If you are from Michigan, you are most likely a fan of Detroit sports. Depending on your age, you have been able to see some of the great moments in sports history happen right here in Detroit. Whether it was watching Kirk Gibson hit a 3-run home run in the 1984 World Series or living through the “Bad Boys” winning back-to-back World Championships, Detroit fans have been able to celebrate some great moments.
Here is a list counting down the top 10 moments in Detroit sports history. Which moments do you think deserve to be on this list?
*These rankings are limited to the four major sports teams from Detroit.
Barry Sanders rushes for 2,000 yards
It’s no secret that over the years, the Detroit Lions have not given fans much to cheer about, especially when it comes to winning. That being said, Detroit fans were lucky enough to watch the greatest running back in NFL history, Barry Sanders, run the football up and down the field.
Though Sanders never had the chance to play in a Super Bowl, he did provide Detroit fans with one of the single greatest seasons in NFL history. In 1997, Sanders started off the season with a total of 53 rushing yards in his first two games, but following that it was classic Barry. In the next 14 games, Sanders rushed for over 100 yards in each game and finished the season with 2,053 total rushing yards.
It’s unfortunate the Lions could never put a great team around Barry. If anyone deserved to win a Super Bowl, it was him.
Magglio Ordonez hits home run to send Tigers to World Series
Personally, I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since 1985. Yep, that’s right, I became a fan the year AFTER they won the World Series! Ever since then the team had let me down time and time again, always coming up short of playing in a World Series.
On October 14, 2006, that all changed. It was the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and runners on first and second when Magglio Ordonez hit a majestic three-run walk-off home run to left field to send the Detroit Tigers to their first World Series since 1984.
Detroit Lions win the 1957 World Championship
I know it’s hard to believe, but the Detroit Lions were once considered a dynasty in the National Football League. In the 1950s, the team won three NFL Championships and was looked at as one of the best franchises in all of football.
The third and final NFL Championship came in 1957 when the Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns 59-14 in front of 55,263 fans at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. The Lions team featured some of the all-time greats including Joe Schmidt, Jack Christiansen, and Yale Lary. This was the last time the Detroit Lions even got a chance to play for a championship, let’s hope they can get another chance!
Steve Yzerman double-overtime goal in Game 7
I have to admit, I’m not a die-hard hockey fan, but there is something about watching a Game 7 of a Stanley Cup playoff series that is better than just about anything else in sports.
During Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference semifinals, Steve Yzerman scored one of the most memorable goals in Stanley Cup playoff history. He let a perfect shot fly from just inside the blue line that sailed over the right shoulder of Blues goalie Jon Casey. The goal came in the second overtime period and the crowd went absolutely crazy!
Kirk Gibson’s 3-run home run in Game 5 of the 1984 World Series
When most Detroit fans think about the 1984 World Series, the first thing that comes to mind is the 3-run upper deck home run Kirk Gibson hit in Game 5.
When Gibson came up to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning, runners were on second and third and intentionally walking him was a no-brainer. Unfortunately for the Padres, Goose Gossage convinced manager Dick Williams that he could strike Gibson out. Well, that did not happen and the rest is history.
Pistons win the 2004 NBA Championship
Goin’ to Work.
That was the motto of the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons, and that is exactly what they did as they made their run through the 2004 NBA Playoffs.
After defeating the top-seeded Indiana Pacers in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons prepared to face the Los Angeles Lakers. The series started off in Los Angeles, but the home court was no advantage for the Lakers as the Pistons stole Game 1 by a score of 87-75.
The Lakers did come back to win Game 2, but it took overtime to get the job done. The teams then traveled to Auburn Hills to play games three, four and five, and that was all the Pistons would need. Detroit won all three games to take the series 4-1 and to win the NBA Championship.
Tigers win the 1968 World Series
Mickey Lolich, Mickey Lolich, Mickey Lolich.
After dropping Game 1 of the 1968 World Series to Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals, Lolich came on to win Game 2, Game 5, and Game 7, clinching the World Series for the Detroit Tigers.
Game 7 featured a matchup between Lolich and Gibson. Both pitchers put up zeros through the first six innings of the game before the Tigers finally got to Gibson in the top of the seventh inning, thanks to an error by Cardinals center fielder Kurt Flood. The Tigers went on to win the game 4-1, giving them their third World Series championship.
“Bad Boys” win back-to-back World Championships in 89-90
I know this is actually two moments, but I had to combine them together. Why? Because I can, this is my list!
The Detroit Pistons, known by most as the “Bad Boys” because of their physical style of play won the NBA Championship in 1989 and 1990.
In 1989, the Pistons faced the Los Angeles Lakers in a rematch of the 1988 NBA Finals which the Lakers won. This time the Pistons refused to lose. In fact, they refused to lose even one game as they swept the Lakers 4-0 to win their first NBA Championship.
1990 was more of the same for the “Bad Boys” as they won 59 regular-season games while walking through the first two rounds of the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons matched up against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls gave the Pistons all they could handle but in the end, Detroit was just too much.
In the 1990 NBA Finals, the Pistons squared off against Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers. The teams split the first two games of the series at the Palace of Auburn Hills, giving the Trailblazers confidence as they went back to Portland for the next three games. Fortunately for Detroit fans, the Pistons were more than ready for the challenge as they won all three games in Portland. In the series-clinching Game 5, Pistons backup guard, Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson hit a 15-foot shot with 0:00.7 second left on the clock to seal the deal and back-to-back NBA Championships for the Pistons.
Red Wings win the 1997 Stanley Cup
The 1997 Stanley Cup Finals marked the second time in three years that the Detroit Red Wings advanced all the way to the final round of the playoffs. In 1995, the Red Wings lost to the New Jersey Devils 4-0, but this time things would be very different.
Detroit took the ice against the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1997 Finals and was on a mission. After winning the opening two games in Philadelphia, the Red Wings returned to the Joe Louis Arena with the goal of clinching at home. The Wings absolutely dominated Game 3, winning by a score of 6-1. In Game 4, Darren McCarty scored a second-period goal which basically sealed the deal for the Red Wings as they went on to win 2-1, clinching their first Stanley Cup since 1955.
Tigers win the 1984 World Series
The 1984 season is probably the most memorable in the history of the Detroit Tigers. The team started off the year with a 35-5 record and though they cooled off after that, they finished the season with a record of 104-58.
Manager Sparky Anderson led the Tigers into the World Series where they faced the San Diego Padres. The teams split the first two games of the series in San Diego, but when they came to Tiger Stadium it was just a matter of time. The Tigers ended up winning the World Series four games to one and Alan Trammell was named the MVP.