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– Big shout-out to Dylan Sullivan (@Sullyspeaks) & Adam Franchella for helping with the list
10) Arizona’s Shaquille Richardson & Scooby Wright’s Tag-Team Interception vs. Oregon
– I may be in the minority for choosing this one to round out my Top 10 list for 2013, but I was just so amazed when I first saw this… Partly because it was such an athletic play by Arizona’s defensive back Shaquille Richardson to keep this play alive, but more importantly, what defender thinks of making a move like that to keep the ball alive for an interception? The Oregon receiver sort-of fell down, but that move really could have backfired if the Oregon WR or any other Oregon player was in the vicinity to make a play. I’m just astounded that this guy had the wherewithal to make an instantaneous decision like that to flip the ball to his teammate Scooby Wright. Heads-up play …
9) Central Florida’s J.J. Warton one-handed catch vs. Temple
– This incredible one-handed catch from UCF’s J.J. Warton deserved to be on the list as well. Granted it was against Temple and the game wasn’t as significant as the others on this list, but the concentration and athleticism it took to come down with this ball is amazing
8) David Ortiz Game-Tying Grand Slam against the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS
– A lot of these top plays are clutch, but this grand slam by Ortiz epitomizes clutch. Big Papi’s homer in the 8th inning of Game 2 of the ALCS against the Tigers tied the game up at 5 after the Sox were down 4 with just 2 innings to play. The Red Sox would later win on a walk-off in the 9th inning, even up the ALCS, and go on to win the World Series against the Cardinals.
– This play represents one of many magical moments from the 2013 Boston Red Sox season. I’m pretty neutral when it comes to baseball, but it was hard not to cheer on the BoSox after dealing with the tragedy of the Boston Marathon earlier this year. Great to see a city come together and bounce back from that… Like I said, a play like this is as clutch as it gets. I have a ton of respect for athletes like that who can instinctively react to a 90 mph pitch and knock it out of the park under those circumstances. Oh by the way, this iconic picture of Torii Hunter and a Boston police officer will also hang from every Boston sports bar from now on…
(Click on the link to see the rest of the list)
7) Deandre Jordan Alley-oop dunk over Brandon Knight
– This is the first dunk that made it to the Top 10, and rightly so. Along with the Clowney hit, this play belongs in the Hall of Fame of shock & awe highlight reels. True to Lob City form, Deandre Jordan receives a perfectly-thrown alley-oop from CP3 and finishes an epic slam over poor Brandon Knight.
– There are some posterizings (is that a word?) where I don’t think the defender deserves as much humiliation as he is receiving. A lot of times, the defender is just trying to take the charge and draw the foul. The play is never even contested. Other times, however, the defender is going right up with the player and just simply loses the battle. This play lies somewhere in the middle. Here, it looks like Brandon Knight starts out trying to block or intercept the pass from CP3 down near the basket, but then realizes too late the freight train that is Deandre Jordan is coming at him with a head of speed to grab the ball and throw it home. Knight is just in the wrong place at the wrong time here. He loses the battle receiving the ball from Paul, and by the time Jordan gets it, Knight is too off-balance to recover or even have a chance at contesting the dunk. As a basketball player, one of my biggest fears is being on the receiving end of something like this. I always advise those on defense to get the hell out of the way if someone like that comes barreling down the lane. Don’t be a hero. Knight had it tough here because he thought he could steal the ball… Like Vincent Smith with the Clowney hit, Knight is going to have trouble living this one down for a long time.
6) New Rochelle buzzer-beater game winner vs. Mount Vernon
– This play would earn a Top 3 spot had it been on a higher level, but it’s still too amazing to keep off the list. This play is from a Section 1 Class AA High School Championship between New Rochelle vs. Mount Vernon in Westchester, NY on March 3rd, 2013. With under 3 seconds left, New Rochelle inbounds the ball for a last-ditched effort to steal the game. The initial pass gets stolen at around half court, and everyone in the game believes that this will end the game. The announcers even begin to say, “… And Mount Vernon will hold on to win this one.” NOT SO FAST!!! Quick thinking on the part of inbounder Khalil Edney allows him to steal an errant throw from Mount Vernon and hurl a prayer from Mount Vernon’s 3 point line and drain a 3/4 court shot to beat the buzzer, beating Mount Vernon 61-60. Dumb and ill-advised pass from Mount Vernon to say the least; holding on to the ball would have sealed the game obviously. But more importantly, you have to give credit to Edney who never gives up on the play and who has the foresight to take a shot immediately after he steals the ball.
5) Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones Hail Mary Game-Tying TD vs. Broncos in AFC Divisional Round
– Another miracle hail-mary play rounds out the top 5. This one was from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones during the AFC Divisional Round against the Broncos last season. This TD sent the game into OT, propelling the Ravens to a victory with a Justin Tucker field goal and an eventual Super Bowl title.
– Terrible play on the ball by Broncos defender Rahim Moore. He totally misread the ball and comes up whiffing, allowing Jones to make the catch completely unopposed and walk into the endzone. I think there’s more to this than simply misjudging the ball. I think Moore maybe got a little nervous and couldn’t get his feet under him in time. He probably thought too much about it, couldn’t will himself to make a full play on the ball, and miss it completely. Maybe he was also afraid of being too aggressive and possibly getting called for pass interference. Regardless, I feel for the guy. It’s a pretty simple play to just bat down and I’m sure he’s gotten a lot of shit for it.
– By the way, I don’t feel like I’m alone when I say that it’s becoming an eerie pattern for Peyton & Co. to lose early in the playoffs. I respect the hell out of Peyton, but it always seems like just one thing goes wrong in the playoffs and he exits early. I’m not sure how much of it I should amount to him choking or to other parts of his team not stepping up. I really hope I’m wrong this year, but I can’t help but think something like this will happen again in a couple weeks in Denver.
4) Jadeveon Clowney Hit & Fumble Recovery on Vincent Smith of Michigan – 2013 Capital One Bowl
– Tough to watch this play and not yelling out a huge “WHOOOOOOO!!!!” after seeing Vincent Smith get jacked up by the Predator Jadeveon Clowney. If someone you know is a little fuzzy on the exact definition of “JACKED UP,” show them this play and they will instantly understand. Clowney pulverizes Smith 8 yards into the backfield, knocks off his helmet, causes a fumble, and then recovers the fumble himself. Vincent Smith couldn’t ask for a more emasculating and humiliating play than this one. I’ve heard that Smith literally signs autographed pictures of this play for devilish kids who force poor Vincent to relive this traumatizing event. This play will routinely be played back as a top highlight for the next 10 years. The play helped majorly with Clowney’s draft stock over the offseason; it’s literally the first thing that people remembered when evaluating him as a player. Although this play didn’t have the implications that some of the other game-winners I have posted as being part of the top 5 had, it still belongs at #4.
3) Auburn’s Game Winning 4th & 18 Hail Mary TD vs. Georgia
– As if the craziness during the Iron Bowl wasn’t enough, Auburn’s 4th & 18 “Immaculate Deflection” against Georgia proved once again that their 2013 football season was a year of destiny. Any hail mary that worked in this way would probably earn a Top-10 spot this year, but the fact that this play kept Auburn’s magical title run alive makes it even more special. Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis couldn’t have been in a more perfect position to simply look up and catch the ball after 2 Georgia defenders batted it straight up into the air. Louis never even broke stride; the ball deflected in such a way that Louis was able to keep running at the same pace, look straight up into the air, stick his hands out, and run in for the score. This play works 1 out of every 100 times.
A season like the one Auburn is having now always has its fair share of miraculous plays. It’s nothing that should be taken away from Auburn. Every championship team can look back on their season and point to a solid amount of plays and games that were lucky or shouldn’t have gone their way. It’s a part of sports. It doesn’t mean Auburn doesn’t deserve to be in the National Championship right now. More power to them for pulling off these miraculous plays.
2) Ray Allen Game Tying 3-Pointer vs. Spurs in Game 6 of the NBA Finals
– It kills me to put this play at #2 because I absolutely hate the Heat, but I can’t deny them this spot. This play literally saved the title for the Heat against the Spurs this past season. The Spurs were on their way to a hard-fought 4-2 NBA Finals victory. As is typical with Heat fans, most left the game thinking the Spurs had won when Manu Ginobili put the Spurs up 5 with 37 seconds left. Around this time, league officials also began carrying out the Finals trophy onto the court as the game was winding down to award the Spurs their championship. With 5 seconds left after a Chris Bosh offensive rebound off of a Lebron James missed 3-pointer, Ray Allen hurled a fadeaway 3 from the corner to tie the game. The rest is history – The Heat went on to win Game 6 in OT and win Game 7 to capture their 2nd NBA Finals victory in a row.
– The significance and implications of this play are crazy enough, but the shot itself from Allen was nothing short of amazing. After a Lebron James 3 point miss with around 8 seconds left, Bosh grabbed the offensive board. As Bosh looks like he will win the battle against 2 Spurs defenders and come down with the offensive rebound, Allen is forced to backpedal to the corner with no knowledge of where he is on the court. He never was able to look down because he had to keep his eyes on Bosh and call for the ball from him. What’s amazing is that he had to trust that he was not only not out-of-bounds, but also behind the three point line. That ability is pure feel – that comes from a lifetime of experience. It is truly incredible that he was able to backpedal just the right amount, not lose his pace and focus with the catch and shot, and get a clean shot off with enough strength on it (his entire momentum was going backwards) to tie the game up. This one was a heartbreaker for me, but I can’t deny the greatness of Ray Allen here.
1) Auburn 109 Yard FG Return for TD vs. Alabama in the Iron Bowl
This play wasn’t just the play of 2013 – it might be the play of the last 5 years. To have one of the most legendary college football games of our era come down to an epic and unforgettable play like this is too good to be true. Games of this magnitude that have been legendary throughout the whole game always seem destined to end on some crazy shit like this. As if there weren’t enough complete game-changing plays throughout this game already, this last play epitomizes just how crazy and unpredictable sports can be. Alabama, riding in the driver’s seat with only one second left in the game, attempted a last-ditch 57 yard FG attempt. Nick Saban, who had made a couple of questionable calls in this game already, deserved quite a bit of scrutiny for a number of things that occurred during this play. Besides the FG decision itself being questionable considering the circumstances, Saban decided to pull his kicker Cade Foster, who had missed 3 FGs earlier in this game, and replace him with Redshirt Freshman kicker Adam Griffith, who he claimed had the stronger leg. Saban also poorly prepared his team for defending the play following the missed FG (Saban went on to blame the team’s execution on this play). This whole “David vs. Goliath” dynamic only adds to the intrigue of the play as well. Auburn by no means was considered David or a huge underdog in this game, but this play symbolizes such a clear contradiction of what Alabama has symbolized to college football under Nick Saban. Alabama has always been known as the tough-nosed, disciplined, and well-coached football team who made the right plays when they needed to. Since then, critics have called into question Saban’s decision-making for deciding to kick the FG and choosing a red-shirt freshman to kick it. Alabama’s lack of discipline and preparation reared its ugly head as well, allowing Chris Davis to return the ball 109 yards barely being touched. On this play, Auburn was more prepared for what could happen following a FG miss, while Alabama was nowhere near ready to handle it… Credit goes to the Auburn coaching staff for out-coaching the great and mighty Nick Saban during this play to propel Auburn to the National Championship.