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Cavaliers’ JR Smith isn’t the only player to make a boneheaded mistake at the worst possible time

Fans in Cleveland probably will need awhile to get over the Cavaliers’ overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — in particular, JR Smith’s blunder in the final seconds of regulation that cost the team a chance to win.

And they’re not alone. There are plenty of other fans from other sports towns (or in one case, an entire country) who have felt the same way after some athlete’s boneheaded play at a critical point in a huge game.

Here’s a sampling, starting with Smith’s woeful tale (sorry, Cavs fans).

JR Smith

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With the score tied and 4.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Smith pulled in an offensive rebound under the basket. But instead of taking a shot or dishing the ball out to a wide-open LeBron James, Smith opted to run out the clock. Most assume that Smith thought the Cavaliers had the lead, although he said after the game he knew the score was tied but thought Cleveland was going to call a timeout. The Warriors would go on to win in overtime 124-114.

Chris Webber

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With his team trailing by two late in the fourth quarter of the 1993 NCAA championship game, Michigan’s Chris Webber found himself trapped with the ball in the left corner on North Carolina’s end of the court. There were still 11 seconds left, so Webber called a timeout. The problem: Michigan didn’t have any timeouts left. Webber was called for a technical foul, and the Tar Heels’ Donald Williams made both free throws. North Carolina went on to claim the national title with a 77-71 victory.

Bill Buckner

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Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner should have had an easy play on a slow roller by the New York Mets’ Mookie Wilson during the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. With an out there, the Red Sox would have extended the game to an 11th inning and preserved their chance of winning their first championship since 1918. But somehow the ball found its way between Buckner’s legs and into the outfield, allowing New York’s Ray Knight to score the winning run. The Mets would go on to win Game 7, and Buckner would become a goat in the eyes of long-suffering Red Sox fans, who would have to wait 18 more years before finally seeing their team win another World Series.

Lindsey Jacobellis

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U.S. snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis was well on her way to a gold medal in the women’s cross at the 2006 Winter Olympics when she grabbed her board in midair on the next-to-last jump and fell to the ground. Switzerland’s Tanja Frieden ended up claiming gold, leaving Jacobellis to settle for silver. “I was having fun,” Jacobellis later said. “Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh, well. It happens.”

Fred Merkle

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Fred Merkle cost the New York Giants a win over the Chicago Cubs in 1908.
(New York Daily News )

Fred Merkle, a 19-year-old first baseman, made his first start for the New York Giants against the Chicago Cubs on Sept. 23, 1908. With two out and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Merkle singled to move teammate Moose McCormick to third as the potential game-winning run. When Al Bridwell singled into center field, the Giants appeared to win the game, with McCormick crossing the plate. As fans swarmed the field, however, Merkle left without touching second base. Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers eventually got the ball and stepped on second, and umpires ruled Merkle was out on a force play. McCormick’s run didn’t count, so the game ended in a tie because of darkness. The Cubs won the eventual makeup game and beat out the Giants for the National League pennant by one game.

Leon Lett

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Dallas’ Leon Lett, right, celebrates a Super Bowl touchdown too early and is stripped of the ball by Buffalo’s Don Beebe.
(Douglas C. Pizac / Associated Press )

Leon Lett didn’t cost the Dallas Cowboys a championship, but he did make one of the most boneheaded plays in sports history on the biggest stage possible. Late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXVII, the defensive tackle recovered a fumble by Buffalo Bills quarterback Frank Reich and lumbered his way toward the end zone. Before he got there, though, Lett lifted the ball in celebration — only to be stripped by Buffalo’s Don Beebe. Lett fumbled the ball into the end zone and it rolled out of bounds, so the Bills got the ball back on a touchback. The Cowboys still handily won the game 52-17.

charles.schilken@latimes.com

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Twitter: @chewkiii


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