2 World Cup
Soccer, the lingua franca of sports everywhere else in the world, was finally - on tongues in the U.S. as the cup made its Stateside debut. And even if only a few in this country were fluent enough to know a penalty shot from a shootout, Americans filled up stadiums to watch. Now, even soccer-illiterate Yankees know how to say it: Gooooooaaaal !!!
3 George Foreman
Boxing's own Father Time captured the heavyweight title at age 45, knocking out Michael Moorer with a creaky but effective right hand in the 10th round. Foreman's jabs and quips were an inspiration to others approaching their Social-Security years, and they brought a desperately needed shot of Ali-style panache to the ring. Still, the potbellied champ's triumph pointed out the sorry, talentless state of the heavyweight division in the Tyson-behind-bars era.
4 Tonya Harding
Harding and her confederacy of dunces thought they could eliminate the Olympic figure-skating competition with one thwack of a metal baton on Nancy Kerrigan's leg. They would then skate to riches, and nobody would know better. In fact, everybody went to jail but Harding, who plea-bargained her way to probation.
5 Jerry Rice
The wily 49ers receiver could lose his own shadow if the game depended on it. He's got timing too. His 127th touchdown, the one that vaulted him past Jim Brown into first place on the N.F.L.'s all-time leading touchdown list, came on home turf while 70,000 fans in San Francisco watched and another 30 million or so Monday Night Football viewers tuned in from home.
6 Andre Agassi
TV endorsements, big hair and dates with Brooke Shields do not a tennis star make. But in a rare instance of substance overtaking hype, the hirsute Las Vegan became the first unseeded player ever to win the U.S. Open and instantly erased his image as young, gifted and slack.
7 Dan Jansen
Several spills and seven Winter Olympics races without a medal had put the speed skater in the express lane to sports oblivion. But the hard-luck kid from Wisconsin kept on trying, and in Lillehammer, one liberating 1,000-m performance earned him a gold medal and turned him into a symbol of deserving victory.
8 The Rangers
A Sahara-size sports drought came to an end as the New York Rangers won their first hockey championship since 1940 by beating the Vancouver Canucks in a tense, seesawing series. With the home team of the country's biggest media market now holding the Stanley Cup, the N.H.L. seemed poised to get a lot more & exposure. So how did the league capitalize on this opportunity? Before the new season started, the owners locked out the players, and since then not a single game has taken place.
9 Michael Jordan
After replacing his Nikes with a pair of baseball cleats, Air Jordan seemed distressingly earthbound as he made his debut in the minor leagues. When he bought a luxury bus for his team to travel in, critics carped that the whole endeavor was a vanity project. Yet the Birmingham Barons' rightfielder finished the season as one of just six players in AA ball to get 50 or more RBIs and steal 30 bases, proving he can do what he said he was there to do: play.
10 The Razorbacks
Arkansas' vaunted Hogs won the NCAA basketball championship by overcoming media hype (the team made eight appearances on national television), stiff competition from rival Duke (whom they edged 76-72 in the final minute) and the support of Bill Clinton, who has a knack for getting behind a losing cause.