If you’re old enough, think back to 1973, and the Belmont Stakes. Secretariat had already claimed the first two races of the horse racing Triple Crown, and was the odds-on favourite to capture the Belmont.
He did, but it was the manner in which he did it that can still make time slow down as you watch a replay on YouTube. Sham stayed close for a while, but ultimately Secretariat pulled away. As the lead continues to grow without every stride, the announcer sounds like he can’t quite believe it himself.
Horses aren’t supposed to win a Triple Crown race by 31 lengths, but that’s what Secretariat did in 1973.
Move forward two years, to Fenway Park in Boston on a cool October evening. It’s Game 6 of the World Series between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, with the Red Sox needing a win to send the series to a Game 7.
The Reds, however, had a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning before pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo (a former Red) tied it for the Red Sox with a three-run homerun.
And so they played on. In Boston’s half of the 12th inning, catcher Carlton Fisk came to the plate, and hit one down the leftfield line. It hit the foul ball for a homerun and a 7-6 Boston win.
While that was dramatic enough, what has made the play legendary was a camera shot of Fisk, standing at home plate, knowing the ball was long enough to clear the fence, waving it to stay fair, then leaping into the air and charging around the bases.
And now we can add to that list Sunday, May 12, 2019 in Toronto. The core is tied at 90 in Game 7 of the NBA second-round series between the hometown Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers. Kawhi Leonard of the Raptors, who has scored 39 points already, gets the ball with less than three seconds to go, circles near the three-point line, looking for an opening that isn’t there, than launching a shot as time expires.
The ball bounces on the rim, bounces again the rim, goes over the basket and bounces on the other side of the rim, bounces once more off the rim . . . and drops through to give the Raptors the rim.
There is a photo, taken as the ball bounces on the rim. Leonard sinks back onto his haunches, watching. Joel Embiid of the 76ers, who defended the shot as well as possible without commiting a foul, is also watching. Jordan Loyd of the Raptors is crouched behind Leonard, eyes glued to the basket.
It’s a picture I wish I had taken.
The funny thing is, time is standing still, because it’s a photo, but anyone who sees it, even years from now, will know what the outcome of the shot was.
That’s part of the magic of sports. The moments that live forever in our minds.