Top 15 Insane Performances That Launched Athletes to Superstardom

What is a “star” in terms of sports? In most people’s eyes, a star is someone who stands out above their peers for a number of reasons that could include their play on the field, their attitude on or

What is a “star” in terms of sports? In most people’s eyes, a star is someone who stands out above their peers for a number of reasons that could include their play on the field, their attitude on or off the field and their ability to draw a crowd.

What creates a “star” in sports? There are many different answers to this very broad and overarching question. For example, a player could come out of nowhere to win his team a championship, could realize his or her potential and become one of the best players in the league or simply put on one masterful performance that seems to transform them into a star.

The latter example will be the focus of this article. We will be looking at how one game, tournament or performance can turn a regular or unknown player into an absolute star. Now some of these players were known before these spectacular games, but there is little doubt that these fantastic performances helped to create and shape the superstar that these players have become.

So read on and enjoy reliving some brilliant performances that turned these athletes into stars!

15 Cardale Jones: 2014 Big Ten Championship

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2014/15 NCAA Football season, Cardale Jones found himself as the third string quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes. After a series of unfortunate injuries to the top two QBs on the roster, Jones found himself the starter for the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin. Not only did Jones meet the expectations, he far exceeded them as he led the team to a 59-0 win and won the game’s MVP award. He is now seen as one of the best young QBs in the nation.

14 Madison Bumgarner: Game 7, 2014 Word Series

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2014 MLB season, Madison Bumgarner already had two World Series rings and was established as a solid pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. However, it was his performance in the World Series that year that cemented him as a superstar. He was masterful for the entire series, but his performance in game seven is one for the ages. Despite starting a game only yeo days earlier, Bumgarner pitched five innings of shutout ball in relief, which led his Giants to winning the World Series on the road.

13 Buster Douglas: Fight vs. Mike Tyson


Buster Douglas was nothing but a journeyman boxer ahead of his headlining fight against the undefeated and undisputed Heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson. Leading up to the fight, Douglas was a massive 42-1 underdog, one of the biggest in history. Much to the shock of the sports world, Buster Douglas dominated the fight before finally knocking out Tyson in the 10th round, which immediately propelled him into superstardom. This is without a doubt one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

12 Roger Clemens: 20 Strikeouts in 1986

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Up until 1986, Clemens was a middle of the pack MLB starter who was solid but wasn’t established as a bonafide superstar. That all changed on April 29th, 1986. On that date, Roger Clemens shocked the world as he became the first pitcher in MLB history to throw 20 strikeouts in a nine inning game. From that point forward, Clemens was entrenched as one of the best pitchers in MLB history and he went on to win multiple Cy Young awards.

11 Usain Bolt: 2008 Bejing Olympics

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t get me wrong, Bolt was already a star and one of the best runners in the world before the 2008 Olympics, but his performance at the Olympics cemented him as one of the best athletes of our generation and one of the best track and field athletes in history. Bolt not only won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, but he also set a world record in each of the three events. His performance at the Olympics is without one of the best of all time.

10 Carli Lloyd: World Cup Final 2015

Michael Chow-USA TODAY Sports

Women's Soccer has been slowing growing in the USA and it got a huge push forward at the 2015 Women's World Cup. The World Cup was held in Canada and the tournament was won by Team USA, which had the entire country buzzing. One player in particular, Carli Lloyd, was an absolutely huge reason why they won. Lloyd scored three goals in the final (in the first 16 minutes), one of which was an absolute howitzer from way outside of the box. Her name will be synonymous with this World Cup forever.

9 Adrian Peterson: 2007, Week 9

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson is currently seen as one of the best running backs in the NFL and will likely go down as one of the best of all time. However, as a rookie, he had to prove himself worthy of his high pick in the draft. In week 9 of the 2007 NFL season, he did just that. Adrian Peterson broke the single game NFL rushing record with 296 yards, a record that still stands today. That game, along with his entire spectacular rookie season, propelled him into superstardom.

8 Pele: World Cup Final 1958

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Pele is arguably the best soccer player in history and his journey to superstardom started from a very young age, from which he never looked back. Pele’s coming out party as an amazing soccer player came at the World Cup in 1958, when he was only 17 years old. He scored a ton of goals throughout the tournament and two in the final match, which led to Brazil’s first ever World Cup. As the years went on, Pele continued to grow and ultimately become one of the greatests of all time.

7 Jordan Spieth: Masters 2015

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Spieth has been an up and coming prospect on the PGA circuit for a while now, but has really come into his own during the 2015 season. Without a doubt, his biggest and most impressive feat came when he won the coveted green jacket at the Masters. Not only did he win the Masters, it was his first major victory of his career. Also, he matched the 72-hole record at the course and was the second youngest Masters winner of all time. He without a doubt solidified himself as a superstar in 2015.

6 Stephen Curry: 54 Points on the Knicks

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Curry is the current reigning NBA MVP and a member of the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. However, back in 2013, Curry was still an up and coming sharpshooter trying to make a name for himself in the league. Well, in a game in February 2013, he did just that. Steph Curry put on one of the best shooting performances in history, as he scored 54 points on 18-28 shooting, including going 11-13 from three point range. The 11 threes made were also a franchise record and only one shy of the NBA record.

5 Tiger Woods: Masters 1997

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods will without a doubt go down as the best golfer of our generation and one of the best of all time. This run of superstardom for Tiger began when he won the Masters in 1997. A Masters win on its own is impressive, but Tiger’s might be the most impressive of all time. First of all, he won the Masters at age 21, which makes him the youngest winner in history. Tiger Woods also has the record for the best performance at the Masters and has the biggest margin of victory at the tournament in history as well.

4 Magic Johnson: 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In 1980, Magic Johnson was little more than a rookie point guard on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Lakers. But in the 1980 Finals, when Kareem went down with an injury, Magic was leaned on to be a team leader,and he came through in spades. Magic started the game at center, in place of Kareem and went on to score 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists to guide the Lakers to an NBA championship. Thus began the career of the best point guard in NBA history.

3 Johnny Manziel: 2012 Win against #1 Alabama

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Johnny Manziel has been one of the most talked about athletes in the last couple of years, regardless of the sport. This media circus and craze around Johnny Football all started with a game against the #1 ranked Alabama during Manziel’s freshman year. Johnny and his 15th ranked Aggies were a solid team, but when Manziel led them to a victory over the consensus #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, he became an instant star and media darling. He went on to win the Heisman, becoming the first freshman to ever win the award.

2 Michael Jordan: Game 2 of the first round of the 1986 Playoffs

William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

In 1986, arguably the best basketball game in NBA history started the road to superstardom for the best player in NBA history, Michael Jordan. At the time, he was a young player with a ton of potential and he realized it in this game. Michael Jordan scored an NBA playoff record 63 points against one of the best teams in the history of the league. The 1986 Celtics featured five future Hall of Famers, which makes what Jordan did to them as a young player even more impressive.

1 James Rodriguez: 2014 World Cup vs. Uruguay

It’s rare that one game can essentially make a player millions, but that is the case with Colombian star James Rodriguez. Before the 2014 World Cup, Rodriguez was an emerging player for AS Monaco, but not seen as an elite midfielder. That all changed with his brilliant performance throughout the World Cup, highlighted by a fantastic game against Uruguay when Rodriguez scored both goals in a 2-0 win, including the goal of the tournament. His great performance earned him a reputation as a superstar and a monster deal with Real Madrid.

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Top 15 Insane Performances That Launched Athletes to Superstardom