I wanted to make a post about my favorite sports moments since Michael Jordan retired in 1998. I’m only 18 years old so I only got to catch the tail-end of Michael Jordan’s career here in Chicago. I was going to make a top 10 list of favorite Chicago sports moments but while some memories are better than others for me, I really can’t rank most of these ahead of one another so these are in no particular order. Here’s the moments I came up with:
October 27th and November 4th, 2001-Mike Brown finishes two amazing Bears comebacks in back to back weeks
I wasn’t much of a football fan until 2001 but this Chicago Bears team really got me hooked on football for good. This was a team that going into the season wasn’t expected to do much but they ended up finishing the year 13-3 before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional Round at home. But the two best moments from this year came in back to back weeks. On October 27th, the Bears found themselves down 28-9 at one point in the 3rd quarter against the San Francisco 49ers but sparked a furious comeback that forced overtime. The 49ers won the coin toss and had the ball first but on the first play of overtime, Mike Brown caught a tipped ball and took it to the endzone to give the Bears a huge comeback win at home. The next week, the Bears found themselves down 21-7 to the Cleveland Browns with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter but rallied back again to force another overtime at home. The Bears won the coin toss but had to punt after a 3 and out. After a sack on the Browns first play, a Bears defensive lineman tipped a pass that went straight up in the air. Mike Brown leaped and picked it off and brought it to the end zone for his second walk-off interception to cap a huge comeback in back to back weeks.
September 1st-4th, 2003-Cubs/Cardinals Five Game Series
Coming into this big five game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs had just lost two straight to the Milwaukee Brewers and found themselves in 3rd place in the NL Central 1.5 games behind the division leading St. Louis Cardinals. The first game of the series was on Memorial Day and was delayed four hours and featured a dominant pitching performance from Mark Prior who struck out 8 and pitched 8 innings of shut-out baseball. Carlos Zambrano started the 2nd game of the series and went 7 innings giving up 2 runs but got a no decision because the Cubs only scored 2 runs themselves. The game went into extra innings and nobody could cross the plate until Sammy Sosa hit a two run homer off Jeff Fassero in the 15th inning to pull the Cubs within a half game of first place. A few hours later, both teams went at it again in the 2nd game of a day-night doubleheader and this was a controversial one. Moises Alou hit a liner down the left field line that appeared to hit the line and kick up chalk and would have tied the game but the third-base umpire Justin Klemm called it foul setting Alou and Cubs reliever Antonio Alfonseca off. Alfonseca appeared to bump Klemm and Alou appeared to spit on his shoes and both players were ejected and the Cardinals ended up holding on to win 2-0. Game 4 of the series started off horrible for the Cubs as they found themselves down 6-0 as late as the 6th inning but they fought their way back behind five hits from Moises Alou. The Cubs scored 7 combined runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings and their bullpen held on to the lead to give them their 3rd win in the series in a game that featured Cubs manager Dusty Baker and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa jawing back and forth involving pitchers throwing too far inside. The last game of the series featured Sammy Sosa getting ejected after arguing a strike 3 call in the 3rd winnings. This game featured the Cubs down two separate times but saw the Cubs bouncing back both times and held out to win the 5 game series 4-1 and put them in a tie for first place in the NL Central a division they’d eventually win
March 26th, 2005-Illinois/Arizona Elite 8
Okay, Champaign, Illinois is about three hours South of Chicago so this isn’t technically a “Chicago Sports” moment but the city of Chicago was definitely pulling for the Fighting Illini throughout their 2004-2005 season. Until the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup (which obviously you’ll see later in this post), this was by far my favorite sports moment of all-time just because it was arguably the best college basketball comeback of all-time and it came on a big stage and for a team I had been following all season. This team was hard not to root for. You had the college player of the year candidate in Dee Brown, the NBA prospect in Deron Williams, the 3 point marksman in Luther Head, and the solid big men in James Augustine and Roger Powell Jr. This team was basically invincible for the whole regular season until their undefeated regular season bid was squashed in Columbus, Ohio on the their last regular season game when Matt Sylvester hit a 3 with seconds remaning to give the Buckeyes the lead and the eventual win and sent Gus Johnson into mayhem. But the Illini recovered and went on to win the Big Ten tournament rather easily and picked up a #1 seed which they used to their advantage beating Farleigh Dickinson, Nevada, and UW-Milwaukee setting up for a showdown with the number three seed in their bracket, the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats were probably a better team than what they were ranked. This Arizona team featured Channie Frye, Salim Stoudamire, Hassan Adams, and Mustafa Shakur. The game was rather close for the 1st half and much of the 2nd half until Arizona went on a huge run to put them up 15 with just 4:00 to play. Everyone thought Illinois’ fantastic season had ended in horrible fashion but the team never gave up and kept knifing into the Arizona lead until they got it down to a 3 point lead with 48 seconds left. The Illini stole the Arizona inbounds pass and Deron Williams hit a game-tying 3 with 39 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Illinois never trailed after that and survived a last second shot by Hassan Adams to win the game and go to their first final four since 1989. I still get chills every time I watch the highlights from this game.
October 26th, 2005-White Sox win World Series
This one pains me to put up on this list as a Cubs fan who doesn’t dislike the White Sox but would rather not see them win World Series but I have to put it up on this list because it was the first World Series that a Chicago baseball had won in 80 years. This was truly a magical season for the White Sox as they came out of the gates flying. They were the hands-on favorites to win the World Series until they began to scuffle in August and September and it looked like they had a shot at not even making the playoffs that year. On August 1st, the White Sox had their largest division lead of the season at 15 games. That lead dwindled all the way to as low as 1.5 on September 22nd. But the White Sox got their act together and ended up clinching the division in Detroit on September 29th and finished the year on a 5 game win streak which would carry over into the playoffs. The White Sox landed the defending World Series champions in the ALDS and swept them rather easily including a 14-2 thumping in game 1. The White Sox lost game 1 of the ALCS to the Los Angeles but they bounced back to win a controversial game 2 which featured Doug Eddings calling AJ Piersynski save at 1st after ruling that the pitch hit the ground on a strike three even though replays showed that the ball was caught cleanly but the Angels catcher. The White Sox went on to win that game on a Joe Crede double off the left field wall and they wouldn’t lose another game in the 2005 playoffs. Every game of the World Series against the Houston Astros was a close game but the White Sox found a way to win each game. In game 2, Paul Konerko hit a dramatic home run in the 7th inning to give the White Sox a 6-4 lead. The Astros fought back to tie it at 6 but Scott Podsednik who didn’t hit a home run during the regular season, hit a walk off homer into the left field bleachers to give the White Sox a 2-0 series lead heading to Houston. Game 3 was a marathon of a game that went into the wee hours of the night and saw former Astro Geoff Blum hit a 2 run go-ahead homer in the 14th inning to give the White Sox the lead and eventual win. In the clincher, the White Sox were the first team to score a run in the 8th inning on a single by the eventual World Series MVP Jermaine Dye and that would prove to be the only run of the game. Juan Uribe made a spectacular play in the stands down the 3rd base line and the White Sox put it away with a groundout giving them their first World Series title in 80 years.
October 16th, 2006-Chicago Bears Monday Night Miracle vs Arizona Cardinals
The Bears were the talk of the town heading into this game starting the season 5-0 and people began hyping up Rex Grossman as the next big thing. This game put those talks to rest for good and showed what an inconsistent quarterback Rex really is. Grossman finished the game 14/37 with 144 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The Bears went into the half down 20-0 and were down 23-3 with 5:00 left in the 3rd but they fought back with defense and special teams. Mike Brown recovered a fumble and brought it into the endzone near the end of the 3rd quarter to put the Bears within 13. Brian Urlacher then stripped free a ball which Peanut Tilman recovered and went 40 years for another Bears defensive touchdown to bring them within 6 with less than ten minutes left in the game. With 8:00 left in the game, the Cardinals decided to punt to Devin Hester and it was a horrible decision because Hester took that punt 83 yards and into the end zone to put the Bears on top and complete the miracle comeback. The Cardinals put together one last drive of desperation but Neil Rackers who was one of the best kickers in football the year before, shanked a 41 yard kick wide left to give the Bears the miracle win and set Arizona Cardinals coach into an infamous “They are who we thought they were” comment during the post-game press conference.
April 30th, 2009-Bulls/Celtics Game 6
The whole Chicago Bulls/Boston Celtics series was incredible but game 6 was one of the best NBA games you’ll ever see. The Bulls had just suffered an emotional and controversial defeat in game 5 in which Brad Miller missed both free throws in the closing seconds down 2 after Rajon Rondo raked him in the face while going for a lay-up. It was win or go home for the Bulls and the game started off on a good note for them as they got an early lead. In the 1st quarter, Chicago public enemy #1 Rajon Rondo threw Kirk Hinrich into the scorestable setting off a shoving match between the two point guards. The Bulls got a lead up to as much as 10 in the 2nd quarter with 6:30 left but Boston stormed back with a run of their own to tie it at 50 with 3:00 left in the 2nd. The Bulls then grew another lead to as much as 12 at the beginning of the 4th quarter but again the Celtics stormed back and went on a 19-0 run to give them a 99-91 lead with 3:00 left. The Bulls came back from there finished off by a Brad Miller 3 at the top of the 3 point key and a lay-up to tie it with 30 seconds left. Boston failed on their next possession and Ben Gordon air-balled a potential game-winner to send it to the 5th overtime period of the series. John Salmons scored almost all of the Bulls points in the 1st overtime and Paul Pierce missed the potential game-winner sending it to a 2nd overtime. John Salmons again continued to stay on fire scoring all 7 Bulls points in the 2nd overtime but Ray Allen hit a 3 with 15 seconds left to tie the game again and the Bulls flubbed the inbounds while going for the game winner sending it into a 3rd overtime. In the 3rd overtime, it was back and forth for most of the quarter until Joakim Noah picked off a Paul Pierce pass with 35 seconds left and dunked it on Pierce while taking Pierce’s 6th foul to give the Bulls a 125-123 lead and what will go down as one of the best dunks in Bulls history. With 8 seconds left, rookie Derrick Rose rejected Rajon Rondo’s bid to give the Celtics the lead. Rose ended up missing both free throws but Rajon Rondo missed the potential game-winner from half court to keep the Bulls alive in the series and send it to a game 7. This wasn’t the best Bulls team but they put up one heck of a fight against the defending champions.
June 9th, 2010-Chicago Blackhawks Win the Stanley Cup
One of the best stories in sports over the past decade has to be the rise of the Chicago Blackhawks. This was a franchise left for dead under a terrible owner in Bill Wirtz. But in a few short years, the franchise became one of the best franchises in all of sports after being named the worst franchise in sports by ESPN the Magazine a few years earlier. I wasn’t much of a Blackhawks fan until I saw them win the lottery in 2007 and drafted Patrick Kane. I became very interested in the team in 2007-2008 and even though they fell short of making the playoffs, they made great strides for the future. The 2009-2010 Chicago Blackhawks were a fantastic team. They made a big signing in the offseason grabbing Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky from the Red Wings and this would prove to be a championship-winning move. But many people forget that this team could have been bounced in the 1st round by the Nashville Predators had it not been for heroics by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa in game 5 of that series. The Blackhawks were down by a goal with 16 seconds left and the Predators had a man advantage yet the Blackhawks found a way to get a goal in the closing seconds and bring the game into overtime. Hossa came out of the box in overtime after a 5 minute penalty and put in the game-winner off a deflection to give the Blackhawks the series lead and they ended up taking the series in game 6. The Blackhawks then dropped game 1 of the 2nd round series against the Canucks but battled back to win the next 3 games before dropping game 5 at home but they ended up taking the series with a dominant effort in game 6 in Vancouver. The Blackhawks then went on to sweep the San Jose Sharks in a series that was actually a lot closer than the final series result indicated. The Blackhawks took a few close games with clutch goals by Dustin Byfuglien. The Blackhawks then went on to win the first 2 games of the Stanley Cup Finals at home against the Philadelphia Flyers before dropping two games in Philadelphia including an overtime loss in game 3. The Blackhawks grabbed a quick 3-0 lead in game 5 at home and held on to set up the clincher in game 6 at Philadelphia. Because the Flyers were so dominant at home during the playoffs, I thought a win would have to come at home in a potential game 7. But the Blackhawks grabbed a lead in the 3rd period and suddenly it was root for the clock to run out. Unfortunately, the Flyers got a goal with 5:00 left sending the game into overtime. What happened next was by far my favorite Chicago Sports moment of my life probably. Five minutes into the overtime, Patrick Kane put the puck in between Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton’s legs to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 50 years. It was a goal that nobody saw at first but there is no greater feeling than what I felt after realizing the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. The Blackhawks championship parade I could have put into a moment of it’s own because it was quite the experience waking up early and taking the train downtown and being with thousands of Blackhawks fans and celebrating the team’s accomplishments.
-Carlos Lee game winning grand slam against the Cubs in 2001
-Jim Thome’s 500th home run in walkoff fashion
-Cubs clinch 2003 NL Central after sweeping a doubleheader
-Bulls win the 2008 NBA Lottery/Draft Derrick Rose
-Devin Hester Super Bowl Kickoff Return
-Aramis Ramirez walkoff vs Brewers in 2007
-Canucks/Blackhawks Game 6 (Patrick Kane hat trick)
-Cubs win 10-9 against Rockies after blowing 8 run lead
-Cubs comeback from 8 runs down to beat Rockies capped off by Mark DeRosa homer
-Mark Burehle’s perfect game and no-hitter
-Carlos Zambrano no-hitter in Milwaukee
-Bears trade for Jay Cutler
I’m sure I left a ton of good moments out especially involving the Chicago White Sox. Leave in the comments what I left out. Hopefully I got everything big.