When it comes to sports, a lot of the 1990s decade was defined by changes. In the world of basketball, Michael Jordan was the next big thing after Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. There were also quite a lot of firsts, with racial barriers being broken down by the likes of Tiger Woods and Serena Williams. These two pros won their first-ever major championships and went on to be the best in their fields. With extreme sports also becoming relevant, a lot of hitherto unknown athletes from various backgrounds were also discovered.
Along with all these new starts, the 90s also saw a lot of scandals in sports. There were new kinds of performance enhancing drugs around, for one. Some athletes would also go through a lot of tragedy, or go and do something totally bizarre or illegal that ruined their careers. Let’s have a look at some of the best sports moments of the 90s now:
1. The Making of The Dream Team
During the Summer Olympics in 1998, the American basketball team was unable to win the gold medal. In 1992, however, there was an important decision that allowed professional players to be part of the games that year.
As a result, Barcelona (the host of the Olympics at the time) saw a legendary compilation of players in the US men’s basketball team. This team was headlined by the super players, Larry King, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan. As expected, this Dream Team played exceptionally well. They ended up winning the gold medal, which was also expected. What’s more, they beat the other teams by an average of a whopping 43.8 points in every game. This win solidified the American dominance of basketball and made it an even more popular game within the United States. In short, this was probably one of the greatest sports teams of all time.
2. The Home Run Race
In 1998, there was an iconic home run race between none other than Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Roger Maris hit a record 61 home runs back in 1961, with many baseball players trying to surpass that feat ever since. Almost 40 years later, Mark McGwire managed to not just break but smash the record with his 70 home runs. Sosa also beat the record with 66 runs that same year.
While these feats are certainly awe-inspiring, we now know that both players were using performance-enhancing drugs at the time. While this might have struck their name from the record-holders’ lists and from baseball fans’ hearts, one can’t deny that this was an iconic moment. It garnered a lot of excitement for anyone who was remotely interested in baseball. Plus, the moments inspired several baseball fans and might even have shaped the careers of junior baseball players.
3. Mike Tyson Proved to be a Biter
While this might not have been a ‘best’ sports movement within the 90s, it was certainly an iconic one. Having a boxer turn out to be a biter was one of the biggest sporting upsets of all time, but the whole event was actually quite bizarre.
In late June 1997, Mike Tyson was up against Evander Holyfield for only the second time in a period of eight months. Since Tyson was on his way to earn the heavyweight championship belt again, he was all too eager to win against his opponent. However, there’s such a thing as being too eager.
When the third round of boxing was going on, Holyfield delivered a lot of head-butts to Tyson. This frustrated the latter, causing a lash out. At this point, Tyson nearly bit off his opponent’s ear.
What’s probably even more shocking is that Tyson wasn’t even disqualified for this offence. His disqualification actually occurred when he bit his opponent’s other ear when the round was at an end.
4. Winning the Women’s World Cup
Soccer fans in the 90s will probably still remember the image of Brandi Chastain, with her shirt in her hand, and crouched down on the field. This was her way of celebrating her team’s victory after scoring with the winning penalty for the quarter final of the Women’s World Cup. This was in 1999, and the match was won on the team’s home soil.
Perhaps this victory was all the more sweet for Chastain because of her error early on in the same game. When the quarter-final match against Germany started, she scored for the rival team first. However, she also managed to score for her own team shortly afterwards, thus equalizing the rest of the match. For the last penalty kick, she used her left foot instead of the usual right following the advice of her coach.
While the removal of her jersey was definitely a controversial moment–Bastian would later recall that the stadium went silent-it was a powerful and unplanned move. While male players regularly ripped off their shirts in celebration, a woman doing the same was considered to be attention-seeking and even disrespectful by some.
Since this cup series started in 1991, it was the second such victory for the United States team. The victory also boosted Chastain to international superstar status, making her an icon and inspiration for women in general and scores of junior soccer players of all genders.
5. Michael Jordan’s Switch
The NBA finals in 1991 saw the defeat of the Los Angeles Lakers against the Chicago Bulls. However, the point at which Magic Johnson gave up the basketball throne to Michael Jordan is said to have occurred in this game.
After the Bulls lost the first game due to a last-second shot, they knew that winning the second game was essential. When this game was in its fourth quarter, Jordan was flying along the court holding the ball with his right hand. He then sensed that he was about to get blocked and managed to switch the ball to his other hand mid-air. After that, he kept on soaring and scored with his left hand. After that feat, his team managed to win by 21 points. It also didn’t lose another game that season. They eventually managed to take the title for five games.
6. Christian Laettner’s Iconic Shot
To date, Christian Laettner is said to be among the best-ever basketball players. His team, the Duke Blue Devils, managed to get into the Final Four for every year he played with them. They also won NCAA titles back to back in 1992 and 1991. However, perhaps his highest point was the winning shot in 1992.
On March 28 that year, Laettner’s team was losing by a single point with only 2.1 seconds left on the clock. The match was the East Regional Final and the rival team was that of Kentucky. Teammate Grant Hill sent a full-court pass to Christian Laettner, and the latter caught it while on the free-throw line. He then immediately turned and made the shot in the very last second of the game. Needless to say, this shot is still held up as one of the most amazing moments in the history of college basketball.
7. Tiger Woods’ First Masters Win
Tiger Woods attained professional player status in 1996 while on the PGA Tour. After that achievement, it took just a year for Woods to start breaking records and establishing his own.
In 1997, the pro golfer began his first-ever Masters with a shaky start. However, his talents soon clicked in and Woods began the biggest and most important tear of his whole career. At the young age of 21, he was the youngest Masters champion in the history of the sport. He was also Augusta’s first non-white winner. The scoring record was then set at 270, with the record for the largest victory margin (12 strokes) also being awarded to Woods.
8. Sampras’ Performance at Wimbledon
Pete Sampras was the king of grass before Roger Federer made an appearance, effectively obliterating all tennis records. Sampras was the one who dominated Wimbledon during the 90s decade.
In the years between 1993 and 2000, Sampras ended up winning Wimbledon no less than seven times. Federer would eventually break this record, but only by one more victory.
Sampras was also ranked the No.1 tennis player in the whole world for an impressive 286 weeks. His most iconic moment also occurred in the 90s; more specifically, 1999. This was the year when he defeated his arch rival in the final. This rival was Andre Agassi. The win was Sambras’ sixth victory within the All England Club and also rewarded him the Wimbledon title.
The best and most iconic sporting moments of any decade are worth remembering. Whether it was the performance of the best football players of the 80s or a basketball Dream Team coming together, these moments have shaped pop culture as we know it now. The 1990s were especially full of inspiring highlights, scandals, unbelievable performances, and some shocking events. This was the time when a lot of things were changing, with sports being no exception.