The Top 10 Sports Moments in the State of Utah

In honor of the Sports Issue, the sports desk at The Daily Utah Chronicle decided to sit down and rank the ten greatest sporting moments in the state of Utah. Here is what we came up with:


10. Real Salt Lake wins the MLS Cup

On Nov. 22, 2009, after decades of waiting, Utah sports fans got to celebrate a major championship. Real Salt Lake took down Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy in a deadlock-breaking penalty shootout to win the MLS Cup.

9. 1998 Utah NCAA Tournament Run

In what was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Utes after losing former star Keith Van Horn to graduation, Utah had one of its best seasons of all time. Led by point guard Andre Miller, the Utes dominated their way through the WAC en route to a top five ranking by the end of the season. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Utah was given a No. 3 ranking and cruised through the first three rounds to qualify for its second straight trip to the Elite Eight, where it would face off against defending national champions and No. 1 seed Arizona. Led by Miller’s triple-double, the Utes weren’t about to back down, as they gave the Wildcats one of their worst losses in team history to advance to the Final Four for the first time in 32 years. The Utes then took down another No. 1 seed in North Carolina to reach the national championship game against powerhouse Kentucky.

Once again, Utah jumped out to an early lead, but its magical run ended when UK made a magical comeback to beat the Utes, 78-69. Despite not winning the championship, this Tournament run was the greatest moment in Utah basketball history.

8. Jimmermania

Back in the 2010-11 season for college basketball, BYU boasted one of its best squads in its team’s history, as the team reached as high as No. 3 in some rankings. However, the man who led the way didn’t just dazzle Cougar fans with his jaw-dropping, deep three-pointers — Jimmer Fredette became the talk of the nation. Being covered by the likes of ESPN and Sports Illustrated, Fredette became a household name while he established himself as the nation’s best player, winning the National Player of the Year Award. On top of that, Fredette led his Cougars to the Sweet Sixteen, something that had only been done once before by Danny Ainge, a familiar name in the basketball world. While his professional career hasn’t exactly panned out, Fredette will always be remembered as one of the greatest college shooters of all time who completely blew up the sporting world for a few months.

7. 2009 Sugar Bowl

Despite competing in the Mountain West Conference, the Utes had already written their names in college football history when they became the original BCS-busting team in 2004. Just four years later, Utah was back on top of the rankings as it made its way through the 2008 season unscathed. The Utes were given the opportunity to bust the BCS again when they were invited to participate in the Sugar Bowl against powerhouse Alabama. The Crimson Tide were heavily favored in this matchup, and Utah came out swinging. Thanks to an early push, the Utes rode that momentum for the rest of the game, earning a 31-17 victory over ‘Bama and their second BCS-busting victory in under five years.

6. Karl Malone wins NBA MVP

The 1997 season was a good one for the Jazz. It not only featured Utah’s first trip to the Finals, but also the team’s first MVP award winner. Malone averaged 27.4 points per game and 9.9 rebounds to lead Utah to a franchise best 64-18 record and their first Western Conference Championship.

Malone repeated as MVP two seasons later in the 1999 lockout-shortened season.

5. BYU 1984 National Championship

Between the major universities in the state of Utah, there has been only one football team that has won a national championship. In 1984, BYU put itself on the national map when it traveled to then-highly ranked Pittsburgh in a nationally televised matchup. The Cougars came away with a 20-14 victory over the Panthers and never looked back. BYU finished the season undefeated, including a Holiday Bowl victory over Michigan, which solidified the Cougars’ national championship and No. 1 ranking.

4. 2004 BCS-Busting Utah Utes

— Courtesy of U Athletics

Led by coach Urban Meyer, the Utes became the first team outside of the major six conferences to play in a BCS bowl. Utah opened up their season with a 41-21 victory over traditional power Texas A&M and carried that momentum all the way to a 35-7 Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh and inclusion into the college football elite.

3. Jazz in the NBA finals

The Jazz might not have been able to conquer Michael Jordan and the Bulls to take the NBA crown, but the 1997 and 1998 Finals between the two teams provided some of the most iconic moments in sports history. The ’97 Finals featured what may be the greatest play in Jazz history, when Stockton sent a full court pass to a streaking Malone to take the lead in the final minute of game four and pull even. The next game was the iconic Jordan “flu game,” where Jordan had to be helped off the court by teammates several times, but still managed to score 38 points and put the Jazz on the brink of elimination.

The 1998 edition featured one of the greatest single game performances in Finals history. Facing elimination on the road, Malone scored 39 points, nine rebounds and five assists to help bring the series back to Salt Lake. The next game, however, was the game that brought forth the image Jazz fans have to stomach for the rest of time. After stealing the ball from Malone, Jordan raced down the court, crossed over — or pushed — Bryon Russell and hit the championship-winning shot.


2. John Stockton’s shot to send the Jazz to the NBA Finals

— Courtesy Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

Any Jazz fan can tell you exactly where they were when John Stockton hit the shot that sent Utah to their first NBA Finals in 1997. With 2.8 seconds left in game six of the Western Conference finals, the Jazz and Rockets were knotted at 100. Aided by a screen of all screens from Karl Malone, Stockton popped free, received the inbound pass, took one dribble and let a three-pointer fly. With the splash of a net, Stockton, his teammates and Jazz fans everywhere were sent into hysteria.



1. 2002 Winter Olympics

Olympics 2002

Some Utahns say their home state has the best snow on earth. Clearly they weren’t the only ones who thought so, as Salt Lake City was home to one of the most recognized sporting events ever in the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Beehive State welcomed about 2,400 athletes from nearly 80 nations to compete in the worldwide competition. To this day, you can still find memorials of the event, such as Rice-Eccles Stadium (where the opening and closing ceremonies took place), ski jumps in Park City and even the heavily-used TRAX system, which was set up specifically for travel during the event.



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