Most athletes just want to show up for work, do their job to the best of their ability, practice so they can improve, and win a championship in their chosen sport. At least, depending on how you look at it. You could just as easily argue that many athletes only care about money given their huge contracts or that they’re in it for the fame given some of their actions.
One of those actions is guaranteeing that they or their team will win a championship. Maybe the athlete is just confident that his team is the best in the league and no one will stand a chance against them. That might not be arrogance but an opinion based on how good the athlete in question is, or how much he or she believes in their team. But declaring it out loud for everyone to hear certainly takes a bit of brashness.
For as long as sports have been played, athletes from every sport and walk of life have promised their fans that this is the year they win it all. It’s easy to make that claim at the start of the season, when everyone’s healthy, a new wave of signees make your team look better, and you haven’t played any games yet. It’s once the game begins that many athletes realize they made a mistake and there’s no way they’re going to admit it.
However, every once and awhile, one of these bold predictions manages to come true, and the guy that made it becomes a legend. What happens to those that make these predictions? Here’s our list of the Top 20 athletes who guaranteed a championship, and how it turned out.
20 The Joliet Slammers Predict Cubs will win 2015 World Series
We begin this list with perhaps the strangest prediction. The Joliet Slammers (not to be confused with toilet) are a minor league baseball team based near Chicago. In keeping tradition with weird minor league promotions, they’re predicting the Chicago Cubs will win the 2015 World Series.
If you have a ticket to the July 24th Slammers game (against the Windy City Thunderbolts) and the Cubs don’t win the World Series, you’ll win one free ticket to any Slammers game in 2016. Yeah, that’s it, one free ticket to a minor league game.
19 Jockey Calvin Borel’s Triple Crown
Jockeys are exactly known for their arrogance, in fact, they aren’t really known at all outside the horse racing world. That’s why Calvin Borel’s guarantee in 2009 that he would win the Jockey Triple Crown (win all three races on different horses), caught many off guard.
Borel was widely regarded as the best jockey in the sport, so to hear him speak up like this all of a sudden surely meant he would do it, right?
18 Cubs Pitcher Carlos Zambrano Loses the Cy Young
“I believe this year I will win the Cy Young and I will enjoy that. And besides that, we will win the World Series. I guarantee you that. I have the faith.”
Those were the words uttered by outspoken Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano in 2007, when the Cubs were riding high on his potential Cy Young award winning season. It was a great season too, the Cubs went 85-77 and made the playoffs, and Zambrano was 18-13 with a 3.95 ERA.
17 Seahawks TE Jerramy Stevens’s Cold Heart
Back before the Seahawks were the powerhouse they are now, they were a historically mediocre team. They made it to their first Super Bowl in 2006, thanks in part to play-making tight end Jerramy Stevens.
When asked about Jerome Bettis’s last game being the Super Bowl, he said “it's a heartwarming story and all that, but it will be a sad day when he leaves without that trophy.” He would later go on to say he wasn’t guaranteeing a Seahawks Super Bowl... apparently there was some unknown third team that was also playing that year.
Sure enough, this fired the Steelers up, who would win the game 21-10.
16 Courtney Paris Bets Her Scholarship
Courtney Paris has proved that women can be just as cocky and arrogant as their male counterparts, but perhaps more willing to pay up if things don’t turn out well.
In 2009, before the NCAA tournament, Paris guaranteed the Oklahoma program would win the tournament. “"If we don't, which is not even an option. Just to put something on the line - and it might take me the rest of my life - I will pay back my scholarship because I didn't do what I said I was going to do."
That’s right, she bet her scholarship on Oklahoma winning the title in 2009. Unfortunately for her, her team was knocked out in the Sweet 16. But perhaps she only made the statement because she knew she would be drafted by the WNBA just months later or that her University wouldn’t actually force her to pay up.
15 Anthony Davis says 2015 Kentucky Team Will Win Title
Anthony Davis won a title with Kentucky in 2012, so he should know a thing or two about college championships. So in 2015, he guaranteed his undefeated Wildcats would win the National title.
It seemed like a safe bet; Kentucky was undefeated and made it all the way to the Final Four. Of course, that’s where they ended up losing however, to Wisconsin. They didn’t even get a chance to play for the title.
Too bad he didn’t put his unibrow up on the line.
14 Cowboy’s QB Tony Romo Begins the Fun
Earlier this year, everyone’s favorite Cowboy’s quarterback Tony Romo declared the Cowboys will win the Super Bowl this year.
“We’re going to win a Super Bowl next year,” he told a crowd at a Texas banquet. At the very least, the low key guarantee isn’t going to win any style points.
13 Pistons Rasheed Wallace Beats the Cavs
The last time the Pistons were good, they had Rasheed Wallace to thank for that and maybe his mouth too. They beat the Bucks in the first round after Wallace promised an early victory, so he decided to double down.
12 Panthers Center Ryan Kalil’s Full Page Ad
It’s not often an athlete purchases an entire full page spread in a local newspaper to deliver their promises, but it happens. Like in 2012, when Pro Bowl Center Ryan Kalil did it.
Cam Newton was coming off a record setting rookie season and the team was making great strides, winning four more games than in 2010. If that trend kept up, surely the Panthers would have no trouble making the playoffs and beyond.
11 Eagles CB Byron Maxwell Doubles Down
The first thing Byron Maxwell did when he signed a lucrative contract with the Eagles earlier this year was guarantee that the Eagles would win the Super Bowl this year. I guess the NFL will have to make an exception to the rule and let two NFC teams play this year.
"We're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl," Maxwell told MMQB.com. "You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."
10 Rangers Center Mark Messier’s Stanley Cup
The 1994 New York Rangers had their backs against the wall in the lead up to the Stanley Cup Finals. They were losing the series against the Devils 3-2 going into Game 6. Team leader and spokesman Mark Messier knew he had to do something.
“We’ll win tonight,” he told the NY Post.
His teammates rallied behind him and the guarantee, and Messier was so pumped he scored a hat trick. The Rangers would win the series against the Devils and win a grueling 7 game series against the Canucks to win the Stanley Cup Finals.
It would seem Messier’s guarantee played a big factor in their victory, but Messier wasn’t happy with himself when he read the headline in the paper.
9 Cardinals Coach Bruce Arians Will Triple the Super Bowl
The NFL will now have to make another rule this year, allowing three teams to play the Super Bowl. Maybe the Cardinals are the mysterious third team that played against the Steelers and Seahawks in 2006?
Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, coming off his second coach of the year award, guaranteed the Cardinals will play in Super Bowl 50 this year. When asked by the team website if they’ll play in the Super Bowl this year, Arians had this to say:
“We’re dressing in their locker room,” Arians said. “We can write it down today.”
8 Michigan QB Jim Harbaugh Promises Rose Bowl
“We’re gonna play in the Rose Bowl this year, I guarantee it. We’ll beat Ohio State and we’ll be in Pasadena on January 1st.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it came from former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh has made a name for himself for his loud personality and in your face style. Well, when he was the starting quarterback for Michigan, he was no different.
7 Luiz Felipe Scolari says Brazil will win the 2014 World Cup
Brazil’s head coach didn’t mince word when it came to the 2014 World Cup.
“If I did not think we could win the World Cup, I wouldn’t lead the team. I’d be sitting at home. If I came here, it’s because I’m 100 percent convinced that I will succeed.”
Well, Scolari would end up sitting at home after getting pummeled by Germany.
6 Celtics Jason Terry’s Tattoo
Jason Terry decided to deliver his championship guarantee in a different way: he got a tattoo of the mascot holding the Larry O’Brien trophy. Take notice Tony Romo.
“There's the lucky leprechaun," he told a local radio station, "and he's spinning the Larry O'Brien trophy, which we will win this year."
He’s so matter of fact about it, isn’t he? I wonder how he reacted when the team barely squeaked into the playoffs with a 41-40 record. They ended up losing to the New York Knicks in 6 games, and the Celtics have been pretty mediocre ever since.
Terry himself started a downward spiral in his career. His 2013 season was his worst since his rookie year, and in the two years since he’s continued his slide towards forced retirement.
5 Patrick Ewing Chewing a Knicks Title
Patrick Ewing always had a problem playing the Pacers. In the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, he had enough. He guaranteed the Knicks would win game 6 and go back to Indiana for game 7.
Ewing couldn’t have been any farther from the mark. The Pacers won in a rout, not even as close as the 93-80 score would suggest. Ewing ended up missing his final six shots and ended up never playing for the Knicks again.
He was traded away to Seattle, and after a year there and another with the Magic, he retired from playing.
4 Rex Ryan, All of Him
If you lived in Rex Ryan’s world, you would think the Jets have won three or four Super Bowls by now. Normally a guarantee comes with a fair bit of controversy, and a rallying of the fan base. That’s what happened with the former Jets head coach’s first guarantee in 2009.
From then, it became a yearly rite of passage. Making his guarantees every year for three years straight, he came close at first. The 2009 and 2010 teams made it all the way to the AFC Championship game, but after that things went downhill, fast.
3 Plaxico Burress defeats the New England Goliaths
It’s not often there’s an undefeated 18-0 team in the Super Bowl. When it does happen, it tends to polarize people and Mercury Morris has to wait to drink his champagne. You’re either rooting for the undefeated team or the underdog. There is no middle ground, there is no indifference.
Plaxico Burress decided to make his own stand.
Angry that the Giants were 14 point underdogs, Burress told the world the Giants would win. But he went further, providing a score as well, 23-17.
While he didn’t get the score right, he did ruffle the Patriots’s feathers.
We're only going to score 17 points?" Tom Brady responded. "Okay, is Plax playing defense? I wish he had said 45-42 and gave us a little credit for scoring more points."
This in turn rubbed the Giants the wrong way, and the underdog would end up winning 17-14. It would seem Plax was playing defense after all.
2 Muhammad Ali Calls His Shot
There’s nothing new about boxers talking up their game and guaranteeing they’ll knock someone out. It’s different when one of the boxers said they had a dream they would knock someone out in the first round, especially when it’s against champion Sonny Liston.
“I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ‘em out, I pick the round.”
1 Joe Namath Cements Football as American Past-time
Joe Namath is the poster athlete for how to guarantee a win. Like many landmarks, his guarantee seems quaint by today’s standards, considering Jason Terry’s tattoo or Courtney Paris’s scholarship bet. All Namath did was say “We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee you.”
But the most elegant things are often the simplest.
Namath’s guarantee came at the perfect time. It was only a few years after the NFL and AFL merged, and the AFL was still seen as a joke compared to the mighty NFL. The pre-game spread reflected this, as the Jets were 17 point underdogs against the powerhouse Colts. Football wasn’t yet a popular sport yet either, it was far behind baseball in national popularity when Super Bowl III kicked off in 1969.
But Namath’s guarantee changed that forever.
People wanted to tune in to see the brash and arrogant Namath. They either wanted to see him lose, the Jets to win, or they just wanted to see what happened. Joe Namath had been drawing fans to football for years, but this latest guarantee saw a nation-wide surge in popularity.
His stats were never great, although he was the first QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards. Still, I’d argue his place in the Hall of Fame was earned through this one guarantee, and what he did to grow the sport more than anything he ever did on the field, short of that legendary Super Bowl.
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