Girish Mahajan (Editor)


Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
7.4/101 Votes Alchetron
1 Ratings
Rate This

Rate This

6.6/10 TV

Country of origin  United States
First episode date  1999
Presented by  Chris Fowler
Awards  Peabody Award
8.1/10 IMDb

Genre  Documentary
Original language(s)  English
Final episode date  2007
Number of episodes  261
Writers  Michael Husain
SportsCentury httpsespngocomisportscenturyheadergif
Written by  Michael Husain (11 episodes, 2001-2006) Pat Smith (1 episode, 1999) Michael Douglas Callan (1 episode, 2001) Michael Strom (unknown episodes)
Directed by  Michael Husain (2 episodes, 2001-2005) Michael Douglas Callan (1 episode, 2001) Sean Waters (1 episode, 2006)
Composer(s)  Geoff Zanelli (8 episodes, 2000-2003) Gregg Lehrman (3 episodes, 2004-2005) Robert Leslie Bennett (2 episodes, 2000-2003) Pedro Bromfman (2 episodes, 2003-2005) Ramón Balcázar (1 episode, 2000) Robin Lynn (1 episode, 2000) Charles A. Wolschon (1 episode, 2003)
Similar  SportsCenter, Beyond the Glory, Biography, Arliss, Cheap Seats

SportsCentury is an ESPN biography program that reviews the people and athletic events that defined sports in North America throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Using stock footage, on-camera interviews, and photographs of their athletic lives, who grew up.


In 1999, ESPN counted down the Top 50 Athletes of the 20th Century, selected from North American athletes and voted on by a panel of sports journalists and observers, premiering a new biography highlighting each top athlete every week throughout the year. The episodes for the top two athletes, Michael Jordan and Babe Ruth, appeared on a special combined edition broadcast on Christmas Day on ABC. The top two names were announced in no particular order, and the final positioning was announced at the conclusion of the two episodes. An additional list of numbers 51-100 were announced on the ESPN SportsCentury website. Themed specials such as Greatest Games, Greatest Coaches, Greatest Dynasties, and Most Influential Individuals were premiered throughout the year, as well as six SportsCenter of the Decade programs.

After the initial run was complete, the episodes were rerun at various times on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic. The original plan for the series was to expand to include #51 through #100. Ultimately, the series featured just over half of the athletes from #51 to #100, and instead expanded to include over 150 other athletes, coaches, owners, personalities, and notable moments in sports history. Acknowledgements were given to athletes that were notable for more recent accomplishments, even if they spent only a small part of their career in the 20th century (e.g., Tiger Woods, Tom Brady), or were recently deceased (e.g. Pat Tillman, Dale Earnhardt). Special subsets of episodes were created revolving around a particular event, including athletes associated with the particular sport. They would typically air in the days leading up to those events. (e.g., Winter Olympics, golf majors, Indianapolis 500, etc.)

ESPN Classic began to feature the program with host, Chris Fowler, as the highlight of its weeknight prime-time programing, airing five nights a week. After cycling through the entire series several times, and after debuting several new episodes, it was removed as a nightly program. As of 2007, reruns of the documentary series airs Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. Eastern time. The last original program was that of Shaquille O'Neal, which aired in November 2007.

Espn sportscentury series about jerry lucas


The final order of choices led to debate, some of which came from the SportsCentury camp. Bob Costas, one of the series' voters, said, "I had Babe Ruth as my number one, but I think the list they came up with was a good one. Everybody more or less deserved to be there." ESPN writer Bud Morgan conceded that the Secretariat pick "was kind of controversial because a lot of people took the attitude 'What is a four-legged animal doing on this list?'"

Tony Kornheiser, whose ballot was topped by Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, said, "I can't conceive of how Ruth didn't finish number one. He had the greatest impact of anybody on a sport by far... Michael Jordan didn't have as many championships as Bill Russell and didn't score as many points as Wilt Chamberlain, and really didn't do anything to advance his sport, so maybe in retrospect I upgraded him a bit too much because the way he performed was so spectacular, and because of television I got to see highlights. They may have overpersuaded a lot of us... Did Jim Thorpe get the praise he deserved? Probably not, because there weren't enough people old enough to really remember him."

ESPN anchor Charley Steiner said "I think picking [Jordan] number one was a generational decision, not a historical one. Babe Ruth deserved it more."

The list was dramatically North American-centric. Only one athlete in the Top 100 list, Martina Navratilova, was born outside of the United States or Canada. Australian cricketer Donald Bradman, "considered by many to be the pre-eminent sportsman of all time" was also omitted. Bradman scored a lifetime average far in excess of average - 4.4 standard deviations above the mean, compared to Jordan's inferior 3.4 - leading to the statement that "no other athlete dominates an international sport to the extent that Bradman does cricket". No soccer player was included in the rankings despite it being the world's most popular sport; Brazilian soccer player Pelé also scored further above average than did Jordan. Baseball player Ty Cobb, appearing at 20 on the list, also ranked objectively above Jordan on the same ground.


SportsCentury won a Peabody Award in 1999 "for overall excellence in sports broadcasting."

Games, teams, and other special episodes

  • 1972 Olympic Men's Basketball Final
  • 1977 British Open
  • Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals ("The Flu Game")
  • Ball Four
  • Epic in Miami (Chargers vs. Dolphins)
  • New York Yankees
  • Jerry's Cowboys
  • Bears 46 defense
  • Villanova vs. Georgetown (1985 NCAA Championship)
  • Disciples of Jackie Robinson
  • 1999 Ryder Cup
  • SportsCentury: Greatest Games of the 20th Century

    "Greatest Games" was a top ten countdown of the best games/matches voted on from a wide variety of team and individual sports.

    1. "The Greatest Game Ever Played" – (1958 NFL Championship): Baltimore Colts vs. New York Giants (1958)
    2. The Shot Heard 'Round the World – Bobby Thomson's home run (1951)
    3. Super Bowl III – New York Jets defeat Baltimore Colts (1969)
    4. Miracle on Ice – U.S.A defeats U.S.S.R. (1980)
    5. "Thrilla in Manila" – Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier (1975)
    6. "Ice Bowl" – Green Bay vs. Dallas (1967)
    7. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series – Carlton Fisk's home run (1975)
    8. Tiger Woods wins the Masters (1997)
    9. Willis Reed and Knicks beat Lakers in Game 7 (1970)
    10. Borg-McEnroe Wimbledon thriller (1980)

    SportsCentury: Greatest Coaches of the 20th Century

    "Greatest Coaches" was a top ten countdown of the best coaches voted on from a wide variety of team sports.

    1. Vince Lombardi
    2. John Wooden
    3. Red Auerbach
    4. Dean Smith
    5. Phil Jackson
    6. John McGraw
    7. George Halas
    8. Don Shula
    9. Paul Brown
    10. Knute Rockne

    SportsCentury: Greatest Dynasties

  • New York Yankees
  • Boston Celtics
  • Montréal Canadiens
  • John Wooden's UCLA Bruins (1960s and 1970s)
  • Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team (1946-1949)
  • Dallas Cowboys (1990s)
  • Atlanta Braves (1990s)
  • Chicago Bulls (1990s)
  • San Francisco 49ers (1980s)
  • SportsCentury: Most Influential Individuals

    Another top ten countdown special, focusing on influential figures in sports during the twentieth century, namely off-the-field contributors.

    1. Branch Rickey
    2. Pete Rozelle
    3. Roone Arledge
    4. Marvin Miller
    5. Kenesaw Mountain Landis
    6. David Stern
    7. Avery Brundage
    8. Walter O'Malley
    9. George Halas
    10. Mark McCormack

    SportsCentury: The Year in Review

    Also included in the overall production was "SportsCenter of the Decade", a series of six two-hour programs (1900-1949, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s). Each episode was presented as a fictional episode of SportsCenter, in the way ESPN would have covered the events at the time (styles, studio/production design, and other various pop culture references).


    SportsCentury Wikipedia

    Similar Topics
    Beyond the Glory