by Stal Herz - 01/25/2006
Kobe's 81 points went beyond adjectives. Men play games, but legends dominate them.
Over the years, there have been some truly dominating performances in sports. Not just points, but the ability to do with a single game whatever that athlete wishes to do. It is a rarest of moments when the individual rises above the game and enforces his will on his surrounding, having a God-like control of the outcome.
It is what some may call a rare occasion, and others might deem a miracle, and we're not talking about blazed out horses from Mel Brooks' movies.
Here's a look back at the 11 most dominating performances in sports.
Why not 10? Well, these go to 11.
11 - Reggie Jackson - In game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the man who made mustaches and aviator glasses pimp gear during the late 70s hit 3 home runs to give the Yankees another ring and beat back the upstart Dodgers as an old rivalry got started up again. Jackson was the MVP of that series, and dominated the game from the minute he stepped out amongst the Yankee ghosts who showed him the way to immortality.
10 - Danny Manning - Against an Oklahoma team that had averaged 103.5 points a game that season, Manning single handedly beat the Sooners with 31 points and enforced his will upon his teammates as well as Billy Tubbs' crew of red-clad madmen led by Stacy King and Mookie Blaylock. After that game, Manning was thought to be the savoir of the NBA - a can't miss prospect who controlled the game. If not for an early knee injury after a lengthy rookie holdout, he just might have been. He still has that one shinning moment though for us to remember the smooth slim Jayhawk delivering a miracle.
9 - Vince Young - Even after the smoke clears and before he sets off to make his riches in the NFL, Young's performance in this year's Rose Bowl will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time. Facing a USC team that had over a month to game plan and stop him, Young blew up for more than 200 rushing yards and completed 30 of his passes for another 267. All of this in USC's backyard for the national championship at the ripe old age of 21. This kid's career will help to redefine the QB position and that Rose Bowl game was his launching pad. What a blessing to have watched it.
8 - Norm Van Brocklin - In 1951, the sports pages around Los Angeles were sparking debates as to whether veteran Bob Waterfield or newcomer Norm Van Brocklin were going to lead the Rams at QB. After Waterfield was injured just before opening day, Brocklin stepped in and threw for a record 554 yards and 5 touchdowns. Despite the best efforts of future gunslingers, that record for passing yards still remains. The game established the Dutchman as the premier QB in the NFL and gave the league a true star to march into the new decade with.
7 - Mohamed Ali - the Thrilla in Manilla. If you want to dominate a situation, you must impose your will on an individual and not only beat him, but have him help you in doing so. Ali's rope-a-dope style helped to define him not only as a magnificent athlete, indeed the greatest of his generation, but also a mastermind of his sport, in that he was able to use all of the resources around him to achieve victory. This was the most mentally dominating performance in sports history. He took all of Frazier's shots until Joe had nothing left. Then Ali just drove home the nail, just as he had planned it.
6 - Ricky Henderson - Game 2 of the 1987 American Championship series was dominated by the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. Henderson was 2-for-2 with 2 walks and 2 runs. That's not to mention the 6 stolen bases (4 of 2nd, 2 of 3rd) and a total rattling of the Blue Jays pitching staff. Henderson controlled every inch of the field that game, and not only produced sensational numbers himself, but was directly responsible for the inflated number of his teammates. Ricky was Ricky loving Ricky in his Ricky time.
5 - Bo Jackson - Inside the Kingdome on a Monday Night in 1987, Bo Jackson ran for 221 yards including two legendary touchdowns, one 87-yarder where he just kept going through the tunnel and the other over the career of Brain Bozworth. Bo Jackson had the world waiting to see what the hype was all about, and only Bo knew he would deliver as he did. While there have been greater games and greater statistical performances, Jackson created a legend by stamping the football game run after run with those Auburn strides.
4 - Magic Johnson - In game 6 the 1980 NBA finals, with Kareem Abdul Jabbar still recovering from the after party for "Airplane," the rookie from Michigan State stepped up and played center against Mosses Malone, scoring 42 points and pulling down 15 rebounds to go with his 7 assists and 3 steals on his way to becoming the only rookie to ever win the Finals MVP award. While others have scored more, this is the greatest game every played by an NBA baller given that Magic hadn't played center since grade school.
3 - Tiger Woods - In the 1997 Masters, Tiger Woods shot a record 270 and finished 12 shots ahead of the rest of the field. At one point he had gone 37 holes without a bogey. In has last 63 holes, he was 22 under par. Every ball hit that day was so perfect that the PGA started redesigning their courses so Woods would not be able to dominate the future. That day Woods set or tied 25 Master's records. Woods became the Master of his universe and bent the golf course at his command. Shaping objects creates legends.
2 - Wilt Chamberland - Sorry Kobe, you are incredible, no doubt, but Wilt put up 100 points with old Chuck Taylor's and a bucket of water. The people who left their homes that night in Hershey PA saw Chamberland score 33 in a quarter and 59 in a half. Until 81 the other night, nobody thought it was replicable. They were right. Nineteen points is a LONG way to go and unless Wilt wakes from his long slumber and asks Bill Russell for one more dance, that record will stand forever. Unless Kobe's son…
1(B) - Don Larson - A perfect game in the World Series to bring home the '56 title for the Yankees is hard to beat. How can you beat perfection in the biggest game of your life? How far have things changed from that day? During the bottom of the 7th inning, Larson was smoking in the dugout talking with Mickey Mantle about how crazy it would be if he got the perfect game. 27 up, 27 down to beat Brooklyn is an act of God or the other guy, depending where you grew up.
1 - Gordie Howe - Every game he ever played.