Top 25 Most Iconic Sports Photos of all Time

You may be wondering, what is the most iconic sports photo of all time? Well, we’ve compiled a list of the 50 most iconic sports photos ever.

These photos portray some of the greatest moments in sports history – record-breaking moments, moments of victory and pain as well as moments of confrontations.

We are sure you will enjoy them, so without further ado, here they are.

Wilt Chamberlain 100 Point Game

This photo of Wilt Chamberlain is definitely one of the most iconic sports photos of all time.

The reason is that when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks, there was no video taken of the game.

Paul Vathis, the photographer who took this photo was at the game watching with his son and he didn’t even bring his camera along.

But as Wilt kept scoring more and more points, he rushed back to his car and grabbed his camera.

When the game was over, Vathis went into the locker room where the PR Director got a piece of paper from a notebook and wrote 100 on it.

Wilt Chamberlain posed with the paper and the rest was history.

Roger Bannister Breaks the 4 Minute Record

After his disappointment at the 1952 Olympic Games, British runner Roger Bannister set a new goal to be the first man to run a mile in under four minutes.

In 1953, John Landy had the best record for running a mile at 4.02 minutes. Roger BBannster was determined and trained even harder.

In 1954 at the meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, Bannister finished the first three laps in 3:01.

In the final lap, he struggled until he crossed the finish line at 3:59:04 which is captured in the photo above.

Ali, The Greatest

This is definitely one of the most recognized sports photos from one of the most famous sports figures ever, Muhammad Ali.

It was the rematch between Muhammad Ali and one of boxing’s most feared fighters ever, Sonny Liston. The fight took place in a 1965 rematch at the Central Maine Youth Center in Lewiston.

Amateur photographer, Neil Leifer who was working at the Associated Press fortunate to get the right photo at the right time.

The photo clearly captured Muhammad Ali standing over Liston full of naked raw aggression after Liston fell in the first round of the bout.

There’s probably no other sports photo that is more recognized worldwide like this photo. You can watch the highlight here.

His Airness, Jordan

It was the All-Star game slam dunk contest on February 7, 1988, at Chicago Stadium in Chicago.

Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins who had already competed in the 1985 Slam Dunk contest came back at it.

In what was one of the most dramatic and electrifying dunks ever, Michael Jordan took the ball from the other end of the court, ran with it, and jumped from the free-throw line to make one of basketball’s best dunks ever.

Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest and also won the All-Star Game MVP the following night.

Diego Maradona – The Hand of God

The 1986 World Cup that took place in Mexico had one memorable moment that remains unforgotten in soccer.

Argentina was playing against England in the quarterfinals when a controversial goal was scored by Argentine legend, Diego Maradona using his hand.

Argentina ended up beating England 2-1 and went on to win the trophy at the finals defeating Germany.

When asked in a press conference about the goal, Maradona said “the goal was scored a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.”

Zidane Walking Past the World Cup Trophy

Zinedine Zidane is one of the greatest soccer players of all time. His skills and brilliance with the ball were nothing but exceptional.

However, during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, France was playing against Italy in the finals.

In what was expected to be Zidane’s last World Cup and hopefully second trophy to end his career, he headbutted Marco Materazzi after an altercation between them.

Zidane was shown the red card and sent off the pitch. Upon passing by the World Cup trophy, this photo was taken of the football legend whose glorious career ended in the wrong way.

The Brawl

It was November 9, 1984, and the Boston Celtics were playing the Philadelphia 76ers at the Boston Garden.

The game was heated as the Celtics star player Larry Bird had already scored 42 points while Sixers star player Julius Erving only had 6 points.

After a foul on Bird, the two got into a brawl with both men putting their hands around each other’s throat.

This photo was taken by Ted Gartland who worked for the Boston Globe and it still remains one of sports’ most memorable photos, showing how competitive these athletes were.

Jesse Owens

In the 1936 Olympics Games in Berlin, Jesse Owens won an overwhelming four gold medals. At the time, Adolf Hitler was promoting the Nazi propaganda and the “superior Aryan race.”

During the presentation of the medals, Jesse Owens defied Hitler’s regime by giving a military-style salute as everyone else was doing the Nazi salute.

What’s interesting is, that this photo was captured by Adolf Hitler’s personal photographer. 

Black Power

This photo was taken at the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. American gold medalist, Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, signaled black power during the playing of the national anthem by lifting up their fists.

Both of them were also shoeless, wearing only black socks to symbolize black poverty.

This happened at a time when racial segregation and racism were still very prevalent in sports. Tommie Smith and John Carlos used this opportunity to make a statement.

Len Dawson Smoking at Super Bowl I

This photo was taken during halftime at the very first Super Bowl that was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967.

With the Kansas City Chiefs losing to the Green Bay Packers 14-10 in the first half, Len Dawson who was the quarterback for the Chiefs decided to relax with a cigarette in the locker room.

Though they ended up losing to the Packers, this photo remains one of the most memorable of Super Bowl I.

The Rodman Dive

Dennis Rodman was part of the Chicago Bulls team that won multiple championship titles in the 90s.

Being one of the NBA’s best defenders and rebounders, Rodman always hustled on the court.

In a game where The Bulls faced the Warriors in Chicago, Rodman can be seen diving for the ball as it was going out of the line.

This beautiful photo of Rodman was captured by NBA photographer Sam Forencich who was sitting courtside and clearly shows how much Dennis Rodman played from the heart.

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The Fastest Man in the World

This photo was taken at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Australian photographer, Cameron Spencer.

Spencer set his camera to slow shutter speed (1/40th of a second) and captured one of the greatest sports photos of all time.

Here Usain Bolt AKA the Fastest Man in the world is smiling at his competition like to say “You can’t beat me”

This photo is definitely the most memorable from the Rio Olympics.

The Infamous Ear Bite

Mike Tyson is no doubt a boxing legend and one of the greatest boxers ever but people will never forget what happened in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand on June 28, 1997.

Tyson and Holyfield had previously fought in 1996 with Holyfield beating Tyson in the eleventh round.

In their rematch, Tyson bites Holyfield’s ears twice. The match was eventually disqualified and Tyson was fined $3 million and got his boxing license revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Brandi Chastain’s Celebration

In the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the USA faced China in the finals. The match ended in a 0-0 draw leading to a penalty shootout.

The last penalty kicker for the USA to secure the victory was Brandi Chastain.

When she took the shot and scored the winning goal, she wheeled away in celebration, ripping off her jersey in joy as 90,000 fans celebrated with her at the Rose Bowl.

The photographer, Robert Beck who worked for Sports Illustrated this shot of her celebrating as her teammates close in on her behind.

Pele and Bobby Moore’s embrace

This is one of the best photos that capture sportsmanship at its finest. It was the 1970 FIFA World Cup that took place in Mexico.

On June 7, 1970, Brazil squared off against England, beating them 1-0.

At the end of the game, photographer John Varley took a historic photo of Brazil’s captain, Pele, and England’s captain, Bobby Moore.

Despite England’s loss, Moore and Pele exchanged jerseys and showed admiration and respect for each other which was clearly captured in the photo.

Diego Maradona against 6 Defenders

If you never watched Diego Maradona play football in the 80s, at least this photo tells you just how good he was on the field.

At the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Argentina was playing against Belgium when after a free-kick, the ball went to Maradona who was confronted by a wall of six defenders.

Even though Belgium ended up winning the match 1-0, this photo still captures the genius and influence Diego Maradona had on the pitch.

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Jordan Gets emotional

After beating Magic Johnson and the Lakers in the 1991 NBA finals, Michael Jordan couldn’t hold off his emotions as he broke down in tears of joy.

He was so happy that he had finally won an NBA championship trophy in his seventh season in the NBA.

In this photo, his father James Jordan can be seen comforting him in an iconic father and son moment.

Derek Redmond at the 1992 Olympics

Similar to Jordan and his father above, this was another iconic father and son moment in sports.

At the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Derek Redmond of Great Britain was running the men’s 400-meter race when his hamstring snapped.

Derek fell down in pain but got up and struggled for another 50 meters in excruciating pain.

When medical personnel tried to stop him he refused, but then his father who was sitting in the stands rushed unto the track and helped his son finish the race.

This photo depicts a moment of pain but also of a man who never gave up despite the pain he was going through. You can watch the hight here.

Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics

At the 1996 Olympics Games held in Atlanta, Team USA was holding a slim lead over Russia in the women’s gymnastics team competition.

Kerri Strug who got hurt on her first vault overcame torn ligaments in her ankle to help bring Team USA its first-ever gold medal.

In this photo, she is carried by U.S. coach Béla Kérolyi after she sealed the gold medal for the US.

The Victory

When you work so hard for something and finally achieve it, how do you feel? Happy, excited, overjoyed, right?

Well, that wasn’t exactly how Kobe Bryant felt in this photo. Instead, after winning the 2001 NBA Championship, he went to the showers with the trophy in his hands and sat silently.

The reason for this was because he had had a fall out with his parents for marrying Vanessa Bryant, his wife, while they disapproved of it.

In retaliation, his parents never attended his wedding nor did they attend any of his games, especially the NBA finals that were played in his hometown of Philadelphia where his parents lived.

RIP to the legend.

Bobby Orr’s Famous Fly

It was the 1970 Stanley Cup final and the Boston Bruins were playing at Boston Garden against the St. Louis Blues.

As the game was headed towards overtime, Boston Bruins defenseman, Bobby Orr scored the winning goal and skipped in excitement.

This photo was captured by Ray Lussier and remains one of Hockey’s greatest photos. You can watch a highlight of the goal here.

The Tag Team

Miami Heat was playing against Milwaukee Bucks on December 6, 2010, when Dwayne Wade made a pass to LeBron James who then went up for a tomahawk dunk.

The photographer, Garry Mosh was in the right spot as he captured this photo perfectly showing the dynamic power of both Wade and James in playing for Miami Heat.

The photo went viral on social media, making it one of the most iconic sports photos of all time.

Colin Kaepernick

Civil and Racial injustices have always made their way into sports.

In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustices in the US.

Colin Kaepernick eventually lost his career in the NFL and never got signed by any NFL team.

Tiger Woods Win

At the 2008 US Open, Tiger Woods had just had knee surgery two months earlier and came back to play.

Overcoming the pain, he sunk the putt on the 72nd hole and his excitement was captured by photographer Robyn Beck in this photo.

This is one of those sports photos that portray the ability to overcome pain and all odds to win in the end.

The Catch

This catch made by Odell Beckham in 2014 goes down as one of the greatest catches in NFL history.

The New York Giants were playing against the Dallas Cowboys when the Giants quarterback threw the ball to Beckham.

What followed was an acrobatic leap by Odell Backham, snatching the ball not with his hand but with just three fingers.

This catch is definitely one of the biggest highlights of Odell Beckham’s career. You can watch a clip of the catch here.

Muhammad Ali Knocks Out Cleveland Williams

This iconic photo beautifully captures Muhammad Ali’s dominance in the ring in his prime years.

In this November 1966 bout against Cleveland Williams, Ali knocks out ‘Big Cat” Williams in the third round of the fight to defend his heavyweight title.

Ali was truly the greatest.


There are many more iconic sports photographs that capture beautiful and intense moments in sports history.

We’ve picked out these top 25 iconic sports photos because they really bring out the emotions and show us how sports can change the world for the better.

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