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Tom Jones' Two Cents

Sports analysis, perspective and more.

The biggest losers -- great performances in losses

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James poured in 45 points Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't enough as his Cavs lost Game 7 to the Celtics. It was one of the best performances ever in a loss. Over the years, there have been hundreds of great performances ever in a loss, but these are the first 10 that come to mind.

Dominique_2 Dominique Wilkins
This performance came up quite a bit Sunday because it was 20 years ago that the Atlanta Hawks star scored 47, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a Game 7 loss at Boston. In that matchup, the Celtics' Larry Bird had 34, including 20 in the fourth quarter.

Chuck Howley
The Cowboys linebacker was the MVP of Super Bowl V after intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble in a 16-13 loss to the Colts. It was the first time a defensive player won Super Bowl MVP honors and remains the only time a player from a losing team has won the award.

Haddix Harvey Haddix
Possibly the greatest pitching performance in major-league history was turned in by the Pirates southpaw, who tossed a perfect game for 12 innings in 1959 against the Milwaukee Braves. Haddix retired 36 consecutive batters, but the game remained scoreless headed to the 13th. An error, a bunt, an intentional walk then a double  resulted in a loss for Haddix and the Pirates.

Isiah Isiah Thomas
During the last 94 seconds of regulation in the fifth and deciding playoff game against the Knicks in 1984, the Pistons point guard scored 16 consecutive points on three jumpers, a 3-pointer, a driving three-point play and four free throws to send the game to overtime. And he drew three fouls on defender Rory Sparrow in a mere 30 seconds. Thomas fouled out in OT, and the Knicks won behind 44 points from Bernard King, who was playing with two dislocated fingers and severe dehydration as a result of  the flu.

Johnny Johnny Unitas
The numbers weren't that great, but this is remembered as one of the last great moments in the legendary career of Johnny U. In 1972, the Colts quarterback completed 26 of 45 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to match the Jets' Joe Namath. What a day Broadway Joe had: 496 yards passing and six touchdowns, including TD passes of 65, 67, 79 and 80 yards in the Jets' 44-34 victory.

Mac_2 John McEnroe
In what might be the greatest tennis match ever, the brash 21-year-old reached the 1980 Wimbledon final against four-time defending champ Bjorn Borg. McEnroe trailed 2-1 in sets when the match went to a fourth-set tiebreaker. The incredibly intense tiebreaker lasted 20 minutes, and McEnroe saved five match points and won 18-16. Bjorg, however, would win the fifth set 8-6.

Bobby Richardson
The Yankees second baseman was a monster in the 1960 World Series, batting .367 with a grand slam, two doubles, two triples and 12 RBIs in seven games. But the Yanks lost to the Pirates on Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning, Game 7 homer. Still, Richardson was named the MVP of the series and remains the only member of the losing team to win the World Series MVP.

Hextall Ron Hextall
The 23-year-old Flyers goalie won the 1987 Conn Smythe award, given to the MVP of the playoffs. Hextall played in all of the Flyers' 26 postseason games, winning 15 with two shutouts and a 2.77 goals-against average. But the Flyers lost the final in seven games to the powerful Oilers and Wayne Gretzky. Hextall is one of five players on a losing team to be chosen as playoff MVP, along with Detroit's Roger Crozier (1966), St. Louis' Glenn Hall (1968), Philadelphia's Reggie Leach (1976) and Anaheim's Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2003).

Billy Conn
The tough Pittsburgh boxer met the great Joe Louis on June 18, 1941, for the heavyweight title. Conn fought a masterful fight and led Louis on the scorecard after 12 rounds. But Conn tried to go for a knockout in the 13th round and ended up getting knocked out himself. After the fight, Conn said, "I lost my head and a million bucks.''

Dykstra_2 Lenny Dykstra
The scrappy Phillies centerfielder batted .348 in the 1993 World Series with four homers, including two in a 15-14 loss in Game 4. The Phillies eventually lost the series in six games, but Dykstra was the best player and probably would’ve been named MVP had the Blue Jays, thanks to Joe Carter’s Game 6 walkoff homer, not won the series.

[Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 2:41pm]


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