For centuries, sports have impacted the lives and cultures of people across the world. From the first Olympic games taking place in Greece as far back as the 700s B.C. to the formation of the National Association of Base Ball Players—the first professional sports league in America—in the 1800s, the love for sports has always been apparent.
What makes sports so popular? Why do so many people gather around a big screen, or spend hundreds of dollars on tickets to appear in person at an event? While there doesn't seem to be one definitive reason that makes sports so beloved, there are eight points of motivation that bring audiences to their love of sports, according to sports-fan psychologist Daniel Wann. These range from building a sense of community, to having a distraction from real-world struggles, to gaining a sense of self-esteem through a winning team. Everyone has their own reason for finding love in a game or competition.
Each summer brings a new level of excitement to the world of sports as teams and leagues begin and end their respective seasons. Between 1955 and 1980, some of the most significant moments in the history of sports occurred. Using news archives and other public information sources, OLBG has compiled a list of the greatest sports moments from the summer you were born.
Jack Nicklaus won both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, giving the legendary golfer 17 career major victories. Nicklaus captured the two titles despite speculation that he was on the back end of his career, which included a total of 117 professional wins. Six years later, Nicklaus would win the Masters Tournament at age 46, marking his 18th career major title—the most in PGA history.
The Seattle SuperSonics won the 1979 NBA Finals over the Washington Bullets to give the franchise its first and only championship. Led by Hall of Famers Jack Sikma and Dennis Johnson, the SuperSonics finished the 1978-79 season with a 52-30 record. The franchise wouldn't reach the Finals again until 1996.
Argentina won the 1978 FIFA World Cup as the tournament's host nation. The nearly monthlong event saw Argentina capture its first World Cup title despite controversy throughout the competition. Argentina's championship was marred by accusations of match-fixing, highlighted by a second-round 6-0 victory over Peru when the team needed a four-goal margin.
The Montreal Canadiens won back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals with a 4-0 series sweep over the Boston Bruins. Led by Jacques Lemaire and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Guy Lafleur, the Canadiens finished the season with a 60-8-12 record. The team's arduous playoffs included series wins over the St. Louis Blues and New York Islanders.
The 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal would create several historic moments. The U.S. Olympic boxing team—which included Sugar Ray Leonard, Howard Davis Jr., Leon Spinks, and others—won five gold medals at the event. This group has been called one of the greatest Olympic boxing teams ever assembled. Caitlyn Jenner—who competed in the men's decathlon decades before coming out as a transgender woman—won a gold medal in the decathlon with 8,618 points, setting a new world record.
In 1975, Lee Elder became the first Black golfer to play in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Elder qualified for the prestigious tournament by winning the 1974 Monsanto Open in a playoff. However, Elder missed the cut at the Masters after round two, with Jack Nicklaus going on to win the tournament. Elder also participated in the Masters between 1977 and 1981.
Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career home run record with 715 home runs—the most in MLB history at the time. The Hall of Famer and former Atlanta Brave would break the historic record in front of 50,000 fans during an Opening Day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Aaron would finish his illustrious MLB career with 755 home runs, ranking second highest of all-time behind Barry Bonds.
Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter-century with a resounding victory at the Belmont Stakes, following earlier victories at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1973. This three-year-old stallion, nicknamed Big Red, is considered one of the greatest racehorses to ever grace a track. A year later, Secretariat was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame following his retirement.
In 1972, tennis legend Billie Jean King won the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. She claimed the U.S. Open title in September of that year, bringing her Grand Slam singles win total to nine. King chose not to participate in the Australian Open in the hopes of dominating other events in the U.S.
Joe Frazier remained the world heavyweight champion with a win over Muhammad Ali in what was called the "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden. Frazier would defeat Ali by unanimous decision after 15 rounds, which gave Ali his first loss as a professional boxer. The bout would be the first of three fights between Frazier and Ali, with the last being the "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975.
Mexico hosted the 1970 FIFA World Cup, which saw Brazil win its third championship. The tournament's final featured another blue-chip team in Italy. The 32-match event was the first time that the World Cup was held outside of Europe or South America.
The Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers in a series that stretched to seven games. Led by coach Bill Russell, the Celtics pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history as the Lakers were heavily favored due to a roster that included Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West. Despite the Lakers losing the series, West would be named Finals MVP—the only time the award has been given to a member of the Finals' losing team.
Arthur Ashe became the first Black man to win the U.S. Open singles title—a feat that has yet to be repeated. The late tennis legend made history with a final win over Tom Okker. Ashe also went on to capture the Australian Open singles title in 1970 and won Wimbledon in 1975. Ashe finished his career with 76 titles before his death at 49 years old in 1993.
Kathrine Switzer became the first woman, officially, to run in the Boston Marathon. Switzer changed the course of history despite backlash from the event's director. She would go on to win the New York City Marathon in 1974 and ran in the Boston Marathon again in 2017.
The 1966 FIFA World Cup set a new standard for one of the world's largest sports tournaments. The competition, which was hosted by England, had an average attendance record of 48,847 throughout the entire tournament—breaking a previous record of 47,511 during the 1950 World Cup. England would go on to win its first World Cup title with a 4-2 win over West Germany.
Willie Mays reclaimed his dominance as one of MLB's best players by hitting 52 home runs for the San Francisco Giants in 1965—leading the entire league. A year prior, Mays finished the season with 47 home runs, which also led all of MLB. Mays would finish the 1965 campaign as a National League All-Star and the league's MVP.
Arnold Palmer won the Masters to become the tournament's first four-time winner. The Hall of Famer would win the tournament by six strokes ahead of Jack Nicklaus and Dave Marr. The victory at Augusta National marked Palmer's last major win on the PGA Tour.
The Celtics capped a historic run with an NBA Finals win over the Los Angeles Lakers. The victory would mark Boston's seventh straight trip to the Finals with a team that included Bill Russell and point guard Bob Cousy. The Celtics needed only six games to win the team's sixth title.
Jacques Anquetil conquered the Tour de France, winning the 2,656-mile race for the second consecutive year. Anquetil would go on to win the Tour de France three more times, bringing his total to five wins—the first rider in the race's history to reach that mark. Lance Armstrong would win the Tour de France seven times in a row but those victories were rescinded for doping.
Tottenham Hotspur made history by becoming the first top-flight soccer club in the 20th century to win both the FA Cup and the Football League First Division. Tottenham would claim the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Leicester City in front of a crowd of roughly 100,000 at Wembley Stadium.
Cassius Clay, later more famously known as Muhammad Ali, won the gold medal in the men's light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Clay, who conquered the single-elimination tournament of 19 boxers, beat Zbigniew Pietrzykowski of Poland in the final. The victory would give Clay his only Olympic medal.
The American Football League was first established in 1959, creating direct competition with the NFL. The AFL operated for 10 seasons until it merged with the NFL to create a professional football powerhouse and the league football fans know today. The merger would bring over some of football's most historic franchises, including the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Oakland Raiders.
The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers became the first MLB teams to play a game on the West Coast—a monumental moment in sports history. Prior to 1958, the Giants had called New York City home, while the Dodgers played home games in Brooklyn.
Boxer Carmen Basilio won the world middleweight championship by split decision after 15 competitive rounds against Sugar Ray Robinson. The "Upstate Onion Farmer" won three fights in 1957, which included technical knockouts of Johnny Saxton and Harold Jones. He would later be named "Fighter of the Year" by The Ring for his efforts.
New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen closes out the MLB season by throwing the only perfect game in the history of the World Series in Game 5 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees won that game 2-0 and would then finish the series in seven games to claim the franchise's 17th World Series title. Larsen was named World Series MVP for his historic performance.
The Detroit Red Wings repeated as Stanley Cup Final champions with a seven-game series win over the Montreal Canadiens. The matchup was a rematch of the 1954 Stanley Cup Final and would mark the Canadiens' fifth straight appearance in the series. The Red Wings wouldn't reach the pinnacle of professional hockey again until a 1997 Stanley Cup win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
Story editing by Jeff Smith. Copy editing by Tim Bruns. Photo selection by Clarese Moller.
This story originally appeared on OLBG and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.