With sports nostalgia taking center stage this summer with Ice Cube's Big3 baskeball league, which will feature coaches Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, George Gervin, Rich Mahorn, Clyde Drexler and Charles Oakley, FOX Sports looks back to the fond sporting memories of the 1990s by picking the most '90s athletes out there. Come bathe in the star wattage, controversy, trends and hairpiece-wearing tennis stars.
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Ken Griffey Jr.
Back when baseball was cool and stats - the actual numbers of hits, doubles, home runs, strikeouts, batting average, wins, save - meant something instead of serving as fodder for mathematical formulas that spit out numbers to evlauate your worth, Ken Griffey was the coolest superstar around. Lone downside: It's because of Griffey we see the sight of 40-year-old men wearing backward hats today.
AFP/Getty ImagesJOHN G. MABANGLO
Name a briefly good, mostly forgotten 1990s football player who exudes everything about the NFL decade better than Bam Morris. I'm gonna wait.
Legitimate question: Is Desmond Howard's punt-return touchdown celebration against Ohio State the most mimicked in football history? What person born between 1975 and 1985 didn't strike the Heisman pose after hitting the end zone (actually the imaginary diagonal from the pine tree to the corner of the patio) in an after-school game of two-hand-touch?
Poor Shannon Miller. She was a two-time Olympian who won seven medals in her career, the most ever for an American gymnast. That record haul included a silver in the all-around in Barcelona and a gold on the balance beam in Atlanta. She was the leader of the famous Magnificent Seven, scoring more points in the '96 team competition than all but one woman (all-around gold medalist Lilia Podkopayeva had more). It should have been her crowning achievement - America's greatest gymnast leading Team USA to its first-ever gold in the team event. And then Kerri Strug's ankle stole the spotlight.
Getty ImagesMike Powell
The poor man's Charles Barkley, only with a ring that was largely won thanks to his Game 7 heroics in the 1994 NBA Finals. Maxwell was a controversial figure throughout his basketball career, from his shameful ending at the University of Florida to that time he went into the stands in Portland to punch a fan.
Bel Air Academy Basketball
Will Smith's four teammates on the Bel Air Academy basketball team* taught him an important lesson that day: Sometimes you need to be saved from yourself. Too bad he didn't heed the lesson during the filming of After Earth.
* Okay, so Carlton was on the basketball team? I know Bel Air Academy wasn't DeMatha or Power Memorial but Carlton doesn't do sports. That's the whole point. He's a bookworm, a nerd, an unironic Tom Jones fan. Him and athletics go together as well as Aunt Vivian and character continuity. Having him play ball is a narrative device, I understand, the same reason that on Saved By The Bell Slater was on two winter sports teams (wrestling and basketball), Jessie put aside her feminist leanings to become a cheerleader, they were all the entire talent lineup at the Bayside radio station, every student council meeting seemed to include just the group (maybe that one nerd too) and Zack was everything from the lead in the school play to the key to the basketball team to the kid who could single-handedly turn the class trip into Richie Belding's pre-stewardess dream vacation. Anyway, Carlton. Kudos to the Fresh Prince team for not only having him miss the last-second shot but for having it miss the backboard entirely and hit off the top of the back wall. Gold.
Christian Laettner was on the Dream Team. Never, ever forget.
Amy SancettaAmy Sancetta
McGwire & Sosa
You know how sports movies have montages of feel-good stretches with the team finally coming into its own (Major League), an athlete doing inhuman things (Rocky IV) or another athlete doing inhuman things in a completely different way (Teen Wolf)? The entire summer of 1998 was like one of those sports montages. Fans went to bed every night checking to see whether McGwire or Sosa (and Griffey, up until a point) had gone deep and it seemed like they always did, particularly in that torrid June when the great home run chase officially began. It didn't matter that they were juiced up. It didn't matter that those numbers made the baseball record book obsolete. It happened and, man, was it fun.
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I remember hearing all sorts of rumors about why the names of Randall Cunningham, Bernie Kosar and Jim Kelly weren't in Tecmo Super Bowl. Cunningham didn't want his kids playing video games. The Bills and Browns were going to trade Kelly for Kosar and Tecmo didn't want to commit to putting either on a team. There wasn't enough memory for all the players. The people who wrote the code were fans of, I don't know, whoever wouldn't have liked the Eagles, Bills or Browns, which would likely have meant the game was developed in Pittsburgh instead of somewhere in Japan. The real reason, however, was far less interesting: None of the players were a part of the NFLPA and thus couldn't have their likenesses licensed. How important was the NFL license? The first Tecmo just had "generic" teams without any nicknames and the first iterations of Madden had no NFL/NFLPA licensing whatsoever. Ahh, the good old days.
Teal was huge in the 1990s. Add in two of the most famous college basketball players of the era (Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson) and the Hornets became a crossover success, a Raiders or White Sox for the smooth jazz crowd. I remember getting this hat for Christmas, even though I lived in Washington D.C., and walking around with it the rest of the day, suited up and wearing that hat made me feel like a rookie on draft night. The Hornets were a huge Starter jacket team as well. And then they absconded for New Orleans and though there's a new Charlotte Hornets, it's not really the same thing.
Master P, the New Orleans rap impesario and founder of No Limit, was a pretty good basketball player who got a shot at the NBA before the strike-shortened 1998-99 season. The Hornets sold out his first pre-preseason scrimmage and the team came out to Make 'Em Say Uhh! which is as bad a song as you remember. Included in the crowd were fellow "soliders" Mia X, Mystikal, Mr. Serv-On and C-Murder (currently serving life for murder).
P could shoot and was athletic but not enough for the NBA. He was cut from Charlotte and then, before the next season, got another tryout with the Raptors.
No fight of the past 25 years - not Mayweather, not Pacquiao, not the MMA guy Mayweather will destroy when they eventually and inevitably get in the ring - was as anticipated as Holyfield-Tyson. It had been put on hold for years after Tyson's rape conviction and then with Holyfield playing boxing ping-pong - winning the title over Buster Douglas, then losing to Riddick Bowe, winning back the title, then losing to Michael Moorer. Then, six years after the rumors started, Holyfield and Tyson met in a heavyweight title bout in 1996 - a bizarre affair that saw Tyson headbutt Holyfield a number of times before the match was stopped. And then came their bout in the summer of 1997, which made the first fight look downright gentlemanly. Tyson, of course, bit Holyfield's ear off and was disqualified in the craziest sporting scene of a crazy sporting decade. And that's realer than Real Deal Holyfield.
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"[I was] half-drunk, with bloodshot eyes, monster breath, and a raging, skull-rattling hangover," David Wells writes in his autobiography about his 1998 perfect game. And, while the veracity of the statement is greatly debated, the mere fact that it's even plausible says all you need to know about David Wells.
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By simply lowering the basket a foot, Billy Hoyle, a hero to every pick-up player in the country, shows that white men can indeed jump. And kudos to director Ron Shelton for filming this scene with enough camera trickery so it doesn't look like Michael J. Fox dunking in Teen Wolf. (Harrelson says the basket was at 9.5 feet. Other say they'd lowered it a little more and didn't tell him.)
Among the 10 most awesome baseball moments from the 1990s: Bo running up the wall after catching a fly ball and Bo calilng timeout, not getting it and then hitting what was essentially a one-handed homer.
Though the "Bo Knows" commercials started in 1989, they hit their self-aware stride in 1990. It started just in time - Bo was out of football after the hit he took in January of 1991. (JaMarcus Russell started more games in the NFL than Bo Jackson - he had 23 starts). And though he'd play half a season in 1991 for the White Sox, he was out of baseball completely in 1992 and then washed up in his final two, injury-plagued years.
Ron VeselyRon Vesely
The man who launched a million "why is that first baseman wearing a helmet" questions at MLB stadiums. The answer: In college, Olreud had a brain aneureysm and wore the helmet for protection while fielding his position. I can't explain why Olerud is so 1990s, but isn't that kind of the point?
The most classic Olerud story involves one of the most '80s players ever and maybe the most quotable of any decade - Ricky Henderson. The tale goes that Ricky went up to Olerud when he got to the Mariners and said that he also used to have a teammate who wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud said "that was me," referring to their time on the Blue Jays. It's not true and was evidently started as a joke, but don't let that stand in the way.
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John Daly's life reads like it's out of the manual for one-hit wonders, only Daly won two majors - the first when he was ninth alternate at the '91 PGA at Crooked Stick and another at the British Open in 1995. He also had five other wins before squandering his talent through his many vices, which thus makes his life read like it's out of the manual for cautionary tales.
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Dennis Rodman could not exist in today's world, which is either a depressing sign of our PC culture run amok or the best examples of our continued progress as a society.
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Put this on the stove and let it simmer for a little bit: The Tonya/Nancy incident happened four months before the O.J. chase. All of that within 120 days!
AFP/Getty ImagesVINCENT ALMAVY
When Penny and Shaq went to the NBA Finals in 1995, the duo's second year together, it looked like the Orlando Magic would be the NBA's next dynasty. Then Penny got hurt, lost his explosiveness and eventually became best known for being the sidekick of a little puppet he palled around with in commercials.