By Ross Kelly
Our nation will celebrate its birthday on July 4 with barbecues and fireworks in the presence of friends and family. Every year there are a few athletes who get the honor of playing on their own birthdays (unless you’re born on Leap Day). Thus, in honor of America’s birthday, we will look back at those athletes who put on great performances on their own birthdays.
Shaquille O’Neal – March 6, 2000 – On his 28th birthday, the Big
Birthday Cake Aristotle poured in a career-high of 61 points in a thrashing of the Clippers. He went 24 of 35 from the field with 11 of those baskets being dunks. He even knocked down 13 free throws in the game (albeit on 22 attempts). To go along with the 61, Shaq also grabbed 23 rebounds to complete one of the greatest fantasy stat lines in recent memory. It remains the most points a player has scored on their birthday in NBA history.
Derrek Lee – September 6 – Lee hasn’t just had one memorable birthday as a major leaguer, he’s had five. Five separate times in his career Lee has homered on his birthday, including four straight years! His first came as a 26-year-old in 2001 and then he had a historic four-year run by homering on his 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st birthdays. His five birthday home runs is tied for the most all-time along with Todd Helton and Al Simmons.
Brett Favre – October 10, 1999 – NFL players don’t get many opportunities to play on their birthdays so when they do, they definitely want it to be memorable. Favre did just that on his 30th birthday with typical “Favre Magic”. He threw a game-winning touchdown in the final minutes to give the Packers a come-from-behind divisional win over the Bucs. For the day, Favre had 390 passing yards and two touchdowns in the 26-23 Packers’ victory.
Thomas Tyner – September 14, 2012 – As just a duckling, this future University of Oregon running back set an Oregon high school record by rushing for 643 yards and 10 touchdowns in a game for Aloha High. All of this came on the kid’s 18th birthday in a 84-63 victory (yes, it was a football game). If there was any doubt from UO on Tyner’s ability, it was squashed on one Friday night and he is expected to be the Ducks’ starting running back in his upcoming junior season.
Randy Johnson – September 10, 2000 – The Big Unit celebrated the Big 37 by turning in a gem of a performance. In seven innings pitched, Johnson struck out 14 batters while only allowing one earned run. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks’ bullpen couldn’t finish the job so Johnson got a no-decision in the loss to the Marlins. But RJ also helped his own cause by getting on base and scoring a run, giving all the fans the delight at watching his 6’10” 225 lb frame running the bases (just think, Chris Sale weighs almost 50 lbs fewer than Johnson).