Sports are filled with unforgettable moments, incredible feats, and unforgettable performances. But sometimes, it’s the one-hit wonders that leave the biggest impression. These athletes may not have sustained long careers or achieved consistent success but still managed to make a significant impact in a single moment or event.
Whether it was a shocking upset, a record-breaking performance, or an unforgettable moment of greatness, these one-hit wonders left their mark on the world of sports. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the greatest one-hit wonders in sports history and the stories behind their memorable achievements.
One of the best catches ever made in the NFL was performed by none other than David Tyree. Tyree was playing for the New York Giants in the 42nd Superbowl when he saw the opportunity to catch the football. That catch would set up the team to make the touchdown that would allow them to beat the New England Patriots.
Tyree was not a well-known player when he made the catch, and it made him a household name for the year afterward. However, he suffered a knee injury and eventually left the world of football. He now owns his own healthy juice shop called Clean Juice.
The name Ickey Woods might sound pretty familiar. He was a football player for the Cincinnati Bengals back in 1988 and 1989. For his rookie season, he wowed the crowds by scoring a plethora of touchdowns. Every time he got a touchdown, he would pull out his signature victory dance, which was later called the “Ickey Shuffle.”
While everyone thought he was destined to be one of the greats, he ended up tearing the ACL in his knee. That benched him for 13 months and effectively put an end to his football career. While Ickey may no longer play football, that hasn’t stopped him from diversifying and becoming an entrepreneur.
Another footballer who had a stellar season was Peyton Hillis. He played for the Cleveland Broncos back in 2010 and was a real powerhouse. Not only could he sprint for yards, but he was able to bulldoze through all of the other players in his way. Ultimately, all of that contact led to some wear and tear on his body, which resulted in multiple injuries.
For that one season, though, Hillis did manage to get to the thousand-yard mark. That would be the high point, and he hasn’t managed to crack 600 yards since.
It might be surprising to hear that some players are on this list, but when it comes to Derek Anderson, it’s not. He didn’t start out with the most illustrious team, going from Oregon State straight to the Baltimore Ravens, before making it onto the Cleveland Browns. As everyone knows, the Browns are not exactly known for winning Super Bowls.
Shockingly, Anderson did alright on the Browns in 2007 as the team’s starter. Anderson was given the opportunity to be in the Pro Bowl in 2008 when superstar Tom Brady bowed out. He has not enjoyed that kind of fanfare again.
In yet another instance of a one-hit or one-play wonder, Timmy Smith might just take the cake. In 1988, he played for the Washington Redskins in the Super Bowl, and nobody expected him to stand out.
Surprisingly, he managed to score two touchdowns and help the Redskins win the game. Unfortunately, Smith’s career only lasted for two more seasons, and then it was over. He is still remembered for his time in the Super Bowl, though.
Moving into the world of gold, Rich Beem played the game of his life at the 2002 PGA Championship. For the first and only time, Beem appeared to be an amazing player, steadily pulling ahead of Tiger Woods and Justin Leonard.
Eventually, Beem beat Leonard, the pro who was supposed to come in first. Beem won the championship, and it would be the only major that he could credit to his career in golf. He has been an average player since that day.
A lot of football players tend to fade into the ether after a couple of years. Malcolm Smith is yet another example of this. In 2014, he played for the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl and even managed to take home the MVP title.
However, his career quickly became disappointing, and he left the team to go to San Francisco. After an injury in 2017, he found himself benched and did not manage to make much of a comeback in 2018.
The Green Bay Packers are one of those teams where great things are expected of. When Don Majkowski started playing for them, he managed to morph into the ‘Majik Man.’ His career was pretty mediocre until he had a season where he managed 27 touchdowns.
This led to the Pro Bowl and the belief that he was destined for greatness. Unfortunately, that season was a one-off, and the Majik Man lost his magic.
Boxing is a world of its own, and some professional boxers, like Mohammad Ali, manage to become legends. That did not happen for Leon Spinks. He managed to win gold at the 1976 Olympics and beat Muhammad Ali in 1978.
However, that win was quickly met with a rematch which Ali won. From there, Spinks began his downward descent in the boxing world and never had any major wins again.
Johnny Vander Meer
In 1938, baseball player Johnny Vander Meer appeared to be destined for great things. It was his second year playing major league baseball when he cemented himself as a pitcher to watch. He managed to toss no-hit balls for an entire game.
He was unable to keep the no-hits going and eventually was traded from team to team. As an inconsistent player, a lot of the big leagues didn’t want him starting.
New York Yankees fans love to watch their team do well, and that means the pitchers need to perform. In the 1956 World Series, Don Larsen was up as the pitcher. He managed to lead the Yankees to victory against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
After that, he was overlooked for All-Star games and did not win any major awards like the Cy Young. While he experienced a perfect game, the rest of his career was not that special.
Sometimes a team will lose its star player, which is what happened to the Denver Broncos in 1999. Olandis Gary was tapped by them to replace the player, and he wowed the team.
He rushed 1,159 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Unfortunately, like a lot of players, Gary was injured and would eventually have to leave the world of football. Teams did not want to risk having to bench him if his injury flared up.
Most running backs do not have long careers, and that’s because it is very physically demanding and can result in major knee injuries. In 1998, Robert Edwards appeared ready to assist the New England Patriots to victory.
While playing at the Pro Bowl, Edwards experienced every player’s greatest fear – an injury. He had to take three years off from the NFL, and even then only managed one more season with the Miami Dolphins before entering retirement.
As soon as Kevin Maas hit the baseball diamond, everyone thought he was destined for greatness. He hit ten home runs alone in a game. After an amazing rookie year, Maas slowly faded into obscurity, eventually moving into the minor league and then accepting a contract in Japan.
If you can’t make it in America, you head overseas, where the teams are not on the same level, but you can still find success in-country.
In 1982, the NFL experienced a strike, which meant a lot of games were canceled. Due to that, something strange happened – a kicker, Mark Moseley, was chosen as the MVP.
That was the year his team, the Miami Dolphins, won the Super Bowl, which was due to him and his skills. After that year, Moseley continued to play but would eventually retire in 1986. Only four years after the biggest moment of his career.
Another baseball player who caught a lot of attention was Bob Hamelin. In 1994, he was known for his signature glasses and the fact that he was named American League Rookie. He batted an average of .282, which was amazing.
While he did well in ‘94, that streak did not continue, and he never had that average again. Instead, his average got worse and worse until, eventually, his career was over, and he moved on to other things.
Everyone remembers when basketball player Jeremy Lin entered the court. He was a Harvard graduate who seemed like he could dunk constantly; this led to ‘Linsanity.’ Every team wanted to draft him, and eventually, they all got to.
That’s right, Lin failed to live up to expectations and managed to secure contracts with a lot of NBA teams which made him a millionaire. Now it is understood that he was only good in college.
Another name that should ring a few bells is Tim Tebow. He proved to be a great quarterback while he was in college, but going pro wasn’t exactly easy for him. The Denver Broncos drafted him, which turned out to be a poor decision, and then he went to the Jets.
He may not be a great footballer, but that doesn’t mean he is bad at sports. Now, you can find him playing baseball and acting as a sportscaster.
David Tyree will always be remembered for his outstanding performance in Super Bowl XLII against the then-undefeated New England Patriots. He first caught a five-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a lead late in the game, and then with just 1:15 remaining in the game, on third down and the Giants down by four, Eli Manning managed to escape a sack and threw a long pass to Tyree 32 yards down the field, where Tyree caught the ball with his helmet and secured it to complete the catch.
This play helped to keep the Giants’ Superbowl-winning drive alive, and Tyree was later awarded the Play of the Year at the ESPYs. Tyree was released by the Giants in 2009 but later joined the Baltimore Ravens. He retired from the NFL in 2010 after signing a one-day contract with the New York Giants.
Another boxer who had a moment in the spotlight was Buster Douglas. In 1990, Douglas participated in a match with Mike Tyson, which shocked the world. Buster managed to knock Tyson down, and Tyson was unable to recover from the blows he had received.
This moved Douglas into the Heavyweight Champion spot, but this lasted less than a year. He never won a big match like this again. Now he leads a quiet life.
The Toronto Raptors was a relatively new team when they added Oliver Miller to their roster in 1995. Miller appeared to perform well during his first year on the team, with 7.4 boards in one game.
However, after that first year, he stopped getting points, and it became clear he would not be continuing with the team. After failing to make it in the NBA, he found a home on some overseas teams. He is reportedly now a car salesman.
Everyone thought Michael Carter-Williams was destined for greatness. The Philadelphia 76ers saw a lot of promise in the rookie, and it seemed like he was ready to win some games.
Carter-Williams had a great first year, but every year since has been pretty lackluster. He simply can’t score, and that has led to some pretty dismal numbers for the team. The word is still out on whether or not his career is over, and it’s time for a shift.
Timmy Smith holds the record for the most rushing yards in the Super Bowl, a feat he achieved during Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos. In this game, Smith ran for 204 yards and scored two touchdowns, leading the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory. This impressive performance occurred during Smith’s rookie season and was, unfortunately, his only notable contribution to the sport.
The following season, he played in just 12 games, rushing for a total of 470 yards. This would be his final season with the Redskins. Smith attempted to continue his career with the Dallas Cowboys the following year but was unable to make it past the first week of the season, effectively ending his career.
The Toronto Raptors have had some bad luck with players. Mike James seemed like he had it all. In 2001, he had an average of 2.8 PPG, which the team thought would only improve. Instead of improving, each year showed a steady decline.
Fans were confused. Was he not playing his best anymore on purpose? Nobody is sure what happened, but it seems like James set himself up for a strong first season and then decided to coast.
Sometimes a team will surprise you, which is exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did. They managed to win the Super Bowl, and Dexter Jackson was the pick for MVP. He seemed like a decent player but not exactly amazing.
Once the fame of the Super Bowl wins wore off, Jackson began to fade into obscurity. He never played for a good team again, and his averages were simply that – average. In 2008, he retired and left the football world.
The Philadelphia Phillies have had some ups and downs over the decades, but 1987 proved to be a magical year for them. They had Steve Bedrosian on the team as a pitcher, and he managed a 2.38 ERA, which won him the prestigious Cy Young Award.
After his amazing season in ‘87, he began to fizzle on the pitch. He made it to the World Series in 1991, but that was it for him.
Mark Fidrych proved to be one of the most interesting pitchers in Major League Baseball in 1976. He was known on the pitch as “Bird” and would often say rather outlandish things to his fans.
As far as seasons go, his first one was stellar; his second one was okay, and the third basically non-existent. He suffered an arm injury and could no longer pitch.
Larry Brown wasn’t considered a great player by his teammates on the Dallas Cowboys, but he did prove his worth by intercepting the Steelers quarterback during Superbowl XXX.
He was named MVP for his role, which caught the eye of the Oakland Raiders. They offered him $12.5 million to play for them, which he did, just not very well.
In 1995, pro golfer Corey Pavin surprised the golfing world by winning the 1995 U.S. Open. He knocked Greg Norman out of the top-ranked spot, which shocked the world of golf.
Naturally, he did not win a major tournament after that, and his golf career faded into obscurity like so many others. Pavin does get top points for his mustache and fedora choice, though.
Football player Rashaan Salaam appeared to have it all. In 1994, fresh out of the University of Colorado, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears. He managed 10 touchdowns, which was exactly what the Bears expected.
Unfortunately, Salaam suffered from some personal issues and a number of injuries which made him bow out from football. Sometimes the pressure is too much for these athletes.
Troy Hudson did not join the NBA scene with a bang but more with a slow rollout. He wanted to be on a roster, but it took a lot of time until he was drafted. In 2002, he got his chance with the Timberwolves.
They offered him an impressive contract, which offered to set him up financially, which he took. His playing immediately went downhill after that.
After winning the French Open at the tender age of 17, Michael Chang seemed like he was destined to be in the same ranks as Roger Federer.
Instead of going on to win major after major, he only managed to come in second. He knew it was time to bow out and now works as a coach in Japan.