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15 best sports moments in Chicago history

Written by
Clayton Guse

On Thursday night, Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds—a feat that he also accomplished last August against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The game was a huge moment in a recent run for the Cubs that's been pretty magical. While Arrieta's "no-no" certainly isn't something to scoff at, it doesn't come close to topping the list of the best sports moments in Chicago history.

We dug into the archives and determined our 15 best moments in the city's rich sports history.

15. Devin Hester opens the Super Bowl with a bang

February 4, 2007

Devin Hester scored five touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns in his rookie year (as well as one on a missed field goal). By the end of the season, kickers were doing everything in their power to avoid giving the ball to the menacing return man. Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri broke that trend on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI in 2007, and Hester became the first player in the history of the NFL to score a touchdown on the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl. The Bears would go on to lose to the Colts by a score of 29-17, but Hester's opening touchdown had Chicagoans hopeful that the Bears' Super Bowl drought was coming to an end.

14. Kerry Wood throws 20 strikeouts

May 6, 1998

The Cubs had a lot to be excited about when phenom rookie pitcher Kerry Wood entered the league in the late '90s. In his fifth career start, he tied a MLB record with 20 strikeouts in a single game. Wood did not become the answer to the Cubs' World Series woes, but he certainly came close during the team's 2003 campaign.

13. Patrick Kane wins the Stanley Cup with a ghost shot

June 9, 2010

The Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years in a very confusing fashion. The club was caught in a tense overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers, and Patrick Kane fired a shot from a seemingly impossible angle. The puck got caught in the top corner of the net, leaving onlookers confused as to what had happened. Kane immediately threw his gloves off and began dancing across the ice. After a brief video review, officials verified that the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup champions.

12. White Sox take down Cubs in World Series

October 9-16, 1906

The Cubs won 116 games in 1906, a record that still stands more than a century later. That year, the team faced the White Sox in the only World Series matchup between the two teams. The Sox, nicknamed the "Hitless Wonders," were big underdogs coming into the series but quickly proved their salt. They won the series in six games, which was the first championship in the team's history. The Cubs would go on to win the following two World Series (something they haven't accomplished since).

11. Michael Jordan's "Flu Game"

June 11, 1997

Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals was pivotal. The Bulls were tied 2-2 with the Utah Jazz in the series and needed a win to avoid facing elimination. The big story coming into the matchup was a stomach virus or food poisoning that Michael Jordan had contracted the day before. It's unclear how bad Jordan's sickness actually was, but he was able to overcome it and put up 38 points en route to a Bulls victory. The club won the following game, which clinched their second-consecutive championship and fifth overall.

10. Mark Buehrle's perfect game

July 23, 2009

There have been only 23 pitchers to throw a perfect game in MLB history, and White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle became one of them in 2009. The accomplishment was close to being nipped in the bud in the ninth inning on a long hit into left-center field. Center fielder DeWayne Wise climbed up the wall and made a bobbling catch to prevent a home run, which gave way for Buehrle's legendary outing.

9. Walter Payton runs for 275 yards

November 20, 1977

Michael Jordan deserves a lot of credit for his "Flu Game" in the '90s, but Walter Payton's performance while ill 20 years prior was even more impressive. The legendary running back caught the flu on the Wednesday before a Sunday matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, and he was queasy up until game time. He went on to rush for 275 yards, breaking the single-game rushing record in the process. His record stood for 23 years, when it was broke by Cincinnati Bengals running back Corey Dillon.

8. Steve Bartman becomes the most hated man on the North Side

October 14, 2003

In the 2003 National League Championship Series, the Cubs were five outs away from heading to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Things quickly took a turn for the worse when a fan, Steve Bartman, reached for a foul ball, blocking Cubs left fielder Moisés Alou from recording an out. The Cubs would eventually lose that game, as well as the following, and failed to win the pennant. While it might not exactly be one of the "best" moments in Chicago sports history, the "Steve Bartman incident" has become one of the most memorable moments in Cubs history and adds to a long line of superstitions that have left North Side fans feeling cursed.

7. Michael Jordan makes "The Shot"

May 7, 1989

In 1989, Michael Jordan had yet to win an NBA title and was still trying to prove himself as one of the league's best players. In the Bulls' 1989 first round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he quieted some of his critics. The Bulls were down by one point with three seconds remaining in the game. Jordan took the inbound pass and hit a buzzer-beating shot to bring the team into the second round to the playoffs. The Bulls did not win a title that season, but "The Shot" became remembered as one of Jordan's most clutch moments in his career. 

6. White Sox sweep to win World Series

October 22-26, 2005

A World Series title in Chicago is like a unicorn—very few people have witnessed one, but those who have are left in awe. The White Sox accomplished just that in 2005, which was a perfect cap to a special season. Led by manager Ozzie Guillén and his "small ball" philosophy, the Sox cruised through the playoffs and swept the Houston Astros for the team's first World Series title in 88 years.

5. Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup title on home ice

June 15, 2015

In 2015, the Blackhawks solidified themselves as a dynasty by winning their third Stanley Cup in six years. The titles in 2010 and 2013 were both clinched outside of Chicago, but the Hawks had the opportunity to snag the cup in Chicago for the first time since 1938. The team did not disappoint, as they shut out the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-0.

4. The Bears shuffle their way to a Super Bowl championship

January 26, 1986

The 1985 Bears might not have been the best team in the history of the NFL, but they were probably the most entertaining. Led by a spectacular defense nicknamed the "Monsters of the Midway," the team lost only one game that season on their way to a dominating performance in Super Bowl XX. 

3. Hull leads Blackhawks to 1961 Stanley Cup

April 6-16, 1961

In the 1961 Stanley Cup finals, the Blackhawks found themselves in a tough series against the rival Detroit Red Wings. Fresh-faced 22-year-old Bobby Hull had yet to leave his mark as one of the NHL's most prolific players of all time, but he played a key role in leading the Hawks to their first championship in 23 years. The team won the title in six games, capped off by a 5-1 rout.

2. Michael Jordan leaves Chicago something to remember

June 14, 1998

At the end of the 1998 season, it became pretty clear that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson would not be returning to the Bulls the following year. The club found its way to the NBA Finals, looking for their second "three-peat" against the formidable Utah Jazz. In his last moments in a Chicago Bulls uniform, Jordan scored on a quick drive, stole the ball from Karl Malone and dropped a game-winning shot with five seconds remaining. 

1. The Blackhawks score two goals in 17 seconds

June 24, 2013

The Blackhawks opened their 2012-2013 campaign with the best start to a season in NHL history. The team had a magical run through the playoffs, which included a historic comeback against the Detroit Red Wings. The Hawks were down by one goal against the Boston Bruins in the final two minutes of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Finals. With 90 seconds left in the game, the team pulled goalie Corey Crawford for an extra skater, and captain Jonathan Toews assisted Bryan Bickell on a goal to tie the game. Just 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland scored on a rebound to clinch the Hawks' second Stanley Cup championship in four years. 

This post was updated on Friday, April 22, 2016.

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