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20 Most Tragic Moments In Sports History

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The world of sports has given us, and will continue to give us, plenty of great moments, but in some instances, the sports world gets shook to its core through tragedy. Whether it's our favorite heroes passing from us too soon, or evil people taking things into their own hands, some sports moments will unfortunately stick with us forever. Here now, in no particular order, are the 20 most tragic moments in sports history.

20. Death of Drazen Petrovic

Drazen Petrovic
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20. Death of Drazen Petrovic

Drazen Petrovic
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One of the first foreign players who had success in the NBA, Drazen Petrovic joined the NBA in 1989 after several successful years playing professionally in Europe. On June 7, 1993, Petrovic died in a car crash in Germany after being cut off by a semi truck on an Autobahn. Petrovic was 28 when he passed. His No. 3 has been retired by the Brooklyn Nets.

19. Death of Reggie Lewis

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19. Death of Reggie Lewis

Reggie Lewis Celtics
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Seven years after the Boston Celtics lost a future NBA star, the organization would be rocked again by another death involving one of their athletes. On June 27, 1993, Reggie Lewis, a one-time All-Star who had his best season in 1992, suffered sudden cardiac death following an offseason practice. Lewis was 27 at the time of his death. On Mar. 22, 1995, the Celtics retired Lewis' No. 35 jersey.

18. Death of Andres Escobar

Andres Escobar Colombia
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18. Death of Andres Escobar

Andres Escobar
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During the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the worlds of sports and organized crimes came full circle, and resulted in the death of a prominent soccer player. When Colombia played the United States, Colombian defender Andres Escobar scored an own goal after a deflection, giving the U.S. a 2-1 win. Five days after the match, three men confronted Escobar in Medellin, with one shooting Escobar with a .38 caliber pistol. Escobar died 45 minutes later.

17. Death of Payne Stewart

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17. Death of Payne Stewart

Payne Stewart
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On Oct. 25, 1999, a month after the Americans rallied to defeat Team Europe in the Ryder Cup, a plane carrying professional golfer Payne Stewart, who had won the U.S. Open four months earlier, crashed, killing Stewart and five other people. The aircraft lost cabin pressure and each of the passengers were incapacitated due to hypoxia, or the lack of oxygen. Stewart died at the age of 42.

16. Death of Steve McNair

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16. Death of Steve McNair

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On July 4, 2009, Steve McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl QB and 2003 NFL MVP, was tragically murdered by his mistress, Sahel Kazemi, in a murder–suicide. McNair was shot four times, twice in the head. McNair died at the age of 36.

15. 2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Air Disaster

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15. 2011 Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Air Disaster

Pavol Demitra Blues
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On Sept. 7, 2011, Yak-Service Flight 9633, which carried the players and coaching staff of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl professional ice hockey team, crashed near the Russian city of Yaroslavl. Of the 45 on board, 44 people died, including 43 at the crash site. Former NHL players Pavol Demitra and Igor Korolev were among the victims.

14. Death of Hank Gathers

Hank Gathers Loyola Marymount
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14. Death of Hank Gathers

Hank Gathers Loyola Marymount
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Hank Gathers was just the second player in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding in the same season, but he died playing the game he loved. During the 1990 West Coast Conference Tournament, Gathers collapsed and died during the first half of Loyola Marymount's game against Portland. The Lions would reach the Elite Eight without Gathers as Bo Kimble shot his free throws left-handed in honor of Gathers.

13. Death of Brian Piccolo

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13. Death of Brian Piccolo

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Brian Piccolo played four seasons at running back for the Chicago Bears, but his relationship with Hall of Famer Gale Sayers was chronicled in the movie "Brian's Song." In 1970, Piccolo died at the age of 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of germ cell testicular cancer.

12. Death of Thurman Munson

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12. Death of Thurman Munson

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A seven-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees, Thurman Munson was one of the greatest players in franchise history, but his career and life ended in a horrific plane crash. In 1979, Munson suffered a broken neck after crashing his Cessna Citation at the Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio. Munson died at the age of 32.

11. Death of Ernie Davis

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11. Death of Ernie Davis

Syracuse Orange Helmet
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Ernie Davis was the first African-American athlete to win the Heisman Trophy, but he would never play a single-snap in the NFL. Davis was selected No. 1 overall by the Washington Redskins in the 1962 NFL Draft, but was traded to Cleveland. In the summer of 1962, Davis was diagnosed with acute monocytic leukemia and died on May 18, 1963 at the age of 23. His story was chronicled in the 2007 movie, "The Express."

10. Death of Sean Taylor

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10. Death of Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor Redskins
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The No. 5 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, Sean Taylor was a rising star at free safety for the Washington Redskins. Taylor was having a Pro Bowl-caliber year in 2007 until his life was cut tragically short. In a home invasion gone wrong, Taylor died at the age of 24 following a gunshot wound from 17-year-old Eric Rivera Jr. Four people were charged in Taylor's murder, with three of them all receiving sentences of more than 29 years in prison.

9. Death of Len Bias

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9. Death of Len Bias

Len Bias NBA Draft
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Len Bias was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, and was expected to be the NBA's next great superstar. Sadly, two days after he was drafted, Bias died from a cocaine overdose at the age of 22. Bias' college teammate, Brian Tribble, was charged with cocaine possession during the incident and was sentenced to 10 years and one month of confinement. Bias' story was chronicled in the 30 for 30 film, "Without Bias."

8. Southern Airways Flight 932 Crash

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8. Southern Airways Flight 932 Crash

Marshall Thundering Herd
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On Nov. 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, which carried 75 members of the Marshall Thundering Herd football team, crashed into a hill just short of the Tri-State Airport , killing all 75 people on board. The Thundering Herd was returning home after a 17-14 loss to East Carolina. The accident is the deadliest sports related tragedy in U.S. history, and is chronicled in the movie "We Are Marshall."

7. Death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.
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7. Death of Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Dale Earnhardt Sr.
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Known simply as "The Intimidator," Dale Earnhardt Sr. was one of NASCAR's greatest drivers and one of its greatest heroes. In February 2001, while driving at the Daytona 500, Earnhardt Sr. was involved in a last-lap crash, and died of a basilar skull fracture at the age of 49.

6. Death of Roberto Clemente

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6. Death of Roberto Clemente

Roberto Clemente Jersey
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Roberto Clemente is the greatest player in Pittsburgh Pirates history, having been a 12-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. On Dec. 31, 1972, while on a relief trip to Nicaragua, a plane carrying Clemente crashed into the ocean off the coast of Puerto Rico immediately after takeoff. Clemente's body was never recovered, and he passed at the age of 38.

5. Death of Pat Tillman

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5. Death of Pat Tillman

Pat Tillman Cardinals
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Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman sacrificed his successful NFL career by enlisting in the Army Rangers. On Apr. 22, 2004, Tillman's platoon was reportedly ambushed and the Army reported that Tillman died from enemy fire. A month later, the Army changed their original statement, saying that Tillman was killed by friendly fire. He was 27.

4. Death of Lou Gehrig

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4. Death of Lou Gehrig

Lou Gehrig Cal Ripken Jr.
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The greatest first baseman of all time, Lou Gehrig was a legend for the New York Yankees and originally held the record for most consecutive games played with 2,130. Gehrig's streak ended in 1939 after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disorder now commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease forced Gehrig to retire at age 36, and ultimately took his life two years later. He was 37 when he died.

3. 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

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3. 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing

Boston Marathon Bombing
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On Apr. 15, 2013, two Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off two pressure cooker bombs towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring an estimated 264. Days later, Tamerlan died after a shootout with police, while Dzhokhar was captured alive after he was discovered hiding in a boat that was hidden in a backyard.

2. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 Crash

Roberto Cannessa
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2. Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 Crash

Roberto Cannessa
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On Oct. 13, 1972, a plane carrying 45 people, including a rugby team, crashed into the Andes Mountains and only 18 people survived the wreck. Given up for dead, the remaining 16 survivors survived two months in the brutal mountains by eating the bodies of the deceased. Rescuers found the remaining survivors 72 days after the crash. Their story is chronicled in the documentary, "I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash."

1. The Munich Massacre

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1. The Munich Massacre

Munich Massacre
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The single-worst tragedy in sports history happened at the 1972 Summer Olympics, when 11 Israeli Olympic members were taken hostage by the Palestinian group Black September. The group demanded that 234 prisoners be released in exchange for the hostages. Two of the hostages were killed earlier, while nine were killed following a failed rescue attempt. In the wake of the hostage-taking, competition was suspended for the first time in history.

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