The ESPN Take

ESPN.com's Page 2 writers provide their memories of the 100 moments ...

78Canadian figure skating pair robbed of gold medal
Excuse me, I'm getting all verklumpt.

After a week of controversy, worldwide headlines, litigation, news conferences, outrage and debate, the great pairs figure skating drama concluded in a powerful, emotional ceremony when Canadian skaters Jamie Salé and David Pelletier received the most coveted and revered of all Olympic awards: the little blue Roots beret.

Ha! Just kidding. Everyone knows that not even International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge can get his hands on those berets. The line was two hours long at the Roots store in Parks City this weekend and even longer at the Salt Lake stores. Waiting in line is expected to gain full-medal status in 2006, with the Russian women favored for the gold.

No, Sale and Pelletier received their long desired gold medals, granted to them when the International Skating Union admitted that the judge from France, or maybe Cook County, was guilty of misconduct. The ISU president, the impossibly named Ottavio Cinquanta, awarded the medals to Sale and Pelletier in a special ceremony at the end of original ice dance competition Sunday just before NBC signed off for the night.

Rogge said the IOC did not consult with NBC in scheduling the ceremony for prime time, and I don't doubt him. They didn't have to. They knew without asking what they were supposed to do. NBC paid billions for broadcast rights and wasn't about to let this precious moment be held on a weekday morning opposite the Price is Right.
--Jim Caple (Feb. 17, 2002)

79Michael Jordan's flu game
The indelible image of Michael Jordan's magnificent "flu" game in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals -- which
many argue was his finest ever -- wasn't any particular basket in his 38-point outburst, not even his game-winner to crush the soul of the Jazz.

The lasting image is his ultimate portrait of exhaustion, of the old cliche "leaving it all on the
floor" suddenly captured by the greatest player in NBA history -- the new standard for any player who thinks they've tried their hardest.

Slumped over, his 6-6 "Perfect Athlete" frame looking as beaten as that old guy at the Y after a three-hour
Sunday-morning run, arms literally wrapped around teammate Scottie Pippen, who nearly had to carry Jordan off the court.

Most players can't score 38 on their best night; that Jordan scored 38 on one of his worst is the ultimate testament to his all-time greatness.
--Dan Shanoff

80Emmitt Smith breaks Payton's career rushing record
Single-game records are unexpected flashes of brilliance. Single-season records often might be the lonely highlight of otherwise unspectacular careers. But setting an all-time career record is truly

The irony is that breaking an all-time career record takes so long that the player doing the record-setting is usually at the tail-end of that brilliant career; the record becomes a celebration of lifetime achievement.

Such was the case with Emmitt Smith, whose pursuit of Walter Payton's career NFL rushing yards total was
built on 12 spectacular years, then into 2002, where every game brought him -- and fans -- one step closer
to this huge milestone. He ended with 973 yards that season, but none more important than career yard 16,727, which broke Payton's record.
--Dan Shanoff

81Michael Jordan beats Cavs at buzzer
Before LeBron, before more than a decade of losing teams, before the Browns went and came, before the Indians lost Game 7 of the 1997 World Series ... the city of Cleveland actually had a very good basketball team. And then Michael Jordan made a jump shot over Craig Ehlo. The Cavs were never the same again.

And neither were the Bulls or the NBA. It wasn't Jordan's first dagger to the heart of an opponent -- after all, he'd made the winning basket as a freshman in the 1982 NCAA title game for North Carolina -- but it was the first one we remember him for as a Bull. Sure, it was only the first round of the playoffs and the Bulls would lose in the conference finals in 1989, but winning an NBA title is often a learning process. This was a critical step. MJ had predicted victory; and then he delivered. He couldn't be stopped at the game's most crucial moment, even though the Cavs knew he would be taking the shot.

It's a few-second highlight that wrap up MJ's legacy: "Just give me the ball." And he will deliver. And along the way destroy the hearts of fans in Cleveland. And Portland. And Phoenix. And Indiana. And Seattle. And Salt Lake.
--David Schoenfield

82Dale Earnhardt wins Daytona
The rise of NASCAR from regional afterthought in 1979 to arguably one of sports' "Big Four" was one of the most dramatic of the past 25 years.

And if there was a moment when NASCAR finally "broke through" with the casual sports fan -- when the
mainstream sports fan could really get into (and
appreciate) the sport -- it was Dale Earnhardt's Daytona 500 victory in 1998.

As the sport's biggest star, to have his biggest victory on the biggest stage ramped up a myth that
only became more dramatic with his death in a last-lap crash on the same Daytona track in 2001.

By then, a new mass of fans had been hooked, thanks to the celebration that occured three years before.
-- Dan Shanoff

83Kobe declares: "I'm innocent"
It was Vanessa I was focusing on during the press conference. So young. In so deep, with a world-famous husband, a child, and so much money that she probably can't imagine living without. So stuck. So coached. I remember thinking that there's no way she's not posing, no way she hasn't been advised by her husband's handlers about how to act, what gestures to make, what not to say.

I thought I'd feel some sympathy -- I tried to, for both of them. But the whole thing just left me cold, bringing back some memories of a couple other "stand by your man" moments. Hillary with Bill on "60 Minutes." Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker. Pseudo confessions ("I made a mistake") and pseudo support, and for sure within a few years we will learn much of the real story. But this -- tactical, stopgap, lawyer and PR-driven misdirection. No subtlety about it whatsoever.

84Dean Smith wins No. 877
I lived in or near Chapel Hill for nine years, including the time when Dean Smith approached and eclipsed Rupp. Smith's benevolent presence was everywhere, hovering over the college town, his name always in play. I never saw the man, up close and in person. Never spoke to him. But I wouldn't say I didn't know him, in a way.

Was 877 a big deal? Maybe. The bigger deal, though, was the man's quiet dignity. My wife and I used to pet sit for friends who lived next door to Dean, and we'd walk the dogs on a community path that ran along a small river that ran a few hundred feet behind his big (though not palatial) house.

I wish I had a great story about running into him on that trail. The dogs we walked did play with Dean's dogs, but that's about as close as the story gets. So there's no anecdote, but a great good general vibe: Dean Smith lived among us. He lived quietly, unpretentiously, and I can't say I ever heard a bad word about the man. And I heard lots of good things. In his low-key, stable, long-term commitment to the town and the school, he gave everyone who lived, lives, and will live in Chapel Hill a whole lot more than numbers in a record book.
--Jeff Merron

85Bob Knight throws a chair
I've probably seen the clip of Knight throwing that chair a hundred times. It's come, really, to stand for the entire dark side of his career, that one ineffectual throw.

I've thrown things in anger. But it's never been one thing, one time -- I've played catch for hours, throwing hard, taking hard, stinging throws, all to spend pent up anger and energy. I've stood at the edge of the Atlantic, and on the shore of Cape Cod Bay, skipping rock after rock after rock, until I could barely lift my arm.

To me, it's the repitition that's palliative. Whenever I see Knight throwing that tossing that folding chair, underhand, I just think, "What a useless gesture. Punch a wall. Kick a water cooler. But a chair toss? What's the point?"

Of course, there was a context, of anger at the referees, a longstanding disrespect for most Big Ten officials that Knight had. So all along he was cursing and screaming and piling up technicals, and the chair toss was a little piece of performance art in the middle. Too bad he couldn't take advantage of the incident. Could have turned into a great endorsement for the durability of whatever brand of folding chair it was.

86Ray Bourque finally wins Stanley Cup
A team's championship can double as a "Lifetime Achievement Award" -- and provide infinitely greater
satisfaction to player and fans alike.

For so many all-time great athletes of the last 25 years -- Ewing, Barkley, Marino, Malone, Griffey -- individual
brilliance has been achieved, but not success in its most important embodiment: a championship.

What makes Ray Bourque far more special and "root-able" than an athlete like, say, Derek Jeter, for whom
titles came early and often -- is that Bourque's path to a championship was like his career -- one of
endurance, with the ultimate payoff at the end.

He played 21 seasons for the Boston Bruins, winning the Norris Trophy as best defenseman five times. But, importantly, he did it with as much grace and humility as an superstar athlete in any sport has ever done. So, when he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche and then won the Stanley Cup in his 22nd season, in Game 7 -- well, it didn't matter that his championship hadn't come with the Bruins. Ray Bourque deserved to lift that trophy.
--Dan Shanoff

87Dan Jansen's sad day
There is agony in defeat far more heart-wrenching than
simply watching a skier tumble down a hill (the shot
matched with the phrase in the "Wide World of Sports"
opening montage).

A nation grieved with Dan Jansen for his sister, and
-- in Americans' true optimistic fashion -- we
expected some kind of karmic balance; the story
had to end with our country's best speed skater
taking the gold in memory of his sibling, right?

When he fell, we all were crushed. His own display of
disappointment was so searing, it was a level of
anguish that was far more memorable than any medal
might have been. We remember how much he cared -- and
how much we cared.

88Brosius takes Kim deep
Yankees fans will always remember it as another night when Mystique and Aura were in the batter's box. I'll always remember the sight of Byung-Hyun Kim crouched on the mound in baseball's fetal position after allowing a game-tying home run and blowing a World Series victory in Yankee Stadium for the second consecutive night.

Kim threw 61 pitches in Game 4 before Derek Jeter slammed the 62nd over the fence to win the game. Arizona manager Bob Brenly inexplicably brought Kim in the very next night and watched the closer do it all over again, this time giving up the game-tying homer to Scott Brosius.

While Brosius circled the basepaths and Yankee Stadium turned into the world's largest mosh pit, Kim dropped into a crouch, held back tears and needed to be consoled by his teammates. I had never seen a pitcher so devastated above the Little League level.

You felt so bad for Kim that you wanted to give him a hug and a snow cone.
--Jim Caple

89Rulon Gardner wins improbable gold medal
Those who were there will never forget the moment that star-spangled moment in Sydney when Rulon Gardner, the Wyoming farmboy, pinned Russian heavyweight Ivan Drago to the mat during the 2000 Olympics.

No, wait a minute. Gardner actually beat Alexander Karelin, not Drago. It only seemed like he had defeated a mythic opponent because Karelin had enjoyed the longest reign of any Russian since Peter the Great. And Gardner didn't pin him; he only outpointed him 1-0 when Karelin made a mistake. But those are just details. It still was the sort of inspiring victory that could even make radicals in Berkeley stand up and sing Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be an American."

Gardner was a nobody from Wyoming, a crew-cut kid who grew up waking up early to shovel manure on the family farm and then going to school where he listened to classmates call him "fatso." His background was so clean-cut American that the Hallmark Network would have called in a screenwriter to spice it up with some sex.

And after years of hard work and sacrifice, he beat the best wrestler in the world. And while we wiped our eyes as he received the gold medal and the U.S. flag was raised, it was clear that he would never be called "Fatso" again. From now on, he would be called "Olympic champ."

90Reggie Miller buries Knicks
I never was a Reggie Miller fan. When I was an undergrad at Cal, he was the UCLA bane of our existence. We used to crowd the Harmon Gym court down in the corner where he liked to shoot and call him Cheryl. We hated him the way Spike did years later.

There are times, though, when you can put your feelings aside. The run he had in those last seconds against the Knicks was one of them. It wasn't that I wanted the Pacers to win. I didn't. But I wanted what we all want as sports fans: to see something wildly improbable unfold before our eyes, to see something that stretches the fabric of what seems possible and sets a new standard for future exploits.

The great thing about Miller's late-game torrent was its quickness. In just 11 seconds the game went from forgettable to etched in the annals. And the instant it was over, you knew you'd seen a thing you'd use to measure other players and games by, you knew you'd seen a thing you could talk about with basketball fans in any city at any time for years to come. Then, if you were me, you could talk about how much you always hated Reggie Miller ...