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Ranking Sport’s Fifteen Most Iconic Photos

Over the brilliant weekend of sport just gone by, we were treated to a pair of instantly iconic photos courtesy of two world stars.

On Saturday night, Conor McGregor was the subject of a simply unforgettable image.

McGregor 200

The symbolism alone makes it a truly sensational pic. The blurred foreground of the fight is meaningless. All that matters is Conor. He’s watching over the two fighters like a lion does his prey, waiting to see who emerges and is next in his cross-hairs. It’s possibly even better from the other side.

McGregor 200 2

On Sunday night, the luckless Cristiano Ronaldo gave us this utterly brilliant, if tragic, photo.

Ronaldo Crying

Twelve years after Portugal’s famous demise, the great man was once again heartbroken, crying. The grim reality had set in, he would play no further part in what may be his last chance to mark the international stage – something his perennial foe could never manage. A decade from now, Eder will be the answer to a tricky pub quiz question. Cristiano’s night will never be forgotten

But where do these rank in the most iconic snaps in sports history?

15. Chaos

Inter Milan's Materazzi and Rui Costa of AC Milan wait on the pitch during their Champions League soccer match in Milan

2005 Champions League Quarter Final, Milan Derby

Backstory: With Milan heading for victory and progression to the semi finals, tension was building in the ground. In the 71st minute, all hell broke loose. Inter’s Esteban Cambiasso’s goal was disallowed, missiles and flares ended up on the pitch and the game was abandoned. Marco Materazzi, who makes another appearance later in our list, takes it all in alongside his supposed fierce rival Rui Costa.

14. The Sound and the Fury

Mike Tyson bites Evander Holyfield

WBA Heavyweight Championship Fight 1997, Las Vegas

Backstory: This one doesn’t need much explaining. One of boxing’s most infamous moments was captured in this shocking shot. While the photo in itself may not be as superb as some of our other entries, the fight was so dramatic, it will never be forgotten.

13. The Catch 

The Catch

NFC Championship Game 1982, San Francisco

Backstory: Dwight Clarke catches his game-winning touchdown from the legendary Joe Montana to bring the 49ers to the SuperBowl. Widely regarded as one of American Football’s most memorable moments.

12. The Notorious

McGregor 200

Jose Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar, UFC 200, Las Vegas

Backstory: With McGregor awaiting the winner of the bout, he watched on, stalking his soon-to-be prey.

Defines the phrase “instantly iconic”.

11. The Shot


Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Salt Lake City

Backstory: With 10 seconds remaining, Jordan started to dribble right, then crossed over to his left, hitting a twenty-foot jumper to win the match. MJ, however, isn’t the star of the snap, it’s the hundreds of fans behind who know exactly where the ball is ending up.

10. Fall From Grace


2006 World Cup Final, Berlin

Backstory: The final game of a remarkable career ended in disgrace and tragic infamy. A moment of pure stupidity, an uncharacteristic one at that, brought down the curtain about 20 minutes early on Zinedine Zidane’s swansong.

9. The Miracle On Ice

Miracle On Ice

1980 Men’s Olympic Ice-Hockey Final, New York

Backstory: One of the greatest underdog stories in sports history with the political era giving it added significance. The emotions of the famous night are perfectly captured in the iconic image. Not quite as iconic as the commentary though.

8. Ben Hogan’s One-Iron

Ben Hogan

1950 US Open Championship, Merion Golf Club

Backstory: Every golf fan and most sports fans have seen the picture but almost nobody knows the true greatness of the shot. This came just sixteen months after a car accident that should have killed him and – according to the doctors – ended his golf career. He had considered bowing out just a few holes earlier. Read the incredible story here.

7. The Four Minute Mile

Roger Bannister

Oxford University, 1954

Backstory: Today the four minute mark is the standard for runners but back then it was seen as impossible, even unattainable. Roger Bannister ran a mile that day in 3:59.4. The shock and awe on the faces of the men around him as well as Bannister’s contented and relieved expression makes this a simply unforgettable piece of photography.

6. Knock-out

Ali Overhead

World Heavyweight Title Fight, 1965, Houston

Backstory: I think you can figure out what happened here.

5. La Mana de Díos

Hand of God

1986 World Cup Quarter-final, Mexico City

Backstory: Captured a millisecond before the most controversial moment in football history. Incredible.

4. “Get up and fight, sucker!”

Ali Liston 2

WBC Heavyweight Championship Fight 1965, Maine

Backstory: The incessantly iconic Muhammad Ali had thrown the most innocent jab, inexplicably sending Sonny Liston sprawling. His reasons have long been debated, the fight has become one of the most infamous in boxing history and when we think of the late, great Ali, our minds collectively turn to this.

3. Change


1995 Rugby World Cup Final

Backstory: From here on in, these images are far more important than sport, they transcend it.

If ever a picture told a thousand words, it’s this one.

2. Power

Black Power

1968 Olympic Games, Mexico City

Backstory: There is surely nobody who does not yet know the story of this image so there’s little point going into detail. It has a decent claim for topping the list, for the political significance alone.

The personal element of our winner is enough for it edge this one.

1. The Luckiest Man On The Face Of The Earth

Lou Gehrig

July 4, 1939. Yankee Stadium

Backstory: Lou Gehrig had “got a bad break”. He had played his last game for the Yankees. He delivered a heartrendingly beautiful farewell speech – now known as baseball’s Gettysburg Address – and stepped away, bowing his head. Taking it all in. That was the moment the most iconic photo in sports history was taken.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.