Ryan Downey, executive director of The Streaming Advisor, a website that provides news, reviews and guidance related to online video content. TheStreamingAdvisor.com
The sports world was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic this year, but sports junkies in need of a fix can stream great games from the past online. Some are available for free on YouTube*, others on leagues’ streaming sites—many of which have been temporarily offering free access.
Though many fans will remember who won, it’s remarkable how the drama of an exciting event from the past can pull viewers back in. Plus there’s the thrill of seeing the greats in action if you were too young to see them the first time.
College Basketball: 1983 NCAA Men’s Tournament Final. Underdogs North Carolina State faced off against a powerful University of Houston squad led by Hakeem Olajuwon. This championship was considered the beginning of March Madness as we know it. Where to watch: The NCAA March Madness YouTube channel—on YouTube.com, search “March Madness channel,” click on the blue March Madness logo, then click the magnifying glass icon, enter “1983” and scroll down to locate the full game video.
Other games worth watching: This YouTube channel offers dozens of NCAA Tournament college basketball games, including the 1985 Georgetown/Villanova final (one of the most surprising results in tournament finals history)…the 1982 Georgetown/North Carolina final
(Patrick Ewing faces Michael Jordan, ending with Jordan’s first championship-
winning shot and the beginning of his legend)…the 1979 Indiana State/Michigan State final (Larry Bird and Magic Johnson square off)…the 1966 Kentucky/Texas Western matchup (a turning-point game in college basketball history—Texas Western started an entirely African-American lineup against Kentucky’s all-white starting five). To find these games and others on the NCAA March Madness YouTube page, click the magnifying glass icon, then search keywords such as the year or school names.
Golf: 1986 Masters Tournament Final Round. Some of history’s greatest golfers were near the top of the leaderboard in this tournament’s dramatic final round, including Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Tom Watson and a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus in search of one last major to cap his incredible career. Where to watch: The Master’s YouTube channel—on YouTube.com/user/masters, click the magnifying glass icon and search “1986.”
Other final rounds worth watching: The 1997 and 2004 Masters are particularly notable—they were the first Masters wins for Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, respectively.
Football: Super Bowl LII. The Philadelphia Eagles, who had never won a Super Bowl, took on the dynastic New England Patriots in this close and high-scoring Super Bowl. Where to watch: NFL Game Pass—on GamePass.NFL.com/schedule, select “Super Bowl” from the menu and set the year to “2017.” Though this game was played in early 2018, it was the conclusion of the 2017 season. (Packages that include access to archived games typically start at around $99.99 per season.)
Other games worth watching here: Two more postseason thrillers worth a rewatch include Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots/Seattle Seahawks, 2014 season)…and the 2012 Baltimore Ravens/Denver Broncos divisional round playoff game.
Baseball: 1952 World Series Game 7. The Brooklyn Dodgers featuring legends like Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider faced off with the formidable New York Yankees Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. Where to watch: Major League Baseball’s YouTube Channel—on YouTube.com/user/MLB, scroll down to find the “MLB Classic Games” section, then click the right arrow to find it.
Other games worth watching: Pivotal games from both the 2003 and 2004 Boston Red Sox/New York Yankees playoffs…game six from the 1986 New York Mets/Red Sox World Series, with its pivotal error by Boston’s Bill Buckner.
Boxing: The first Ali/Liston Fight. This was Ali’s first shot at the heavyweight championship. Where to watch: ESPN+—on ESPN.com/watch/espnplus, scroll down to click the “Best of Boxing” section. $4.99/month.
Other fights worth watching: Ali bouts with George Foreman and Joe Frazier…Joe Louis fights with Max Baer and Max Schmeling…Sugar Ray Leonard fights against Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler…Rocky Marciano fights with Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott.
Professional Basketball: 1989 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs opening round Bulls/Cavaliers Game 5. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls faced off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the now-legendary final game. It concludes on a play that’s simply called “The Shot.” Where to watch: Through the NBA League Pass on NBA.com. Subscriptions usually cost $99.99 or more per year.
Other games worth watching: Game 7 from the 1984 final—Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics take on Magic Johnson’s LA Lakers…game 7 from the 1970 finals—a New York Knicks team featuring Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Willis Reed takes on the Lakers of Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain…and the first NBA game of Lew Alcindor—later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—from 1969.
Tennis: 2008 Wimbledon men’s final. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal faced off in what would go down as perhaps the greatest tennis match of modern times battling for nearly five hours. Where to watch: Wimbledon’s YouTube channel—on YouTube.com/user/Wimbledon, click the magnifying glass icon, put “2008” into the search box and scroll down to the video subtitled “The Final in Full.”
NASCAR: The 1979 Daytona 500. Famed drivers Donnie Allison, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough were near the front of the pack as this stock car race neared its conclusion, famous because of its fight-to-the finish final lap and because of a literal fight shortly after the finish. Where to watch: Nascar’s YouTube channel—on YouTube.com/user/
TheOfficialNascar, click the magnifying glass icon, enter “1979” and select the “Full Race Replay: 1979 Daytona 500.”
Olympics: London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremonies. The Olympics has surprisingly little available online. But many opening ceremonies are available and are a way to experience the grandeur of the games. The London games’ opening ceremony was especially impressive. Where to watch: The Olympics’ YouTube Channel—on YouTube.com/user/Olympic, click the magnifying glass icon and search “2012 Opening Ceremonies.”
Other Olympic moments worth watching: The 1996 Atlanta opening ceremony featured Mohammad Ali lighting the torch. There are some events offered, such as the 2012 women’s gymnastics artistic team finals featuring US stars Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas…and the 1992 men’s basketball game between Croatia and the talented USA “Dream Team” with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, among others.
*All games were available at press time, though availability could change without warning. The YouTube programming mentioned here is believed to have been uploaded by the legitimate rights holders. Many additional historic sporting events can be found but have been placed there by individuals who do not appear to have a legal right to do so. The legal rights holders could demand that these unsanctioned videos be taken down at any time.