10 iconic sports moments that make us proud to be American
Whenever world competitions come up, we are reminded what incredible athletes the United States of America regularly produces. It's also the one time all sports fans in the USA pull for the same team, creating unforgettable experiences. Here are 10 iconic sports moments throughout history that make us all proud to call America home.
Getty ImagesMichael Heiman
The Dream Team
At the time of the 1988 Olympics, where the USA men’s hoops team won bronze, the International Basketball Federation didn’t allow professional athletes to compete in the Games. That changed a year later, so for the ’92 Games in Barcelona, the U.S. sent the best basketball team ever created to take over the world. ‘The Dream Team’ featured 14 future NBA Hall of Famers (three coaches) -- including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird -- and won gold, solidifying the USA as home of the world’s best basketball talent.
NBAE/Getty ImagesAndrew D. Bernstein
Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics
The ’36 Olympic Games in Berlin were a monumental historical moment for America and minorities. With Adolph Hitler’s regime rising to prominence in Germany, African-American track star Jesse Owens went to Berlin and took home four gold medals. It’s difficult to think of a time we could be more proud of an American athlete. In 1955, president Dwight Eisenhower named Owens Ambassador of Sports.
Getty ImagesFox Photos
Miracle on Ice
At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, the U.S. men’s hockey team achieved what might be the biggest underdog victory in American sports history. The U.S. — built completely with college players — faced the powerhouse Soviet Union in the semifinals and knocked them off on Mike Eruzione’s goal with 10 minutes left. The victory spawned Al Michaels’ famous call, 'Do you believe in miracles? Yes!' and the 2004 film, 'Miracle.' The U.S. beat Finland in the gold medal game. No American sports team has been a greater source of pride than the ’80 Olympic hockey squad.
Getty ImagesSteve Powell
Tommie Smith and John Carlos
The Civil Rights Movement engulfed the ‘60s, and when sprinters Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right) ran in 1968 in Mexico City, they literally used the platform to send a message. Smith won gold and Carlos bronze in the 200m dash, and on the podium both wore black gloves with a raised fist to signify black power. The gesture proved one of the most iconic images ever, though it wasn't immediately supported by all. Many Americans were furious, with the runners getting death threats back home. But in time it's become a symbol for two core U.S. virtues: freedom of speech and equality.
Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics
At the ’96 Summer Games in Atlanta, Strug (second from right) showed the kind of toughness and courage anyone can admire. After the U.S. gymnast injured her ankle on a vault attempt, it seemed impossible that Strug could continue to compete. But the Americans needed one more vault out of Strug to win gold, so she persevered, and stuck the landing on one leg for a score of 9.712. That’s the heart of a champion.
U.S. hoops boycotts silver
The U.S. men’s hoops team thought it won gold in 1972 in Munich when the USSR inbounded and tried to call timeout with a second left. Whether the timeout should have counted has been debated for decades, but the clock was reset to 0:03. The Soviets got a last chance, and when the horn sounded the U.S. thought it won (and celebrated, as pictured). Yet refs determined the clock didn't reset, so the Soviets go another try. This time a USSR full-court pass led to a layup and the Soviets were awarded gold. Feeling robbed, the U.S. protested the medal ceremony and to this day has not accepted silver. The defiance is a source of pride for Americans, but also anger.
Brandi Chastain at the 1999 World Cup
In the 1999 World Cup final against China, nobody thought it would all come down to Brandi Chastain. She wasn't the first player who came to mind for the U.S. in penalty kicks, but she found herself with an opportunity to win it for the Americans on the last kick. Chastain drilled it, of course, and became famous for her reaction -- ripping off her jersey and sliding onto her knees, as thousands of kids across the country learned what a sports bra was. It’s arguably the most memorable U.S. soccer moment of all time.
AFP/Getty ImagesHECTOR MATA
U.S. wrestler Rulon Gardner was a severe underdog entering the gold medal match at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. His opponent, Russian Aleksandr Karelin, hadn’t lost in international competition in 13 years. Gardner wasn’t well known at the time, but he’d become an instant Olympic icon by beating Karelin and claiming gold for the United States in one of the biggest upsets ever.
Getty ImagesBilly Stickland
Vince Carter dunks on France
Another fantastic American moment from 2000: Against France, Vince Carter threw down one of the most hellacious dunks you’ll ever see. After a stealing, Carter took off and soared over 7-foot-2 Frederic Weis, leaving the Frenchman shocked at what he just witnessed. If there’s ever been a moment of America exerting its sheer physical dominance over another nation, this was it. The U.S. would win gold in 2000.
Getty ImagesDarren McNamara
Abby comes through in the clutch
By the time the U.S. entered the 2011 Women’s World Cup, soccer had taken on a new level of interest in America, helped by social media. Down 2-1 in extra time against Brazil in the quarterfinals, Abby Wambach scored on a header to send the game to a shootout, which the U.S. would win. The Americans would ultimately lose in the finals against Japan, but the victory against Brazil was a polarizing moment of patriotism experienced in a groundbreaking way online.