The Milan Miracle topped the list of "The Greatest Sports Stories in the History of Indiana" when the top 25 was announced Thursday night on a Network Indiana broadcast. Tiny Milan's 1954 upset of Muncie Central for the state basketball title received a boost as the inspiration for the movie "Hoosiers."
"I don't know of too many states where a story about a high school basketball team from 1954 would be the top pick," said Brent Slinkard, president of Indiana Sports History who organized the project starting two years ago.
The rankings were decided by votes from the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportcasters Association.
Finishing second in the voting is the Indiana University basketball program, including the undefeated 1976 national championship, followed by the Indianapolis 500 at No. 3, No. 4 is Indiana high school basketball and the Indianapolis Colts and their Super Bowl XLI victory finish at No. 5.
The remaining list is No. 11 Mark Spitz winning seven swimming gold medals at the 1972 Olympics, No. 12 is Martinsville's John Wooden and his UCLA basketball coaching career, No. 13 is Damon Bailey's high school and college basketball career, Indiana's 1967 Rose Bowl team comes in at No. 14 and No. 15 is the Indiana Pacer's ABA dominance. No. 16 is Butler basketball's 2010 and 2011 NCAA title game appearances followed by No. 17 the Pacers' 2000 NBA Finals appearance, Lebanon's Rick Mount's Purdue basketball career at No. 18, Tony Hinkle's 37-year career at Butler for No. 19 and No. 20 is Knute Rockne's football coaching career at Notre Dame. The final five are No. 21 Notre Dame's 1974 upset to end UCLA's 88-game winning streak, No. 22 is Purdue's development of NFL quarterbacks including Drew Brees, No. 23 is the NFL and Purdue career of Fort Wayne's Rod Woodson, the Zeller family of basketball players is No. 24 and finishing up the list at No. 25 is the Franklin High School "Wonder Five" which won three state titles in a row.
Among the events and stories which did not make the top 25 are Purdue beating USC in the 1967 Rose Bowl, the NBA recognizing Fort Wayne as the birthplace of the league, Steve Alford's New Castle High School and Indiana University career, James "Doc" Counsilman's impact on swimming in the country, George Taliaferro being the first African-American drafted by the NFL, the Little 500 bicycle race, Branch McCracken's Indiana University basketball career that included two national titles, Jerry Yeagley's six NCAA soccer titles at IU and Jeff Gordon's NASCAR career.
Of the 25 events, 16 were related to basketball, seven to football and one each to auto racing and swimming.
A book detailing the events and the project will be released Nov. 1, and next June a banquet will be held in Indianapolis to celebrate the stories. The original list of 72 events can be viewed at www.indiana25.com.
"We all have this passion for something that is so profound in our state's history and we have a respect for this material," Slinkard said. "I do hope this is a springboard to suggest to many people where we go with this. A state hall of fame would be the perfect thing to do. It's something I clearly want to study and reflect on. You have to start somewhere, and I know from my experience with this you have to scale it and take small steps."
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