What amazing sport-specific skills do you know about?
October 11, 2010 10:47 PM   Subscribe

I just read that Archie Manning could throw a football from one end of an end zone to the other, and that JaMarcus Russell can throw 75 yards while on one knee. What other amazing sport-specific skills do you know about?

I'm not asking about records accomplished during games, like say the longest pass ever completed or the fastest pitch ever measured in a baseball game; I mean skills that might be more applicable to raw athletic ability. I realize I may not be defining these parameters all that well, but in essence I'm fascinated by legends and reputations of men and women who can do amazing things, in a sport-specific context.

I also understand that some (most?) of these may be unverified claims and tall tales!
posted by ORthey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Spud Webb could dunk a basketball despite being below-average in height. I think he had a 48" vertical leap.
posted by dfriedman at 10:51 PM on October 11, 2010

Gil Arenas can shoot 3 pointers with one hand tied behind his back better than most regular players in the NBA. Yes, literally.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don Bradman's Test Average was 99.94.
Statistician Charles Davis analysed the statistics for several prominent sportsmen by comparing the number of standard deviations that they stand above the mean for their sport... The statistics show that "no other athlete dominates an international sport to the extent that Bradman does cricket".
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:10 PM on October 11, 2010

Rasheed Wallace regularly shot 3 pointers (in practice) left handed. For fun. He also shot two three pointers, one with his right, one with his left hand at just about the same moment, and both went in. Now, had he ever bothered to work on his post game, we'd be talking about multiple championship winning, future hall of famer Rasheed Wallace, but that's aside the point.

Also, Gale Sayers once boasted that all he needed was 18 inches of daylight (i.e. an 18 gap in the line), presumably for a touchdown. While footage is rare, he wasn't lying.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:26 PM on October 11, 2010

I can't provide a source for this story, having read it somewhere many years ago, but I believe that Leary Constantine, who was captain of the West Indies cricket team in the 1930's, once gave a fielding demonstration at Lord's after dinner. Part of the demonstration involved him throwing a ball from under the sight-board at one end and hitting the other sight-board on the full.

And then there's that amazing picture from one of the World Cup finals of Mark Waugh, fielding, at full stretch sideways in mid-air with his right arm stretched out--and the hand has the ball in it.
posted by Logophiliac at 11:53 PM on October 11, 2010

Well of course, Tiger Woods can bounce a golf ball on a sand wedge.
posted by nicwolff at 12:37 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

John McPhee's description of Bill Bradley warming up, in A Sense of Where You Are, is still pretty remarkable, even 45 years later.
posted by Bruce H. at 12:41 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Leeds United football player Duncan Mackenzie jumped over a Mini (scroll down)
posted by TheRaven at 1:16 AM on October 12, 2010

C.B. Fry was one of England's greatest ever all-round sportsmen (and someone who I keep on meaning to do a post about) and, even in his 70s, retained the party trick of leaping backwards from a standing position onto a mantlepiece.
posted by Hartster at 1:57 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh nuts. What are the chances of that?
posted by Hartster at 1:58 AM on October 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

It was said that Calvin Murphy, at 5'9" one of the greatest athletes ever to play in the NBA, could run the length of the court dribbling two basketballs faster than most players could run without a ball. I've never seen proof, but in this video he dribbles one ball while twirling a baton.
posted by Right On Red at 4:46 AM on October 12, 2010

Rafael Nadal is right-handed, but plays tennis left-handed! It's the only thing he does lefty - can't write or even brush his teeth with his left hand. Not sure if this fits your criteria, but, in any case, wow.
posted by Right On Red at 5:00 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are NBA players that can touch the backboard. With their feet.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:35 AM on October 12, 2010

Dwight Howard put a sticker at the top of the backboard while dunking.
posted by callmejay at 5:46 AM on October 12, 2010

Legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton was a multifaceted athlete. From his NY Times obituary:
At 5 feet 10 1/2 inches and 204 pounds, Payton was not big for a running back, but his strength and conditioning were legendary. He could bench-press 390 pounds and do leg-press series with more than 700 pounds. He could throw a football 60 yards, punt it 70 yards, kick a field goal of 45 yards and walk across a football field on his hands.
posted by hangashore at 5:54 AM on October 12, 2010

Response by poster: These are totally awesome!
posted by ORthey at 8:13 AM on October 12, 2010

OK, got time to tell my favorite sports story ... this was from a Sports Illustrated article, several years back, when Wayne Gretzky retired.

Gretzky is playing in the minor-leagues, in Sault Ste. Marie. He's already a minor-league superstar, but hasn't entered the NHL yet. He has a game one night, and then after the game, he's going to get into a car with a team PR person and drive through the night to a morning event in a another city. The PR person relates the story.

That night, Gretzky wins the game with a late goal. On the drive, he says to Gretzky, "Wow, that last goal was amazing. The goalie was right up against the pipes. I didn't think you had room between him and the pipes to make the shot."

"Yeah, those kinds of shots are tough," Gretzky says laconically. "You have to shoot the puck so it gets up on its side, perpendicular to the ice, to make it through a narrow space like that."

The PR person says he didn't have the guts to ask Gretzky if he was joking or not.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:37 AM on October 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

The legendary streetballer Earl "The Goat" Manigault was reputed to be able to make change off the backboard -- namely, snatch a dollar bill off the top of the backboard and leave four quarters. I think that this generally considered a tall tale and not a literal description of The Goat's impressive vertical.
posted by mhum at 8:55 AM on October 12, 2010

Watching the repeat of Monday Night Football reminded me of these guys: 325-pound NFL Defensive End Marcus Thomas can do a backflip. Slightly smaller (250-260ish) DE Jason Pierre-Paul did a tumble of 13 backflips.
posted by Jakey at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2010

Drew Brees is more accurate with a football than olympic archers are with bows and arrows from 20 yards out. This video is pretty amazing.
posted by ajr at 10:14 AM on October 12, 2010

You want Cool Papa Bell (more here and here) baseball star in the Negro Leagues, widely believed to be the fastest professional baseball player of all time. Lots of his feats fall into the unverified/tall tale category (like the story of how he hit a line drive up the middle and the ball hit him as he was sliding into second base), but apparently it is verified that he was clocked rounding the bases in 13.1 seconds (on a wet field-- he claimed he had been recorded at 12.0 seconds on a dry field) and that he once scored from first base on a bunt.

Satchel Paige (a legend in his own right) loved to tell the story that Cool Papa Bell could hit the light switch and be in bed before the lights went out. This actually apparently happened-- once, when they were in a hotel with faulty wiring that caused a minor delay...
posted by EmilyClimbs at 10:38 AM on October 12, 2010

Ray Guy hit the gondola at the top of the Superdome with a punt. This caused some concern for the referees, as the situation was not covered by the rule book and they had to decide what to do (he took the punt again, presumably after being told not to be such a bad-ass). This situation is now covered by the official rules.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:42 AM on October 12, 2010

How 'bout the time Vince Carter vaulted over 7'2 Frederic Weis to dunk the ball? Unreal.
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:51 AM on October 12, 2010

You want Cool Papa Bell

Dude, I'm *right* here...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:51 AM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Howard Hill is known as the greatest archer of all time with a list of accomplishments too long to list but including being the first white man to kill a rogue elephant with a bow, splitting an arrow with another arrow (Mythbusters episode on this one!) while on a movie set, winning 196 Field Archery tournaments in a row, and other iconic achievements.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:15 AM on October 12, 2010

In addition to his academic accomplishments, Dolph Lundgren was a European karate champion before he took up acting. When the filming on Rocky IV started, Sylvester Stallone asked Lundgren to punch him in the chest as hard as he could. Stallone went to the hospital with a bruised heart.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:42 AM on October 12, 2010

Reggie Jackson hit the lights sitting on the roof of Tiger stadium in the 1971 All-Star Game.

This dunk by The Air Up There is kind of ridiculous.

And you gotta love watching a bunch of Ultimate Frisbee layouts
posted by jasondigitized at 3:54 PM on October 12, 2010

One more. Jarron Gilbert, currently a practice squad player, can jump out of a pool. Seriously worth a watch.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:24 PM on October 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Kerlon, a Brazilian footballer, can dribble the ball on his head.

Maradona could juggle a tennis ball or a golf ball with his feet. Supposedly Pelé juggled oranges or grapefruits.

I have a different favorite Wayne Gretzky story. He liked to set up "office" behind the opposing net and deal out assists from there. One time, the opposing defense was doing a great job of covering all Wayne's teammates, and so he flipped the puck over the net and off the back of the goalie for a goal. Unfortunately I can't find anything to back me up on this and I don't remember where I heard it.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:56 PM on October 12, 2010

« Older To CRV or not to CRV?   |   How to find a movie title from remembered details? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.