Patrick L. Willis was born January 25, 1985, in Tennessee. Willis grew up in extreme poverty and an abusive environment. By the age of 10 he was working in the cotton fields. By the age of 17 he and his siblings moved in with Willis' high school basketball coach after his alcoholic father became increasingly abusive.

Willis would be a two-time All-State football player. But he was overlooked a a lot in recruiting. Rivals.com ranked him as a three-star recruit and the 60th best linebacker in the country. University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) would recognize his talent.

While at Ole Miss, Willis became one of the best defensive players in the SEC and country. By his junior year he was an All-American, leading the SEC in total tackles at 12.80 per game, finishing with 128 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Willis would be a force again his senior year, leading the SEC in tackles once again with 137. He was awarded SEC Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus first-team All-America, and a Jack Lambert and Dick Butkus Award winner for best linebacker in the country.

Willis is a physical specimen, looking almost more like a body builder than a football player. At his pro day at Ole Miss, he was clocked in at a 4.38 40-yard dash, and at the Combine he posted a 39-inch vertical leap. Willis went from a late first-round to second-round pick to the 11th overall selection by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2007 NFL Draft.

In his rookie year, Willis became an instant NFL star. He led the league in tackles with 174, earning first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors while being named the 2007 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Willis would go on to make the Pro Bowl in his first six seasons. In his 8 seasons he has 950 tackles.

In the 2012 season, Willis helped lead the 49ers back to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1994 season. Despite losing to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, Willis had 29 tackles in the postseason.

Willis, unfortunately only played in 6 games this past season, hampered by a toe injury that required surgery. He vowed to come back stronger than ever.

Here's to you Patrick Willis and to your recovery back to the field. Happy Birthday.

January 25, 1998: Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego between the Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers was significant for many reasons. Not only was it one of the greatest Super Bowl games played, but it was John Elway's first win in the big game after three previous tries, and Denver's first championship after losing its first four. It also was the AFC's first Super Bowl title after a 13-game losing streak vs. the NFC.

Denver came in as a 12-4 wild card team, while Green Bay was defending Super Bowl champions and had a 13-3 regular season record. The Packers were favored by double digits, and would become the first team as that big of a favorite to lose since Super Bowl VI.

Denver's offense was led by Elway and running back Terrell Davis. Elway had 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the season to make the Pro Bowl, while Davis had 1750 yards and 15 touchdowns. Packers QB Brett Favre was the league MVP for a record third consecutive season with 35 touchdowns, 3,867 yards and 16 interceptions.

The teams traded touchdowns on the first two possessions, but Denver converted two turnovers into a 17-7 lead. The Packers cut it to 17-14 at halftime on a Favre touchdown pass.

The second half was a back-and-forth contest. The Packers tied the game at 17. That's when Elway led the Broncos down the field. On a crucial third down at the Green Bay 12-yard line in the third quarter, the 37-year-old Elway took off scrambling and put his body at risk as he dove for the first down. Elway was hit by two defenders and spun around in what became known as "The Helicopter" play. and was the defining moment of the game and Elway's amazing career. See it here:

After the scramble, Davis eventually scored from 1-yard out, giving Denver a 24-17 lead. Green Bay would tie it once again on another Favre touchdown pass at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Both defenses would tighten up until the Broncos final drive. Davis' 17-yard-run gave Denver the ball second-and-goal at the 1 with just 1:47 remaining. The Packers had 2 timeouts remaining, but head coach Mike Holmgren instructed his team to let Davis score the touchdown:

Holmgren wanted to give Favre plenty of time to answer, but Denver's defense came through and the Broncos would be Super Bowl champions, 31-24, in an all-time great game.

Despite playing through a massive migrane headache that started in the second quarter, and even left Davis blurry eyed during part of the game, Davis was named the game's MVP with an amazing performance: He ran for 157 yards, caught two passes for 8 yards, and scored a Super Bowl record three rushing touchdowns.

Elway got his first ring, and a year later would get his second and would be a Super Bowl MVP. But on this day 17 years ago, Elway would no longer be considered the greatest QB not to win a ring and the monkey was off the Denver Broncos' back. Here's to you, John Elway and the 1997 Denver Broncos team.

Mary Lou Retton was born January 24, 1968 in Fairmont, West Virginia, where she would grow up.

After watching Nadia Comăneci defeat defending Olympic champion Olga Korbut on television at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Retton was inspired to be a champion, too.

She would move to Houston to train under Romanians Béla and Márta Károlyi, who trained Comăneci. In 1983, she won the American Cup. In 1984, as just a sophomore in high school, she won another American Cup, the U.S. Nationals and the U.S. Olympic trials. Retton almost didn't make it to the 1984 Summer Olympics, however, after suffering a knee injury and needing surgery just 5 weeks before competition. She would fortunately recover just in time.

And what happened at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles is one of the most memorable moments in U.S. Olympic history. Retton was engaged in a close battle with Ecaterina Szabo of Romania for the all-around gold medal, trailing by 0.15 points with two events left. Retton would score a perfect 10 on both the floor exercise and the vault. The vault was one of the most dramatic performances in Olympic history:

Retton won the gold medal by 0.05 points, becoming the first all-around gold medalist in American history, and the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the individual all-around gold. Retton won four additional medals: silver in the team competition and the horse vault, and bronze in the floor exercise and uneven bars.

She was an instant American celebrity and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportswoman of the Year", and appeared on a Wheaties box, and became the cereal's first official spokeswoman.

She had many endorsements later on, and even made cameros in the movies Scrooged and Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult.

She retired from gymnastics after winning an unprecedented third American Cup title in 1985.

She still speaks at fundraisers all over the country and is a draw. Here is how that 16-year-old girl back in 1984 looks today:

Happy 47th birthday, Mary Lou Retton.

January 24, 2015: Today in sports history we remember the 22-plus-year career of MLB Commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig as he retires.

Selig reigned over MLB baseball through the most scrutinized time in its history with the Steriod Era. He is the second-longest tenured MLB commish since enesaw Mountain Landis, who held the office from 1920 until his death in 1944. How will history view Selig's legacy?

Over his time, Selig brought the game more excitement by adding two wild cards into the game, a play-in game, and interleague play. He helped get 22 new stadiums built, and he instituted sports' toughest drug program. But above all, Selig was a great business man with an eye on how to improve the economics of baseball; he instituted a luxury tax, a payroll threshold and revenue sharing. Attendance records have been broken all over the league.

Teams like last year's Kansas City Royals are an example of what Selig takes pride in for what MLB has become. A small market team was able to compete at the highest level and almost win the World Series. Baseball has gone from a $1.2-billion business to more than $9 billion in that time.

Selig has helped change the game through advancement in technology. He has brought in video replay so that a game will not be decided on a blown call. He was also instrumental in bringing the fans closer to the game and their teams through MLB.com, the league's website.

This is all not bad for a guy who was just supposed to be a temporary commissioner when he took over in 1992 at the age of 57.

When we think back on the Selig Era, it will be hard not to associate it with the black cloud that steroids cast on the game. Selig knew he had to take it head on and in March of 2006 he hired former U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell to lead an independent investigation into the use of steroids in baseball's recent past. The Mitchell Report would turn baseball legends and childhood hero's into cheaters. Record holders like Mark McGwire would have their legacies tarnished. With so many big names and so many records having fallen during this era, it's hard not to put asterisks next to records, even without proof. We see the lasting effects still with players like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa kept out of the Hall of Fame by voters.

Selig will likely get into the Hall of Fame before any of those players.

We also can't forget under Selig the 1994 season was lost to strike and the World Series cancelled for the first time since 1904.

There have been many great things during the Selig Era, and many black eyes. Regardless, his legacy on MLB baseball won't be forgotten and will live on through Rob Manfred, who he handpicked as his replacement.

Here's wishing you a happy retirement, Bud Selig.

Brendan Frederick Shanahan was born January 23, 1969 outside of Toronto. One of four boys, the Shanahans excelled in sports, especially in lacrosse and hockey.

Brendan was drafted by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League in 1985. After two outstanding seasons with the Knights, Shanahan was drafted second overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.

As an 18-year-old rookie, Shanahan collected 26 points in 65 games and never looked back his entire 22-year career. Shanahan would become a tremendous scorer and physical enforcer in the league. He played for the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers.

He's a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Red Wings (1997, 1998, 2002). Shanahan also helped his home country of Canada win a gold medal at the 1994 World Championships, 2002 Winter Olympics, and a 1991 Canada Cup championship. He's a member of the elite Triple Gold Club: Those who have won a gold medal at the Olympics, World Championship and a Stanley Cup.

Shanahan is an all-time great winger and a durable one, having played 1,524 games over 22 seasons. He compiled 1325 points (25th all time), 656 goals (second most ever by left winger and 13th overall). Those number were easily good enough for him to become a member of the Hall of Fame in 2013.

He is currently the President and alternate governor for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He previously served as the director of player safety for the NHL.

Here's to you Brendan Shanahan. Happy birthday.

January 23, 1944: The Detroit Red Wings put a historic beatdown on the New York Rangers.

Beatdown doesn't even describe it. It was the most one-sided game in NHL history: Detroit's 15-0 win set a record for biggest blowout in NHL history as well as the first team to score 15 consecutive goals in a game.

It's not like the Rangers were a good team at 6-22-1, but nonetheless it's an impressive score. And Detroit only scored two goals in the first period. The Red Wings got 5 more goals in the second and 8 in the third. In fact, if the game had been another second it would have been 16 goals because one was fired into the net just a fraction too late.

Rangers goalie Ken McAuley was under attack all night. Despited missing 15 shots, he made 43 saves. Detroit's goalie Connie Dion, on the other hand, only faced 9 shots.

Ten players scored for the Red Wings. Syd Howe led the team with a hat trick, with all three goals coming in the final eight minutes of the game.

These teams would play almost two weeks later and the Red Wings would win 12-2. That's 27-2 in two games.

The Red Wings have always been a proud franchise, but this is one day that's truly unforgettable.

It's hard to believe Greg Oden is just 27 years old after all he has gone through in his NBA career. Plus, he looks a lot older than he is.

Gregory Wayne "Greg" Oden, Jr. was born January 22, 1988 in Buffalo, New York, and moved with his family to Terre Haute, Indiana at the age of nine.

Oden would attend high school in Indianapolis at Lawrence North High School, where he would lead the school to three consecutive Class 4A state basketball championships. Oden was a legend in high school. Rivals.com had Oden ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation. Watch his highlights and you'll understand why.

Oden and high school teammate Mike Conley Jr. both committed to Ohio State and helped it become ranked as high as No. 1 overall. Once Oden came back from wrist surgery, he was dominant. He helped lead the Buckeyes to the national championship game, where he likely cemented himself as the No. 1 overall draft pick. Oden scored 25 points, and had 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in a losing effort against Joakim Noah and the Florida Gators. In his college career Oden averaged 15.7 points per game, 9.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.

With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Oden over Kevin Durant. No one saw what was coming next: Oden had microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee and had to miss the entire season.

Once he returned and could stay on the court, he experienced some success, once grabbing 20 rebounds in a game. But Oden just couldn't stay healthy and his career could never blossom. On December 5, 2009, Oden injured his left knee in the first quarter of a game and had to be stretchered off the court. He underwent surgery for a fractured left patella and missed the rest of the season. Then it was announced in November of 2010, that Oden would have microfracture surgery on his left knee, ending his 2010–2011 season. Oden would never set foot on the court for the Blazers again. After setbacks and a third microfracture surgery, the team waived him in 2012.

Oden would manage to miraculously make it back to the NBA when the Miami Heat signed him last year as a back up. He would make it through the season without injury. Oden has played in just 66 regular season games since being drafted in 2007, and has averaged 8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He never has had a chance to live up to his potential. But when he was healthy, Oden was "a once in a decade player", as now Warriors head coach said years ago.

Here's to you staying healthy and a happy birthday, Greg Oden.

January 22, 1989: Super Bowl XXIII was one of the most dramatic championship games the NFL has seen. In the end it would produce one of the most memorable plays in league history and cement the legend and legacy that is Joe Montana.

The San Francisco 49ers (10-6) were coming off three disappointing playoff seasons since winning a Super Bowl, while the Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) were reloaded and explosive with league MVP in QB Boomer Esiason.

In a defensive struggle, the game was tied 3-3 at halftime and 6-6 in the third quarter. With less than a minute before the fourth quarter, Bengals kick returner Stanford Jennings busted through the coverage for a 93-yard TD. Montana would answer, finding Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice for a 14-yard TD to tie the game.

The Bengals would kick a field goal to take a 16-13 lead with just 3:20 seconds to play. After a penalty on the kickofff, the 49ers were backed up to their own 8-yard line with 3:10 left to play. That's just the situation Montana thrived in.

To calm his teammates before the final drive, Montana was in the huddle and said "Hey, isn't that John Candy?" looking toward the stands. After that Montana lead the team down the field on an 11-play drive. It was a surgical drive, helped a lot by big catches by Rice. With just 39 seconds left, Montana had the team at the Bengals' 10-yard line. The next pass he threw would be the last play head coach Bill Walsh would call in his brilliant career with the 49ers and it gave the 49ers the lead for good. Montana hit receiver John Taylor on the slant play the 49ers and Walsh made famous, giving the team the 20-16 lead with 34 seconds left.

Rice, not Montana, was named the game's MVP. Rice had 11 catches for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and one touchdown. Montana put up MVP numbers, too, completing 23 of 36 passes for a Super Bowl record 357 yards and 2 touchdowns. Esiason, however, did not have a good game as he was limited to just 11 out of 25 completions for 144 yards and no touchdowns, with 1 interception.

The Bengals had missed opportunities they will never forget, including a dropped interception right before Rice's game-tying score:

In the end it was Montana and the 49ers' third Super Bowl title, and second over the Bengals. Here's to you, Montana, Taylor and Rice and the rest of the 1988 San Francisco 49ers.

Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon was born January 21, 1963 in Lagos, Nigeria. He would grow up to become one of the greatest centers in basketball history.

Olajuwon played soccer growing up. As a goalie, he gained the footwork that would help him on the basketball court. He, however, did not pick up a basketball until the age of 15, when he was taken by the game and never stopped playing. He would emigrate from Nigeria to the United States for college.

Olajuwon was not highly recruited at all. He would attend the University of Houston in 1980, but couldn't clear NCAA regulations to play that season. After a freshman year of playing sparingly on a Final Four team, Olajuwon sought to get better. He started training with then Houston Rockets center and NBA great Moses Malone.

After training with Malone, Olajuwon broke out as a college star. He and his teammates, including Clyde Drexler, formed what was dubbed "Phi Slama Jama", the first slam-dunking "fraternity", because they played the game above the rim. In his sophomore and junior season Olajuwon would help lead the Cougars to back-to-back championship game appearances. They would lose on the famous tip-in to NC State on a last second air ball that then "Akeem" Olajuwon couldn't get to. They would fall the following season to a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team.

Olajuwon was given the 1983 NCAA Tournament Player of the Year award, despite not winning it all, and is the last player to get that honor on a losing side. After the 1984 loss, Hakeem would decide to turn pro with the prospect of playing for the hometown Rockets.

The 1984 NBA draft is the most famous in history. The Rockets did secure the No. 1 overall pick and selected Olajuwon. The No. 2 pick infamously went to the Portland Trail Blazers and they selected Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Besides Jordan, Charles Barkley and John Stockton were in the draft class.

The Rockets experienced immediate success with Olajuwon, winning 19 more games than the year before. He averaged 20.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.68 blocks and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Jordan.

Olajuwon would continue to dominate the NBA for 17 more seasons. He would become a 12-time All-Star in that time, averaging 21.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks. he was a blocking machine, and even once had a quadruple-double in a game in 1990 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

"The Dream" as he would become known as, always performed better when it mattered most: in the playoffs. In 140 games of playoff basketball, Olajuwon averaged 25.9 points and 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. And in the 1993-1994 season, Olajuwon led the Rockets to the championship over the New York Knicks in seven games. He was awarded the Finals MVP award. In 1994, he became the only player in NBA history to win the MVP, Finals MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. The Rockets would repeat in the 1995 NBA Finals, winning a sweep over Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic. Olajuwon dominated the young Shaq, scoring over 30 points a game on his way to another Finals MVP award.

Olajuwon would retire after the 2001-2002 season with the Toronto Raptors. In 2008 he would be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame. Here's to you, Dream. Happy Birthday.

January 21, 1979: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys were playing to become the first team ever to win three Super Bowls. The Game was a rematch of Super Bowl X that the Steelers won, 21-17. The Cowboys were the defending world champs, having defeated the Denver Broncos, 27-10, in Super Bowl XII.

This was the first season in NFL history the teams played 16 regular season games after the NFL expanded it from 14. The Steelers went 14-2 and the Cowboys 12-4 that season.

Super Bowl XIII at the Orange Bowl in Miami was a true heavyweight fight and may have been the greatest collection of players ever assembled on the same field. 14 players from both teams would end up being voted into the Hall of Fame: Nine Pittsburgh players: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, and Mel Blount, and five from Dallas: Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Rayfield Wright, and Jackie Smith.

The game was a close contest with lots of fireworks, and one of the biggest drops in NFL history that forever haunts Cowboys fans. Jackie Smith (mentioned above) was lured out of retirement because of injuries to Cowboys tight ends. With the score 21-14 in favor of the Steelers in the third quarter, Dallas drove down to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line. On third down, Quarterback Roger Staubach then spotted a wide open Smith in the end zone. He floated the ball softly, and Smith sensing a defender stopped and slide and the ball bounced off his pads. Announcer Verne Lundquist made the famous call: "Bless his heart, he's got to be the sickest man in America."

It's still considered one of the biggest blunders on the game's biggest stage.

After having to settle for a field goal, the Dallas famous "Doomsday" defense collapsed. Pittsburgh would go on to score two touchdowns in a row, the last being Bradshaw-to-Swann toss for the QB's fourth on the day. Dallas would rally for two touchdowns after that to cut it to 35-31, but they couldn't overcome the the lost 4 points on the drop. The Steelers became the first franchise to win three Super Bowls, and Bradshaw took home the game's MVP honors by going 17 of 30 passing for a record 318 yards and 4 touchdowns with 1 interception.

The game came to be known as "Black Sunday" in Las Vegas. The point spread eventually hit Pittsburgh -4.5 and then the Dallas money poured in on the Cowboys. The 35-31 score meant Las Vegas sportsbooks lost the vast majority of wagers on the game, according to Wikipedia.

Money or no money, it was a great game of swings, great plays, and missed opportunities. Here's to you 1978 world champion Pittsburgh Steelers for your win.

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