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Friday open thread: What is the biggest choke job in sports history?

In honor of J.R. Smith’s mistake, let’s discuss the biggest mental mistake in sports history.

2018 NBA Finals - Game One Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

On Thursday night, the NBA Finals kicked off with a hell of the game. LeBron James put up 51 points—a career playoff high—and the Cleveland Cavaliers still dropped Game 1 to the Golden State Warriors in overtime.

Why are we talking about basketball on a Detroit Lions blog? Well, it has to do with the end of the game. As regulation was coming to a close, Cavs forward JR Smith hauled in an offensive rebound with the game tied, and had a chance at a putback shot to take the lead with under four seconds left. Instead, he dribbled the ball away from the hoop, and the Cavs had to settle for a horrible shot attempt. They missed and would end up getting smoked in the extra session.

It looked like Smith believed his team was winning, so he was just trying to bleed clock by dribbling it away from the basket. However, Smith denied that he believed his team was winning:

Even if that’s true, it was a huge err in judgement from Smith.

Sports is filled with huge moments on huge stages, and while they may not seem like it sometimes, professional athletes are humans that make mental mistakes just like everyone else. JR Smith’s lapse in judgement was a killer, but it’s just one of many choke jobs in the history of sports.

So today’s Question of the Day is:

What is the biggest choke job in sports history?

My answer: I’m going to stick with football since this is a football blog, and I’ll name a couple. Oddly, they’re both going to involve the Minnesota Vikings, because they’ve been on both ends of sports choke jobs, and they’ve both happened in the past two years.

First, there’s Blair Walsh’s missed... 27-YARD FIELD GOAL in the Wild Card of the 2015 NFL playoffs. For a little schadenfreude. Let’s watch:

But this doesn’t really capture the essence of a choke job in the way I mean it. We’re talking about huge mental mistakes when the team can least afford it. This wasn’t necessarily a mental mistake, but just a breakdown from Walsh.

So let’s travel back to January 2018, just a few months ago. The Minnesota Miracle was one of the best moments in Vikings history. Stefon Diggs hauled in an improbable 61-yard touchdown to win the game as time expired. And while it was an iconic moment in Minnesota sports history, on the other end of the sideline, it was one of the most embarrassing plays for a poor, poor rookie.

Second-round safety Marcus Williams (No. 43) had a chance to tackle Diggs in-bounds, which would have kept the clock running and ended the game with a Saints victory. Instead, he did this:

After the game, a tearful Williams said he was trying to avoid hitting Diggs too early, which would’ve drawn a pass interference flag and given the Vikings another free play. Instead, he did something infinitely worse: completely whiff on Diggs while taking out the only other player that could have tackled the Vikings receiver.

Obviously, we shouldn’t bury these guys too hard. We’re talking about split-section decisions, and humans are just not perfect decision-making machines. This is bound to happen year after year in sports, and these guys just happened to be the unfortunate souls to commit these mistakes.

There are a ton more out there. Let’s hear some of your favorites/least favorites.

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