Friday, June 13, 2008

Top Ten Play With Pain Moments

The 3rd most talked about moment of the 2008 NBA Finals, behind Tim Donaghy (2) and the 2002 Western Conference Finals (1), was Paul Pierce being taken off the floor in what, as it seemed at the time, was a season ending injury. Pierce, who at one time nearly died due to stab wounds, shook off everything and missed only about 94 seconds of actual game time to return and lead his team to the W. This isn't the first time we've seen something like this on a grand stage. This is not broken down just on the severity of the injury but also on the impact. For instance a regular season injury doesn't have the same effect as the post-season, Game 1 doesn't have the same impact of Game 6, and so one. So let's break down the Top Ten, but we've got a problem. Does Pierce fit on the all-time Top Ten list? We'll have to see.

10. Curt Schilling - Boston Red Sox
Game 2 of the 2004 World Series
Schilling got the win for the Sox against the Cards. This is no different then many of the other games the Cy Young runner up did all season, except for the minor fact that in Game 1 of the ALDS he injured his tendon. In both the ALCS and, more famously, Game 2 of the Series the sutures in Schilling's ankle tore and his sock was red from blood. Despite this he managed to pitch for the Win and help give Boston its first World Series championship since 1918. The only reason this isn't any higher is the speculation that has since come of the sock.
9. Byron Leftwich, Steve Sciullo, Steve Paretta -Marshall Herd
2002 Marshall vs. Akron
Marshall Quarterback Byron Leftwich left the game in the first quarter to go to the hospital for X-Rays. X-Rays came back negative...for a one piece Tibia. Leftwich and his broken leg returned in the 3rd quarter with Marshall trailing 27-10 and the Herd offense was stagnant without him. Leftwich managed to throw for over 200 yards, but the Herd defense could not stop the Zips and the comeback fell short. The images of that game burned into our memories were late in the game with Leftwich being carried downfield by Sciullo and Paretta his linemen, doing what they are sworn to do.

8. Pete Sampras - Tennis
1996 U.S. Open
In the 90s Sampras was firmly entrenched atop the Tennis world as the Number 1 player in the world. At the 1996 Open he was in the middle of his record 286 weeks as number one and was the favorite to win his 4th U.S. Open Title. Sampras continued to build his legacy in a match against Alex Corretja. Sampras was suffering from terrible dehydration and even vomited on the court. Nonetheless the epic match went almost 4 and a half hours in the late fall heat and Sampras won. He went on to win his 4th Open title and cement his legacy as one of if not the best Tennis player of all time.

7. Donovan McNabb - Philadelphia Eagles
2002 Eagles vs. Cardinals
Not to be outdone by a college kid, McNabb wanted to make a name for himself two weeks later. Also in November of 2002 the Eagles were in a playoff push and were looking at the Division Championship. In what should have been an Easy W, the Green Birds faced off against (then) division foe Arizona. On the third play of the game McNabb was sacked by 2 Cardinal defenders and limped off of the field. After being examined by the coaching staff and medical examiners, and telling them he was fine, he played the rest of the game on a sprained ankle. He finished the game 20-of-25 for 255 yards and a career high 4 TDs. Only problem, that "ankle sprain" he alleged to the trainers was in all actuality a broken ankle. McNabb knew it was broken but wanted to play anyway.

6. Kirk Gibson - LA Dodgers
1988 World Series
Gibson had exactly one at-bat in the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers. Suffering from both a strained hamstring and a sprained knee ligament. Down one, Gibson limped to the plate to face, future Hall of Famer, and lights out closer Dennis Eckersley. Gibson worked the count full, and in retrospect A's Manager La Russa should have called for Eck to walk the man who couldn't run. Instead Eck threw one down the middle and Gibson took it back to the seats for the 2-run go ahead homer that set the tone for the series.

5. Wills Reed - New York Knicks
Game 7, 1970 NBA Finals
I'll stop before I get attacked, yes this is the most famous, hands down playing with pain moment. Pierce's moment was compared to Reed's by many. Here's my one problem with Reed's performance and why it isn't higher. Though painful there are more severe and debilitating injuries, plus his return had more of an emotional and inspiring meaning than anything else. Yes he helped to limit Chamberlain, but he only played 27 minutes and put up 4 points. With that said, and taking nothing away from it, it is still the 5th greatest moment of playing with pain.

4. Jack Youngblood - LA Rams
1979 Divisional Playoffs
In 1979 the Rams faced off against the Cowboys. Hall of Fame Linebacker Youngblood was the victim of a vicious chop-block at the hands of a pair of Dallas Linemen. The fear of every NFL defensive player, a cheap chop-block injury, was realized as his Fibula was snapped above the ankle. Youngblood had the trainers tape him up, threw a leg brace on, and led the Rams to an upset victory over the Cowboys, including a sack of fellow future Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. He continued to play through the Division Championship, but the Rams lost in the Super Bowl to the Steelers.

3. Michael Jordan - Chicago Bulls
Game 5, 1997 NBA Finals
With the series tied 2 - 2 the Bulls needed their team leader to step up huge in Utah to go back to Chicago with the series lead. Problem was Jordan awoke in the middle of the night before Game 5 shaking, sweating, and vomiting. He spent most of the next day hugging the Porcelain Prince. Jordan was struck down with the flu and spent all day weak, vomiting, and locked in a dark room. He continued to vomit throughout the game and had an IV at halftime. The enduring image of that series was Jordan hugging Pippen as he was carried to and from the bench through the game. Jordan couldn't even sit without slumping over and nearly falling off of the bench. Dehydrated, Nauseated, and weak Jordan was confident he would play, though the medical staff was confident of the opposite. Jordan played in 44 of 48 minutes and scored 38 points, 15 of which in the pivotal 4th quarter. The game turned out to be the difference as the emotional Jordan and the Bulls returned back to Chicago and won game 6 in front of the home fans.

2. Kerri Strug - Gymnast
1996 Olympics
The 1996 Summer Games started off with a bang, and not the good kind. The games were on the home turf for the US team in Atlanta but early on in the games a pipe bomb buried in Centennial Olympic Park exploded with two fatalities. The US basketball team dominated the world competition, Michael Johnson and his Gold Nikes tore up the track and the US won an outstanding 101 medals, 44 Gold. Even though all of those things remain firmly in the memory of sports fans, the image of Kerri Strug is one many think of when they think of those games. Strug, a member of the dominant American Women's Gymnastics team, vaulted her way into American lore. The US needed a good vault score to seal up the Gold and Strug, who had been overshadowed by teammates, had to be the one to do it. Strug fell on her first attempt and came up limping. She went back for attempt number 2 and managed a near perfect 9.7 while landing on one foot. Composed she made the turn, remained for a moment to seal the score, then collapsed with her broken ankle.
1. Steve Yzerman - Detroit Red Wings
2002 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Stevie Y managed to post 23 points over the 23 games of the playoffs. He led the Wings over Carolina in the Stanley Cup Finals. This was nothing new for Stevie Y, he was always one of the top skaters on the ice. But what was difference about this was the fact that he was playing on a bum knee throughout the latter half of the playoffs. Not just a sore knee, or a sprained knee. A completely shredded knee. Immediately following the Finals he underwent reconstructive surgery on the knee, and was shelved the entire off-season and the first 66 games, or 80%, of the following season rehabbing the knee after the knee realignment surgery.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Pierce, 2008 NBA Finals
Larry Bird, 1991 Playoffs (nagging back injury)
Isiah Thomas, 1988 Finals (sprained ankle)
Bobbie Baun, 1964 Stanley Cup (leg)
Lance Armstrong, 1999 Tour de France (Cancer)
Alonzo Mourning, 2003 (Kidney)
Sean Elliot, 1999 (Kidney)
Ronnie Lott, 1985 (Finger)
On a side note, for Lott, Armstrong, Mourning, and Elliot, their injuries were in the offseason, but they were major comebacks. They were major but they did not have an effect on any individual performances. And I repeat, as I said earlier. They were ranked, by me, on 1st, when they occurred, and second on severity. Which is why Jordan's Flu ranks higher than McNabb's Ankle.


Matt Randle "el" said...

You know I am a die hard Red Wings fan, and I am still celebrating our most recent and stirring triumph.

I remember Stevie Y's injury in '02 very well, but, Byron being carried down the field was one of the most inspiring clutch moments I have ever seen. Maybe it's the lineman inside me but I was glued to the TV while that was happening.

I actually think Gibby's homer was far more clutch then most of these as well. The thing that makes his stand out is who he did it against. Eck was the most feared un-hittable pitcher in baseball. We have not seen a pitcher dominate like him since then IMHO. When Gibson came up the announcers thought it was a senseless move to risk further injury in a can't win situation. The fact that it won a world series game was huge, but it proved that Eckersly could be hit and that gave the Dodgers the edge.

World of Isaac said...

hands down, the 1988 NBA Finals Game 6

Isiah Thomas comes back from a terribly sprained ankle to score 25 points in the 3rd quarter and 43 for the game...

one of the greatest moments in playoff history...

surprised it didnt make this list

Matt Randle "el" said...

That is Isiah's 2nd best fighting through the pain moment...This past year he continued to coach while being blasted in court and in the papers like no one in the history of man he had to watch Nate Robinson play point guard and deal with Cry-burry...Toughest performance this year by far

Anonymous said...

This idea had potential ... too bad you write like an 8 year old.

I couldn't make it past Shea Hillenbrand ... which is bad, considering that I skipped the Artest portion.

I assume that you are surrounded by so much Arizonan ignorance -- gigantic trucks, puka shells, friends who write things like, "I dont reed no bookks SUKKKAZZZ!" -- that your brain has melted.

Nice try, retard.

Yardbarker e-mails are really slipping.

Dom said...

Uhhh Bernard you do realize that you posted a comment on the wrong thread right? SUKKKAAAZZZZ and puka shells? Arizona is not in Hawaii or on the ocean despite what you thought based on the earthquake movie you saw on TV last night. But thanks for reading.