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WE all love watching team sports, but when it comes to the question of why we do, it always boils down to the individual brilliance that players can impart on a contest.
After LeBron James’ historic performances in the 2016 NBA Finals to lead his Cavaliers to a drought-breaking championship, we were inspired to look at similar virtuoso performances around the sporting world.
It took a lot of blood, sweat, tears and a ton of consternation, but we have narrowed our list down to the five finest individual performances we have seen in our lifetimes.
The best part is, if you missed any of these moments we have accompanied each write up with a Youtube video so you can experience the majesty yourself.
Sit back and enjoy some of the finest efforts from players in team sports from around the globe, we had fun compiling this and we are certain you will enjoy reading it.
Gary Ablett snr vs. Essendon round 6, 1993
You do not get the reputation of being one of the greatest AFL players of all-time by not having a few games that have to be seen to be believed.
Narrowing down which Gary Ablett senior game we were going to go with was an onerous task in itself, but his 14-goal effort in a losing team against Essendon back in 1993 is the stuff of absolute legend.
Bomber Paul Salmon kicked 10 up the other end, but Ablett was unstoppable, booting 14 goals against three opponents for the majority of the match.
It is difficult to pick out one moment that stands out above the rest, but the soaring mark Ablett took prior to kicking his 13th goal of the match was nothing short of spectacular.
They did not call the man “God” for nothing.
Paul Gallen vs. QLD game II, 2011
Typically an NRL highlights package is going to include a full back, but few could argue that Paul Gallen’s performance in game 2 of Origin in 2011 was not one of the greatest games of an individual player of all-time.
Gallen totalled an incredible 28 tackles, 27 hit-ups and 114 metres; and that was just in the opening half!
Gallen finished with 234 running metres (which was more than the three Maroons’ props combined) to chalk up an epic 18-8 win over their bitter rivals.
The Blues might have gone on to lose 2-1 to the Maroons, but Gallen’s efforts in game 2 will remain in the memory far longer than the result of that series.
Lionel Messi vs. Bayern Munich – Champions League semi-final, 2015
How can you have a best individual performance package and not include the Argentinian maestro?
First off, let’s get some context.
Bayern Munich and German keeper Manuel Neuer – the team that conquered Messi’s Argentina in the World Cup final – said this prior to the semi-final first leg regarding Messi.
“It’s crucial to show authority when we meet on the pitch and show him who’s boss. I did the same in the World Cup final and this worked out pretty well.”
Barcelona had controlled the match for the majority of the contest, but failed to capitalise on their dominance, until Messi stepped up and delivered a curling effort from just outside the box which beat the keeper.
His first effort was pretty good, but his second goal has to be seen to be believed.
The game was still on a knife’s edge, but Messi sliced through the Bayern defence, leaving Jerome Boateng standing, then sitting, in a moment of sheer brilliance that became Champions League folklore.
The little champ then chipped Manuel Neuer to score one of the greatest goals of all-time, giving the keeper a nice serving of humble pie in the process.
The two goals can be seen below, but for added hilarity, witness the genius that is the internet public absolutely eviscerating poor Boateng.
Michael Jordan vs. Utah Jazz – NBA Finals Game 5, 1997
Game 5, otherwise known as the ‘flu game’ may be Michael Jordan’s finest moment on a basketball court.
MJ scored 38 points, seven rebounds, three steals and five assists, which is impressive in itself, but when you hear what teammate Scottie Pippen had to say about Jordan’s health prior to the match, it makes it even more special.
“The way he looked, there’s no way I thought he could even put on his uniform.”
“I’d never seen him like that. He looked bad–I mean really bad.”
The sweat poured from Jordan throughout the game and at any break MJ looked like he was going to collapse, but the sheer will of the greatest basketball player of all-time led him to overcome adversity and get his team the road win.
Just to seal the legacy of his flu game, Jordan nailed a clutch three pointer when the scores were tied in red time to seal the away victory and a crucial 3-2 lead in the series.
We all want to be like Mike, but that night Jordan showed exactly what it takes to be the best.
AB de Villiers vs. West Indies, 2015
Who said the inception of Twenty20 cricket would have a detrimental impact on the other formats?
If anything, it has encouraged athletes to attack the test and one day international arenas with greater freedom and vigour than previously displayed.
AB de Villiers smashed the fastest century in One Day International history – from just 31 balls – to propel South Africa to an incredible victory over the West Indies in Johannesburg.
Not only did he break the fastest century record, but the South African super slugger equalled the 16 sixes mark for the most majors hit in a single innings.
Do not let the fact that the Wanderers’ ground size is smaller than many venues around the world; the sixes that AB de Villiers hit would clear the fence at most grounds.
Not only was his hitting clean and crisp but the sheer invention of some of his shots are a thing of beauty.
Sit back and enjoy some of the finest hitting you will ever see.