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Professional Sports 5 Biggest Memorial Day Moments

Memorial Day Moments
Ronald Martinez/William Notman/Otto Greule Jr, Getty Images

Memorial Day doesn’t offer a a reprieve from the daily grind for many athletes. The NBA and NHL playoffs are still smoking hot, and Major League Baseball is in full swing.

Some professional athletes and fans are honoring American soldiers at the ballpark and inside of stadiums. As we memorialize and celebrate the soldiers who have sacrificed for our safety, here’s a look back at sports’ best moments from Memorial Days of the past:


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Although the Lakers would go on to take the 1985 NBA Finals, four games to two, the opening game on Memorial Day was all Celtics. Boston pummeled Los Angeles, 148-114, in what would forever become known as the “Memorial Day Massacre.” The Celtics all but shut down Lakers stars Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, leaving Abdul-Jabbar to apologize afterward to his teammates for the poor start to the series. “It was one of those days,” Celtics coach K.C. Jones said, “where if you turn around and close your eyes, the ball’s gonna go in.” The lopsided victory only added more bad will to this historic rivalry.


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On Memorial Day 1999, during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and Trail Blazers, San Antonio battled back to get within two points of Portland. That’s when Sean Elliott put up a three pointer to win the game that came to be known as the ‘Memorial Day Miracle’ because Elliott narrowly tiptoed along the sidelines before getting his shot off. It was the Spurs first lead of the game, and Elliott was an improbable star as he secretly battled a serious kidney condition. From there, the Spurs went on to win the NBA championship over the Knicks.


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It’s a touching moment when a true competitor leaves behind the game with tears in his eyes. That was the scene on Memorial Day in 1989 when third baseman Mike Schmidt retired as a lifelong Phillie. Schmidt retired mid-season after he realized it was his time to go. He had committed a costly error in a game on a play he felt he would have made earlier in his career. He was 39 at the time, and the Phillies would have to play without him for the first time since 1972.


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Now a staple of Memorial Day weekend programming, the annual race dates back all the way to Memorial Day 1911 when a field of 40 drivers took the wheel. Ray Harroun took home top prize that year, and a tradition was born. The race doesn’t always coincide with Memorial Day proper, but the festivities surrounding the race are just as large. In recent years, the event has brought along some huge keynote attractions like big-name bands, and homegrown celebrities have been known to stop by, too.


Wendall Holmes
William Notman, Getty Images

In an important legal decision delivered on Memorial Day in 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that organized baseball did not violate antitrust laws. It declared that baseball was not a business, but a sport. It came on the heels of a lawsuit from the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League that argued that Major League Baseball was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. The Federal League failed to stay together amid the dominance of its rival league. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that personal effort, not related to production, is not a subject of commerce, and thus the antitrust law did not apply.

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