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1999: The Year In Sports

It's hard to pinpoint the biggest story in sports for 1999 - not because so little happened - but because so much happened in the final year of the millenium. There was another home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa - but it couldn't top those two slugger's efforts of 1998.

The New York Yankees and Denver Broncos won their respective world titles - but they also did that in 1998. Instead of a great victory I think 1999 will be remembered for the great losses the world of sports suffered this past year.

Not only did three of the greatest athletes of our time retire in 1999, but four of the greatest athletes of anytime died this past year. Like the smiles they brought to our faces when they roamed the baseball diamond, the basketball court, the football field or the golf course - it could be said that their greatest accomplishments in life were providing us so many fond memories that will be kept alive for generations to come.

That's just what Joe Dimaggio, Wilt Chamberlain, Walter Payton and Payne Stewart did in their lives. They not only played their sport at the highest level - but they each played it with such passion and enthusiasm that watching them brought us back to our childhood.

The Lives We Lost In '99

Joe DiMaggio

Baseball legend Joe DiMaggio died at his home on March 8, 1999 following complications from lung cancer. He was 84 years old.

Joe Dimaggio died March 8, 1999 at the age of 84.
Joltin' Joe, as he was known, played for the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, following in the footsteps of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Observers of DiMaggio said he was one of the most graceful players ever to field and hit a baseball.

Walter Payton

If Dimaggio was the most graceful baseball player ever then Walter Payton was the most graceful football player to ever lace up the cleats and run onto a football field. How else could a man get the nickname "Sweetness" while playing the most brutal of all sports.

Walter Payton died November 2, 1999 at the age of 45.
Payton played his entire career with the Chicago Bears and retired after 13 seasons as the NFL's all-time leading rusher with 16,72 yards. Payton died November 2, 1999 at the age of 45 of bile duct cancer that was discovered during his treatment earlier for primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare liver disease.

Wilt Chamberlain

Much as Walter Payton dominated the football field, Wilt Chamberlain dominated the basketball court. Standing at 7-foot-1 and known as "Wilt the Stilt", Chamberlain was ahead of his time in the NBA, where he played from 1959-1973.

Wilt Chamberlain died October, 12, 1999 at the age of 63.
Chamberlain, best known for scoring 100 points in one game, is the NBA's career leader in rebounds with 23,924, and second in career points with 31,419. Chamberlain died Tuesday, October 12, 1999 at the age of 63.

Payne Stewart

Golfer Payne Stewart's death on October 25, 1999 was certainly the most shocking of all the losses this past year. Stewart, known for his trademark knickers, was having the best year of his professional career, while winning his second U.S. Open title. He also played in his first Ryder Cup since 1993 and helped lead the United States to another Ryder Cup victory.

Payne Stewart died in a plane crash on October 25, 1999. He was 42.
Stewart was on his way to Texas, where the Tour Championship was to be played that week in Houston, when the LearJet he was aboard suffered a pressurization failure and flew uncontrolled for hours before crashing in South Dakota. Stewart was among the five onboard the plane who died. He was 42 years old.

Three Of The Best Retire

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan did it once before but for some reason it felt like it wasn't really on his own terms. When his "Airness" retired for the second time - he did it his way.

Michael Jordan retired on January 13, 1999.
Jordan - undoubtedly the greatest basketball player to ever play the game - hit the game-winning shot to give Chicago it's second three-peat (6 NBA titles) in eight years.

The five-time NBA MVP, 10-time NBA scoring leader, 11-time NBA All-Star and winner of six NBA championships had nothing more to prove. With coach Phil Jackson leaving for greener pastures and his team being dismantled before his eyes - Jordan called it a career on Wednesday, January 13, 1999.

Wayne Gretzky

Speaking of the greatest - only one man has ever been so good at his sport that he was nicknamed "The Great One." That, in a nutshell, describes Wayne Gretzky. Since the age of six, when people first took notice in his native Canada, Gretzky has been just thatÂ… "The Great One." He was on the cover of national magazines from the age of 11 and turned pro while still in high school.

Wayne Gretzky took off his skates for the last time on April 18, 1999.
He started his professional career with the Edmonton Oilers before going to the Los Angles Kings, the St. Louis Blues and finally the New York Rangers where he played the final game of his 21-year career on April 18, 1999.

Gretzky's NHL scoring record of 2,857 points is just one of the 61 NHL records he holds or shares. Yes that's rightÂ… 61 records! That ladies and gentleman is why they called him "The Great One."

John Elway

The last thing an athlete wants to be called is "The greatest athlete to never win a championship." That's what they called John Elway before his final two seasons with the Denver Broncos. He was known as the greatest quarterback to never win a Super Bowl.

John Elway called is quits on May 2, 1999.
In fact, Elway hated that so much that all he did in his final two NFL years was win back-to-back Super Bowl championships. But, after dazzling fans and confounding defenses for 16 years, Elway decided enough was enough and called it quits on May 2, 1999.

Now instead of being called "one of the best to never win a title" - Elway is called "One of the Best."

The World Champions

Denver Wis Super Bowl XXXIII

Months before Elway called it a career he had one more game to play - Super Bowl XXXIII. Denver wasn't just looking for a Super Bowl victory - they wanted to defend what they considered rightfully theirs.

A year before the only quarterback to start five Super Bowls rode on the shoulders of running back Terrell Davis to their first Super Bowl title, but in 1999 Elway did it all himself.

John Elway led Denver to victory in Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31, 1999.
Elway threw for 336 yards and a touchdown and ran another touchdown in for the clinching score early in the fourth quarter, earning him Most Valuable Player honors. Elway played the final game of his career and the Denver Broncos rolled to their second straight Super Bowl championship with a 34-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

UConn Wins NCAA Title

Heading into the championship game the University of Connecticut was still a 9½-point underdog to the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils despite losing only two games (to Syracuse and the University of Miami) all season. Duke was looking for their third national title of the '90s while UConn was looking to win their first championship in school history.

UConn upset Duke for their first NCAA championship on March 29, 1999.
"The kids were saying that they would rather play Duke than play Michigan State," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun. "You would think a 'wise head' (referring to himself) would know better, but the kids knew better. The kids were right. We played the right team."

Richard Hamilton led the way with 27 points and point guard Khalid El-Amin was Mr. Clutch down the stretch as the Huskies shot 51.7 percent from the field to stun the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils 77-74 for their first-ever NCAA championship on March, 29, 1999.

Spurs Win NBA Championship

When history is written it will say that San Antonio's 1999 NBA championship came after Michael Jordan retired and it came during a lockout shortened season. But in the Spurs' minds, they will forever be remembered for becoming the first ABA team to win the NBA title.

San Antonio won their first ever NBA title on June 25, 1999.
Tim Duncan's 31 points carried San Antonio to a 78-77 victory over the New York Knicks despite Latrell Sprewell's game-high 35 points giving the franchise its first NBA championship.

"There aren't words to describe Tim Duncan," said teammate Sean Elliott "To me, he's MVP of this league and should continue to be for years to come."

Stars Win Stanley Cup In 3 OTs

In one of the most exciting games in NHL history the Dallas Stars beat the Buffalo Sabres in three overtimes to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Brett Hull scored at 14:51 of the third overtime, putting a rebound past weary goalie Dominik Hasek as the Stars won hockey's biggest prize as much by exhaustion as execution, outlasting the Sabres 2-1.

Brett Hull's goal gave Dallas the Stanley Cup on June 19, 1999.
"We had nothing left. They had nothing left. Thank God it's over," said Stanley Cup playoff MVP Joe Nieuwendyk of Dallas.

It was the second-longest overtime game in Stanley Cup Finals history and the longest to decide a winner -- and a disputed winner at that. The Sabres protested that Hull's left skate was in the crease as he scored to make Dallas the first Sun Belt city to hoist the Stanley Cup.

U.S. Women Win World Cup

One of the most memorable sports images of 1999 had to be the site of U.S. women's star soccer player Brandi Chastain's falling to her knees and stripping off her jersey in celebration after scoring the game-winning penalty kick to give the United States their World Cup victory over China.

The U.S. women won the World Cup on July, 10, 1999.
In front of 90,185 fans in the Rose Bowl (the biggest crowd to ever watch a women's sporting event) the United States omen's soccer team showed the world what "Girl Power" was all about.

"Throughout the entire tournament, you hear young girls saying, 'I'm going to be on the national team. I'm going to be out there someday,' said Mia Hamm, the U.S. team's biggest star. "And that makes us all feel incredibly good."

Armstrong Wins Tour de France

Just three years earlier, in 1996, Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer and given just a 50 percent chance to live. A world class cyclist, Armstrong suddenly found himself in the most difficult race of his young life.

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France on July, 25, 1999.
After more than a year of painful treatment Armstrong was declared cancer-free. Now it was time to begin the race he love - cycling. Lance Armstrong was given a 50 percent chance to live but nobody would give him that kind of odds at winning the most difficult cycling race in the world - the Tour de France.

But having already beaten the biggest obstacle he'd ever go up against Armstrong rode his way to the the yellow jersey and the 1999 Tour de France victory.
"My objective will always be the Tour de France, that is the biggest event in cycling, the pinnacle, and the only thing I can try to do now is to repeat." Armstrong said.

Yankees: Best Team Of The Century

No better way to end than to end with arguably the best sports franchise of the last 100 years - the New York Yankees.

All the Yankees did was become the first team since 1938 and 1939 to sweep back-to-back World Series titles. In doing so, they won their 12th straight World Series game - tying a record - and won their 25th World Series championship in franchise history.

New York won their 25th World Series championship on October 27, 1999.
New York did it when Roger Clemens took the mound and beat the Atlanta Braves 4-1 to cap the greatest century a sports franchise has ever seen.

"This must be what it's like to be a Yankee," said Clemens "This is what everybody said it was all about."

Written and Produced by James Hutton
ght 1999 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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