Jonah Keri’s ultimate sports celebrations bracket: Vote for the best of all-time – CBSSports.com
The NFL recently announced it will allow group celebrations and prop celebrations after touchdowns, moving half a step closer to become a league that almost kind of tolerates fun!
In honor of this sort of momentous occasion, we’re trotting out the best sports celebrations of all time — or at least the ones we can think of, after many emails exchanged with CBS Sports staffers. Also, huge hat-tip to Sagar Jay Patel (@timoperezzz), who suggested the idea of ranking celebrations.
For our format, we went with a March Madness-style bracket, seeding 64 different celebrations using 1-16 seeds in each quadrant. The celebrations come not only from basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and soccer, but also from combat sports, golf, tennis, cricket, and more.
We judged the celebrations based on numerous factors. Exuberance counts for a lot. Comedy, sometimes even more. We acknowledged the magnitude of big moments. And if a celebration was something we’d never seen before, it shot up the rankings.
The results of this bracket will be decided by you, the readers! We’ll open up the voting to you for each matchup, then post new voting boxes over the next few days, as we tabulate results for each round.
One last note: This was an impossibly difficult task. Before arriving at our final field of 64, we cut … 82(!) other submissions, all of them incredibly strong. Even after accounting for those 146 gems, though, we bet you’ll have your own picks. Let us know by Tweeting @JonahKeri.
So here we go: 64 of the best celebrations in sports history, for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
1. Brandi Chastain, 1999 Women’s World Cup: In front of 90,000-plus people at the Rose Bowl, Chastain became a Sports Illustrated cover subject and a national icon for women, telling them it was OK to celebrate like the men while ignoring the social undertones that came with her method of celebrating. If ever a sports photo captured a look of pure joy, this one was it.
16. Lane Kiffin can see the future: Takes some serious moxie to signal touchdown several seconds before his galloping wide receiver actually catches the damn ball.
8. Tiger Woods, 2005 Masters: Tiger, like many golfers, is actually terrible at celebrating. His high-five technique is painfully awkward, and any move other than a simple fist-pump tends to go poorly. But man, this one of the best golf shots you’ll ever see, and if nothing else, the reactions by announcer Verne Lundquist, and the crowd, are incredibly fun.
9. Tiger Woods, 2008 U.S. Open: Nerves of steel, then elation.
5. Kendrys Morales walk-off grand slam and broken ankle: Call this our Tragic Celebrations Subregional. The broken ankle Morales suffered on this play caused many teams to go much easier on their walkoff celebrations for a while. With Morales long since recovered and several years since passed, can we now safely say that this was cruelly hilarious?
12. Stephen Tulloch hurt celebrating a sack: “TAKE THAT, AARON RODGERS! … OWWWWW!!!!“
4. Bill Gramatica hurt celebrating a field goal: The best part of this incredible clip is that Gramatica wasn’t celebrating the winning field goal in the Super Bowl. He was celebrating a fairly routine, 43-yarder in a regular-season game, one that put the Cardinals ahead 3-0. In the first quarter.
13. Lamarr Houston hurt celebrating a sack: … but Gramatica’s got fierce competition from Lamarr Houston, who hurts himself celebrating a sack … with his team down 25 points, during fourth-quarter garbage time.
6. Kris Bryant, the moment he knew…: …the Cubs were about to win the World Series. Sometimes a subtle smile can speak louder than a thunderous yell.
11. The Shrug: The same can be said for a simple shrug of the shoulders.
3. Icelandic football team goes fishing: The creativity of this fishy celebration gets an A. The execution and body work get an A++++.
14. A Thrilling Run: Randall “Thrill” Hill running out of the stadium after his Cotton Bowl touchdown delighted some, confused many others.
7. Ickey Shuffle: Self-Explanatory.
10. Golden Tate dives into the Michigan State band after catching a touchdown: Simply one of the best trolling celebrations we’ve ever seen.
2. Bobby Orr scores Stanley Cup-winning goal, takes flight: It was a trip by Blues defenseman Noel Picard, not a premeditated leap, that caused Orr’s unforgettable leap. Whatever the circumstances, when your celebration becomes a statue, that’s an all-timer.
15. Table tennis dance magic: You’ll either love this guy or loathe this guy. There’s no in-between.
1. Haka!: Any time New Zealand competes in an international sporting competition, you might see a Haka. A traditional war cry from New Zealand’s Maori people, the Haka is fierce, unique, and impossible to ignore. The one below came after the Hamilton, New Zealand-based Chiefs won the 2013 Super Rugby championship. It’s a gem.
16. “Bang”: The most in-your-face celebration possible against the most restrained reaction of all time for a title-winning shot, the latter courtesy of Villanova coach Jay Wright.
8. Deion Sanders high-step: You’re damn right I once owned a Deion Sanders half-baseball, half-football poster, and displayed it proudly in my room. How many athletes have ever played with more flair?
9. Joe Namath finger wag as he runs off the field after winning Super Bowl III: Broadway Joe was one of the few who could rival Prime Time’s style, and bravado. If you’re looking for the defining image of an athlete guaranteeing victory, then backing it up, this is it.
5. Jim Valvano running around, looking for someone to hug: Historically excitable coach, meet historically incredible championship ending.
12. Buzz Williams dancing to Country Roads after beating West Virginia at West Virginia: Troll Level Infinity.
4. Kirk Gibson’s fist pump after game-winning, pinch-hit HR in the 1988 World Series: Fully confess he probably got a higher seed just so we could hear Vin Scully’s voice again (and again).
13. Miracle on Ice celebration: Historic moment for USA Hockey? Absolutely! Do I believe in miracles? No! (Though this was a phenomenal call by Al Michaels). The celebration itself wasn’t anything unusual though, other than being really exuberant.
6. Ricardo Mayorga getting all his vices in at the same time: The Nicaraguan boxer celebrated his knockout of welterweight champion Vernon Forrest in their first fight (in 2003) by smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer.
11. Marshawn Lynch takes a golf cart on a ride at Cal: Best Mode can activate in so many different ways.
3. Conor McGregor is nuts: Yes, the upcoming Mayweather fight could prove to be a disaster, given McGregor’s lack of boxing experience. But the nuttiness has been there for years: Here’s McGregor jumping over the cage wall in Boston in 2015 after knocking out Dennis Siver to confront Jose Aldo (his next opponent and then-UFC featherweight champion) in the crowd.
14. Wade Boggs rode a horse: Of course, of course.
7. Carlton Fisk waves it fair: Technically the best part of this clip is the pre-celebration. Still iconic.
10. Dikembe Mutombo squeezes the orange: Right after Mutombo’s 8-seed Nuggets ousted the 1-seed Sonics, we got to see what pure sports joy looks like.
2. Mark Messier brings the Stanley Cup to Madison Square Garden: Fifty-four years of waiting ends with an emotion that’s part laughing, part exulting, part “Holy S—, We Did It!”
15. Tom Lawless bat flip after three-run homer in Game 4 of 1987 World Series: When your second career homer in the big leagues (two of only three Lawless would hit in his entire major league career) comes in a moment that huge, you’re damn right you can stroll around the block a few times before flipping the hell out of your bat.
1. Nick Young celebrating a 3-pointer that doesn’t go in: Gonna be honest, this is a UCLA John Wooden-era-level favorite in this tournament.
16. Fun Bunch: Coordinated celebrations are always enjoyable, but watch the video below and observe how bad the Fun Bunch actually was at celebrating.
8. Desmond Howard, Heisman pose: Simple, cocky, unforgettable.
9. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson’s Funky Chicken: Elaborate, cocky, unforgettable.
5. Jimmy Piersall running around the bases backwards after hitting his 100th career home run: Sadly we couldn’t find any video of this blessed moment. But the photo of Piersall’s trot, and the story of the man behind it, are both classics. RIP to one of the game’s great characters.
12. Wiffle Ball Kid: You could argue that Wiffle Ball Kid should either be a No. 1 seed, or not in this bracket at all. We put him in the notorious bracket-busting No. 12 slot as a compromise.
4. The Joe Horn concealed cell phone: Pulls it out of the padding of the upright and aggressively dials his flip phone (with one finger) before pretending to talk on it. Majestic.
13. Tito Ortiz digging a grave … : … for Evan Tanner, after knocking him out cold with a bodyslam at UFC 30.
6. Ron Hunter falls off his chair … : … after son R.J. Hunter hits the game-winning three-pointer to upset Baylor in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
11. Ochocinco does a Riverdance: Exactly as BASEketball predicted:
3. Serena C-walks after winning gold in the 2012 Olympics: Going to guess Margaret Court never tried that.
14. Marlon Samuels, toss of disgust: The Jamaican-born cricketeer catches a liner off the bat, then discards the ball as disdainfully as humanly possible. This is followed by a John Cleese-level Silly Walk…and exactly zero reaction from the other team, because unlike the stick-up-its-butt sport of baseball, cricket actually encourages fun.
7. Robbie Fowler snorts goal line: Speaking of baseball, what would, say, Madison Bumgarner do if, say, Yasiel Puig did this to a baseline after hitting a home run off him? Soccer can be a hell of a lot of fun.
10. Jesse Orosco at end of the 1986 World Series: Throwing his glove in the air as if there were no repercussions.
2. The Homer Goal: Michail Antonio, you’re my hero.
15. Joakim Noah dances with Verne Lundquist after winning 2007 SEC title: Don’t sleep on Al Horford as the skilled hype man.
1. Stanford Band on the field: “THE BAND IS OUT ON THE FIELD! HE’S GOING TO GO INTO THE END ZONE!!!”
16. Mark Madsen dancing at the Lakers parade: Stanford alum redeems the honor of Stanford band with some sweeeeeet moves. I’m already rooting for the first 16-over-1 upset in bracket history.
8. Michael Jordan wins his fourth NBA title on Father’s Day, 1996: His first title since the death of his father. He then collapses on the floor, crying.
9. Michael Jordan, The Shot: The single fist pump, followed by the triple.
5. Andrew Bogut celebrating a Steph Curry three … : … before it’s even in the air.
12. Javier Baez celebrating a thwarted stolen-base attempt … : … before the ball even arrives. I love the World Baseball Classic.
4. The Stepover: Allen Iverson was a bad man.
13. Cuatemoc Blanco marking his territory on the goal line like a dog: Again, soccer’s much better at this than other sports.
6. Rickey Henderson picking up third base after setting the all-time stolen-base record: We really should have cloned Rickey while he was still in his prime. Though even at 58 years old, he’d still be cooler than anyone else out there.
11. Sam Cassell big marbles dance: Already regretting not making this a 1-seed.
3. Jose Bautista bat flip: True story: Every office in all of Ontario is required to have this GIF playing in a loop on every computer screen.
14. Arthur Blank dancing, up 28-3: The Falcons owner starts doing a jig after his team opens up a huge lead in Super Bowl LI. And rightfully so! What could possibly go wrong from here?
7. Messi’s El Clasico shirt celebration against Real Madrid: Savage.
10. Terrell Owens signs a touchdown ball with a sharpie: You know, for kids!
2. Joe Carter World Series jump for joy: Touch ’em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.
15. Randy Moss Moon: Joe Buck is a terrific play-by-play man and really funny guy who gets a bad rap that’s almost always undeserved. “That is a disgusting act by Randy Moss” remains an all-time classic, though.