Comparing Phelps to the rest

Manouk Akopyan

During a period time where insurmountable accomplishments in sports are accompanied by positive performance-enhancing drug results, Michael Phelps did it cleanly. The Olympian repeatedly beat out seven others in the lanes of each pool. We bring you seven memorable moments that race neck-in-neck with Phelps. In order of occurrence:

1980 ‘- Competing against the heavily-favored Soviet Union on United States soil during the 1980 Winter Olympics, the U.S. hockey team, seeded seventh out of 12, defeats the global powerhouse during the final minutes in the ‘upset of upsets.’ Since, it has been billed as the ‘Miracle on Ice,’ turned into a Disney movie and has placed hockey on the map in the states. ‘Do you believe in miracles? Yes!’ ‘

1980 ‘- During a decisive game six of the 1980 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, then a 20-year-old rookie, starts in place of injured center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. His stat line: 42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, a championship-clinching game and a Finals MVP-winning performance. After champagne and showers, he drives the team bus from the Spectrum in Philadelphia to Figueroa Street in Los Angeles for the team’s victory parade.

1997 ‘- Michael Jordan scores 38 points during game five of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz in which he battled severe flu-like symptoms and dehydration in addition to losing several pounds. Team officials announced he couldn’t play due to an intestinal stomach virus only to see him hit a game-deciding three-pointer three hours later. Teammate Scottie Pippen said: ‘He’s the greatest, and everyone saw why tonight.’ Afterwards, the only people left sick to their stomach were Jazz greats Karl Malone and John Stockton as they retired without ever winning a championship. ‘

1999-2005 ‘- Cancer survivor and road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong wins a record-breaking seven consecutive Tour-de-France titles, making a name for the sport and creating the ‘Livestrong’ movement in the process. He ends his career dominating the French terrain, battling allegations of drug use from the bitter French media and becoming one of ESPN’s most-covered athletes.

1990’s ‘- Present – Any feat in baseball that does not involve speculation of an asterisk deserves notice here, like Cal Ripken Jr.’s record for consecutive games played. ‘The Ironman,’ as Ripken was nicknamed, didn’t miss a game for 2,632 straight chances and, even more remarkably, the streak only came to an end because he chose to. Another great day for baseball could be the day the aforementioned Jordan and his .202 batting average quit the sport for good. Had he not retired, basketball greats such as Charles Barkley, Stockton and Malone might have won a championship or two.

2007 ‘- The New England Patriots went on a Phelps-like run, rolling through the regular season and playoffs undefeated all the way to the eve of Super Bowl XLII. Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns passes, wide receiver Randy Moss hauled in 23 touchdown grabs and the team collectively scored 589 points, all NFL records. If taping another team’s practice, which the Patriots did in 2007, is considered cheating, then whatever substance New York Giants receiver David Tyree used to hold on to the ball in that fourth-quarter miracle-catch en route to defeating the Pats should be as well.

June 2008 – Tiger Woods birdies the final hole of the 2008 U.S. Open to force an 18-hole playoff for the’ championship and then another sudden death match up thereafter. He plays 91 holes of championship golf a la Willis Reed, fights the throbbing pain in his left knee, brushes away false accusations that he faked his injury and wins his 14th major championship. He then steps away from the game until February 2009 because of reconstructive knee surgery, putting an end to all speculation of a Woods’ bluff and hence proving his was one of the all-time greatest performances by and injury-ridden athlete.

2008 – Well…Michael Phelps.