Finals are awesome.
This year’s Super Bowl turned out to be a very good game with a fantastic finish. The drama was there and there was no shortage of excitement. Regardless of whether or not you felt the best two teams were fighting for the Championship, these two teams earned their chance to win the title. The Giants took advantage of their opportunities and made the big plays needed to win. Congrats on winning the Super Bowl. Though not the best game ever, this year’s Super Bowl had everything you could want from a title game. There were back stories, amazing plays, and a down-to-the-wire finish. You see, though this championship game didn’t live up to all the hype, it was yet another example of how amazing championship games can be. I saw this as an opportunity to give you the Top Ten Finals in my lifetime.
A championship game or series is the culmination of a long season. As a fan, the championship is the cherry on top satisfying your love and need for sports. Suffering through those very long regular season games, I look forward to the championship game/series every year. To me it should all be a natural progression. The end of the regular season is fun and exciting as teams make their final push; the playoffs are nail biting as the strong weed out and outlast the weak; and the finals should be a classic showdown between the best in the league. People often say they are upset or disinterested when the so called “best teams” don’t make the championship game. But in my humble opinion I don’t care. To me, I love championship games because they are just that, played for the championship. If two teams make it there, I don’t care how they got there, I simply care that this game comes down to the last second play that makes it an instant classic. I am a sucker for the dramatic and get so amped up when there is an exciting game for a title. This inspired me to take a look back and give you my top 10 best, most exciting, most dramatic and most entertaining championship games/series of all time. (Disclosure: These are games/series from my lifetime or close to my lifetime and are all events that have had an impact on me as a sports fan)
And in the words of the greatest movie villain ever, “Here we go!” (My new catchphrase)
10. Griffin vs Bonnar UFC, The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Finale (2005)
At ten we have the Season One of the Ultimate Fighter Finale between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. Now I know you are going are probably saying there is no way that this is on the list but to me it deserves to be. I am a massive boxing/UFC fan and watch it consistently. This fight trumped numerous other great sports moments and made it on the list for two reasons. The first reason being that this was simply an amazing fight. The fight was more of a battle and easily won fight of the year awards.
Without the surprise success of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, which premiered in 2005 on Spike TV, the UFC might not be here today. What’s more, the battle between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar during the live finale was not only one of the best fights of the year, but also managed to rope in a casual fan audience that the UFC had been salivating over for years. For these reasons, Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar I is thought by many the most important fight in the history of MMA. In this war of two very determined fighters, Bonnar and Grifin just wailed on each other for 3 fantastic round. As Joe Rogan announced ringside, “What a battle of wills. I would hate to have to score this fight.” The groundwork in the fight was fantastic as each fighter attempted numerous submission holds and each was able to ground and pound the other. The standup was a fantastic and was a pure display of boxers duking it out. Battered and bruised both fighters kept on throwing until the final bell rang, barely able to stand up. The fighters were at the point of complete exhaustion and I enjoyed it thoroughly. This fight also made it on the list because of the impact it had on the history of the UFC. Many consider this the most important fight in UFC history. Not only was it the finals of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, which is now its 14th season, but this fight was really the beginning of the UFC’s popularity. The massive sports company has become a household name with TV deals and sold out stadiums. Many feel that UFC has surpassed boxing as the nation’s favorite hand to hand combat sport. The final match not only gave two hopefuls contracts with the UFC (usually only 1 contract is given) but it may been the best championship fight I have ever seen.
For the full fight click on the following link:
RUNNER UP: Bellator 58 Final, Mike Chandler vs Eddie Alvarez (2011)
9. Kansas vs Memphis, NCAA National Basketball Championship (2008)
Though I will admittedly say this was not the best championship game of all time (see 1983 NC State vs Houston, 1979 Michigan State vs Indiana State, and 1966 Texas Western vs Kentucky), this was the best final of my lifetime. The game was a match up of the Nation powerhouses. Both teams were number 1 seeds and two of the obvious choices to make it to the championship game. With its long and storied history behind it, Kansas ended a 20 year drought to win the National Championship in overtime with a 75-68 victory. But most of the excitement came before overtime as the end of regulation was simply breathtaking. With the game in hand all Memphis and current NBA MVP Derrick Rose had to do was hit a few foul shots to clinch a record breaking season for the national title. But a few missed free throws and one of the most clutch basketball shots ever would prevent Memphis from its record 39th win. As the Kansas faithful had their prayers answered and Derrick Rose only hit 1 of 2 free throws with 10.8 seconds left, Mario Chalmers, now of the Miami Heat, received the ball behind the three point line and hit one the most dramatic and incredible shots I have ever seen. The three to end regulation sent the game to overtime where the Jayhawks were able to pull away for the title. Overall this was one arguably the best NCAA Basketball final ever.
For the Dramatic Final Minutes, Click Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDvbTrE8VBo
RUNNER UP: NCAA National Championship Duke vs Butler (2010)
8. NCAA FB National Championship Texas vs USC (2005)
The first of our 2 College Bowl games on this list, the 2005 Rose Bowl/ BCS National Championship game was in my opinion the best college football National Championship game in my lifetime. The game was overwhelmed with talent including numerous NFL stars and some of the best college players at the time. With Matt Leinart at the helm and the Heisman winner Reggie Bush running the ball, the dominant and No. 1 ranked USC Trojans took on the Long Horns from Texas and their star college QB Vince Young. The game came down to the bitter end when on a 4th and 5, Young took a snap and scrambled for nine yards and the game winning touchdown with 9 seconds left in the game. This iconic play capped an amazing 32 point fourth quarter as the Long Horns won the game 41-38. Vince Young had an insane game throwing for 267 yards and running for another 200 yards and 3 scores. Many have said this was the best performance ever in the title game. Anyone who was there or who watched the game cannot deny just how good of a game this was. It has earned the 8 spot on the list.
For some of the highlights click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rEHzYS6xJc
7. World Series St. Louis Cardinals vs Texas Rangers Game 6 (2011)
This was an amazing baseball game. Though the series wasn’t decided until a less exciting game 7, the game 6 battle between the Cardinals and the Rangers was an absolute pleasure to watch. This was not the prettiest of games or one of the purest baseball games ever played but it was a thriller. Despite 5 horrific errors this game literally game down to the final pitch. Twice down to their final strike of the season, the Cardinals came up with amazing clutch hits. Actually, correction, David Freese came up with some of the most clutch hits ever. With a two run deficit in the 9th inning, David Freese tied the game at 7-7 with a two out, two strike, two RBI triple. Even on this incredible hit critics say that Nelson Cruz was playing unusually shallow in right field. But in all the excitement in St. Louis after Freese tied the game, the Rangers regained the lead on the super clutch two run home run by Josh Hamilton in the top of the tenth. This alone was an incredible feat. To be one strike away from the World Series title and then lose it on a last minute triple, it was simply amazing for Hamilton to come right back with a two run blast. Then in the bottom half of the inning, Ryan Theriot hit an RBI ground out, followed by Lance Berkman’s clutch RBI Single to tie the game. The Cardinals had just come back twice from a two-run deficit while down to their last strike of the season. Then in the bottom of the 11th inning, the game’s 9th inning hero became the world series hero as David Freese hit a solo walk-off home run to dead center field to force a game 7 which the Cardinals would eventually win. The game was over with the swing of the bat as Joe Buck, honoring his late father, proclaimed, “We will see you tomorrow night!” before the ball even landed. It was quite the special game.
These were the best highlights I could find: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16E238CTCCo
6 NBA Finals Bulls vs Jazz (1998)
There have been some very good NBA Finals in the last 20-25 years but none is more memorable or was more exciting than the 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz. To provide some history of the series, this was the second time in 2 years that the Bulls and Jazz faced off with the Bulls winning a very exciting series in 1997. The game included some of the all-time greats. There was of course Michael Jordan, the greatest NBA player ever, who retired for the 2/3 times after the series; Karl Malone, a top 5 all-time leading scorer in NBA history; Dennis Rodman, who many consider top 5 defensive players/rebounders ever; Scottie Pippen, named one of the NBA’s greatest 50 players; and John Stockton, the then all-time assist leaders in NBA history. The series was not short of superstars and the series didn’t let us down. Five of the six games were decided by 5 points or less and the last 3 games of the series were decided by a combined total of 7 points. The Jazz got a surprising series lead with a thrilling game 1 overtime win. The Bulls tied it up with a solid 5 point victory before gaining the series lead with a 42 point massacre in game three. The reason game 3 doesn’t taint this series’ reputation is because even this game set records for biggest rout and fewest points scored (since broken) in the Finals. The bulls then took a 3-1 lead with a thrilling 4 point game 4 victory before the Jazz were amazingly able to stave off elimination with a 2 point game 5 victory.
This all led to game 6 which has to go down as one of the best and is perhaps the most iconic moment in NBA history. With his team down by a point Michael “Air” Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone and then with a hard dribble right, a push off of Bryon Russell, he hit a series clinching 18 footer saying goodbye to the Jazz and to the greatest career the NBA has ever seen. The series had everything you could want as a fan. There was some amazing offensive moments including Jordan’s and Stockton’s missed buzzer beaters at the end of games 5 and 6 respectively. The series featured some of the best defense ever seen in an NBA Finals as the average score for both teams was in the 80’s with the Jazz failing to top 88 points and the bulls scoring anywhere from 81-95 points in each game. It definitely earns the 6 spot on the list.
Here is a listing of the final scores from each game:
GAME 1:CHI 85UTA 88 (OT)
GAME 2:CHI 93UTA 88
GAME 3:UTA 54CHI 96
GAME 4:UTA 82CHI 86
GAME 5:UTA 83CHI 81
GAME 6:CHI 87UTA 86
Here is a link to the final moments of the game: