Every sports fan loves to play fantasy match-ups in their head. They want to see their favourites go up against the world’s best and heroically conquer them, and they want to see underdogs or local heroes defy the odds in spectacular fashion.
Sport is a cruel, cruel mistress though. And while there are more incredible sporting moments than could ever fill a badly-produced Youtube video, there are so many that simply never got to happen. Here’s five of the best.
Superbowl XX – Miami Dolphins vs Chicago Bears
Superbowl XX was written in the stars to be one of the greatest rematches in Gridiron history. The Chicago Bears of 1985 were one of the most dominant forces ever seen in the NFL, displaying crushing defence to finish the regular season 15-1, and recording 12 straight wins before falling to the swaggering offense of Dan Marino’s Miami Dolphins.
All Miami needed to do was win the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots, who travelled to Florida on the back of 2 straight road wins in their other playoff games. A team had never won 3 straight play-off games on the road before, and everyone touted the offence of the Dolphins to be too much for the Pats to handle. The final battle of the immovable Bears and the irresistible force of the Dolphins was practically a lock.
And then it wasn’t. After taking an early 7-3 lead, they completely capitulated against a surprisingly dominant Patriots side. New England emerged 31-14 victors, and to add insult to injury, got their arses handed to them in the Superbowl that followed.
The 46-10 drubbing they received from the Bears was one of the most one-sided in history, and to this day the question is asked as to whether the Dolphins would have put up a better fight against Chicago’s dominance.
LeBron vs Kobe In NBA Finals
First of all, a surprising fact: in every year since 2007, either LeBron or Kobe has been in the NBA finals. Yet they never faced each other.
That’s not due to impossibility either, as LeBron has always played in the Eastern Conference while Kobe has been in the West. The two biggest personalities in the league, two multiple-time MVP’s, and two people arguably in the list of the top 10 greatest players to ever step foot on the court. It’s basically a crime against sport they never went head-to-head for a ring.
The closest basketball fans got to seeing King James vs. The Black Mamba in a NBA Finals came in 2009. LeBron’s Cavs (this was before he moved to Miami and back) racked up 66 wins in the regular season, and looked pretty much set to face a Lakers side that featured Kobe Bryant in the final years of his prime. Even Nike were releasing commercials with puppets practically hyping it up before they even qualified.
LA made the finals with relative ease, sweeping aside the Denver Nuggets. The Cavs didn’t. They met their match in Dwight Howard’s Orlando Magic, and in what a lot will argue was a case of both a bad match-up and PEDs playing their part, Cleveland’s quest for the finals came to an abrupt end. After missing the same opportunity again the next year, LeBron “took his talents to South Beach” in 2011, while the Lakers started to decline soon after, and that was that.
Lewis vs Klitschko II
The Boxing world is full of “Greatest Match-Ups That Never Happened” list, but we like this one for 1 reason: it actually did happen and was swamped in controversy.
Fans of Ocean’s 11 may remember Lennox Lewis, as the lead-up to a fictional fight between the then-undisputed Heavyweight Champ’s and Klitschko’s younger brother Wladimir was briefly seen in the film. It was actually Vitali he fought though, who was up until that point seen as an inferior fighter compared to Wladimir.
In a bout officially nicknamed “The Battle of the Titans”, Klitschko shattered this myth with his giant Ukrainian fists. Despite taking early punishment from Lewis, he soon gained the upper hand as the Brit tired, but in one of the most controversial boxing decisions in the last couple of decades, the ring doctor stopped the fight midway at the end of the 6th round due to a large cut on the Ukrainian’s left eye. Many felt that he was robbed of an eventual victory, and indeed Klitschko was leading on the scorecards of all 3 judges.
A rematch was touted straight away, and despite making Klitschko fight another challenger to reclaim his spot as number 1 contender, Lewis retired as champ before their intended rematch ever took place. Klitschko won the vacated title a few months later, and to this day remains the only Heavyweight champion never to have been knocked down in a fight.
GSP vs Anderson Silva
This one probably seems rather obvious to fans of the UFC, but that fact of the matter is that Georges St. Pierre and Anderson were two of the first real stars of MMA, two of the best to ever set foot inside the Octagon, and they both ruled their respective weight classes at the same time, despite only being 15lbs apart on the scales.
Despite this and feverish calls from fans for this fight to one day take place, neither ever made the move into each other’s territory. GSP never dropped the weight, and Silva never displayed interest in bulking up to the required 167 pounds that would put him in the same bracket as the Canadian (despite having fought at that weight before).
GSP stepped away from the UFC in 2013, and UFC President Dana White seems pretty intent on the fact that GSP will never return to the UFC. Anderson Silva is coming close to the twilight of his career as well, so it’s likely they’ll never fight. No one quite knows why though.
2014 World Cup Final – Brazil vs. Argentina at the Maracana
As is the nature of the World Cup, it seems like only yesterday that Australia woke up and shat their collective pants upon sleepily flicking on SBS.
The Brazilian team, led by golden Boy Neymar, were supposed to harness the pure essence of the Carnivale spirit and play their way into the world cup final in the most Brazilian way possible. Their most bitter rivals, Leo Messi’s Argentina, even qualified for the final the next day. It could have been legendary. Then the Germans came along in the semi-final and ruined it for everyone.
On that balmy winter’s morning, the football world was in uproar, and one of the greatest humiliations in sporting history was taking place. Brazil were absolutely dismantled in a 7-1 defeat that left the entire nation as stunned as they were heartbroken.
Sport should never be compared to war, but the shots of the crowd on that night in Rio were closer to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan than any sport we’ve ever seen.