The best fictional sporting events
TriStar Pictures

The best fictional sporting events

We all have memories of some of the greatest sporting events of all time. In real life. But, there are plenty of memorable moments in the fictional world of sports, especially when it comes to the movies and on television.

Here are 25 of our most notable fictional sports moments.

 
1 of 25

"Inmates vs. Guards -- "The Longest Yard" (1974)

"Inmates vs. Guards -- "The Longest Yard" (1974)
Paramount Pictures

First off, we're talking about this Burt Reynolds' classic, not the weak Adam Sandler remake from 2005. Paul Crewe (Reynolds) and the "Mean Machine" took on the guards in a hard-fought and often brutal contest that is something every inmate in any correction facility probably dreams about. While Crewe had reason to "throw" the game, he came through for the inmates in the end with the winning touchdown. "HIS-TOR-Y!"

 
2 of 25

Bears vs. Yankees (North Valley League Championship Game) -- "The Bad News Bears" (1976)

Bears vs. Yankees (North Valley League Championship Game) -- "The Bad News Bears" (1976)
Paramount Pictures

Who would have thought when the season started, the lowly Bears would be in a position to take down the mighty Yankees for this prestigious Los Angles-area little league title. Lazy, alcoholic manager Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) and his rag-tag group managed to get hot near the end of the season, thanks to the addition of talented local bad boy Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) and crafty right-hander Amanda Whurlitzer (Tatum O'Neal). The dramatic league championship game was one for the fictional ages, with the Bears falling short amid a valiant comeback in the bottom of the sixth inning.

 
3 of 25

Bears vs. Houston Toros -- "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" (1977)

Bears vs. Houston Toros -- "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training" (1977)
YouTube

Playing in Houston's famed Astrodome (in between an Astros doubleheader) and with a trip to play in Japan on the line, the "California champs," aka the Bears, rallied to take down the favored Houston Toros. All following that memorable "Let them play" chant after the game was originally ended due to time constraints. In the end, Carmen Ronzonni's error-aided, walk-off inside-the-park home run was the difference.

 
4 of 25

Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, Part II -- "Rocky II" (1979)

Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed, Part II -- "Rocky II" (1979)
United Artists

Of course, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) must be part of any list such as this one. But, Rocky had to work for his glory. After falling short amid a valiant effort against Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the initial Rocky film, the underdog Balboa pulled out a brutally tough, dramatic upset victory as the last man standing after both fell to the canvas in the legendary rematch. It's arguably the greatest fictional boxing match in film history. Yo, Adrian! He did it. 

 
5 of 25

Rocky Balboa vs. Clubber Lang, Part II -- "Rocky III" (1982)

Rocky Balboa vs. Clubber Lang, Part II -- "Rocky III" (1982)
United Artists

No offense to Apollo Creed or Ivan Drago (we'll talk about him later), but among all of Rocky's opponents, Chicago street brawler Clubber Lang (Mr. T) was arguably the most intimidating and the coolest. Lang, who worked his way up for a shot at the heavyweight title, stunned Balboa to win that belt during a decisive victory over the overconfident champ. However, after some soul-searching, overcoming the death of his trainer, and quality beach time with Apollo, Rocky regained his focus, found the "Eye of the Tiger" and used some psychological warfare to win the rematch with Lang and regain his title.

 
6 of 25

All-Valley Karate Championships Final -- "The Karate Kid" (1984)

All-Valley Karate Championships Final -- "The Karate Kid" (1984)
Columbia Pictures

Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) made a Cinderella-like run to the finals of the famed All-Valley tournament. An event, that most expected to be dominated by the bullies from the Cobra Kai dojo. In the championship match, ranking Cobra Kai bad-boy Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) was heavily favored and needed to "sweep the leg" to gain the advantage. However, the hobbled LaRusso bounced back and, through his famous crane kick, stunned Lawrence to win the title.

 
7 of 25

New York Knights vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (one-game playoff) -- "The Natural" (1984)

New York Knights vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (one-game playoff) -- "The Natural" (1984)
TriStar Pictures

One of the most dramatic moments in fictional sports history came via the great -- and mystical -- Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford). In a one-game playoff against the Pirates, the Knights eventually had to turn to Hobbs. Still recovering from a gun-shot wound to the stomach, the ailing Hobbs came off the bench, using a new bat after "Wonderboy" bit the dust, clubbed the most over-the-top, made-for-Hollywood, game-winning home run in the history of fictional baseball games.

 
8 of 25

Dragons at Beavers (Regional Championship) -- "Teen Wolf" (1985)

Dragons at Beavers (Regional Championship) -- "Teen Wolf" (1985)
YouTube

Entering the season, the Beacontown Beavers had not won a game in three years. However, that changed with the emergence of the dominant Teen Wolf, aka Scott Howard (Michael J. Fox). With the Wolf, the Beavers were unstoppable and earned a spot in the regional finals against the rival Dragons. However, after Howard denounced the Wolf and quit the team, the Beavers fell behind early to in the championship contest. Scott returned to the floor, as himself, and somehow managed to rally his team to the title -- as shown through one of the great montages in the history of fictional sports films

 
9 of 25

Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago -- "Rocky IV" (1985)

Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago -- "Rocky IV" (1985)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; United Artists

Drago (Dolph Lundgren) was a machine, no doubt. Come on, he killed Apollo Creed. Yet, Rocky was up for the challenge to take down the mighty, juiced-up Russian in the spirit of the 1980s Cold War between the United States and Russia. Which was a regular subject matter for films of the time. Sure, it's one of the cheesier bouts in fictional sports history (would a Russian crowd really chant "Rocky! Rocky! Rocky?"), but Rocky rallied to slay the giant and presumably ease the tensions between the two world superpowers.

 
10 of 25

Hickory vs. South Bend Central (1952 Indiana State Basketball Championship Game) -- "Hoosiers" (1986)

Hickory vs. South Bend Central (1952 Indiana State Basketball Championship Game) -- "Hoosiers" (1986)
YouTube

Hoosiers was based on tiny Milan High School's improbable run to the 1954 Indiana state basketball title. The Hollywood version, a tale about the Hickory Huskers was certainly grippy. Obviously, the emotional state championship contest was the highlight of the movie. Star Jimmy Chitwood's last-second, game-winning jumper in a one-on-one situation will go down as one of the greatest fictional shots in basketball film history.

 
11 of 25

Central vs. Prescott (City Championship) -- "Wildcats" (1986)

Central vs. Prescott (City Championship) -- "Wildcats" (1986)
YouTube

It was sweet revenge for female coach Molly McGrath (Goldie Hawn). Never given the chance to coach football at powerhouse Prescott High, she took an underachieving group of slackers, troublemakers and criminals from rough Central High all the way to the city title game. Against Prescott, Central stunned the favorites after wide-load Phillip Finch showed his hops by blocking a kick that star Levander "Bird" Williams (Mykelti Williamson) returned for the game-winning touchdown. 

 
12 of 25

Mariners vs. Angels -- "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" (1988)

Mariners vs. Angels -- "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!" (1988)
YouTube

What was thought to be your average regular-season game between the Seattle Mariners and California Angels, for some reason played at Dodger Stadium, turned into one remarkable fictional baseball game. Lt. Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), posing both as famed opera singer (and performing the national anthem) Enrico Pallazzo and the home-plate umpire, was on hand to save the day as a compromised Reggie Jackson tried to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II

 
13 of 25

Yankees vs. Indians (one-game playoff) -- "Major League" (1989)

Yankees vs. Indians (one-game playoff) -- "Major League" (1989)
Paramount Pictures

Another historic, fictional one-game playoff came during the Cleveland Indians' improbable run to the AL East title during the late 1980s. Led by a couple of has-beens in Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) and Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen) and a couple of never-was like Willie Mays Hays (Wesley Snipes) and Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), the Indians finally got the best of the hated Yankees in this classic contest. Taylor's memorable two-out bunt that scored Hays from second might actually be one of the great moments in Indians' history -- real or fictional.

 
14 of 25

Texas State vs. University of Texas Colts -- "Necessary Roughness" (1991)

Texas State vs. University of Texas Colts -- "Necessary Roughness" (1991)
YouTube

Following an impressive tie against Kansas, the undermanned and undertalented Texas State Armadillos (the once college football powerhouse that was essentially handed the "Death Penalty" for various scandals surrounding the program) stunned the fictional sports world with a massive upset of the top-ranked University of Texas Colts. Aging quarterback Paul Blake (Scott Bakula) was there to lead the charge, converting the notable 2-point conversion, to earn some collegiate glory that he had hoped for way back when.

 
15 of 25

Rockford vs. Racine (AAGPBL World Series, Game 7) -- "A League of Their Own" (1992)

Rockford vs. Racine (AAGPBL World Series, Game 7) -- "A League of Their Own" (1992)
YouTube

Game 7 of the initial World Series of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League pitted sister versus sister. Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), star of the Rockford Peaches, against little sis Kit Keller (Lori Petty), who was recently traded to the Racine Belles. In fitting fashion, the decisive series finale came down to the final play where Kit barreled over catcher Dottie at the plate to score the winning run and get a little redemption on her big sister.

 
16 of 25

"Pee Wee Cowboys" vs. "Little Giants" -- "Little Giants" (1994)

"Pee Wee Cowboys" vs. "Little Giants" -- "Little Giants" (1994)
Warner Bros.

There was plenty of drama when brothers Danny (Rick Moranis) and Kevin (Ed O'Neill) went at it to see which Pee Wee football team would represent the town of Urbania, Ohio in a local league. Kenny's mighty Cowboys were filled with the best players around, while Danny's Giants featured those who were cut from his brother's team and other seemingly less talented youngsters. Led by Danny's daughter Becky (Shawna Waldron), aka, the "Icebox." In true Hollywood fashion, of course, the underdog Giants stunned the Cowboys on the final play, the well-executed "Annexation of Puerto Rico" for a game-winning, 99-yard touchdown.

 
17 of 25

1966 City Championship -- "Married...With Children" (1995)

1966 City Championship -- "Married...With Children" (1995)
YouTube

Now, fans of this popular Fox sitcom never got a chance to see one of the greatest fictional sports moments in television history. Still, the day Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) scored four touchdowns to rally Polk High over Andrew Johnson High to win the city championship remains the highlight of the disgruntled shoe salesman's life. Seriously, not much riles up Al, unless one questions the legacy of his exceptional -- fictional -- sports moment.

 
18 of 25

Tour Championship (final round) -- "Happy Gilmore" (1996)

Tour Championship (final round) -- "Happy Gilmore" (1996)
Universal Studios

With his grandma's house and own tour membership on the line, Happy (Adam Gilmore) went into the Tour Championship determined to win. It looked good early on when he led after the first three rounds. Then after heckler Donald hit him with his car, Happy was banged up and lost his lead. It looked like the evil Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) would claim the title and leave grandma homeless. Then, Happy, with dismantled scaffolding in the way, put his mini-golf skills to use with an impressive putt on the final hole to win the event and bring down McGavin in the process

 
19 of 25

Cowboys vs. Cardinals -- "Jerry Maguire" (1996)

Cowboys vs. Cardinals -- "Jerry Maguire" (1996)
YouTube

Just an average Monday Night Football contest turned into disgruntled and passion-challenged receiver Rod Tidwell's coming-out party. Tidwell's acrobatic touchdown catch vaulted the Cardinals into the lead but also left the receiver motionless for a brief time. After coming to without any serious injury, Tidwell appeared to have some sort of epiphany while knocked out. When he arose, Tidwell started celebrating and dancing his new appreciation for the game -- and perhaps life. A new contract he was hoping for would come later.

 
20 of 25

State Final -- "Air Bud" (1997)

State Final -- "Air Bud" (1997)
YouTube

We are not just partial to humans on this list. Buddy might be the greatest fictional athletic dog in film history. After all, he managed to find his way to the gym and rescue the Timberwolves to win the state final. Thanks to accurate passing, solid touch from distance, and hitting free throws. Buddy was not only man's -- and boy's best friend -- but a valuable teammate.

 
21 of 25

South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs vs. University of Louisiana Cougars (Bourbon Bowl) -- "The Waterboy" (1998)

South Central Louisiana State University Mud Dogs vs. University of Louisiana Cougars (Bourbon Bowl) -- "The Waterboy" (1998)
Touchstone Pictures

Arguably the greatest fictional college football bowl game in film history. Water boy turned hard-hitting linebacker Bobby Boucher (Adam Sandler) got his revenge against the University of Louisiana while playing for Coach Klein (Henry Winkler) and SCLSU. After dealing with some academic and social issues, Bobby arrives at the Bourbon Bowl and unleashes his defensive fury, and also shows off his offensive talent to help rally the Mud Dogs to a 30-27 win over the rival Cougars.

 
22 of 25

New York Rangers vs. Mystery -- "Mystery, Alaska" (1999)

New York Rangers vs. Mystery -- "Mystery, Alaska" (1999)
YouTube

The boys from this remote Alaskan town, known for their skating speed on some expansive open ice, were not expected to give the mighty (but fictional) New York Rangers a game during a goodwill contest brought about by the NHL. However, the grit of captain John Biebe (Russell Crowe) and talent of center Connor Banks (Michael Buie) gave a chance for the home team to nearly pull off the upset. However, Banks' last-second shot hit the crossbar and into the glove of the Rangers' netminder for a 5-4 loss.

 
23 of 25

Washington vs. Dallas -- "The Replacements" (2000)

Washington vs. Dallas -- "The Replacements" (2000)
YouTube

With a spot in the playoffs on the line, the Washington Sentinels, still filled with replacement players, except for overrated star quarterback Eddie Martel (Brett Cullen), needed to take down a favored Dallas squad. In which all of its regular players have crossed the strike picket line. Following a poor first-half performance from the arrogant Martel, beloved scab Shane Falco (Keanu Reeves) returned to take over and lead the Sentinels to a last-second upset victory.

 
24 of 25

League Tournament Finals -- "Bend it Like Beckham" (2002)

League Tournament Finals -- "Bend it Like Beckham" (2002)
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) skipped out on her sister's wedding to take part in this championship match for the London-area Hounslow Harriers girls' side. After her strict Sikh father allowed her to play. Upon Jess' arrival, the Harriers leveled the match at 1-1 and she was later awarded a free-kick. Bending the ball perfectly around the wall, Jess' kick is successful and the Harriers won the title. Jess and pal Jules (Keira Knightley) was also offered soccer scholarships to women's soccer power Santa Clara University in the United State. Not a bad day.

 
25 of 25

Average Joe's vs. Globo Gym (ADAA Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open Finals) -- "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004)

Average Joe's vs. Globo Gym (ADAA Las Vegas International Dodgeball Open Finals) -- "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" (2004)
Twentieth Century Fox

Thanks to Chuck Norris, Average Joe's regained its improbable spot in the finals of this prestigious dodgeball tournament (as seen ESPN8 -- "The Ocho." After a wild contest, it comes down to a one-on-one scenario between Joe's' leader Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn) and Globo Gym czar White Goodman (Ben Stiller). Channeling his inner "Patches" O'Houlihan (Rip Torn), Peter leads his team to victory and White to a future filled with plenty of empty calories.  

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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