4 Times Sports Was Absolutely Not A Team Effort
To hear post-game interviews and platitudes, you’d be led to believe that not a single win in the world of sports was accomplished without a collective team effort, and to a lesser extent, the will of God. Some people love to make fun of the idea that if there is a higher power, they’re swinging point totals, but hey, if I had to watch people on earth for my job, I’d probably rather watch the ones in the Super Bowl too. It’s become so dramatic that for a player to even suggest that they had an outsized effect on a game is enough to get Skip Bayless talking about how you’re a narcissistic plague until his wrinkled white heart runs cold.
For the most part, it’s seated in truth. By the nature of team sports, it’s incredibly hard to win a game by yourself, because there are too many variables out of your control. That said, even at the highest levels, some of the world’s best players have effectively willed their team to victory. Anybody who watched Jimmy Butler heave the sputtering Miami Heat across the finish line against the Milwaukee Bucks only a few weeks ago with 50-plus points might have had to raise an eyebrow at claims that it was only through the power of teamwork and god.
Here are four other times that wins were absolutely not a team effort…
Kobe Bryant Scores 81 Points
The easy answer for one of the most dominant NBA performances in history would be Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100-point game. For good reason, since that’s an absolutely absurd performance. Throwing on the contrarian’s loupe to look closer though, even Chamberlain and his teammates admit it was a byproduct of a thorough drubbing, and by the end, they were fouling just to feed Chamberlain the ball in search of the hundo.
The late Kobe Bryant, though, is a much more modern titan of the game, and in 2006, he got the closest to three digits anyone has since, with 81 points in a single contest against the Toronto Raptors. Now, the Raptors weren’t exactly lighting the league on fire that year, and would finish with a fairly terrible record of 27-55, but the game in question was far from an easy win. In fact, the Lakers were trailing by 14 points at halftime, despite Bryant scoring 26 points in the first half. From there on out, Bryant proceeded to commit the sort of violence on the Raptors that would make a UFC fan wince. He would score 55 points in the second half, a total that would light up Twitter these days if scored over an entire game.
Eric Dickerson Rushes for 248 Yards
With 11 players on the field at a time, it can be harder to make a case for a single player’s outsized sway on the game. I’ll admit it’s probably true, as even a star quarterback needs receivers, running backs need offensive linemen, etc. For the game I’m about to discuss, some credit also needs to go to the Rams’ defense, who held the Dallas Cowboys to a shutout.
Still, Eric Dickerson’s 248 yards against the Cowboys was a complete takeover, especially keeping a couple details in mind. First off, this was a postseason game, meaning it wasn’t against some depressed 2-14 team just looking for a high draft pick. Second, Rams quarterback Dieter Brock had a miserable game, where he went 6 of 22 passing for a putrid 27-percent completion rate. Last was that Dallas knew exactly who the fuck Dickerson was, and had, at least in theory, prepared specifically to shut him down. Regardless, Dickerson, driven by a desire to win as well as some fury based on the fact that Dallas’ coach had publicly called drafting him a mistake, ran for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
Colin Kaepernick Totals 444 Yards on the Ground and Through the Air
Another of the greatest postseason games in NFL history was led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. Again, quarterbacks rely on their offensive line and receivers, but Kaepernick still completely dominated the game’s stat line. Not to mention, this is once more in the postseason, against the Green Bay Packers, not just somebody kicking the Cleveland Browns while they were perennially down.
In the passing game, Kaepernick wasn’t doing anything particularly eye-popping, but was solid, going 17 of 31 for 263 yards and 2 TDs, but when you couple that with him alone rushing for 181 yards and adding two more touchdowns on the ground, it was quite the remarkable day. In fact, Kaepernick was as close to the whole damn offense as anyone can get. A couple years later, he could barely get a tryout. Whether that’s due to him getting “figured out” by opposing coaches, or something to do with him not spending enough time with his tongue up America’s ass is your call.
Don Larsen’s Perfect Game in the World Series
We’ll end with one of the strongest arguments for a performance that won the game single-handedly. An occurrence that, if achieved, literally guarantees that your team won that game. (Outside of one 2020 regular-season only rule, which I’ll mention because no one loves weird rules-based told-you-sos more than baseball fans.) That’s pitching a perfect game in baseball. A perfect game is one in which a pitcher doesn’t allow a single player on the opposing team to reach any base for any reason. This naturally produces an opposing score of exactly bupkis, and since there aren’t ties in baseball, fully prevents a loss.
There have only been 23 perfect games in MLB history, even more insane when you keep in mind that baseball is older than most tortoises. So how do we pick one? Well, the honor has to go to the guy who pitched a perfecto in the fucking World Series, Don Larsen. I’m surprised that every player on the Dodgers who faced Larsen that day didn’t retire to go shake and mumble his name in a rocking chair somewhere. Imagine getting all the way to the World Series, only to spend the length of a baseball game, no short stint in itself, never even sniffing a base. It takes mental fortitude to lose that badly.