1999 Sports: Three Championship Thrillers
The year of 1999 sports was defined by three championship events that were, even by the heightened standards that accompany those events, exceptionally exciting in their conclusions.
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It got started right away at the 1999 Final Four. Duke and UConn had been the best two teams in the nation all year long, and they navigated their way through the NCAA Tournament to a Monday Night showdown. In a well-played title game, UConn claimed their first national championship.
Everyone might have waiting for UConn and Duke to meet, but it’s safe to say no one expected the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans to meet in the Super Bowl. But that’s what happened, and no one could be disappointed with the game we got. The Rams won 23-16, stopping the Titans on the one-yard line to end the game.
And the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals between the Dallas Stars and Buffalo Sabres didn’t reach a seventh game, but a long night of triple overtime in Game 6 made it seem that way. A controversial goal by Brett Hull gave Dallas the Cup.
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Continuing with the theme of championship showdowns, the Florida State-Virginia Tech battle to settle college football supremacy at the Sugar Bowl was a good one and not that far from being in a class with the Final Four, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Finals.
The Seminoles and Hokies brought great players, in Peter Warrick and Michael Vick to New Orleans, and underdog Virginia Tech led by a point after three quarters. Warrick took over the fourth quarter and won FSU a national title.
And by rights, the 1999 World Series should have been on the front line of showdowns. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves were the best two teams in baseball and fighting to be the team of the 1990s. At least the Yankees were—the World Series ended in an anti-climactic sweep as New York steamrollered their way to a third championship in four years.
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On the individual level, one of the great pitching performances of all-time was delivered by Pedro Martinez of the Boston Red Sox. He dominated all season, delivered a memorable performance in the All-Star Game, a stunning display in the playoffs and should have won the MVP to go along with his Cy Young Award.
When it comes to individual achievement, no stars have shone brighter in the 21st century than those of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The 1999 season was the first year they both made an impact simultaneously. Manning was already in the NFL, his college legacy secured. But Brady was still working on getting his name out there. He did so at Michigan in 1999, while Peyton made his first trip to the playoffs.
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Finally, we come to the NBA, which imposed a lockout on the players and fans and delayed the start of the post-Michael Jordan era. In the ensuing 15 years there have been some great teams—the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, the Miami Heat’s Big Three, and to a lesser extent the Celtics’ Big Three and the Lakers of Kobe without Shaq.
But the one constant in those years, always quietly, without drama and with simple, high-quality team basketball, has been the San Antonio Spurs of Tim Duncan. With five rings and six trips to the Finals in 15 years, the Spurs have managed to define an era of the NBA without actually defining it. 1999 was the breakthrough, as they won their first NBA title.
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