources and includes embarrassing bloopers across a number of different sports. From a mix-up leading to a 54-year marathon time to premature celebrations to running the wrong way on the field, this gallery includes some of the most well-known goofs (and many you may not have heard of).
Click through for a list of 30 famous sports goofs that will bring about a sense of nostalgia for witnessing greatness fail for the first time. But don't feel too bad for the offenders—most of these athletes are still making millions.
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It was April 5, 1993. The Michigan Wolverines had the Fab Five (an all-freshmen starting lineup) consisting of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. They were playing against perennial favorite North Carolina in the NCAA Championship game and were down by two points with 11 seconds to go. Webber infamously grabbed the ball and called a timeout, not realizing the Wolverines were out of timeouts. He was assessed a technical foul for the mistake. As a result, Michigan lost the game and Webber will forever be remembered for the mishap.
In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the score was tied in the 10th inning and the Boston Red Sox were up three games to two against the New York Mets. This was the year that the Red Sox were going to break the famous Curse of the Bambino...until Mets outfielder Mookie Wilson hit a routine ground ball to first baseman Bill Buckner and the ball miraculously rolled through Buckner's legs. The Mets won the game and eventually the series. It took 18 more years for Red Sox fans to forgive Buckner when they finally won the World Series again in 2004.
The Chicago Cubs were another cursed team. Heading into the 2003 baseball season, the team hadn't won a World Series in 95 years. The '03 team had the third best record in the league and it seemed possible that they would finally break the Cubs' losing streak. Except on Oct. 14, 2003, during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, Steve Bartman happened. Florida Marlins player Luis Castillo hit a pop-up down the left line, and when left fielder Moises Alou went for the catch, he collided with Bartman's outstretched glove and missed the ball. The Cubs quickly unraveled and lost the series and Bartman.nearly had to go into witness protection because of the anger Cubs fans directed at him. Luckily, he reconciled with the team after the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and was given a championship ring.
The New York Jets are generally considered one of the worst teams in the NFL. They haven't won a Super Bowl since 1968, and almost always finish with a subpar record during the season. That's why the “Butt Fumble” wasn't all that surprising. Partway into the second quarter, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was running a play against the New England Patriots when, just after the snap, he ran directly into the butt of teammate Brandon Moore, fumbled the ball, and the Patriots recovered and scored. Typical Jets.
LeBron James had just played the best game of his career in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors couldn't stop James, who put up 51 points that night. The one thing that did stop him, however, was his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith. With the score tied 107-107 and almost five seconds left, Smith grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw, rushed the ball out, and threw a bad pass to George Hill, who then missed the game-winning shot. Smith was confused and didn't realize the game was tied; if he had the team could have used their remaining timeout and called a decisive play. The Cavs lost the game and the moment is forever memorialized in a classic LeBron meme.
In Super Bowl XXVII, the Dallas Cowboys were facing off against the Buffalo Bills. On a pivotal play, Cowboys star Leon Lett recovered a fumble and ran all the way to the endzone for a sure-thing touchdown. Lett, however, celebrated a tad too early, and when he got to the two-yard-line, Bills player Don Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett's hand, preventing the score. Fortunately for Lett, the Cowboys destroyed the Bills 52-17 and the play is merely a footnote, rather than the worst mistake in Super Bowl history.
After winning nine gold medals over the course of his Olympic career, track star Carl Lewis was invited by the Seattle Mariners to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in 2003. What came next was quite possibly the worst first pitch in MLB history; the ball took six bounces to make it to home plate. His rendition of the National Anthem wasn't much better.
Jim Marshall is widely recognized as one of the best defensive ends in Minnesota Vikings history. Marshall is also infamous for one of the biggest blunders in NFL history. On Oct. 25, 1964, the Vikings were playing the 49ers and Jim Marshall recovered the ball on a fumble. Marshall then ran 66 yards in the wrong direction, and instead of touchdown for the Vikings, it was a safety instead. Luckily for Marshall, the Vikings still won the game.
While playing for the Charlotte Bobcats in 2012, DeSagana Diop was fouled and got his requisite time at the free throw line. Unfortunately for him, he missed the basket by about three feet and will forever be remembered for shooting the worst free throw in NBA history. Diop's days playing professional basketball ended about a year later and he now coaches for the Utah Jazz—hopefully with some better free throw tips.
When an NFL team wins a Super Bowl, they're rewarded with the Vince Lombardi trophy, named after legendary coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. When the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII, they were asked to come out for the first pitch with the Boston Red Sox. Patriots star and team clown Rob Gronkowski decided to play around with the trophy and took a pitch from Julian Edelman using the trophy as a bat. Gronk jokingly feigned a bunt but accidentally hit the ball anyway, denting the trophy. Fortunately for the Patriots, they have five other Lombardis in pristine condition.
The NHL's Stanley Cup is the oldest physical trophy in all of sports. When an NHL team wins, each player is given a full day to spend with the cup however they like. The Boston Bruins won the Cup in 2011, and the tradition continued as always. When Bruins player Michael Ryder took the cup to Canada, he placed it on a shaky table and the cup toppled over, denting on the ground.
In 2018, the reigning champion Sergio Garcia went into the tournament looking to defend his title; he lost his chance in the first round. During the 15th hole, the golfer hit his ball into the water five times in a row while trying to reach the green. Garcia ended up finishing the hole in 13 strokes, tying for the worst score on one hole on the course and sinking himself to the bottom of the leaderboard.
Shiso Kanakuri, Japan's "father of the marathon" and one of the country's first Olympians, came to the 1912 Stockholm Games at a disadvantage. Japan had little experience training Olympic marathon runners and Kanakuri was stuck on the Trans-Siberian Railway for 10 days before the games with little opportunity to train. He collapsed in the middle of the race due to extreme overheating and was taken in by local residents before returning to Japan. Kanakuri forgot to inform race officials of his withdrawal from the race and he was marked missing. 55 years later—after a long and successful running career—he was invited back to Stockholm to finish the race; his final time was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.
Forever remembered as “The Midges Game,” Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians became one for the history books. It was an unusually hot and humid day at the ballpark and in the middle of the seventh inning, an infestation of midges ravaged the field. Joba Chamberlain was the Yankees reliever on the mound and was inundated with the bugs. Chamberlain wound up getting shellacked by the Indians batters, costing the Yankees the game and ultimately the series.
The Presidents Cup is a golf match that pits the American players against the rest of the world, minus Europe. During the 2007 match, American golfer Woody Austin tried to hit his golf ball as it rested in water. Not only did Austin miss the ball, but he slipped and fell face-first into the lake. Luckily, he was completely fine and after the hole, Austin rallied and helped his team to a tie for the match and ultimately a Presidents Cup win for the U.S.
U.S. snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was the favorite to win gold in the 2006 Olympics women's snowboardcross race and as she approached the finish line, it seemed almost certain she would live up to expectations. On her final jump. Jacobellis grabbed her board in mid-air in a move called the Method. This additional flourish proved to be her literal downfall, as she lost her balance in a gust of wind and came toppling down just before the finish line. Jacobellis watched as a Swiss snowboarder rushed past her for the gold and she had to settle for silver.
One of the biggest soccer's biggest rivalries is between Barcelona and Madrid, specifically when they play for the Spanish Cup in the Copa del Rey competition. In 2011, a new trophy was created for the winner, who happened to be Madrid that year. While celebrating in the streets of Madrid, defender Sergio Ramos accidentally dropped the trophy from the top of a double-decker bus, and the bus proceeded to run right over it. Still, a win is a win.
The finals of the 1000m Olympic short-track speed skating was packed with four talented athletes all battling for gold. The fifth, Australia's Steven Bradbury, only made it to the finals due to some lucky disqualifications and falls in the quarter and semi-final rounds. His luck would hold however, when all four of the gold metal favorites fell in a massive pile-up right before the finish line. Bradbury, who had been lagging behind the entire race, skated past his competitors to claim the gold.
MLB's Jose Canseco is known for many things. He was a famous power-hitter. He used steroids during his playing days. And he once helped a ball become a home run when it bounced off his head. On May 26, 1993, Canseco chased a fly ball into right field, but it missed his glove, bounced off his noggin, and went over the wall, giving Carlos Martinez a home run.
In the annals of sports, it's simply known as “The Play.” It was Nov. 20, 1982, and the California Golden Bears were squaring off against conference rival the Stanford Cardinals. The Cardinals were winning 20-19 with just four seconds left. They kicked the football to the Golden Bears, who began lateralling the ball back and forth, trying to score a touchdown on the last play. Certain its team had won, the Stanford marching band stormed the field in the middle of the play and began playing music. As that happened, the Golden Bears ran the ball in for a touchdown, winning the game 25-20.
Powerlifting has some interesting side effects. When the body goes through extreme stress—like lifting massive amounts of weight—things can, well, come up. During a deadlift competition, female weightlifter Brianna Otto pushed her body so hard that she began vomiting mid-lift. To her credit, she didn't drop the bar.
When Olympic divers miss their spots, it's not a pretty picture. During the London Olympics in 2012, German diver Stephan Feck lost his grip on his legs mid dive, and flopped as if it was his first time trying. Feck scored all zeroes from the judges and ultimately got knocked out of the competition with nothing but a viral moment to show for it.
It's hard to walk five feet nowadays without seeing a person staring at their phone. So, maybe it shouldn't be that surprising when an Olympian competes with a phone in their pocket. During the Rio Olympics in 2016, French fencer Enzo LeFort was competing against Germany's Peter Joppich, when Joppich leaned in for a strike and LeFort's phone fell out of his back pocket. He ultimately lost the match but his phone mishap had little to do with it.
Michael Beasley is well-known in NBA circles for being a bit of an odd duck. On multiple occasions, he's broken both NBA rules and the laws of the United States. That's why very few people were shocked on Jan. 17, 2019. While playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley tried to check into the game, but he wasn't allowed because he was wearing the wrong shorts.
The Super Bowl is the biggest sporting event in America, so it's rare that major mistakes or problems occur outside the field. During Super Bowl XLVII in 2013 between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, however, the lights suddenly went out in the stadium. At the time of the outage, the Ravens were winning 28-6 and seemed to have the game in hand. But after a 34-minute delay, the Niners charged back. They still lost 34-31 in one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl history.
One of the most unlikely scenarios in soccer helped spawn a Netflix series. Torquay United was playing Crewe Alexandra in a consequential match. If Torquay didn't win or tie the match, there was a chance they would be relegated to a lower league. United player Jim McNichol was hoping to tie the 2-1 match in the final few minutes of play when a police dog—believing its owner was in danger—took a bite out of McNichol's leg. Torquay was able to score a goal during injury time added to the game because of the dog bite and staved off relegation for the year.
Nick Kyrgios is one of the most colorful players in professional tennis. He typically wears basketball sneakers when he strolls onto the court, before changing into his tennis shoes. But when he walked out on the court for the second round of the Western & Southern Open, Kyrgios forgot his shoes all together, scrambling to find them before winning the match in three sets.
After the coin toss at the beginning of each soccer match, the winning team decides which goal it wants to attack in the first half. In a Super League match between Manchester City and Reading, referee David McNamara forgot his coin in the locker room and instead had the two captains play rock, paper, scissors to determine the winner. Unfortunately for McNamara, he was suspended for his split decision.
Brandon Marshall has always been one of the most vocal players over his NFL career. As a result, the NFL asked him to wear a microphone during one of his team's games. In an incredibly awkward sideline moment, Marshall was caught on mic asking his teammate how to spell "communication," which is ironic considering his nonstop jawing on the field.
D'Angelo Russell was pulling a prank on Los Angeles Lakers teammate Nick Young when he got Young to admit on camera that he was cheating on his famous fiancée Iggy Azalea. The tape leaked, Young got caught, and Russell got traded to the Brooklyn Nets.