The best sports shots ever

Reading the Golflink article made me go looking for the best sports photographs ever

Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston
Bobby Orr goes airborne
The Giants' Y.A.Tittle
No need for caption
another unidentified flying object

Any candidates?

3 thoughts on “The best sports shots ever

  1. Interesting that you picked the first one with Ali… there is something so fascinating and human about that picture. Much like Ali himself who was so human, but so much larger than life at the same time. A little know fact is how few people actually attended the fight that gave up perhaps the greatest fight picture of all time (more on this below). I agree it belongs near or at the top of the list.

    Just few weeks ago Bobby Orr, the subject of the second picture, bumped into Cathy as we were entering a small local restaurant (Italian, of course!) on Cape Cod. As he held the door open for her, he saw that she was wearing a golf shirt, and asked how she played that day. And then he listened. Complete reversal of what we’ve come to expect from pro athletes in our kiss-ass culture. But that’s Bobby Orr to anyone who has ever met him, another real human.

    Your third selection was another classic and has a personal connection. I grew up in Pittsburgh where the photo was taken. I was actually at the Giants – Steelers game and saw the play and the sad scene which followed.

    The wikipedia entry on the photo is pasted below and captures an insight that is common to all of your first three photos. None of them capture the actual sports action, but rather a powerful moment of REaction. It’s the human emotion drawn into the images that make them each so interesting. And maybe it’s the human endeavor represented by sports that extracts such raw emotion.

    In reverse order, here are anecdotes on the humanity involved with each of those first three photos.

    Y.A. Tittle: “Famous photo- A 1964 photo of a dazed Tittle on the field taken by Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is regarded among the most iconic images in the history of sports.

    Tittle, who was in the final season of his career, was photographed helmet-less, bloodied and kneeling immediately after having been knocked to the ground by a Pittsburgh Steelers defender and throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown at the old Pitt Stadium. The quarterback had suffered both a concussion and cracked sternum on the play. He would go on to play out the rest of the season, but the Giants would finish a disappointing 2-10-2.

    Post-Gazette editors at first declined to run the photo, looking for “action shots” instead, but Berman entered the image into contests where it took on a life of its own, winning a National Headliner Award. The photo was ineligible for a Pulitzer Prize because it was not published, but it is regarded as having changed the way that photographers look at sports, having shown the power of capturing a moment of reaction. It now hangs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”


    Bobby Orr:Orr was known to be fiercely loyal to former Bruin personnel and teammates. When Derek Sanderson had alcohol and prescription drug-abuse problems and wound up penniless, Orr spent his own money to ensure that Sanderson successfully completed rehab. Orr also helped out Bruins trainer John (Frosty) Forristall, his roommate during his first years with the Bruins, who had just been fired for alcoholism in 1994. Forristall’s drinking put him on bad terms with his family, so he returned to Boston jobless and soon afterwards was diagnosed with brain cancer. Orr took Forristall into his home for a year until he passed away at age 51. Orr was a pallbearer at his funeral.

    Orr was well-known for his charitable works, although he kept mentions of them out of the newspaper. Orr was involved in numerous charity fund raisers. In 1980, Orr was awarded the Multiple Sclerosis Silver Hope Chest Award by the Multiple Sclerosis Society for his “numerous and unselfish contributions to society”.

    Muhammad Ali: With the assassination of Malcom X and Liston’s mob connections, rumors abounded that either boxer would could be killed that night. The TV broadcasters of the fight, Sports Vision, Inc, put out a $1,000,000 insurance policy in case Ali was murdered and the fight called off. Ali’s camp knew the dangers and security was tight a New York bomb squad was brought in to sweep the building and some 200 extra police brought in to search people coming into the arena. Prices soared for tickets and due to the location, security fears, and the hysteria surrounding the fight only 2,434 fans attended the fight.

    Ali had changed in many ways since the last fight and so had Liston but were Ali strived forward Liston seemed to crumble. Black activist Dick Gregory remembered visiting Liston expecting a man of steel eager to retain his title but found a defeated man slumped in front of the TV. He would tell his friends, “his mind is blown. He’s gonna lose fast.”

    Gregory couldn’t have been more right as 1min and 40 second into the fight Ali threw what would become the “phantom punch” knocking Liston down. The ref, Jersey Joe Walcott, a former world Heavyweight champion himself couldn’t keep Ali in the corner. Ali perhaps confused himself on why Liston was on the ground screamed for Liston to get up. It was at that second that ring side photographers snapped one of the most famous pictures of Ali.

    There were deeper emotions captured in that picture for Americans as well. It depicted the emerging new model of the modern American black man, stylized by Malcolm X himself, rising up over the older negro model created by white society and years of repression.

    Yep, quite a lot there in that picture.

  2. So it looks like I picked three REaction photos, one action photo (Michael Jordan) and one PREaction photo (the All Blacks Haka). The other funny thing is that I could not find a good candidate from soccer, but probably because I did not look hard enough…

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