We may not be able to watch live sports right now, but we can revisit the greatest games in history — at least those that are up on YouTube. We used statistics and expert opinions to look for some of the all-time greatest upsets, comebacks, matchups and most memorable games, then we collected video of those games in this archive. To relive those moments, filter to see the games in each category — and scroll down to see the criteria we used to find these particular games — or just hit the “random” button and let us pick a perfect game for you.
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How did we decide which games truly deserved “classic” status? For each sport we looked at (starting with the NBA), we searched for playoff games1The only exception being in college football, where the whole season is effectively a form of playoff. that fit into the following categories:
Legendary matchups: Which games that ended within a two-score margin2Defined as two runs for baseball, 6 points for basketball or 10 points for football. (Yes, we know two scores in football could be 14 or even 16 points, but we thought that a touchdown and a field goal was a nice compromise that helped make sure we were looking at games where both teams were in the hunt till the end.) featured the best combination of pregame Elo ratings, according to their harmonic mean?
Stunning upsets: Which underdogs who wound up shocking a more dominant team had the lowest chance of winning before the game began, according to our Elo predictions?
Iconic comebacks: Which teams won after trailing by a seemingly insurmountable margin?3We decided to go with this relatively simple measure because more advanced metrics like win probability were not available for all sports or seasons. (This data was supplied by ESPN’s Stats & Information Group and supplemented by additional research.)
Expert picks: We know that statistics can’t capture everything, so to make sure we didn’t miss any all-time great games, we also included up to 15 additional games from subjective lists like ESPN’s ranking of best NBA Finals games if they hadn’t already qualified in one of our stats-based categories.
For each of these categories, we picked up to 20 of the highest-ranking games in each sport4Our data for “iconic comebacks” was a bit more limited across all sports, so we often ended up with fewer than 20 games in that category. for which we could find clips or (preferably) the whole game on YouTube. For sports with playoff series, the “legendary matchups” category tended to yield a top 20 that was full of games from just a few series, so added one more rule: If multiple games from the same series were in the top 20, we included only the highest-rated game from that series so our database would have more variety.5This series limit did not apply to games that experts picked — we added up to 15 games from those lists even if other games in that series qualified. But if a series went to six or seven games and had multiple games in the top 20, we included up to one additional game. For this, we prioritized the series clincher if it matched our criteria. If not, we took the series’ next-highest-rated game. That’s why there are more than 20 “legendary matchups” in the NBA and why, for example, there are two games from the 1998 NBA Finals series between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls.
If we couldn’t find a YouTube upload of a game’s full broadcast, we settled for condensed games or highlights. Some clips will include only the fourth quarter of the game or other partial coverage; those games have a “highlight/partial game” label so you know what to expect. If you find a more complete or higher-quality version of a game than the one we’re showing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.