69 great summer sports moments

For centuries, sports have impacted the lives and cultures of people worldwide. From the first Olympic games in Greece as far back as the 700s B.C. to the formation of the National Association of Base Ball Players—the first professional sports league in America—in the 1800s, the love for sports has always been apparent.

What makes sports so popular? Why do so many people gather around a big screen or spend hundreds of dollars on tickets to appear in person at an event? While there doesn’t seem to be one definitive reason that makes sports so beloved, there are eight points of motivation that bring audiences to their love of sports, according to sports fan psychologist Daniel Wann. These range from building a sense of community to having a distraction from real-world struggles to gaining a sense of self-esteem through a winning team. Everyone has their own reason for finding love in a game or competition.

Each summer brings a new level of excitement to the world of sports as teams and leagues begin and end their respective seasons. Using news archives and other public information sources, OLBG has compiled a list of some of the greatest sports moments from the summer you were born.

Andre Iguodala #9, Draymond Green #23, Klay Thompson #11 and Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors pose for a photo after defeating the Boston Celtics 103-90 in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Adam Glanzman // Getty Images

The 2020s

2023: Europe Ryder Cup win

Due to the nature of golf’s Ryder Cup format, it’s not unusual for the bid for outright victory to go right to the wire. That was certainly not the case in 2023 when Europe was ahead by 5 points going into the final day and the team’s lead of 10.5 to 5.5 over the United States meant they only needed 2 points going into the final day to win the cup. A blistering performance across the course on Friday and Saturday allowed the Europeans to take their collective foot off the gas ever so slightly. Both teams earned 6 points on the final day, giving a resounding victory to Europe over the United States with a score of 16.5 to 11.5. 

2022: Golden State Warriors dynasty continues

After a couple of years of schedule disruption, the 2022 NBA season was finally back in sync and it also saw the continuation of the Golden State Warriors recent dynasty in the finals series. Pitted against the Boston Celtics, Steph Curry and his teammates would go on to win the championship 4-2. Curry would go on to also win that year’s MVP accolade, the Golden State franchise would subsequently make it four NBA Championships in the space of just eight years.

2021: Emma Raducanu wins U.S. Open

Before the 2021 U.S. Open, only the most ardent tennis fan would be aware of the name Emma Raducanu. However, the British starlet’s status would grow exponentially by the time she had won that year’s women’s singles at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Not only would this be the first all-teenage final in 22 years, but Raducanu’s victory over Canadian counterpart Leylah Fernandez would also see the first-ever qualifier earn outright success as the 18-year-old won in straight sets.

2020: Lakers make it record equalling 17

When you think of NBA legacies, there cannot be many greater than the Los Angeles Lakers and in 2020, they went on to win their 17th NBA Championship – equalling the record with longtime rivals, the Boston Celtics. Their 17th success was also their first in 10 years and with the Miami Heat playing the role of opponents, the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis would win the series without the need for Game 7. The crowning moment came at the end of Game 6, when the Lakers eased to a 106-93 win.

France's players lift the Fifa World Cup trophy after 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018.
JEWEL SAMAD // AFP via Getty Images

The 2010s

2019: Megan Rapinoe leads USWNT to World Cup win

After winning the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the United States traveled to France four years later in the hunt for further glory. A hunt that was led by the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, two American soccer stars who won the Golden and Silver Boots for most goals scored respectively, and played a key role in the team not only getting to a second successive final but also getting the better of the Netherlands to maintain their vice like grip on the World Cup.

2018: France wins World Cup

The FIFA World Cup took its first hosting foray into Russia and although the sight of the football fraternity cosying up to President Vladimir Putin was not the best of spectacles, the showing on the field was a lot more palatable. England won a penalty shootout against Colombia in the Round of 16 before finally being dumped out by Croatia in the semifinals and the Three Lions could only watch as the Croats were eventually beaten by France in the final.

2017: Federer Makes It 8 At Wimbledon

Roger Federer had been the king of Wimbledon and this only further solidified in 2017 when the Swiss ace won his eighth men’s singles tennis title and in doing so, set a new record at SW19. Federer may have beaten the very best in order to earn the previous seven crowns but his opponent for number eight was not as much of a household name. With that said, the opponent really did not matter that afternoon as Marin Čilić was disposed of in straight sets by Federer. 

2016: LeBron leads the Cavaliers to glory

After Game 4 of the 2016 NBA Finals, it looked as if the Golden State Warriors were going to get the better of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second year in a row. However, LeBron James had other ideas and with his teammates became the first team to ever come from 3-1 down in the series and become champions. It also meant that the Cleveland sports curse had come to an end. So many shortcomings for Cleveland’s teams from 1964 to 2016, but King James and his cohorts finally gave the Cavs’ fans a reason to celebrate.

2015: Golden State Warriors take first NBA title in 40 years

The 2015 NBA Finals pitted the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers against each other and with the former led by the duo of Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, it would see the franchise earn its first Finals success in 40 years. The Cavaliers may have had LeBron James among their ranks and they were also 2-1 up at one stage, but unfortunately for them three successive wins for the Warriors wrapped up the series and saw them collect the trophy at the end of Game 6.

2014: Serena Williams dominates in the U.S. Open

You can win in a dominant fashion and then you can win in the manner that Serena Williams found outright success in at the U.S. Open in 2014. Not only did she get the better of Caroline Wozniacki in the final in straight sets, but she did the same to each of six previous opponents before the women’s singles showpiece event –14 sets played, 14 sets won and the way to the 2014 title – and she only lost a total of 32 games in the process.

2013: Andy Murray wins Wimbledon

After winning Olympic gold in the men’s singles tennis in 2012, it was clear that Andy Murray had developed a taste for winning at SW19 and with Wimbledon success now firmly in his sights, he would see that dream through to the end 12 months later. Victory over Roger Federer in the Olympics was followed up by victory over Novak Djokovic at the All-England club in straight sets and in doing so, he became the first British man to win the men’s singles since Fred Perry in 1936.

2012: London Olympics

In 2012,the Olympic Games came to London and for all the medals that were picked up by Team Great Britain, it was “Super Saturday” that was the most special day of all. Track and field athletes Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford all scooped gold in their respective disciplines as a raucous London Stadium cheered them on. Add successes in other sports such as cycling and rowing and it led to a third-place finish in the overall medal table as a total of 65 medals were collected for the team. 

2011: Djokovic wins first U.S. Open

Novak Djokovic has shown that he is the king of the hard court over the past decade or so, and you can point his American reign back to 2011 and victory in the U.S. Open. That year saw the Serbian meet Rafael Nadal for the second year in a row and whereas the Spainard came out on top 12 months previously, Djokovic exacted revenge in four sets to win the first of four titles at Flushing Meadows.

2010: Spain wins World Cup

After winning the European Championships in 2008 and Barcelona winning the 2009 Champions League final, Spanish football was definitely in vogue before the start of the 2010 World Cup. Vicente Del Bosque’s men were hotly tipped to win the first FIFA World Cup to ever be staged in Africa, and they did not disappoint. Their final with the Netherlands was certainly a bad-tempered one but the mood was undoubtedly lifted when Spain’s Andres Iniésta scored the game’s only goal in extra time to give La Rioja their first ever World Cup win.

Serena Williams celebrates after beating her sister Venus 7-6, 6-2, during their Women's Singles Final of the 2009 Wimbledon Tennis Championships at the All England Tennis Club, in southwest London, on July 4, 2009.
CARL DE SOUZA // AFP via Getty Images

The 2000s

2009: All Williams Wimbledon final

The name Williams may be synonymous with Wimbledon and there was no stronger link than the 2009 final. Venus on one side of the net, Serena on the other. Family bragging rights up for grabs along with the women’s singles title. It was the latter who came out on top with a straight sets victory and not only did it mean a third Wimbledon title for the younger of the two sisters but also an 11th career Grand Slam title. 

2008: Nadal vs. Federer at Wimbledon

Although there are many contenders to the greatest Wimbledon game of all time. The only answer can be the men’s final in 2008. Four hours and 48 minutes were required to finally split Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and with the Spaniard winning the fifth and final set 9-7 it would mean the contest itself was not finished until 9:15 BST and both players were plunged into near darkness. With rain interruptions throughout, it would also be the last year before a retractable roof was installed on Centre Court.

2007: A-Rod reaches 500 home runs

As Alex Rodriguez reached 499 home runs in Major League Baseball, the wait for number 500 was a rather agonizing one. One that by baseball standards took an eternity and after an eight-game wait, A-Rod would finally land 500. Not only would he join an elite group of 22 players to reach this milestone, but he would be the youngest of them to do so. At 32 years and 8 days of age, the boyfriend of both J-Lo and Madonna at one stage went on to beat Jimmie Foxx’s long-standing record.

2006: Jerry Rice retires

In 2006, NFL legend Jerry Rice retired from professional football, concluding a storied career spanning more than two decades. Rice, widely regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history, left an indelible mark on the sport with his exceptional skills, work ethic, and numerous records. His retirement marked the end of an era and solidified his legacy as an icon of the game and came about after signing a one-day contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

2005: Lance Armstrong makes it seven (for now)

The Tour De France is arguably the greatest test of man versus machine and in the mid-2000’s, there was no greater man than Lance Armstrong. In what was to be his then-final attempt at conquering the Alps and the Pyrenees, the Texas Tornado already had six successive Tour wins under his belt and with the record for overall victories already in his possession, 2005 was seen as the exclamation point. A seventh straight yellow jersey would be Armstrong’s before the Union Cycliste Internationale would eventually scrub his name from the record books due to drug offenses.

2004: Pistons upset the Lakers

In 2004, the Detroit Pistons caused a major upset in the NBA Finals by defeating the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. Led by a strong defensive effort and teamwork, the Pistons dethroned the Lakers in a stunning fashion, winning the series 4-1. The series is often termed a “five-game sweep” because Detroit convincingly won each of their four victories, while the Lakers narrowly secured Game 2 in overtime. This win marked the fifth championship victory for the Pistons as a franchise.

2003: Cristiano Ronaldo makes Manchester United debut

All sporting icons need to start somewhere and although Cristiano Ronaldo made his soccer debut at Sporting Lisbon, it was his move to English Premier League club Manchester United that gave him the platform to start showing his talents. These talents would see the Portuguese phenomenon win both Premier League and Champions League trophies before a move to Real Madrid and even further glory. Some say he is the best player ever and he makes a great case regarding that argument but were it not for Sir Alex Ferguson giving him the opportunity at Old Trafford 21 years ago, he would not even be part of the conversation.

2002: Ronaldo returns and wins 2002 World Cup

A peripheral figure at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo was the main character four years later and scored twice in the 2002 final in Japan. His brace would go on to beat fellow finalists Germany and give the South American nation its fifth overall win. More importantly, it was the ending of the redemption arc for Ronaldo who had been besieged by illness and injury in the years leading up to the tournament. It was a personal success that no football fan was ever going to begrudge.

2001: Goran Ivanisevic wins Wimbledon as wildcard

Wimbledon has a habit of generating remarkable stories and one of the best  happened in 2001. That was the year in which Goran Ivanišević was granted a wildcard to enter the men’s singles tournament. He may have been a wildcard but it did not stop the Croat going all the way to the final. Standing in the way of a fairytale win was Australian Patrick Rafter and although this one required a fifth-set tiebreaker to finally declare a winner, nothing was ever going to step in Ivanišević’s way.

2000: Venus Williams wins first Wimbledon

The surname Williams is synonymous with Wimbledon and that symbiotic link started in 2000. That was the year in which Venus would not only earn her first major singles title but also beat defending Lindsay Davenport in the process. Her straight sets win ushered in a new period of Williams-dominance as she and sister Serena went on to carve up what was in front of them.

Michael Johnson on his way to winning the 200 metres gold medal in a new world record time of 19.32 in the Olympic Stadium at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia.
Gary M. Prior

The 1990s

1999: U.S. Ryder Cup win – The Battle of Brookline

The Ryder Cup used to be a rather sedate affair. That was until 1999 and the “Battle of Brookline.” Going into the final day, the Europeans were leading 10-6 and needed just four points to retain the cup. An incredible comeback from the United States saw them snatch the victory 14.5 points to 13.5 points, but their celebrations certainly left a bitter taste in their opponents’ mouths and created the modern era of Ryder Cup warfare known today. 

1998: Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire

The 1998 Major League Baseball season was marked by an intense home run record chase between Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs. Both players captivated the nation with their pursuit of breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61, set in 1961. McGwire ultimately emerged victorious, finishing the season with 70 home runs, while Sosa closely followed with 66. This historic race captured the attention of baseball fans worldwide and revitalized interest in the sport after the 1994 strike.

1997: Tyson bites Holyfield

After losing to Evander Holyfield in November 1996, Mike Tyson would find himself going up against his adversary the following June. Once again, the result would be the same, but the reasoning would be far different. In the third round, Holyfield leapt into the air in pain, not from a resulting punch but because of Tyson biting a chunk out of his ear. Unsurprisingly, referee Mills Lane would throw the fight out soon after.

1996: Michael Johnson 200m record 

Coming into the 1996 Olympics, Michael Johnson was always expected to run well in the 200m. Then again, nobody knew just how well he would run. The answer to this would be discovered in the final when he not only won at Atlanta in front of a legion of home support but he would also go on to claim the world record. The winning time was 19.32, leaving both Frank Fredericks and Ato Boldon in his wake. 

1995: Frank Bruno heavyweight champ

After being denied by both Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis in his bid for heavyweight glory, Frank Bruno would not be denied at the fourth time of asking. With a raucous Wembley Stadium crowd doing their best to help him beat American Oliver McCall, the road to glory would finally be complete in September 1995 with a win on the judges’ scorecard. 

1994: Brazil wins stateside World Cup

In the FIFA World Cup, 1994 saw a fourth success for Brazil and a first success in 24 years. The final against Italy went someway to exacting revenge for that historic exit in 1982 but it must be noted it was arguably the dullest final of all time. Going down to a penalty shootout, Franco Baresi’s miss put Italy’s hopes on a knife-edge. Those same hopes were up in smoke by the time Roberto Baggio ballooned his effort over the bar and gave Brazil an historic victory.

1993: Chicago Bulls win first three-peat

After winning their first NBA crown in 1991, the Chicago Bulls would go on to win a three-peat between then and the two years that followed. After downing the Portland Trail Blazers in 1992, the Phoenix Suns would be downed the following year and if there were any doubts regarding the talents of Michael Jordan, this three-year stretch of dominance quelled all those doubts for good. 

1992: The Dream Team in Barcelona

Although the Olympics usually conjures up feats of track and field glory, 1992 was the year that the hardwood of the basketball court came to the fore and with the players representing the USA that year, you can understand why. The first year that NBA professionals were allowed to be Olympians and with the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird being part of the “Dream Team,” the squad’s eventual gold medal success was to the surprise of absolutely nobody.

1991: Chicago Bulls win first championship

All sporting dynasties have to start somewhere and for the Chicago Bulls it started in 1991. The Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls took on the Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers and it was billed as Michael Jordan versus Magic Johnson. A finals series that not only saw the Bulls win their first NBA crown but it also saw the passing of the torch in terms of on-court greatness. 

1990: Pete Sampras wins first U.S. Open

When it comes to men’s tennis in the 1990s, it was simply Pete Sampras’ world and everyone else was simply happy to also be living in it. Success at all four Grand Slam events spanning the whole decade and beyond and the first of those came at the 1990 U.S. Open. In an all-American final, Sampras was facing rival Andre Agassi and he would breeze past him in straight sets. These two would write the narrative of the sport for the next few years, but the first chapter was written by the now 52-year-old.

U.S Tennis champion, born Czech Martina Navratilova holds the trophy after winning July 1982 the Ladies' Singles at Wimbledon for the third time, beating her country fellow Chris Lloyd in the final.
STAFF AFP via Getty Images

The 1980s

1989: Greg LeMond Tour de France win

It was the greatest-ever end to a Tour de France and a rare ending that saw a time-trial through the streets of Paris. Before the final stage, American Greg LeMond had to claw back 50 seconds on Laurent Fignon of France. LeMond would set a blistering time and then it was down to Fignon to safely bring his bike home. Problem was that safety was 58 seconds slower than what had been previously set and Le Professeur subsequently saw victory slip out of his hands by just 8 seconds.

1988: Ben Johnson Seoul Olympics

The Seoul Olympics pitted the United States’ Carl Lewis versus Canada’s Ben Johnson in a bid to be the king of the men’s 100m, a race that Johnson not only won but also in a new world record time. Lewis was dethroned and a new era of track and field began. However, it was over as soon as it got underway. With Johnson testing positive for steroids, both the Olympic gold and the 100m record were stripped immediately. 

1987: Mike Tyson wins WBA, WBC and IBF heavyweight championships

Mike Tyson versus Tony Tucker was the biggest heavyweight fight of 1987 and it put the former’s WBA and WBC crowns and the latter’s IBF crown all on the line. Three prizes up for grabs and “Iron Mike” claimed them all via unanimous decision. The three scorecards were 119-111, 118-113 and 116-112 in Tyson’s favor and it also extended the New York-based fighters’ record to 31-0 (27 KO).

1986: Hand of God

Argentina may have won the 1986 FIFA World Cup but the most memorable moment of the competition was the “Hand of God,” a moment that saw the diminutive Diego Maradona leap higher than the lofty Peter Shilton. Or did he? The Argentine on closer inspection had punched the ball into the net and although England cried foul, Maradona claimed it was nothing more than divine intervention.

1985: Boris Becker competes unseeded at Wimbledon at 17

Boris Becker arrived at the 1985 edition of Wimbledon ranked #20 by the ATP, but back then only the top 16 would be worthy of seeding for the competition. He also arrived there as a 17-year-old but neither of these points were a stumbling block as the German became the first ever unseeded player to win the men’s singles competition and more importantly, also the youngest. 

1984: Carl Lewis’ first Olympic gold

The Olympics is the sporting event where legends are made and when it comes to the world of track and field, there are not many legends that are bigger than Carl Lewis. Growing up, the athlete idolized the prowess of Jesse Owens and this was due to success in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Attaining a level of success that was emulated at the 1984 edition of the games in Los Angeles and with the 100m world-record also being landed at a time of 9.9, the Alabama-born multidisciplined expert had truly announced himself on the world stage.

1983: Australia wins America’s Cup

This was the year in which the United States’ 132-year grip on the America’s Cup was finally removed by Australia. The Australia II yacht made the best of seven final series and at one stage found itself 3-1 down. However, winning the remaining three races sank their American rivals and brought the trophy down under for the first time. 

1982: Navratilova wins first of six straight Wimbledon titles

During her illustrious career, Martina Navratilova would reach the Wimbledon women’s singles final on 12 separate occasions including nine consecutive years from 1982 through to 1990. Going into the 1982 final with Chris Evert, the Prague-born tennis star had already reigned supreme at the All-England Club twice. With Evert disposed of in three sets, this was Navratilova’s first of six successive singles successes.  

1981: Pete Rose breaks NL hit record

There have been many renowned baseball players over the years, but there have not been many more better known than Pete Rose. The legend of America’s game would hit the headlines in 1981 after finally breaking Stan Musial’s National League record for hits. A record that had been in Musial’s possession for years was no more, and the sheer determination that Rose showed in hunting such a tally down also highlighted his longevity within the sport, enabling him to become MLB’s all-time hits leader in 1985.

1980: Jack Nicklaus continues dominance and wins two majors

Jack Nicklaus won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, giving the legendary golfer 17 career major victories. Nicklaus captured the two titles despite speculation that he was on the back end of his career, which included a total of 117 professional wins. Six years later, Nicklaus won the Masters Tournament at 46, marking his 18th career major title—the most in PGA history.

Lee Elder tees off during the 1975 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club in April 1975 in Augusta, Georgia.
Augusta National // Getty Images

The 1970s

1979: Seattle SuperSonics capture franchise’s only NBA title

The Seattle SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA Finals over the Washington Bullets to give the franchise its first and only championship. Led by Hall of Famers Jack Sikma and Dennis Johnson, the SuperSonics finished the 1978-79 season with a 52-30 record. The franchise wouldn’t reach the Finals again until 1996.

1978: Argentina becomes best soccer team in the world amid controversy

Argentina won the 1978 FIFA World Cup as the tournament’s host nation. The nearly month-long event saw Argentina capture its first World Cup title despite controversy throughout the competition. Argentina’s championship was marred by accusations of match-fixing, highlighted by a second-round 6-0 victory over Peru when the team needed a four-goal margin.

1977: Montreal Canadiens repeat as NHL Stanley Cup champions

The Montreal Canadiens won back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-0 series sweep over the Boston Bruins. Led by Jacques Lemaire and Conn Smythe, and trophy winner Guy Lafleur, the Canadiens finished the season with a 60-8-12 record. The team’s arduous playoffs included series wins over the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders.

1976: USA strings together strong Olympic performances

The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal would create several historic moments. The U.S. Olympic boxing team—which included Sugar Ray Leonard, Howard Davis Jr., Leon Spinks, and others—won five gold medals at the event. This group has been called one of the greatest Olympic boxing teams ever assembled. Caitlyn Jenner—who competed in the men’s decathlon decades before coming out as a transgender woman—won a gold medal in the decathlon with 8,618 points, setting a new world record.

1975: The Masters host the tournament’s first Black golfer

In 1975, Lee Elder became the first Black golfer to play in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Elder qualified for the prestigious tournament by winning the 1974 Monsanto Open in a playoff. However, Elder missed the cut at the Masters after round two, with Jack Nicklaus going on to win the tournament. Elder also participated in the Masters between 1977 and 1981.

1974: Babe Ruth’s career home run record broken

Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record with 715 home runs—the most in MLB history at the time. The Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Brave would break the historic record in front of 50,000 fans during an Opening Day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron finished his illustrious MLB career with 755 home runs, ranking second highest of all-time behind Barry Bonds.

1973: Secretariat becomes first Triple Crown winner in 25 years

Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter-century with a resounding victory at the Belmont Stakes, following earlier victories at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1973. This three-year-old stallion, nicknamed Big Red, is considered one of the greatest racehorses to ever grace a track. A year later, Secretariat was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame following his retirement.

1972: Billie Jean King shows no signs of slowing down

In 1972, tennis legend Billie Jean King won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. She claimed the U.S. Open title in September of that year, bringing her Grand Slam singles win total to nine. King chose not to participate in the Australian Open to dominate other events in the U.S.

1971: Muhammad Ali suffers first professional loss

Joe Frazier remained the world heavyweight champion with a win over Muhammad Ali in what was called the “Fight of the Century” at Madison Square Garden. Frazier defeated Ali by unanimous decision after 15 rounds, which gave Ali his first loss as a professional boxer. The bout would be the first of three fights between Frazier and Ali, with the last being the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.

1970: First World Cup held outside of Europe or South America

Mexico hosted the 1970 FIFA World Cup, which saw Brazil win its third championship. The tournament’s final featured another blue-chip team from Italy. The 32-match event was the first time that the World Cup was held outside of Europe or South America.

Kathy Switzer roughed up by Jock Semple during Boston Mararthon.
Paul J. Connell // The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The 1960s

1969: Boston Celtics go the distance in NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers in a series that stretched to seven games. Led by coach Bill Russell, the Celtics pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history as the Lakers were heavily favored due to a roster that included Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West. Despite the Lakers losing the series, West would be named Finals MVP—the only time the award has been given to a member of the Finals’ losing team.

1968: Arthur Ashe becomes first Black man to win U.S. Open

Arthur Ashe became the first Black man to win the U.S. Open singles title—a feat that has yet to be repeated. The late tennis legend made history with a final win over Tom Okker. Ashe also went on to capture the Australian Open singles title in 1970 and won Wimbledon in 1975. Ashe finished his career with 76 titles before his death at 49 in 1993.

1967: First woman officially runs in Boston Marathon

Kathrine Switzer became the first woman, officially, to run in the Boston Marathon. Switzer changed the course of history despite backlash from the event’s director. She would go on to win the New York City Marathon in 1974 and ran in the Boston Marathon again in 2017.

1966: FIFA World Cup breaks attendance records

The 1966 FIFA World Cup set a new standard for one of the world’s largest sports tournaments. The competition, which was hosted by England, had an average attendance record of 48,847 throughout the entire tournament—breaking a previous record of 47,511 during the 1950 World Cup. England went on to win its first World Cup title with a 4-2 win over West Germany.

1965: Willie Mays remains MLB’s best hitter

Willie Mays reclaimed his dominance as one of MLB’s best players by hitting 52 home runs for the San Francisco Giants in 1965—leading the entire league. A year prior, Mays finished the season with 47 home runs, which also led all of MLB. Mays finished the 1965 campaign as a National League All-Star and the league’s MVP.

1964: Arnold Palmer captures last major win

Arnold Palmer won the Masters to become the tournament’s first four-time winner. The Hall of Famer would win the tournament by six strokes ahead of Jack Nicklaus and Dave Marr. The victory at Augusta National marked Palmer’s last major win on the PGA Tour.

1963: Bill Russell leads Boston Celtics to NBA title

The Celtics capped a historic run with an NBA Finals win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The victory marked Boston’s seventh straight trip to the Finals with a team that included Bill Russell and point guard Bob Cousy. The Celtics needed only six games to win the team’s sixth title.

1962: Jacques Anquetil wins second consecutive Tour de France

Jacques Anquetil conquered the Tour de France, winning the 2,656-mile race for the second consecutive year. Anquetil went on to win the Tour de France three more times, bringing his total to five wins—the first rider in the race’s history to reach that mark. Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times in a row but those victories were rescinded for doping.

1961: Tottenham clinches first double of 20th century

Tottenham Hotspur made history by becoming the first top-flight soccer club in the 20th century to win both the FA Cup and the Football League First Division. Tottenham claimed the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Leicester City in front of a crowd of roughly 100,000 at Wembley Stadium.

1960: Cassius Clay wins 1960 Olympic gold medal

Cassius Clay, later more famously known as Muhammad Ali, won the gold medal in the men’s light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Clay, who conquered the single-elimination tournament of 19 boxers, beat Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland in the final. The victory gave Clay his only Olympic medal.

Canadiens' Butch Bouchard and goalie Jacques Plante (right) in the first game of the Stanley Cup series at Detroit. Other players are (from left): Vic Stasium, Detroit Red Wings; Ken Mosdell, Canadiens; Marcel Pronovost, Red Wings; and Tom Johnson, Canadiens (rear). The Wings won, 4-2.
Bettmann Archives via Getty Images

The 1950s

1959: The American Football League is birthed

The American Football League was first established in 1959, creating direct competition with the NFL. The AFL operated for 10 seasons until it merged with the NFL to create a professional football powerhouse and the league football fans know today. The merger brought over some of football’s most historic franchises, including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Oakland Raiders.

1958: MLB makes its first move to West Coast

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers became the first MLB teams to play a game on the West Coast—a monumental moment in sports history. Prior to 1958, the Giants had called New York City home, while the Dodgers played home games in Brooklyn.

1957: Carmen Basilio wins middleweight boxing title

Boxer Carmen Basilio won the world middleweight championship by split decision after 15 competitive rounds against Sugar Ray Robinson. The “Upstate Onion Farmer” won three fights in 1957, which included technical knockouts of Johnny Saxton and Harold Jones. He later was named “Fighter of the Year” by The Ring for his efforts.

1956: Larsen throws only perfect game in World Series history

New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen closes out the MLB season by throwing the only perfect game in the history of the World Series in Game 5 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees won that game 2-0 and then finished the series in seven games to claim the franchise’s 17th World Series title. Larsen was named World Series MVP for his historic performance.

1955: Detroit Red Wings emerge as back-to-back NHL champs

The Detroit Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup Final champions with a seven-game series win over the Montreal Canadiens. The matchup was a rematch of the 1954 Stanley Cup Final and would mark the Canadiens’ fifth straight appearance in the series. The Red Wings wouldn’t reach the pinnacle of professional hockey again until a 1997 Stanley Cup win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

This story was produced by OLBG and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.