1 of 20Simon Bruty/SI; Pierre Andrieu, Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images; Franck Faugere/DPPI/Icon SMI
U.S. sports fans are well acquainted with Armstrong, but they probably underestimate the global impact of his winning cycling's premier event a record seven consecutive times. It was, simply put, the most momentous sports milestone of the last decade. His final victory dripped with drama as Armstrong, at the ripe age of 33, defeated rivals Ivan Bass and Jan Ullrich. The most serious allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs would come later, and he would make an unsuccessful attempt to win the Tour again in 2009 (he finished third), but that only slightly diminishes the magnitude of his achievement.
2 of 20Simon Bruty(2), Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Mark Spitz's seven-gold performance in 1972 took on greater significance as the years passed and no one came close to that mark. Now that Phelps owns the record, it may require a few Summer Olympics before his performance in Beijing gets the proper respect. Australian swimmer Grant Hackett said of Phelps' dominance: "It can't be described. We'll never, ever see it again." At least not for a long time.
3 of 20Brad Mangin/SI
"This record is not tainted at all. At all. Period," Giants slugger Barry Bonds said after hitting home run No. 756 into the deepest part of AT&T Park in San Francisco, placing him above the esteemed Hank Aaron on baseball's career home run list. Whether it is tainted is up for debate (there is a lot of evidence that Bonds used performance-enhancing drugs), but there is no denying he rewrote one of baseball's most hallowed records. It was a huge moment. Period.
4 of 20Simon Bruty(3), Chuck Solomon(2), David Callow, Manny Millan, Bob Martin/SI; AFP/Getty Images (3); Jamie Squire, Phil Cole/Getty Images
Just when it seemed as if Federer's game was in decline, when you had to wonder if Pete Sampras' record of 14 majors would go unbroken by the Swiss star, Federer won the 2009 French Open, the only major he had yet to win. Then he took Wimbledon as well, defeating Andy Roddick in one of the most dramatic finals in Wimbledon history. As Sampras said after watching Federer break the record: "He's a legend."
5 of 20Al Tielemans/SI
"[Walter Payton] once said that if anybody breaks his record, he hopes it is Emmitt because he would do it with the class and the dignity that the record represents," said Eddie Payton, Walter's brother, at the time that Smith eclipsed Sweetness' mark of 16,726 yards. Only 5-foot-9, Smith did it with equal parts grit and talent, and on Dallas teams heavy with players who ran afoul of the law, he was a relative choirboy, which Payton would have really appreciated.
6 of 20Mike Fiala/AFP/Getty Images; Robert Beck, John Biever/SI; Donald Miralle/Getty Images
There was much debate over whether Woods' holding of all four major titles at the same time constituted a Grand Slam. Who cares? It is probably better that it has a name all its own -- the "Tiger Slam" -- as it better recognizes Woods' dominance over that period. Only four golfers have won all four majors in a career; Woods did it in a single 12-month period.
7 of 20Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images
In the words of Lars Anderson, <i>Sports Illustrated</i> motorsports writer: "This has never been done before; Carl Yarborough won three in a row from 1976 to1978, but no one has accomplished what Jimmie did. You could make the argument, in fact, that this is the most impressive milestone in the history of American stock car racing." Well said.
8 of 20John Biever, John W. McDonough/SI
UCLA won seven men's championships in a row from 1967 to 1973 and Duke won back-to-back championships in 1991 and 1992, but those were different eras. To claim consecutive titles now requires an amazing confluence of factors, which for Gators coach Billy Donovan included a starting five filled with future NBA players (like Al Horford and Joakim Noah) who opted to stay in school and embraced a team-first approach.
9 of 20John Biever/SI
The record for margin of victory in a major event was 13, set by Old Tom Morris at the 1862 British Open, and came against a field of about a dozen golfers. Woods took on 155 others at Pebble Beach and put forth the most dominant display in golf history. It was the primary reason Woods was named <i>SI</i>'s 2000 Sportsman of the Year and it marked the beginning of a decade of dominance.
10 of 20David Goldman/Boston Herald/Polaris; Peter Gregoire, Damian Strohmeyer, John Biever, Michael O'Neill/SI
New England Patriots
Patriots coach Bill Belichick is not the cuddliest of men, but there is no denying that his methods were magic as he guided the Patriots to a perfect record during the regular season and then to two playoff victories. Had the Patriots defeated the Giants in the Super Bowl and become only the second team to finish a season unbeaten, that team would have gone down as one of the best in sports history.
11 of 20Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images, Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Brodeur passed Patrick Roy, his childhood idol, with his 552nd career win, a 3-2 victory over Chicago. After the game, he met at center ice with his teammates as chants of "Martee! Martee!" cascaded from above. "This is one of those really special moments that don't come along often," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "Maybe once in a lifetime, maybe once in two lifetimes." On Dec. 21, 2009, Brodeur broke Terry Sawchuk's career mark of 103 shutouts by blanking the Penguins, 4-0.
12 of 20John Biever/SI
Favre's record-breaking 421st touchdown pass went to Greg Jennings in a 23-16 victory over the Vikings. The fact that Vikings fans, longtime haters of anything Packers, stood and applauded Favre for passing Dan Marino in the record book speaks volumes about his achievement. Two weeks earlier, Favre broke John Elway's mark for career victories by a quarterback, but the touchdown mark, given Favre's gunslinger mentality, was a more significant milestone.
13 of 20Bob Martin/SI
Bolt shattered the world records in the 100 and 200 meters at the World Championships in Berlin, shaving a stunning .11 off each. It was so remarkable a performance that it instantly brought forth questions about whether Bolt was using performance-enhancing drugs. Track fans have been burned so many times before (Tim Montgomery, Marion Jones, etc.) that a little skepticism is healthy. But for now, in the absence of proof that Bolt cheated, he makes the list.
14 of 20Sarah Towner/AFP/Getty Images
When Slater won the Boost Mobile Pro event at Lower Trestles near San Clemente, Calif., he surpassed Tom Curran's record of 33 career event wins. It is the most significant of the milestones achieved by Slater over the last 10 years, which also included, in 2005, the first set of perfect scores (20 out of 20) in history, and, in 2008, his record ninth ASP world title.
15 of 20Roberto Schmidt(4), Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
Let's get this out of the way up front: Ronaldo, Brazil's legendary striker, was fat and out of form at the 2006 World Cup and should not have been in the starting lineup. Yet despite looking like he swallowed an inner tube, he scored twice against Japan and then struck again against Ghana, his 15th World Cup goal, which bested the record held by Gerd Muller. Fat or not, the guy could still bulge the ol' onion bag.
16 of 20Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Imagine if Ichiro played in New York, Boston or Los Angeles. Imagine how much more attention his breaking of a record that had stood since 1901 (held by Hall of Famer Wee Willie Keller) would have received. The fact that he plays in Seattle, one of baseball's outposts, lessened the recognition he received but does not dull the achievement itself, which one day will be written on Ichiro's plaque in Cooperstown.
17 of 20Patrick Murphy-Racey/SI
Here's a fun party trick: Ask your friends who is the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history. As they toss out names like Adolph Rupp, Bobby Knight and Dean Smith, scold them for instantly assuming it would be a man. Summitt passed Smith's record and just kept on winning; coming into this season, her 36th at Tennessee, she had an astounding 1,005 victories.
18 of 20Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
When his Texas Tech team defeated New Mexico 76-68 on New Year's Day 2007, Knight earned his 880th victory and passed Dean Smith on the career wins list among men's coaches. His volatile nature made him a polarizing figure, but Knight's success (and longevity) had to be respected. Those who despise Knight can take solace in Duke's Mike Krzyzewski likely passing him sometime in the next decade.
19 of 20David Bergman/SI
This record seems to switch hands nightly (Peyton Manning seized it from Dan Marino in 2004 only to have Brady usurp him three years later), but it is still worth dwelling on Brady's amazing 2007 season. He passed for the third-most yards in NFL history, had the second-highest passing rating ever, and he threw 50 touchdowns, topping Manning's mark of 49 with a scoring toss to -- no surprise -- Randy Moss. Manning or Brady (or perhaps Drew Brees) seems likely to rewrite this mark again, but Brady owns it for now. Kudos.
20 of 20Simon Bruty/SI
<i>SI</i>'s Austin Murphy wrote a book titled <i>The Sweet Season</i> about Gagliardi that should be required reading for anyone looking to break into coaching. It details the innovative methods of Gagliardi, the longtime coach at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. Gagliardi's crowing moment was breaking Eddie Robinson's record with his 409th victory, which came during a season when he guided St. John's to the NCAA Division III national title.
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