NBA Jam, Jonah Lomu Rugby, WWF No Mercy and the best 10 sports videos games ever

Matt Jones 13/09/2018
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The release of FIFA 19 is imminent and fans are eagerly looking for details on the next installment of EA Sports’ highly popular football game.

Cristiano Ronaldo has already been confirmed as the game’s cover star, with the Portuguese icon gracing the front for the second year in succession.

EA Sports has confirmed that the game will be released globally on September 28.

FIFA has become a staple of football fans across the globe, which got us to thinking: what are the best sports video games of all time.

Below is our top 10, with no sport featuring more than once. Share your views with us on our picks via Facebook and Twitter.

10 Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 (2004, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance)

Simply put, the game was loaded. With 19 courses, 15 PGA Tour golfers, plenty of mini-games and the birth of EA’s iconic Game Face feature, the fun was endless.

A full-blown 52-week PGA Tour schedule was also included to add to the deep, rich content on offer. Although there were no true major championships yet, you could still win one of the four fictional majors to bask in the glory of winning a huge tournament.

9 Sega Rally 2: Sega Rally Championship (1998, Arcade, Sega Dreamcast, PC)

Sega Rally held the keys to your heart if you were a rally racing fan. With the original Sega Rally already holding a warm place in the heart of video game fanatics as one of the best arcade-style racing games ever created, this was released to almost universal praise despite the Dreamcast’s predecessor, the Saturn’s, demise.

With 20 different and customisable cars, four game play modes, 17 courses including 12 Dreamcast originals, realistic driving and handling physics – this one had it all.

8 Athens 2004 (2004, PlayStation 2, Microsoft Windows)

If you didn’t give yourself a high possibility of developing arthritis in old age or at the very least carpel tunnel syndrome from the amount of finger bashing it required to win the 100m sprint or 110m hurdles in this masterpiece, then we feel sorry for you.

Essentially Athens didn’t differ too much from Konami’s original Olympics classic Track & Field more than 20 years earlier. The best way to win essentially in many of the 24 different events was intense ‘button mashing’. But it was an absolute blast. If brought out today there would be thousands of social media posts of people filming their friends’ weird and concerning facial expressions during competition.

7 FIFA 99 (1999, N64)

So many versions of FIFA to choose from, but we’ve gone with the 1999 version on N64, which has a genuine claim to be the best version ever.

FIFA was facing stiff competition from Konami’s arcade-style International Superstar Soccer Pro ’98 at the time, but this was where the tide started to turn in FIFA’s favour.

A major improvement over FIFA ’98, with the inclusion of basic facial animations and different players’ heights as well as certain other cosmetic features such as improved kits and emblems. The game was a bestseller in the UK, replacing Tomb Raider III.

6 Virtua Tennis (1999/2000, Arcade, Dreamcast)

Revolutionised tennis games in part by doing what Sega has become famous for, thumbing its nose at realism. Virtua Tennis transformed the sport of tennis into a breezy arcade experience, with speedy games, intuitive controls, and a selection of bizarre mini-games to help you train.

One minute, you’d be lobbing balls into drums; the next, you’re playing some kind of hybrid of ten-pin-bowling and tennis.

The 1999 version was a massive step up from anything tennis related on console already on the market, providing fans with a new way to enjoy the sport.

5 EA Sports Double Header: EA Hockey/John Madden Football (1992, Sega Mega Drive)

There have been far more polished and better versions of two classic American sports in their own right created – NHL 94 is possibly the finest ice hockey game ever invented and the Madden series has become a dominant force in American football video games.

But this double header from EA was a true game-changer, with sports fans able to switch between the two sports on one cartridge. It may have been nearly impossible to score on the ice but the fighting was fun. And while you had no clue of the differences between a nickel or a dime defence, you had immense fun.

 

4 NBA Jam (1993, Arcade, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo)

“Boom-shackalacka! Is it the shoes? He’s on fire.” If you never played NBA Jam as a kid in the 90s, what on earth were you doing instead?

NBA Jam is quintessential ’90s gaming – colorful, chaotic and very fun to play, especially with a friend.

The gameplay was ridiculous, as players would fly all over the arena, dunking from the three-point line and performing various stunts in mid-flight.

Subsequent versions never really lived up to the hype but its influence can be found in NBA Live 95, NBA Street and any basketball game that champions a bit of showmanship.

3 Jonah Lomu Rugby (1997, PS1)

The. Best. Rugby. Game. Ever. Ok, so in essence it doesn’t have much competition, but don’t take anything away from just how excellent or legendary this game is.

From Bill McClaren’s iconic commentary to playing with the great man and being able to basically hand off every opponent to the try line, this was flawless. Even the graphics weren’t that bad, and it played so well.

Gems from McClaren included “He’s digging like a demented mole there” and “Goodness me, that hit almost put him in ward 4”, to which co-commentator Bill Beaumont replied “Hope not Bill, that’s a maternity ward.”

It was the first major rugby game to be produced and it remains the daddy. A major developer’s first go at rugby and they nailed it.

2 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000, PlayStation)

The excellent Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released in August 1999 for PlayStation, making the Birdman a household name for gamers and skaters, and laying the foundations for a true legacy.

Like in skateboarding itself, Hawk was a true trailblazer for sports that found themselves on the periphery of juggernauts like football (American and rest of the world) and basketball, paving the way for other extreme sports games like Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX and Kelly Slater’s Pro Surfer. Like all the Tony Hawk’s games, 2000’s Pro Skater 2 had a kick-ass soundtrack too, including Rage Against The Machine, Papa Roach, Millencolin and Anthrax and Public Enemy.

1 WWF No Mercy (2000, N64)

Oh, you didn’t know? Well you definitely should have known about this classic of the genre, an absolute gem of a game. If climbing up and jumping off ladders wasn’t enough you could create and customise your own wrestlers – with literally thousands of options for attire, wrestling moves and taunts – and fight in hardcore matches backstage. The creative story mode was also incredible, with stories that changed based upon decisions and match outcomes. Others have attempted to recreate the magic but No Mercy remains the best there was, the best there is, and the best there will ever be. Gimme a hell yeah!

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Top five worst sports statue tributes, including Fulham and Carolina Panthers

Matt Jones 20/08/2018
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New Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard isn’t the only new sight at the club’s Twickenham Stoop ground this summer, with a 6ft 3in model bear having appeared at the club’s headquarters in a bid to create a new era of aggressive defence.

The new feature was revealed by South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who lifted the lid on the first big left-field move of Gustard’s reign – the man was after all responsible for Saracens’ ‘Wolfpack’ defensive system, which at one point saw him take a real wolf to training.

And now the 42-year-old has provided Quins with their very own spirit animal.

That got us thinking. What are some of the best or wackiest statues built outside sports grounds or in memory of famous former players down the years?

Last week we brought you the five best tributes to some legendary athletes. Here, because it’s always more exciting and hilarious, are the five worst.

 

MICHAEL JACKSON

Eeee heee, what on earth is that? Michael Jackson's statue.

Eeee heee, what on earth is that? Michael Jackson’s statue.

Michael Jackson was a treasured and talented musician, one of the best artists ever. On the other hand he also had questionable mental issues and interests later in life. But what if any affiliation did he ever have to the game of football?

Well, he attended a game once. Taking in the delights of Fulham v Wigan Athletic in 1999 at Craven Cottage.

Jackson was a friend of then Cottagers owner Mohamed Al Fayed. Following Jackson’s death in 2009, Al Fayed commissioned a statue with the plan of siting it inside his luxury department store Harrods in Knightsbridge. After Harrods’ sale the new owners didn’t want it and Al Fayed instead arranged for the statue to be placed outside Craven Cottage, naturally.

Not only was the placing of it outside a football ground questionable, it was also tacky, with it made out of plaster and resin. It was unveiled outside the ground on April 3, 2011, leading most fans to believe it was an April Fools joke.

In light of the scathing criticism that followed, Al Fayed said: “If some stupid fans don’t understand and appreciate such a gift they can go to hell.”

It was removed by new owner Shad Khan in 2013.

JERRY RICHARDSON

On the prowl: Jerry Richardson.

On the prowl: Jerry Richardson.

Not only is the statue outside the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium utterly atrocious, but it will forever be tinged by scandal following the embarrassing end of Jerry Richardson’s ownership.

Richardson left the team in utter disgrace. The 82-year-old’s sale of the franchise in May this year was prompted by a Sports Illustrated report last December that revealed at least four former team employees had received significant financial settlements related to his inappropriate workplace behavior and comments, including suggestive remarks and acts.

The NFL also fined him $2.75 million on his way out after an investigation corroborated the report.

As for the gaudy statue, new Panthers owner David Tepper apparently and reluctantly agreed to keep it in place when he bought the team.

“Um… I’m contractually obligated to keep that statue as it is,” he said before team officials abruptly ended his first news conference.

ANDY MURRAY

Far from ace: Andy Murray.

Far from ace: Andy Murray.

There’s no doubt Scotsman Andy Murray has done enough in his career to earn a statue built in his honour – particularly at Britain’s home of tennis Wimbledon, where he became the first home winner of the men’s tournament in 2013 since Fred Perry in 1936. He repeated the feat in 2016.

Players who reign supreme in tennis are typically showered with trophies and medals, but there’s a very different tradition in place at China’s Shanghai Rolex Masters tournament where champions are bequeathed with something a tad different: a terracotta statue of themselves.

Tennis superstar Murray learned about this prize the hard way when he won the competition in 2010 and was presented with a figure that made Murray look more like an extra from the Last Samurai than a tennis warrior.

They at least got the Scot’s dour and dramatic scowl correct, but the padding made it look like he’d won a taekwondo bout rather than a tennis match.

HARRY CARAY

Getting Caray-ied away: Harry Caray outside Wrigley Field.

Getting Caray-ied away: Harry Caray outside Wrigley Field.

Harry Caray may not be a household name in terms of actual sporting athletic heroes, but he was a legendary figure in terms of covering sports, especially Chicago Cubs baseball.

A Chicago icon, Caray today stands 12-feet tall in white bronze atop a granite base outside Wrigley Field. But the man renowned for wearing oversize thick-rimmed eyeglasses and infamously coining the term ‘Holy Cow!’ might well be left uttering his famous phrase had he been alive to see its unveiling.

This statue could terrify small children. Caray appears as if lunging forward with a giant microphone in his hand, yet the most disturbing feature is his legs, which appear to disappear and merge into a sea of creepy faces beneath.

Caray was inducted into its National Sports Media Association Hall of Fame in 1988, while a year later the Baseball Hall of Fame presented Caray with the Ford C. Frick Award for “major contributions to baseball.” That same year, he was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, and has his own star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

MICHAEL ESSIEN

Feeling Blue: Essien the statue (l) and Essien the player.

Feeling Blue: Essien the statue (l) and Essien the player.

Michael Essien was a warrior poet of a footballer. A powerful, heroic leader for Chelsea during the Jose Mourinho golden days. So why would you build a statue celebrating a player who was a totem of strength by depicting him in a pose where he appears to be clumsily falling over?

The statue only came to light earlier this year, in Essien’s country of birth, Ghana, although it’s thought to be a few years old. Not only is it hideous, but without the Chelsea kit there’s little chance you would be able to actually guess who the artist was trying to replicate.

The artist is currently unknown, and the creative mind behind it might want to stay anonymous after the reaction for fear of reprisal.

We’re pretty sure the man himself might have been able to come up with something more ascetically pleasing.

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Top five best sports stadium statue tributes

Matt Jones 15/08/2018
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New Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard isn’t the only new sight at the club’s Twickenham Stoop ground this summer, with a 6ft 3in model bear having appeared at the club’s headquarters in a bid to create a new era of aggressive defence.

The new feature was revealed by South African fly-half Demetri Catrakilis, who lifted the lid on the first big left-field move of Gustard’s reign – the man was after all responsible for Saracens’ ‘Wolfpack’ defensive system, which at one point saw him take a real wolf to training.

And now the 42-year-old and has provided Quins with their very own spirit animal.

That got us to thinking. What are some of the best or wackiest statues built outside sports grounds or in memory of famous former players down the years?

Here are our top five best tributes to some legendary athletes and coaches.

HOLY TRINITY

They may be somewhat in the doldrums now, but Manchester United are one of the most successful and recognised teams in world football. Many will put that down to Sir Alex Ferguson’s sublime 26-year reign that ended in 2013 – ushering in the recent years of slight decline.

But United’s swashbuckling football and glittering rise to prominence was actually sparked by Sir Matt Busby in the 1950s.

The club’s three greatest players of Busby’s era – and three of the best ever – were George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, who now greet fans as they enter Old Trafford.

Throughout the 1960s all three would be voted as the winner of the Ballon d’Or. Law won it in 1964, Charlton in 1966 and Best in 1968.

Since then only Cristiano Ronaldo has won it while wearing red, in 2008. Combined, the players scored 665 goals in 1,633 games.

MICHAEL JORDAN

The Spirit was commissioned in honor of Jordan’s three-peat championship legacy, leading the Chicago Bulls to a trio of NBA Championships from 1991-93.

The statue was commissioned in response to his original retirement announcement in October ’93. It was unveiled in November 1994 outside the United Center in Chicago.

The exact pose of Jordan in mid-flight is left for artistic interpretation, but speculations include his 63-point performance against Boston in the 1986 NBA playoffs and his jumpman logo that has been on Jordan branded Nike products since the 80s.

Its black granite base includes an inscription from the movie A River Runs Through It, which reads: “At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.”

VINCE LOMBARDI

 

The fact the trophy earned by Super Bowl winners is called the Vince Lombardi Trophy should tell you all you need to know about the esteem in which this legend of American football is held.

Iconic Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, is where you’ll find the 14-foot statue of the great Lombardi. The former coach of the Packers is one of the most successful and revered coaches in NFL history.

He was the head coach and general manager of the Packers from 1959 to 1967 where he led the team to three straight and five total NFL Championships in seven years, but his list of accomplishments goes way past championships and Super Bowl victories.

He was an innovator in his field that was not only respected by his peers, but football enthusiasts around the world.

TED WILLIAMS

Williams played his entire 19-year Major League Baseball career for the Boston Red Sox from 1939 to 1960, only interrupted by service time during World War II and the Korean War.

‘The Kid’ as he was known was an All-Star for all of 19 years and is renowned as one of the sport’s greatest players, but his frequent visits to children at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are what inspired Franc Talarico’s creation that stands outside Gate B of the famous Fenway Park.

The eight-and-a-half-foot-tall statue is of Williams holding a baseball bat and placing a hat on the head of a young boy who adoringly looks up at him. It was sculpted in honor of Williams after his death in 2002.

MICHAEL JONES

 

Nicknamed ‘the Iceman’ or ‘Ice’, not because of his legendary coolness under pressure but because of the number of icepacks he needed for his various injuries, Michael Jones is enshrined at the home of New Zealand rugby – Eden Park – in bronze.

And he is revered as one of All Blacks rugby’s true greats. Now among a stellar list that includes the likes of Colin Meads, Richie McCaw, Sean Fitzpatrick and Wayne Shelford, that is some feat. The back row forward was named Rugby World magazine’s third best All Black of the 20th century after Meads and Fitzpatrick, while former coach John Hart called him “almost the perfect rugby player”.

Jones is captured outside Eden Park scoring the first try of the 1987 Rugby World Cup. The likeness of him diving for the tryline for the first touchdown of the tournament graces rugby HQ in Auckland.

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