The Loop

Matthew Wolff's World: The strangest (and mostly strangely effective) motions in sports history

Keep Portland Weird sign painted on a building


This weekend, the sports world had its eyes trained squarely on Blaine, Minnesota for the 3M Open...hahaha, sorry, sorry. Couldn’t say that with a straight face. OK, so maybe the PGA Tour’s Midwest sabbatical didn’t capture the imagination quite like the U.S. winning another Women’s World Cup or Kawhi taking his talents to Venice Beach, but if the world was watching, what they would have seen was 20-year-old Matthew Wolff besting a man who calculates the barometric pressure on every three-footer with one of the hitchiest, kitchiest swings since a guy named Furyk hit the circuit.

Wolff’s first-ever PGA Tour victory will do little to silence the haters, of course, who are just waiting to say, “I told you so” when it all comes unglued down the stretch on some distant Sunday. But to celebrate all the outsiders and outlaws like Wolff who do their own thing come hell, high water, and swing planes, we compiled a list of sports’ strangest (and most strangely effective) serves, swings, jumpers, tosses, and wind-ups. Let’s keep sports weird, people.

Rick Barry: Granny's Meatballs

The grandaddy, or should we say mammy, of them all. Rick Barry is an NBA Hall of Famer and the Warriors’ best pre-Curry player full stop, but when it came to step to the foul line, Barry tossed up underhand meatballs just like nana used to make. One wonders just how great Shaq could have been if he could have swallowed his pride long enough to try this.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: The Tendonitis

There’s nothing more beautiful in all of sports than a pure jump shot. Conversely, there’s nothing more hideous than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s, a splay-legged prayer with a signature right elbow tuck that ranges from subtle to dislocated, depending on the severity of Gilchrist’s current affliction. On the brightside, however, at least he’s not Markelle Fultz...

Tim Tebow: Zeus' Revenge

Doug Flutie may have pioneered it, but Tim Tebow perfected a throwing motion that looked like Zeus hurling a lightning bolt from atop Mount Olympus. That Tebow is said to have had divine help ferrying the pigskin to his receivers is only a matter of coincidence.

Steve Cox: Straight Shooter

On September 13th, 1987, Steve Cox became the last man to ever make a NFL field goal with a straight-on run-up, backing up the 60-yard bomb you see above with an even more irrelevant football footnote. Once commonplace, Cox’s technique has been mothballed for decades thanks to the advent of European-style soccer kicking that now dominates the NFL special teams landscape.

Dan Quisenberry: The Snozberry

You could fill tomes with herky, jerky MLB windups, but Dan Quisenberry—aka the Mariano Rivera of the 80s—gets credit for both style and substance, leading the American League in saves a record five times between 1980 and 1985. These snozberries really do taste like snozberries.

Johnny Cueto: Shimmy Yam, Shimmy Yay

The back-to-the-batter trick is as old as Luis Tiant, but Johnny Cueto brought the move to the modern game with a little bit of his own spice: A shoulder shimmy right at the peak of his wind-up. For many an MLB batter, Cueto was just dancing on their grave.

Nick Kyrgios: Under the Table

Tennis’s resident bad boy (an oxymoron, we know) isn’t a big fan of filing those W2s, which is why he prefers to do business under the table whenever possible. Just ask Rafael Nadal, who was the latest to fall victim to Kyrgios’ iconic (and infuriating) sneak-attack at Wimbledon last week.

Karsten Braasch: The Riverboat Gambler

If Karsten Braasch’s serve is a rocking, don’t go a knocking. The German Agassi was best known for smoking during changeovers and beating up on the teenage Williams sisters during a Battle of the Sexes match at the 1998 Australian Open, but he also had one of the most mesmerizing serves on tour, which propelled him to, um, 38th in the world in 1994. Come on, they can’t all be Federer.

Paul Pogba: Sunday Driver

Patience is a virtue, or so Mom always said. But Paul Pogba’s penalty run up would test even the Dalai Lama’s resolve, “jogging” like you used to in high school gym class before exploding through the ball and into the hearts of internet meme makers everywhere.