The Most Unforgettable And Controversial Moments In Sports

Sports History | 7/4/24

The long history of competitive professional sports wouldn't be what it is without a little shock and scandal. It seems like for every incredible three-pointer or upset in the octagon, there's a shocking injury or heinous crime behind it.

Whether it's grotesque, heartbreaking, or just plain weird, these eventful moments in sports have gone down in history. Just wait until you hear about the NFL playe who got catfished and the female athlete who took her revenge on another.

Kevin Ware's Leg Shatters On Live Television

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Any sport injury can make the fans all collectively cringe, but Louisville's Kevin Ware tops the list for worst injury. It was in the middle of March Madness and Ware jumped up to block a shot.

He landed awkwardly and all of America got to see his tibia break out of his leg in high definition.

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Clint Malarchuk Has His Jugular Cut On The Ice

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Getty Images / Bettmann
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The former Buffalo Sabres goaltender ended up on the wrong side of a skate back in February of 1990. A rogue blade nicked his neck and severed his carotid artery AKA the biggest blood vessel in the body.

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He lost nearly a third of the blood in his body, but thankfully the Sabres' trainer was a former Vietnam medic and helped save his life.

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Latrell Sprewell Tries To Choke His Coach

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We know the players often disagree with their coaches but it rarely escalates to something more than a brief argument. Back in 1997 though, Warriors player Latrell Sprewell snapped at a practice and began to choke his coach P.J. Carlesimo.

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It was only for about 15 seconds but Sprewell followed it up by threatening to murder Carlesimo. He was suspended for 68 games.

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Rae Carruth Is Convicted For Murdering His Pregnant Girlfriend

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After an incredible rookie season in 1997, Carruth was an upcoming star for the Carolina Panthers. All his promise evaporated after he was arrested and convicted and found guilty of conspiring to murder his pregnant girlfriend.

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Thankfully, the unborn child managed to survive despite having to live with numerous disabilities now.

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Buster Douglas Delivers A Knockout To Mike Tyson

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It's hard to explain just how much of an underdog Douglas was going into his fight against Tyson in 1993. Tyson was at the top of his game. The fight was incredible but Douglas ended it all in the tenth round when he tagged Tyson with an uppercut.

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A couple more jabs and Tyson was down for the count. We can't even fathom how much money people probably lost betting on that match.

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Monica Seles Is Stabbed In The Middle Of A Match

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Women's tennis put its mark on the map after a horrifying incident at the Hamburg back in 1994. A diehard Steffi Graf fan ran out of the stands and attacked Seles with a knife.

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Seles had just beat Graf at the Australian Open and this crazed fan was clearly still upset about it.

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Mike Tyson Bites Off A Piece Of Holyfield's Ear

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Mike Tyson has shown other reasons why he's crazy, but the first really came in 1997 in a match against Evander Holyfield. In the third round, Tyson decided to bite off a piece of Holyfield's left ear.

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What's more remarkable is that the referee let the round continue, in which Iron Mike went on to bite Holyfield's right ear. Finally, the round ended and Tyson was disqualified.

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Andres Escobar Killed Over His Own Goal

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There are no fans like World Cup fans. Colombian soccer player Andrew Escobar learned that the hard way after the 1994 World Cup. In a game against the USA, Escobar went to block a cross and accidentally helped send the ball into his own net, eventually losing the game.

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When Escobar returned to Colombia, he was shot and killed outside of a nightclub by some drug dealers who had allegedly lost tons of money on the game.

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Steve McNair Is Murdered By His Mistress

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Back in 2009, McNair was one of the toughest players on the field in football. That's why it was even more shocking when he was found shot to death in his own home.

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The culprit? A small, 20-year-old waitress who wasn't pleased to find out McNair had more than one side chick. She shot him in cold blood while he was asleep.

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McKayla Maroney Is Robbed Of A Gold Medal

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The 2012 London Olympics built up a lot of hype around the "Fierce Five." The US gymnastics team was set to conquer the competition, that is, until Maroney ended up being awarded silver instead of gold after falling on her second vault.

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It resulted in one of the best early internet memes, the "McKayla's Not Impressed" face.

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Nancy Kerrigan Is Attacked

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The battle of the blades in 1994 was a showdown between black sheep Tonya Harding and America's golden child Nancy Kerrigan. The two were set for a showdown at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships when Nancy was attacked the night before.

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After some investigation, it turned out Tonya's ex-husband hired a bodyguard to attack Nancy. Tonya ended up pleading guilty to conspiracy and he skating career was over.

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The Head-Butt Seen Around The World

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Most injuries in soccer consist of a light tap that the player totally over exaggerates, but there was no over-exaggerating when Zinedine Zidane head-butted Marco Materazzi.

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Materazzi had apparently made a comment about Zidane's sister. Zidane was on his farewell tour anyways so maybe he just figured there was nothing to lose. The head-butt has gone down in history and France even has a statue commemorating it.

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Pete Rose Banned From Baseball For Life

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Considering the fact that baseball is one of the most relaxed sports when it comes to actually enforcing penalties on players, this move shocked fans. Rose was discovered to have been placing bets on baseball games that he was managing.

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The MLB commissioner banned Rose for life but there have been talks to lift the ban so he can take his place in the Hall of Fame.

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Magic Johnson Announces He Is HIV Positive

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Back in 1991, HIV and the AIDS epidemic was still a largely unknown and controversial issue. An HIV diagnosis was still very controversial, which is why it was even more shocking when Magic announced he had tested positive.

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The announcement did do wonders for people living with HIV. Magic has served as an ambassador and educator.

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Ronda Rousey's Domestic Violence

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Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
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Many people are used to hearing about domestic violence in sports as a man assaulting a woman, but when it's one of the fiercest women in MMA history, it's a little different. Rousey shocked the media when she openly admitted to physically attacking her ex-boyfriend who was equally a slimeball and tried to blackmail her with nude photos.

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She got graphic by detailing how she attacked him. The question is still: why does Rousey get a pass on domestic violence when a man would be in jail for it?

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Dale Earnhardt Crashes And Dies At The Daytona 500

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The Daytona 500 is one of the biggest races in NASCAR, and back in 2001, Earnhardt was the biggest name. Earnhardt looked set to win in the final lap of the race when he lost control of the car and crashed into the wall at speeds upwards of 140 mph.

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Earnhardt fractured his skull and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

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The (First) Michael Jordan Retirement

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Jordan was at the top of his game in 1993 when he suddenly decided to announce his retirement from basketball. Jordan's father had been murdered just months before and he wanted a change in his life.

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The retirement also led to his attempt at professional baseball (weird) but it also gave us the most important sports film in history: Space Jam.

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Hank Gathers Collapses Mid-Game

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Gathers was one of the top power forwards in college basketball. Seconds after throwing down a dunk for his team, Loyola Marymount, he collapsed and died on the court.

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It turns out, Gathers had an abnormal heart condition which caused his death. His family ended up suing Loyola for negligence for making Gathers still play.

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One Baylor Player Shoots Another

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2003 was a watershed year for uncovering all the messed up things happening in the Baylor basketball team. It all started when one player, Carlton Dotson, shot another teammate, Patrick Dennehy.

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The NCAA investigated and found out Baylor let their players do drugs, shoot for fun, and even paid them (which is a big no-no in college basketball.) After all the scandals, Baylor brought in Bill Cosby to try to boost morale but that move didn't age well.

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Manti Te'o Gets Catfished

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Even All-American linebackers can get duped on the internet. In 2013, Te'o broke the nation's hearts when he announced his girlfriend had tragically died of cancer.

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It was obviously a huge story for the media, but there was one problem: they couldn't find out anything about this girl. Te'o had no pictures together or any record of her, and didn't attend a funeral. He later admitted he was the victim of a catfishing scam and America collectively cringed.

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Hope Solo Is Banned In Rio Olympics

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Solo led America's women's soccer team to gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, so she was set to reprise the role in 2016. Unfortunately, the goaltender blamed the USA's loss to Sweden on the Swede's lack of offense and called them "a bunch of cowards."

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The comments weren't taken lightly and she was banned for 6 months, and the USA didn't even make the Rio Olympic finals.

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The O.J. Simpson Everything

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How can you look back on the greatest scandals in sports and not remember O.J. Simpson? He was an incredible player who had a successful post-NFL career going for him, that is, until his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her boyfriend Ron Goldman turned up dead.

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It led to the iconic low-speed chase in the white Ford Bronco, and the trial seemed to exasperated race issues in America in 1994.

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Terrorists Strike At The 1972 Munich Olympics

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The Olympics are meant to be a time where the nations of the world come together for sport. That's why it was even more horrifying to watch eleven Israeli athletes be taken hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

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The games went on but the Olympics and the message of peace it portrays have never been the same.

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Jesse Owens Owns The 1936 Olympics

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Track star Jesse Owens won an incredible four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics, which would be pretty impressive on its own.

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It was even more impressive when you remember the games were being held in Berlin at the height of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, and Owens was an African American man.

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Randy Johnson Hits A Bird With A Pitch

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Fans at the spring training game in 2001 expected a spectacle when Johnson took the mound, but they didn't expect a one-in-a-million event. Johnson was delivering a pitch at the exact moment a bird flew across the batter's box.

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The timing matched up a little too perfectly and the bird literally exploded into a tuft of feathers.

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The Miracle On Ice

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You can watch one of many films and television specials made about this event, but still, who could forget the 1980 Miracle on Ice. The Soviet men's hockey team was facing off against the USA's hockey team in Lake Placid, New York.

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It was basically a game laid out as good versus evil, capitalism versus communism, David versus Goliath. The USA scored the winning goal with only ten minutes left and the game went down in history.

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Billie Jean King Wins The "Battle Of The Sexes"

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Only in 1979 can you get away with dubbing a competition with this name. The incredible female tennis player King took on the 1939 Wimbledon champion Bobby Rigs and absolutely crushed him.

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A bunch of male observers tried to say King only won because she was younger, but they weren't saying that before the match.

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Mo'Ne Davis Throws A No-Hitter

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Throwing a no-hitter in the Little League championships is pretty impressive on its own. It's even more iconic when it happens to be a female pitcher who went on to win the Little League World Series for her team.

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Mo'ne has been breaking down barriers for women in baseball since the win in 2014 and we expect to see big things from her in the future.

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The Penn State Scandal

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Before 2011, Jerry Sandusky was seen to be one of the most legendary football coaches in history. It all came crumbling down for him in 2011 when it came to light that he had been sexually abusing children for more than 15 years.

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The crimes were committed on campus, which put Penn State in an equally bad position.

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The Larry Nasser Scandal

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Only a few years after the Penn State scandal, similar allegations were brought against gymnastics trainer and doctor Larry Nasser. In a moment of #MeToo, young female gymnasts began to come forward against the former trainer with allegations fo sexual assault.

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All five members of the Fierce Five were part of the 368 individuals who brought charges against him.