NEW YORK – LeBron James’ face said it all. J.R. Smith messed up. And the Cleveland Cavaliers paid for his mistake as they lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals 124-114 to the Golden State Warriors in overtime.
The score was tied at 107 with 4.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Cleveland was at the line. George Hill’s free-throw attempt bounced off the rim, and Smith rebounded. Instead of putting a shot up while near the basket, Smith dribbled out toward midcourt and kept it , despite James’ shouts for the ball.
Time ran out. Overtime ensued. Golden State won.
Welcome to the club of big blunders, Smith.
CHRIS WEBBER – 1993
The announcer said it before the game-deciding moment even happened: “Remember, the Wolverines are out of timeouts.” Well, Michigan’s Chris Webber didn’t remember.
After dribbling into a corner with 11 seconds left in the championship, surrounded by defenders, Webber called a timeout. Automatic technical foul. North Carolina hit two free throws, then two more to seal it.
Michigan lost 77-71. It was the last time the Fab Five played together, as Webber went to the NBA 0-2 in NCAA finals appearances.
MAGIC JOHNSON – 1984
Even legends make mistakes. During Game 2 of the NBA Finals, Magic Johnson lost track of time. His Lakers and the Celtics were tied with 13 seconds left in regulation. Johnson got the ball. For some reason, he ran out the clock, not passing it until it was too late for his teammate to put up a shot.
Boston won that game 124-121 in overtime and ultimately took the series in seven games.
The nickname “Tragic” Johnson was thrown around after that.
BEATRICE CHEPKOECH – 2017
There are no shortcuts in steeplechase. And during the World Championships, Beatrice Chepkoech accidently tried to make one.
Just two laps into the 3,000-meter event, Chepkoech completely missed a water jump. The bypass forced her to backtrack and trail her competitors. She ultimately made up a lot of ground and finished fourth.
The Kenyan distance runner had been in the lead.
BENNY AGBAYANI – 2000
Runners were on second and third in a regular-season game. The Giants hit a fly ball into the outfield, where Mets left fielder Benny Agbayani makes the catch. Three outs.
Or so Agbayani thought.
Agbayani jogged to the stands, handed the baseball off to a kid and started to run to the dugout. Only then did he realize his mistake – there were only two outs – and took the ball back from the fan. The giveaway was ruled a two-base error and both runners crossed home as a result. Mets still came out on top 3-2.
MARK FLEKKEN – 2018
Hydration is key, but so is paying attention. In Germany’s second division this season, Duisburg goalkeeper Mark Flekken turned his back and meandered into the goal to take a drink. To his surprise, the moment he turned around, Ingolstadt was right there, sending the ball into his net. There was nothing he could do but stand there at that point.
After the match, Flekken admitted he thought he had a couple of moments to spare since his team had just scored and music was playing in the stadium. He also said he won’t be putting his water bottle in the goal anymore.
Luckily for Flekken, Duisburg pulled through 2-1.
Also, that water bottle ended up for auction.
JASON MONEY – 2014
With 3.7 seconds left on the clock, Spanish Fork (Utah) High School was up by three points and facing fourth down. Rather than punting the ball, quarterback Jason Money took it with plans to run out the clock. Which he technically did.
Money stopped at the sideline when he saw zeroes, fully prepared to celebrate, when a Maple Mountain defender realized the play – most important, the game – was still live. The whistle hadn’t blown. So, he stripped the ball from Money and a teammate returned it 22 yards to score. Maple Mountain won the playoff game 17-14.
JAMES JACKSON – 1986
Older doesn’t always mean wiser. Former Georgia quarterback James Jackson also didn’t understand the rules of running out the clock. During Georgia’s 1986 matchup against South Carolina, the Bulldogs were up by less than a touchdown with 4 seconds remaining. James kept the ball until time expired then dropped it on the Gamecocks’ 10-yard line.
Again, no whistle.
South Carolina scooped it up and took it to the end zone, but at that time in college football, players could not advance a fumble. It was a dead ball the moment the defender touched it. The rule, since changed, saved Georgia, which held on to win 31-26.
BURRILLVILLE HIGH SCHOOL – 2016
There were only 4 seconds left. So the moment a Burrillville (Rhode Island) High School basketball player stole a Chariho inbounds pass, he thought play was over. His whole team thought it was all over. The ball was chucked up into the air, and they celebrated what they believed to be their victory.
Little did they realize Chariho caught the throwaway and called a timeout before the time actually ran out. With less than a second left, a perfect lob play led to a Chariho winning layup.
Burrillville lost 60-59. It was the state championship.
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