Voyager completes global flight


Updated:
Original:
Year
1986
Month Day
December 23

After nine days and four minutes in the sky, the experimental aircraft Voyager lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California, completing the first nonstop flight around the globe on one load of fuel. Piloted by Americans Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, Voyager was made mostly of plastic and stiffened paper and carried more than three times its weight in fuel when it took off from Edwards Air Force Base on December 14. By the time it returned, after flying 25,012 miles around the planet, it had just five gallons of fuel left in its remaining operational fuel tank.

Voyager was built by Burt Rutan of the Rutan Aircraft Company without government support and with minimal corporate sponsorship. Dick Rutan, Burt’s brother and a decorated Vietnam War pilot, joined the project early on, as did Dick’s friend Jeanna Yeager (no relation to aviator Chuck Yeager). Voyager‘s extremely light yet strong body was made of layers of carbon-fiber tape and paper impregnated with epoxy resin. Its wingspan was 111 feet, and it had its horizontal stabilizer wing on the plane’s nose rather than its rear–a trademark of many of Rutan’s aircraft designs. Essentially a flying fuel tank, every possible area was used for fuel storage and much modern aircraft technology was foregone in the effort to reduce weight.

When Voyager took off from Edwards Air Force at 8:02 a.m. PST on December 14, its wings were so heavy with fuel that their tips scraped along the ground and caused minor damage. The plane made it into the air, however, and headed west. On the second day, Voyager ran into severe turbulence caused by two tropical storms in the Pacific. Dick Rutan had been concerned about flying the aircraft at more than a 15-degree angle, but he soon found the plane could fly on its side at 90 degrees, which occurred when the wind tossed it back and forth.

Rutan and Yeager shared the controls, but Rutan, a more experienced pilot, did most of the flying owing to the long periods of turbulence encountered at various points in the journey. With weak stomachs, they ate only a fraction of the food brought along, and each lost about 10 pounds.

On December 23, when Voyager was flying north along the Baja California coast and just 450 miles short of its goal, the engine it was using went out, and the aircraft plunged from 8,500 to 5,000 feet before an alternate engine was started up.

Almost nine days to the minute after it lifted off, Voyager appeared over Edwards Air Force Base and circled as Yeager turned a primitive crank that lowered the landing gear. Then, to the cheers of 23,000 spectators, the plane landed safely with a few gallons of fuel to spare, completing the first nonstop circumnavigation of the earth by an aircraft that was not refueled in the air.

Voyager is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

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“Preppy Murder” stuns New York

Year
1986
Month Day
August 26

On August 26, 1986, 18-year-old Jennifer Levin is found dead in New York City’s Central Park less than two hours after she was seen leaving a bar on the city’s Upper East Side with 19-year-old Robert Chambers. The tall, handsome Chambers was soon arrested and charged with murder. The tabloid media dubbed Chambers, who had attended Manhattan private schools, the “Preppy Killer.” The case shocked the city and raised questions about underage drinking, drug use and casual sex among New York’s privileged youth.

In the early hours of August 26, Levin, a graduate of a Manhattan private school, was with friends at Dorrian’s Red Hand, a bar popular with prep-school students, where she encountered Chambers, with whom she was casually acquainted. Chambers, a college dropout, had grown up on Manhattan’s mostly affluent Upper East Side, although his family was not wealthy. A former altar boy, he became involved in drinking and drugs as a teenager—allegedly stealing to pay for his drug habit—and was kicked out of several private schools he attended.

After meeting up at Dorrian’s on August 26, Levin and Chambers left there together around 4:30 a.m. and headed to Central Park. Levin’s lifeless body, badly bruised and partially clothed, was discovered under a tree in the park behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art around 6:15 a.m. by a cyclist. When police arrived, one eyewitness later recalled spotting a man who would fit Chamber’s description standing in the vicinity observing the scene. That afternoon, after speaking with Levin’s friends, police questioned Chambers, who denied any knowledge of the crime and claimed the scratches on his face were from a cat. However, later that day, he made videotaped and written statements to police indicating he might have accidentally killed Levin because she hurt him during rough sex in the park. An autopsy report concluded that Levin died from asphyxia by strangulation.

A highly publicized court trial followed, and on March 25, 1988, with the jury at an impasse on its ninth day of deliberations, Chambers withdrew his plea of not guilty and agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.

During his time behind bars, Chambers proved to be a less-than-model prisoner. He committed numerous drug and weapons infractions, and spent nearly five years in solitary confinement. In 2003, after serving his full sentence, Chambers was released. However, in 2008, he was convicted of selling drugs and sentenced to 19 years in prison.

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Video of Titanic wreckage released

Year
1986
Month Day
July 18

On July 18, 1986, new close-up videotapes of the sunken ocean liner Titanic are released to the public. Taken on the first manned expedition to the wreck, the videotapes are stunning in their clarity and detail, showing one of the ship’s majestic grand staircases and a coral-covered chandelier swinging slowly in the ocean current.

READ MORE: The Titanic: Sinking & Facts

At the time of its launch, the RMS Titanic was the largest ocean liner ever built, measuring nearly 900 feet long and 150 feet from its water line to its highest beam. It was considered unsinkable owing both to its vast size and its special construction. On its maiden voyage, the Titanic carried more than 2,200 people, including several of the world’s most rich and famous. Its collision with an iceberg and subsequent sinking in the icy waters of the North Atlantic resulted in the death of some 1,500 people, many of whom could have been saved if the ship had carried a sufficient number of lifeboats.

It was not until 73 years later, in 1985, that the Titanic wreck was discovered. Marine geologist Robert Ballard, in conjunction with Jean-Louis Michel of the Institute of Research for the Exploitation of the Sea (IFREMER), located the remains of the Titanic 350 miles southeast of Newfoundland, 13,000 feet down on the ocean floor. Ballard, who was from Massachusetts’ Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, had the help of the U.S. Navy, which supplied him with Argo, a high resolution sonar device and submersible photographic sled.

READ MORE: The Real Story Behind the Discovery of Titanic’s Watery Grave

Ballard’s discovery caused a great stir among the public, and touched off a new era in underwater exploration and scientific research, especially around the topic of the Titanic. The following year, Ballard returned to the wreck, this time to dive down to the bottom in a submersible craft called Alvin and acquire photo footage of the ghost ship. Ballard was accompanied by Ralph Hollis, the Alvin‘s pilot, and Mark Bowen, who piloted Jason, Jr., a robotic submarine, or “swimming eyeball,” used to explore the interior of the liner. Two miles beneath the surface, the explorers found, frozen in time, trappings of life aboard the Titanic, including a wood-burning stove and unopened champagne bottles being readied for a toast. Jason, Jr. also found the ship’s safes, but left them as they lay: It was decided that the Titanic expedition would leave the ship’s debris undisturbed on the ocean floor.

Even after several years of visiting the wreckage, not a trace of human remains has been found. Like other soft, degradable materials such as wood and carpet, human body parts were most likely scavenged by sea creatures not long after the ship’s sinking.

READ MORE: The Titanic: Before and After Photos

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U.S. bombs terrorist and military targets in Libya

Year
1986
Month Day
April 14

On April 14, 1986, the United States launches air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan sponsorship of terrorism against American troops and citizens. The raid, which began shortly before 7 p.m. EST (2 a.m., April 15 in Libya), involved more than 100 U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft, and was over within an hour. Five military targets and “terrorism centers” were hit, including the headquarters of Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi.

During the 1970s and ’80s, Qaddafi’s government financed a wide variety of Muslim and anti-U.S. and anti-British terrorist groups worldwide, from Palestinian guerrillas and Philippine Muslim rebels to the Irish Republican Army and the Black Panthers. In response, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Libya, and relations between the two nations steadily deteriorated. In 1981, Libya fired at a U.S. aircraft that passed into the Gulf of Sidra, which Qaddafi had claimed in 1973 as Libyan territorial waters. That year, the U.S. uncovered evidence of Libyan-sponsored terrorist plots against the United States, including planned assassination attempts against U.S. officials and the bombing of a U.S. embassy-sponsored dance in Khartoum, Sudan.

In December 1985, five American citizens were killed in simultaneous terrorist attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports. Libya was blamed, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered expanded sanctions and froze Libyan assets in the United States. On March 24, 1986, U.S. and Libyan forces clashed in the Gulf of Sidra, and four Libyan attack boats were sunk. Then, on April 5, terrorists bombed a West Berlin dance hall known to be frequented by U.S. servicemen. One U.S. serviceman and a Turkish woman were killed, and more than 200 people were wounded, including 50 other U.S. servicemen. U.S. intelligence reportedly intercepted radio messages sent from Libya to its diplomats in East Berlin ordering the April 5 attack on the LaBelle discotheque.

On April 14, the United States struck back with dramatic air strikes against Tripoli and Banghazi. The attacks were mounted by 14 A-6E navy attack jets based in the Mediterranean and 18 FB-111 bombers from bases in England. Numerous other support aircraft were also involved. France refused to allow the F-111Fs to fly over French territory, which added 2,600 total nautical miles to the journey from England and back. Three military barracks were hit, along with the military facilities at Tripoli’s main airport and the Benina air base southeast of Benghazi. All targets except one were reportedly chosen because of their direct connection to terrorist activity. The Benina military airfield was hit to preempt Libyan interceptors from taking off and attacking the incoming U.S. bombers.

Even before the operation had ended, President Reagan went on national television to discuss the air strikes. “When our citizens are abused or attacked anywhere in the world,” he said, “we will respond in self-defense. Today we have done what we had to do. If necessary, we shall do it again.”

Operation El Dorado Canyon, as it was code-named, was called a success by U.S. officials. Qaddafi’s 15-month-old adopted daughter was killed in the attack on his residence, and two of his young sons were injured. Although he has never admitted it publicly, there is speculation that Qaddafi was also wounded in the bombing. Fire from Libyan surface-to-air missiles and conventional anti-aircraft artillery was heavy during the attack, and one F-111, along with its two-member crew, were lost in unknown circumstances. Several residential buildings were inadvertently bombed during the raid, and 15 Libyan civilians were reported killed. The French embassy in Tripoli was also accidentally hit, but no one was injured.

On April 15, Libyan patrol boats fired missiles at a U.S. Navy communications station on the Italian island of Lamedusa, but the missiles fell short. There was no other major terrorist attack linked to Libya until the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew of that flight were killed, and 11 people on the ground perished. In the early 1990s, investigators identified Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah as suspects in the bombing, but Libya refused to turn them over to be tried in the United States. But in 1999–in an effort to ease United Nations sanctions against Libya–Colonel Moammar Gadhafi agreed to turn the suspects over to Scotland for trial in the Netherlands using Scottish law and prosecutors. In early 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, although he continues to profess his innocence and work to overturn his conviction. Fhimah was acquitted.

In accordance with United Nations and American demands, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing, though it did not express remorse. The U.N. and U.S. lifted sanctions against Libya; the country then paid each victim’s family approximately $8 million in compensation. In 2004, Libya’s prime minister said that the deal was the “price for peace,” implying that his country only accepted responsibility to get the sanctions lifted, angering the survivors’ families. He also admitted that Libya had not really accepted guilt for the bombing. Pan Am Airlines, which went bankrupt as a result of the bombing, is still seeking $4.5 billion in compensation from Libya in civil court.

Qaddafi surprised many around the world when he became one of the first Muslim heads of state to denounce al-Qaida after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2003, he gained favor with the administration of George W. Bush when he announced the existence of a program to build weapons of mass destruction in Libya and that he would allow an international agency to inspect and dismantle them. Though some in the U.S. government pointed to this as a direct and positive consequence of the ongoing war in Iraq, others pointed out that Qaddafi had essentially been making the same offer since 1999, but had been ignored. In 2004, U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Libya, one of the first western heads of state to do so in recent memory; he praised Libya during the visit as a strong ally in the international war on terror.

In February 2011, as unrest spread through much of the Arab world, massive political protests against the Qaddafi regime sparked a civil war between revolutionaries and loyalists. In March, an international coalition began conducting airstrikes against Qaddafi strongholds under the auspices of a U.N. Security Council resolution. On October 20, Libya’s interim government announced that Qaddafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte.

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Test triggers nuclear disaster at Chernobyl

Year
1986
Month Day
April 26

On April 26, 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

The Chernobyl station was situated at the settlement of Pripyat, about 65 miles north of Kiev in the Ukraine. Built in the late 1970s on the banks of the Pripyat River, Chernobyl had four reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. On the evening of April 25, 1986, a group of engineers began an electrical-engineering experiment on the Number 4 reactor. The engineers, who had little knowledge of reactor physics, wanted to see if the reactor’s turbine could run emergency water pumps on inertial power.

As part of their poorly designed experiment, the engineers disconnected the reactor’s emergency safety systems and its power-regulating system. Next, they compounded this recklessness with a series of mistakes: They ran the reactor at a power level so low that the reaction became unstable, and then removed too many of the reactor’s control rods in an attempt to power it up again. The reactor’s output rose to more than 200 megawatts but was proving increasingly difficult to control. Nevertheless, at 1:23 a.m. on April 26, the engineers continued with their experiment and shut down the turbine engine to see if its inertial spinning would power the reactor’s water pumps. In fact, it did not adequately power the water pumps, and without cooling water the power level in the reactor surged.

READ MORE: Chernobyl Disaster: The Meltdown by the Minute

To prevent meltdown, the operators reinserted all the 200-some control rods into the reactor at once. The control rods were meant to reduce the reaction but had a design flaw: graphite tips. So, before the control rod’s five meters of absorbent material could penetrate the core, 200 graphite tips simultaneously entered, thus facilitating the reaction and causing an explosion that blew off the heavy steel and concrete lid of the reactor. It was not a nuclear explosion, as nuclear power plants are incapable of producing such a reaction, but was chemical, driven by the ignition of gases and steam that were generated by the runaway reaction. In the explosion and ensuing fire, more than 50 tons of radioactive material were released into the atmosphere, where it was carried by air currents.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.

READ MORE: 7 People Who Played a Crucial Role in the World’s Worst Nuclear Disaster

In the opening days of the crisis, 32 people died at Chernobyl and dozens more suffered radiation burns. The radiation that escaped into the atmosphere, which was several times that produced by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was spread by the wind over Northern and Eastern Europe, contaminating millions of acres of forest and farmland. An estimated 5,000 Soviet citizens eventually died from cancer and other radiation-induced illnesses caused by their exposure to the Chernobyl radiation, and millions more had their health adversely affected. In 2000, the last working reactors at Chernobyl were shut down and the plant was officially closed.

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Iran-Contra connection revealed

Year
1986
Month Day
November 25

Three weeks after a Lebanese magazine reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran, Attorney General Edwin Meese reveals that proceeds from the arms sales were illegally diverted to the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua.

On November 3, the Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa reported that the United States had been secretly selling arms to Iran in an effort to secure the release of seven American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. The revelation, confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources on November 6, came as a shock to officials outside President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle and went against the stated policy of the administration. In addition to violating the U.S. arms embargo against Iran, the arms sales contradicted President Reagan’s vow never to negotiate with terrorists.

On November 25, controversy over the administration’s secret dealings with Iran deepened dramatically when Attorney General Meese announced that the arms sales proceeds were diverted to fund Nicaraguan rebels—the Contras—who were fighting a guerrilla war against the elected leftist government of Nicaragua. The Contra connection caused outrage in Congress, which in 1982 had passed the Boland Amendment prohibiting the use of federal money “for the purpose of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua.” The same day that the Iran-Contra connection was disclosed, President Reagan accepted the resignation of his national security adviser, Vice Admiral John Poindexter, and fired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a Poindexter aide. Both men had played key roles in the Iran-Contra operation. Reagan accepted responsibility for the arms-for-hostages deal but denied any knowledge of the diversion of funds to the Contras.

In December 1986, Lawrence Walsh was named special prosecutor to investigate the matter, and in the summer of 1987 Congress held televised hearings on the Iran-Contra scandal. Both investigations revealed that North and other administration officials had attempted to cover-up illegally their illicit dealings with the Contras and Iran. In the course of Walsh’s investigation, eleven White House, State Department, and intelligence officials were found guilty on charges ranging from perjury, to withholding information form Congress, to conspiracy to defraud the United States. In his final report, Walsh concluded that neither Reagan nor Vice President George Bush violated any laws in connection with the affair, but that Reagan had set the stage for the illegal activities of others by ordering continued support of the Contras after Congress prohibited it. The report also found that Reagan and Bush engaged in conduct that contributed to a “concerted effort to deceive Congress and the public” about the Iran-Contra affair.

On Christmas Eve in 1992, shortly after being defeated in his reelection bid by Bill Clinton, President George Bush pardoned six major figures in the Iran-Contra affair. Two of the men, former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and former chief of CIA operations Duane Clarridge, had trials for perjury pending.

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The space shuttle Challenger explodes after liftoff

At 11:38 a.m. EST, on January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Christa McAuliffe is on her way to becoming the first ordinary U.S. civilian to travel into space. McAuliffe, a 37-year-old high school social studies teacher from New Hampshire, won a competition that earned her a place among the seven-member crew of the Challenger. She underwent months of shuttle training but then, beginning January 23, was forced to wait six long days as the Challenger‘s launch countdown was repeatedly delayed because of weather and technical problems. Finally, on January 28, the shuttle lifted off.

Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground, including Christa’s family, stared in disbelief as the shuttle broke up in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.

READ MORE: 5 Things You May Not Know About the Challenger Shuttle

In 1976, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) unveiled the world’s first reusable manned spacecraft, the Enterprise. Five years later, space flights of the shuttle began when Columbia traveled into space on a 54-hour mission. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider. Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. The Challenger disaster was the first major shuttle accident.

In the aftermath of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan appointed a special commission to determine what went wrong with Challenger and to develop future corrective measures. The presidential commission was headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, and included former astronaut Neil Armstrong and former test pilot Chuck Yeager. The investigation determined that the disaster was caused by the failure of an “O-ring” seal in one of the two solid-fuel rockets. The elastic O-ring did not respond as expected because of the cold temperature at launch time, which began a chain of events that resulted in the massive loss. As a result, NASA did not send astronauts into space for more than two years as it redesigned a number of features of the space shuttle.

READ MORE: Reagan Delayed the 1986 State of the Union to Mourn the Challenger Disaster

In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction of the International Space Station.

On February 1, 2003, a second space-shuttle disaster rocked the United States when Columbia disintegrated upon reentry of the Earth’s atmosphere. All aboard were killed. Despite fears that the problems that downed Columbia had not been satisfactorily addressed, space-shuttle flights resumed on July 26, 2005, when Discovery was again put into orbit.

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Spud Webb wins dunk contest


Year
1986
Month Day
February 08

On February 8, 1986, Spud Webb, who at 5’7” was one of the shortest players in the history of professional basketball, wins the NBA slam dunk contest, beating his Atlanta Hawks teammate and 1985 dunk champ, the 6’8” Dominique Wilkins.

Anthony Jerome “Spud” Webb was born July 13, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Throughout his life, Webb had to prove himself as a basketball player due to his relatively small stature. As a high school player, he averaged 26 points per game and was one of 10 students out of 5,000 selected to the All-State team; however, his size prevented him from being recruited for Division 1-A colleges. Instead, he attended Midland Junior College in Texas, where he led his team to victory in the 1982 junior college championship. He then caught the attention of the coaches at North Carolina State University, where he went on to play for two years.

Despite a strong college career, his size initially kept him from making the NBA and after graduation he played in the U.S. Basketball League. In 1985, he had a successful tryout with the Atlanta Hawks and joined the team. Webb played six seasons with the Hawks, followed by stints with the Sacramento Kings, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Orlando Magic.

One of the most memorable events of Webb’s career was his dunk contest win, which took place on February 8, 1986, at the NBA All-Star Game Weekend in Dallas. Webb, the shortest player to ever participate in the competition to that time, went up against men who were, in some cases, a foot taller. In the end, size didn’t matter. Webb dazzled the crowd with his soaring dunks and bested teammate Dominique Wilkins, who had won the 1985 contest by beating Michael Jordan. (The NBA’s first slam dunk competition was held in 1984.)

Webb retired from basketball in 1998, after 12 seasons in the NBA. He was said to have paved the way for other height-challenged NBA players, including 5’5” Earl Boykins and 5’3” Muggsy Bogues. 

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Mike Tyson becomes the youngest heavyweight champ in history

Year
1986
Month Day
November 22

On November 22, 1986, 20-year-old Mike Tyson knocks out 33-year-old Trevor Berbick in just five minutes and 35 seconds to become the youngest titleholder ever. “I’m the youngest heavyweight boxing champion in history,” Tyson told his manager after the fight, “and I’m going to be the oldest.”

Tyson’s bravado wasn’t misplaced: When he walked into the ring to face Berbick, he had won all 27 of the matches he’d fought, knocking out 26 of his opponents. He threw unbelievably hard punches–“pineapples,” trainer Angelo Dundee called them. Ref Mills Lane agreed: “Everything he’s got has ‘good night’ written all over it,” he said. Berbick refused to be intimidated by the younger man’s furious arm and decided–unwisely, it turned out–to stand up to Tyson instead of boxing him. He didn’t bob or weave or even throw punches. He just stood there, wanting to show the world that he could take whatever Tyson was dishing out. “I was trying to prove to myself that I could take his best shot,” Berbick said, but “he punches pretty hard.”

Tyson had a plan, too: “I wanted to throw every punch with bad intentions,” he said after the fight. “I was throwing–what can I say–hydrogen bombs.” During the first round, Berbick had fought in such slow motion that he looked like he was underwater; early in the second, Tyson walloped him to the mat with a powerful left hook. The older man bounced up, but Tyson thumped him again. Berbick froze; then his legs buckled and he fell. The ref began to count while the champ struggled to get up. He lifted himself off the mat twice, and twice his legs wobbled so much that he fell again. He finally made it up, but Lane stopped the fight anyway. “Berbick was up,” he said later, “but to allow somebody to get hit in that condition, that’s criminal.”

Tyson kept his title for nine more bouts, until Buster Douglas beat him in 1990. After that, his life unraveled. He was sent to prison for three years for rape. Then, five fights into his comeback in 1995, he bit off a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear and was disqualified. He retired for good in 2005. Berbick didn’t fare much better: He, too, spent time in prison for rape, and was found dead (of “chop wounds” to his head, according to the coroner’s report) in a church courtyard in Jamaica in 2006.

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Michael Jordan scores 63 points in playoff game

Year
1986
Month Day
April 20

On April 20, 1986, the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan scores 63 points in an NBA playoff game against the Boston Celtics, setting a post-season scoring record. Despite Jordan’s achievement, the Bulls lost to the Celtics in double overtime, 135-131. Boston swept the three-game series and went on to win the NBA championship.

A standout player at the University of North Carolina, Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, the third overall selection behind Hakeem Olajuwon, who went to the Houston Rockets, and Sam Bowie, who joined the Portland Trail Blazers. The 6’6” Jordan quickly established himself as a star in the NBA. He was named the league’s Rookie of the Year and led the Bulls in scoring, assists, rebounding and steals. The Bulls made it to the playoffs that year, but lost to the Milwaukee Bucks. Jordan had to sit out much of his second season due to a broken foot; however, he returned in time to join his team in the playoffs.

On April 20, 1986, in Game 2 of the first-round series against the Celtics, Jordan scored his legendary 63 points, a record that still stands. The Celtics’ star forward Larry Bird said: “He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan.” The following season, “Air Jordan” became only the second NBA player, after Wilt Chamberlain, to record 3,000 points in a season. Also that year, Jordan was the first-ever player to get 200 steals and 100 blocks in a single season. Despite Jordan’s skills, the Bulls were once again swept by the Celtics in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Bulls made it to the playoffs three more times in a row before winning their first NBA championship in 1991, a feat the team repeated in 1992 and 1993. Jordan then retired briefly to pursue a baseball career before returning to the Bulls in 1995 and leading them to three more championships, in 1996, 1997 and 1998. In 1999, Jordan retired a second time, only to return to the NBA again in 2001 to play for two years with the Washington Wizards, a team in which he also had an ownership stake.

Jordan finished his career with five NBA Most Valuable Player awards (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998), 14 All-Star game appearances and three All-Star MVP titles (1988, 1996, 1998), 10 scoring titles and two Olympic gold medals (1984, 1992). 

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