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15 Moments That Define Sports in the 1980s

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15 Moments That Define Sports in the 1980s

Team USA Hockey
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Sports in the 1980s was dominated by a select few, but their names will ring on in sports history forever. Athletes like Joe Montana, Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky dominated their respective sports in the decade. There were also several sports moments during the decade that still resonate today. These 15 sports moments defined the 1980s.

15. The Death of Len Bias

Len Bias Celtics
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15. The Death of Len Bias

Len Bias Celtics
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Date: June 19, 1986

The No. 2 overall pick by Boston in 1986, former Maryland standout Len Bias was destined to be the next NBA superstar, but a cocaine-induced heart attack killed Bias just two days after his selection. Bias' death shocked the sports world and changed the perception of drug use in the sports world.

14. Michael Jordan's Playoff Buzzer-Beater Beats Cleveland

Michael Jordan Bulls
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14. Michael Jordan's Playoff Buzzer-Beater Beats Cleveland

Michael Jordan Bulls
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Date: May 7, 1989

Michael Jordan had several clutch moments in the early stages of his NBA career, but none was more prominent than his game-winner against Cleveland in 1989. Trailing 100-99 with three seconds remaining, Jordan took the inbounds pass and sank a jumper right over Craig Ehlo, giving the Bulls a 101-100 win. "The Shot," as it's now called, cemented Jordan's status as an all-time clutch player.

13. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary beats Miami, 47-45

Doug Flutie Boston College
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13. Doug Flutie's Hail Mary beats Miami, 47-45

Doug Flutie Boston College
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Date: November 23, 1984

Trailing 45-41 against the Hurricanes, Doug Flutie pulled off one of the most memorable plays in college football history. Needing a Hail Mary to win, Flutie launched a rainbow toward the end zone and Eagles receiver Gerald Phelen came up with it for a touchdown. Flutie's Hail Mary would be the signature play in his Heisman Trophy-winning 1984 season. The week prior, Miami blew a 31-0 lead to Maryland and lost 42-40.

12. Joe Montana Hits Dwight Clark to Win NFC Championship

Joe Montana 49ers
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12. Joe Montana Hits Dwight Clark to Win NFC Championship

Joe Montana 49ers
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Date: January 10, 1982

Trailing 27-21 to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana led the 49ers down the field and into the red zone. With 58 seconds left, Montana hit a leaping Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone to secure a 28-27 victory. The 49ers then became the team of the decade while the Cowboys did not return to a Super Bowl for the rest of it.

11. Joe Montana to John Taylor Caps Super Bowl XXIII Winning Drive

John Taylor 49ers
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11. Joe Montana to John Taylor Caps Super Bowl XXIII Winning Drive

John Taylor 49ers
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Date: January 22, 1989

In one of the greatest Super Bowls ever, the San Francisco 49ers, three-time Super Bowl champions, met the Cincinnati Bengals, who made just their second trip to the Super Bowl, in Super Bowl XXIII. Trailing 16-13 late in the game, Montana hit John Taylor in the back of the end zone with 34 second remaining, giving the 49ers a 20-16 victory. This game cemented the 49ers as the team of the decade.

10. Wayne Gretzky is Traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles

Wayne Gretzky Kings
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10. Wayne Gretzky is Traded from Edmonton to Los Angeles

Wayne Gretzky Kings
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Date: August 9, 1988

Just after winning the 1988 Stanley Cup, Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the most important trade in NHL history. Oilers owner Peter Pocklington reportedly needed more money after some of his investments started to fail and traded the best player in NHL history. Gretzky's arrival made hockey in California popular and helped the Kings reach their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1993.

9. MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti Bans Pete Rose For Life

Bart Giamati MLB
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9. MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti Bans Pete Rose For Life

Bart Giamatti MLB
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Date: August 24, 1989

After betting on baseball games as manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Pete Rose was banned for life in 1989 by then MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti and remains permanently ineligible by the sport. Rose did not finally admit to his transgressions until his autobiography came out in 2004. Eight days after the announcement, Giamatti died from a heart attack.

8. Magic Johnson's "Baby" Sky Hook Beats Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals

Magic Johnson Lakers
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8. Magic Johnson's "Baby" Sky Hook Beats Celtics in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals

Magic Johnson Lakers
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Date: June 9, 1987

In Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers led the Boston Celtics 2-1 and trailed 106-105 with just seconds remaining. Guarded by Kevin McHale, Magic Johnson dribbled into a lane and sunk a game-winning sky hook as the Lakers took a 3-1 series with a 107-106 win. The play was Magic's signature moment in the NBA and the Celtics would not win another title until 2008.

7. North Carolina State Upsets Houston in 1983 NCAA Final

Jim Valvano North Carolina State
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7. North Carolina State Upsets Houston in 1983 NCAA Final

Jim Valvano North Carolina State
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Date: April 3, 1983

A No. 6 seed in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, the North Carolina State Wolfpack had a miraculous run that culminated in an improbable national championship. Facing Houston in the championship game, the Wolfpack hung tough with the favored Cougars and the game was tied at 52 with seconds remaining. Lorenzo Charles sealed N.C. State's victory with a last-second dunk, giving coach Jim Valvano his only national championship.

6. Ben Johnson Flunks Drug Test, Loses Gold Medal in 1988 Summer Olympics

Ben Johnson Olympics
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6. Ben Johnson Flunks Drug Test, Loses Gold Medal in 1988 Summer Olympics

Ben Johnson Olympics
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Date: September 26, 1988

Just days after setting the world record for the 100-meter dash at the 1988 Summer Olympics, Canada's Ben Johnson flunked a drug test and was forced to give up his gold medal. Carl Lewis, the silver medalist, was awarded the gold. Johnson's test set off a crusade by the International Olympic Committee against cheaters and steroid users in track and field.

5. Jack Nicklaus Birdies 17, Wins Masters at 46

Jack Nicklaus Masters
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5. Jack Nicklaus Birdies 17, Wins Masters at 46

Jack Nicklaus Masters
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Date: April 10-13, 1986

A long shot to win the 1986 Masters, Jack Nicklaus, at the age of 46, won his 18th and final major and became the oldest golfer to ever win the Masters Tournament. In the final 10 holes of the final round, Nicklaus shot six birdies and one eagle as he recorded a final-round 65, giving him a score of -9, beating out both Tom Kite and Greg Norman, who each finished at -8.

4. Kirk Gibson's Pinch-Hit Home Run wins Game 1 of the 1988 World Series

Kirk Gibson Dodgers
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4. Kirk Gibson's Pinch-Hit Home Run wins Game 1 of the 1988 World Series

Kirk Gibson Dodgers
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Date: October 15, 1988

The Los Angeles Dodgers were heavy underdogs as they faced the Oakland Athletics in the 1988 World Series. In Game 1 of the series, the Dodgers trailed 4-3 when Kirk Gibson, a pinch-hitter who was hurt after the 1988 NLCS, subbed in. Facing a 3-2 count, Gibson hit a game-winning two-run shot as the Dodgers won 5-4. Gibson didn't play the rest of the series, but L.A. defeated the A's in five games.

3. Cal's Five-Lateral Kickoff Return Shocks Stanford

John Elway Stanford
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3. Cal's Five-Lateral Kickoff Return Shocks Stanford

John Elway Stanford
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Date: November 20, 1982

In the most miraculous finish in college football history, the California Golden Bears trailed the Stanford Cardinal 20-19 with four seconds remaining. Needing a touchdown on the kickoff return, Cal used five laterals and dodged the Cardinal en route to the end zone, winning 25-20. This game was the final game of John Elway's career, and "The Play," as it's now called, cost the Cardinal the chance at a bowl bid.

2. Bill Buckner's Error Completes Boston's Collapse in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

1986 New York Mets
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2. Bill Buckner's Error Completes Boston's Collapse in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series

1986 New York Mets
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Date: October 25, 1986

Leading 5-3 in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, the Boston Red Sox were on their way to capturing the team's first World Series Championship since 1918, but fate intervened. The Mets rallied to tie the game at five in the bottom half of the inning and won 6-5 after Bill Buckner misplayed a Mookie Wilson grounder. The Mets would win the series in seven. Boston finally won the World Series in 2004.

1. USA Upsets Vaunted Soviets in 1980 Winter Olympics

USA Olympic Hockey Team
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1. USA Upsets Vaunted Soviets in 1980 Winter Olympics

USA Olympic Hockey Team
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Date: February 22, 1980

After being destroyed by the Soviets in an exhibition game 10-3 leading up to the Olympics, the Americans were not expected to be contenders for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Americans made it to the medal round as they faced the Soviets. Trailing 3-2 in the third quarter, the U.S. scored two goals in a span of 90 seconds as the Americans won 4-3. Days later, Team USA defeated Finland to win the gold.

Brian Kalchik is a Detroit Lions writer for RantSports.com. He also adds to the site’s ClubhouseNCAA Football, Fantasy and NFL content. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.