Best Sportsmanship Moments in Sports History
Sometimes life transcends sports. And when the right people are involved, we get incredible moments.
We read and hear about ego and me-first athletes a lot. But the good ones often get lost amid the bluster and noise. That ends here and now. We’re celebrating the finest and most selfless instances of sportsmanship across the sporting landscape.
These are the greatest sportsmanship moments in sports history.
25. Jersey Trades
Year: Every year
Sport: Football, soccer, basketball
What happened: Star players exchange jerseys after games.
Bottom Line: Jersey Trades
There is beauty in great sportsmanship, specifically after athletes spend three-plus hours trying to outwit his or her opponent.
The jersey trades remind everyone that, like us, the athletes are fans of each other.
24. Handshake Lines
Year: Every year
What happened: Players on competing teams shake hands after every hard-fought Stanley Cup playoff series.
Bottom Line: Handshake Lines
The Stanley Cup is the only tournament in which teams battle for up to seven games, then stop the celebration to shake hands after the whole thing ends.
It’s a beautiful ending to an exhilarating thing.
23. Barry Bonds Commends Torii Hunter
Sport: Major League Baseball
What happened: Barry Bonds jokingly picked Torii Hunter up after robbing him of a home run in the 2002 MLB All-Star Game.
Bottom Line: Barry Bonds Commends Torii Hunter
What gets forgotten about is that this play actually changed the entire All-Star Game format for years, since the 2002 game ended in a tie, but we digress.
Bonds, seen generally as a surly and brooding player, showed some personality by paying homage to Hunter after he robbed the former of a home run in the first inning.
22. Giants Salute Bobby Cox
What happened: The San Francisco Giants paused their playoff celebration to salute longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox.
Bottom Line: Giants Salute Bobby Cox
The Giants hadn’t won a playoff round in eight years.
However, that didn't stop them from pausing the party to tip their caps and clap for Cox, the legendary Braves manager who led Atlanta to five World Series and the 1995 championship.
21. Grigor Dimitrov Checks on Roberto Bautista-Agut
What happened: Grigor Dimitrov lept over the net to check on Roberto Bautista Agut after he was injured during a match in Paris Masters.
Bottom Line: Grigor Dimitrov Checks on Roberto Bautista-Agut
Bautista Agut tumbled over and remained down after losing a point.
But Dimitrov lept the net and checked on his opponent to make sure he was still able to keep going.
20. Derek Redmond and His Dad
Sport: Track and Field
What happened: After watching his son Derek tear his hamstring, Jim Redmond carried his son across the finish line.
Bottom Line: Derek Redmond and His Dad
Derek Redmond’s hamstring failed him in the 400-meter semifinal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but his dad Jim made certain he finished the race.
Jim sped past security to allow his son to lean on him and cross the finish line.
19. Flying Around the Bases (Part 1)
What happened: An Eckerd College hitter was carried around the bases by opponents after hitting a home run.
Bottom Line: Flying Around the Bases (Part 1)
Kara Oberer’s knee buckled while rounding first base after hitting a home run during a game against Florida Southern.
All was OK, though, when Chelsea Ogilvie, the pitcher off whom she hit the ball, aided her around the bases for an inspiring home run.
18. Mail Your Medal
What happened: Shawn Crawford mailed his silver medal to Churandy Martina, who rightly deserved the award.
Bottom Line: Mail Your Medal
Martina should have won the silver medal in the 200-meter sprint at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but was disqualified after a technicality.
Crawford, an American, was awarded the medal but later mailed it to Martina so he could have the earned award.
17. Game Respect Game
Sport: College basketball
What happened: Carsen Edwards and Mamadi Diakite acknowledged each other after Diakite forced overtime with an incredible shot during an NCAA regional final.
Bottom Line: Game Respect Game
Virginia’s Diakite forced overtime during a buzzer-beater during the regional final against Purdue.
And Edwards, the Purdue guard who finished with 42 points, shook his head and acknowledged Diakite’s incredible shot as they exchanged high-fived before overtime.
16. Penguins Salute Wayne Gretzky
What happened: The Pittsburgh Penguins honored Wayne Gretzky after his final NHL game.
Bottom Line: Penguins Salute Wayne Gretzky
Yes, Jaromir Jagr’s goal may have sent Gretzky into retirement.
That, however, didn't stop the entire Pittsburgh Penguins roster from approaching "The Great One" to shake his hand and congratulate him on his exceptional career.
15. Manny Machado Tips His Cap
What happened: Manny Machado saluted Adam Jones after he was robbed of a home run.
Bottom Line: Manny Machado Tips His Cap
Machado tipped his cap after center fielder Jones stole a sure homer from the Dominican infielder at the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
14. John Landy’s Helping Hand
What happened: John Landy picked up Ron Clarke during the Australian Mile Championship.
Bottom Line: John Landy’s Helping Hand
Clarke fell after being clipped by a runner, and Landy saw him, stopped and helped him get up.
Landy ultimately overcame a huge deficit to win the race, and his gesture has been made into a bronze statue at Olympic Park in Melbourne, Australia.
13. Armando Galarraga Accepts Jim Joyce’s Apology
What happened: Armando Galarraga showed class after an umpire’s gaffe cost him a perfect game.
Bottom Line: Armando Galarraga Accepts Jim Joyce’s Apology
Galarraga had a life-altering moment stolen from him by umpire Jim Joyce. Instead of acting bitter about Joyce’s incorrect call — ruling Jason Donald safe with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and, therefore denying Galarraga a perfect game — Galarraga showed nothing but class saying, “Nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s human.”
Joyce himself apologized after the game before tearfully admitting, “I did not get the call correct.”
12. Runners Unite
Sport: Track and field
What happened: Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino helped each other while running in the 5,000-meter race in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Bottom Line: Runners Unite
Hamblin and D’Agostino tripped over each other during the 5,000-meter race at the 2016 Olympics. When Hamblin fell over the American, both racers were injured, but D’Agostino helped the New Zealander up so they could continue.
When D’Agostino later fell, Hamblin returned the favor by helping her up, which netted them both the Fair Play awards from the International Olympic Committee.
11. Honest Andy
What happened: Andy Roddick corrected the chair umpire and cost himself a win at the Rome Masters.
Bottom Line: Honest Andy
Roddick was set to advance to the quarterfinals until he overruled the chair umpire by announcing that Fernando Verdasco’s shot was in on match point.
The match continued, which enabled Verdasco to claim victory.
10. Bobby Calls Himself Out
What happened: Bobby Jones called himself out for nudging the ball during the 1925 U.S. Open.
Bottom Line: Bobby Calls Himself Out
Jones accidentally hit the ball, unbeknownst to anyone, and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty during the final round of the U.S. Open. The acknowledgment cost Jones the crown after he lost to Willie Macfarlane in a 36-hole playoff.
Don't feel too bad for him, though. Jones still won seven majors, including the Open four times.
9. Marathon Women
What happened: Desi Linden paused to let Shalane Flanagan back into the 2018 Boston Marathon before winning the race anyway.
Bottom Line: Marathon Women
Linden was running neck-and-neck with Flanagan when Flanagan had to go to the bathroom.
Instead of pulling ahead, Linden paused to let her friend go so they could settle the race honestly, and Linden ended up winning the whole thing.
8. Matt Ziesel’s Mad Dash
Sport: High school football
What happened: Matt Ziesel, a 15-year-old with Down syndrome, ran 60 yards on the final play of a St. Joseph, Missouri, game for his only touchdown.
Bottom Line: Matt Ziesel’s Mad Dash
Trailing 46-0, St. Joseph Benton High School freshman football coach Dan McCamy asked the Maryville team if Zeisel could score a touchdown.
Maryville agreed, and thus Zeisel got to live out a dream by scoring a touchdown in a high-school game.
7. Luz Long Helps Jesse Owens
Sport: Track and Field
What happened: German long jumper Luz Long helped Jesse Owens defeat him at the 1936 Olympics.
Bottom Line: Luz Long Helps Jesse Owens
Owens was about to foul out of the long-jump championship at the Berlin Olympics until Long tipped him off to start his jump a few inches behind the takeoff board.
Owens ultimately won gold, with Long finishing second place and congratulating him for his win in front of German President Adolf Hitler.
6. Jason McElwain Shines
Sport: High school basketball
What happened: Jason McElwain stole the show in his only high school basketball game.
Bottom Line: Jason McElwain Shines
McElwain got his chance and took it.
The senior student manager at Greece Athena High School in New York was given a jersey to sit on the bench of the team's final game in the 2005-06 season and then got in the game with his team ahead in the fourth quarter.
His teammates fed him the ball, and he scored 20 points, inspiring the masses after a video of his feat went viral.
5. Flying Around the Bases (Part 2)
What happened: Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University was carried around the bases by opponents after she was injured rounding the bases for a home run.
Bottom Line: Flying Around the Bases (Part 2)
Tucholsky couldn’t round the bases after sustaining a knee injury while rounding first base for her first collegiate home run. If her teammates helped her, she’d be out, and a pinch-runner could’ve been called in, but that would’ve resulted in a single.
Instead, players from Central Washington carried her around the bases, helping the Western Oregon Wolves eliminate the Wildcats from playoff contention.
4. 'I Love You'
Sport: High school baseball
What happened: Ty Koehn consoled his friend after striking him out to clinch a state playoff berth in Arden Hills, Minnesota.
Bottom Line: 'I Love You'
Koehn never thought to celebrate after striking out Jack Kocon even though doing so resulted in a state-playoff berth.
Koehn ran over to Kocon to console his long-time friend and tell him he loved him, even as Koehn’s Mounds View High School teammates rushed the mound to celebrate.
3. Gentleman Jack
What happened: Jack Nicklaus conceded to force the first tie in Ryder Cup history.
Bottom Line: Gentleman Jack
Tony Jacklin had a 2-foot putt in his head-to-head match against Nicklaus, to force the first tie in the history of the Ryder Cup. But Nicklaus, whose American teammates had won 12 of the previous 13 Ryder Cups, gave him the putt.
After conceding, Nicklaus reportedly told Jacklin, "I don’t believe you would have missed, but I’d never give you the opportunity in these circumstances."
The Americans retained the Cup, but the final score was 16-16.
2. Monay Lee’s Freebie
Sport: Women’s college basketball
What happened: Monay Lee set a new Cal State Dominguez Hills scoring record thanks to a stunning display of sportsmanship.
Bottom Line: Monay Lee’s Freebie
Lee was about to share the Cal State Dominguez Hills all-time scoring record after sustaining a knee injury during her final game against Chico State. But the Wildcats allowed Lee to score an uncontested basket so she could finish atop the school’s list.
Why is this No. 2? Because…
1. Nykesha Sales Breaks the Record
Sport: Women’s college basketball
What happened: Villanova University let Nykesha Sales score an uncontested basket so she could break UConn’s all-time scoring record.
Bottom Line: Nykesha Sales Breaks the Record
Sales was about to fall one point short of the UConn all-time scoring record when she tore her Achilles tendon in the Huskies' penultimate game of Sales’ senior season.
But when Villanova coach Harry Perretta agreed to let Sales score an uncontested basket, Sales set the new mark and gave sportsmanship a shot in the arm.