10 Athletes Who Guaranteed Victory…And How Their Predictions Fared
Athletes need to be bold and confident and oftentimes fearless. But there are other times where they’d be wise to use more caution.
On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page ad in the local paper promising that the team would deliver “One hundred-percent, sterling silver victory. The Lombardi Trophy” this coming season. It seems unlikely since the team finished last year just 6-10.
Kalil is of course not the first player to make a bold prediction — who can forget how in 2003 Seahawks’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck announced before overtime in a playoff game that “We want the ball, and we’re going to score?” Hasselbeck would up throwing an interception to Green Bay’s Al Harris, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, giving the Packers the win.
Here’s a look back at how some other guarantees worked out for athletes:
It’s the most famous and most incredible guarantee in sports history. Joe Namath didn’t even have the full endorsement of his coach Earl Morrall when he publicly stated that the Jets would knock off the heavily-favorited Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl in 1969. Namath delivered on his promise, leading New York to a 16-7 win. That victory would help propel Namath to stardom and make him a legend in the art of prognostication.
Heading into a 1965 rematch with Sonny Liston, ‘The Greatest’ had some strong words to offer. Ali told reporters that he had a dream — more a revelation — that he took care of the champ in the first round. “I’m not the greatest; I’m the double greatest. Not only do I knock ’em out, I pick the round,” he said. Well, that dream became a reality as Ali took care of business just two minutes into the match and gave Liston all he could take. Ali’s ”phantom punch” is still talked about today.
Messier was not only the captain of the 1994 Rangers, he was their appointed spokesperson. Before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Devils, Messier said that the Rangers would take the game and the series. He followed through by scoring a hat trick that helped propel the team to their first Stanley Cup in 54 years. For many New York Fans, it brought back memories of Namath’s promise 25 years earlier.
He tried twice during the 2006 postseason. Wallace, a member of the Pistons, guaranteed that Detroit would close out the series against the Bucks in the first round. After that worked out, Wallace did the same when faced with the Cavs on the brink. “Tomorrow night is the last game here in this building for this year. Y’all can quote me, put it back page, front page, whatever,” he said. This time, though, Wallace wasn’t as precise. Cleveland took the game, 74-72.
In a move that was surely inspired by other great New York postseason moments of glory, the Giants receiver guaranteed that his team would win the Super Bowl against the Patriots against towering odds. In 2008, that seemed impossible as 18-0 New England hadn’t let up against anyone all season long. Yet, somehow, almost miraculously, thanks to David Tyree’s incredible catch late in the game, the Giants emerged the victors, 17-14. Burress had a touchdown, which (albeit briefly) gave him a spot in the limelight.
The Cubs were flying high in 2007, poised to finally break free of the curse that had kept them from winning a World Series since 1918. That’s when the outspoken hurler Zambrano got perhaps too involved and jinxed the team’s chances. “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,” he said. The Cubs would go on to make the playoffs that year, but were knocked out in the first round. Zambrano did not win the Cy Young either. 0-2.
Even jockeys can get in on the action. Borel and his horse, Mine That Bird, looked to make history at the Belmont Stakes in 2009 when they looked square in the eyes of a possible personal Triple Crown — winning all three races on different horses. Borel’s confidence and pride rubbed some of the other jockeys the wrong way. Borel lost the race, and everyone else was overjoyed.
In 2006, Powell said he would win at the British Grand Prix, and he delivered on it by matching Justin Gatlin’s world record of 9.77 seconds in the 100 meters. “As I said, I can run as fast as I want, when I want, ” Powell said afterwards. The two still have a bit of a rivalry going. That year was Powell’s best as he went on to win Male IAAF World Athlete of the Year and Track & Field Athlete of the Year.
Before he become a loud-mouthed professional athlete, Harbaugh was doing it at the college level for Michigan. In 1986, he told reporters “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 1.” The Wolverines won a tight one, 26-24. It wasn’t just the words of a foolish college kid; Harbaugh made a living by getting in the heads of his opponents.
Before the Giants got to the Steelers in the 2007-08 season, Pittsburgh had a shot at the undefeated Patriots in week 13. Before the game, Pittsburgh defensive back Anthony Smith had some thoughts on the matchup. “We’re going to win,” Smith said. “Yeah, I can guarantee a win.” They dropped the game, 34-13, and Smith never lived down the embarrassment of being so wrong, so early in his career. Smith recently retired from the NFL, and it was a focal point of his last will and testament in the league.