April Fools! Here are the best trick plays in sports history

The Philly Special and Music City Miracle headline the greatest trick plays of all time.

Ian Johnson, Nick Foles and Jason Kidd
Getty Images

There are few things better in sports than a well-executed trick play.

Like a good joke or prank, a player or team outsmarting their opponent through trickeration creates an amusing feeling when pulled off to perfection.

So, in celebration of April Fools' Day in 2024, let’s take a look back at some of the best trickery and deception in sports history:

Andre Miller’s fake timeouts

It’s safe to say Andre Miller mastered the art of the fake timeout during his time in the NBA. The crafty point guard fooled teams with the trick multiple times as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, casually dribbling the ball to the hash mark to lull opposing players to sleep before darting to the rim for a lay-in.

Boise State football’s trickeration in 2007 Fiesta Bowl win

The Boise State football team converted not one, not two, but three trick plays late in its thrilling 2007 Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

Trailing by seven in the final minute of regulation, the Broncos dialed up a hook and ladder on fourth-and-18. Quarterback Jared Zabransky found wideout Drisan James a few yards shy of the first-down marker. Instead of fighting for the first down, James flipped the ball to Jerard Rabb, who took it all the way to the house for the game-tying touchdown.

The Broncos again found themselves down by seven in overtime after Adrian Peterson scored for the Sooners. On a fourth-and-2 from the 5-yard line, Boise State receiver Vinny Perretta took the snap out of a wildcat-like formation, rolled to his right and lofted a touchdown pass to Derek Shouman.

Rather than going for the tying extra point, the Broncos’ offense remained on the field and went back to the trick play well once again. This time, they broke out the statue of liberty, as Zabransky faked a swing pass to his right and left the ball behind his back for Ian Johnson, who ran untouched into the end zone. Johnson, you may remember, proposed to his girlfriend, who was a Boise State cheerleader, after the game-winning two-point conversion.

Three trick plays, all in do-or-die situations, leading to three scores and a massive bowl game triumph. Just incredible.

Dan Marino’s fake spike vs. Jets

This list wouldn’t feel complete without a mention of the New York Jets getting fooled. In November 1994, the Miami Dolphins faced a three-point deficit against the Jets inside the final minute of the AFC East showdown.

After completing a pass to New York’s 8-yard line, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino rushed the Dolphins’ offense to the line like he was going to spike the ball on the next play. The Jets were so convinced Marino was going to spike it that they clearly got caught off-guard when he didn’t throw the ball into the ground and instead tossed it to Mark Ingram Sr. for the game-winning touchdown.

Jason Kidd spills drink on court for extra timeout

This was undoubtedly the most memorable moment of Jason Kidd’s coaching tenure with the Brooklyn Nets. Here was the scenario: the Nets were out of timeouts and trailing the Los Angeles Lakers by two with under 10 seconds remaining in their November 2013 matchup. After Lakers guard Jodie Meeks made his first of two free throws, there was a delay in the action due to a spilled drink along the Nets’ sideline.

Upon further review, not only was Kidd the one who dropped the drink, but he instructed Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor to bump into him. The spillage essentially created an extra timeout for Kidd to draw up a play for his team.

The refs didn’t catch Kidd’s trickery in the moment, allowing the Nets to get off scot free without a delay of game or technical foul. However, Paul Pierce missed the potential game-tying 3-pointer for Brooklyn and the NBA fined Kidd $50,000 for the incident the following day.

Kenny Pickett’s fake slide in 2021 ACC Championship

One Pitt alum, Dan Marino, had the fake spike and another, Kenny Pickett, had the fake slide. In the opening minutes of the 2021 ACC Championship Game against Wake Forest, Pickett avoided a sack and darted upfield for a big gain. With a couple of defenders closing in on him, the Pitt quarterback slowed up and bent over like was going to give himself up and slide.

But Pickett didn’t go to the ground, and his mind-blowing fakeout left defenders flat-footed as he rumbled all the way to the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown.

Just how filthy was that fake slide? Days after Pickett led the Panthers to their first ever ACC title, the NCAA outlawed the maneuver.

Louisville women’s basketball tricks Duke into defending wrong hoop

You know a trick play is good when you fool the entire opposing team.

To start the second half of a January 2017 game versus Duke, Louisville’s Briahanna Jackson started dribbling toward what appeared to be the wrong basket -- only it wasn’t. The Cardinals set up on their own end of the court to try to trick the Blue Devils into defending the wrong hoop. And it worked, as Jackson got a wide-open layup.

The Louisville players at the other end of the floor were even laughing prior to the play, but Duke still didn’t catch on to what was happening.

Marcelo Huertas hides behind Erik Spoelstra for surprise steal

Imagine an NBA player hiding behind an opposing coach in an attempt for a surprise steal and it actually working? Well, Marcelo Huertas pulled off just that as a member of the Lakers in March 2016. 

As teammate Lou Williams was attempting a free throw, Huertas hid behind Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra on the sideline. After the Heat rebounded the miss, Goran Dragic began dribbling up the court and Huertas came from out of nowhere for the swipe.

From the replay, it looks like Spoelstra may not have even been aware that Huertas was behind him.

Music City Miracle

The Buffalo Bills grabbed a one-point lead over the Tennessee Titans on a field goal with 16 seconds left in the 1999 AFC wild card round. Buffalo kicked the ball short back to Tennessee on the ensuing kickoff, with fullback Lorenzo Neal catching it at the 25-yard line.

Neal quickly handed the ball back to tight end Frank Wycheck, who took only a couple steps to his right before firing a pass cross-field to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Wycheck’s pass, along with a couple of lead blocks, allowed Dyson to run 75 yards untouched for the game-winning touchdown in what became known as the Music City Miracle.

The play, which the Titans called “home run throwback,” is even more legendary considering the backstory on it (courtesy of ESPN’s Turron Davenport). Dyson wasn’t originally supposed to be involved but was a late insertion due to a couple of Titans injuries. Since Dyson wasn’t versed at all in the play, Jeff Fisher broke down what to do during the TV timeout. The wideout didn’t exactly carry out his head coach’s instructions either as Fisher told Dyson to stay 10 yards behind Wycheck.

In an October 2021 game against the Bills, the Titans actually tried to recreate the Music City Miracle on a punt return. But there was no miracle the second time around.

Philly Special

“You want Philly, Philly?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

That was the interaction between Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and head coach Doug Pederson leading up to one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl history.

Faced with a fourth-and-goal before halftime of Super Bowl 52 against the New England Patriots, Foles suggested a play that would call for a direct snap to a running back followed by a reverse and a tight-end pass to Foles. Pederson concurred, and the rest is history.

Trey Burton’s touchdown pass to Foles helped Philadelphia take down the Pats for the franchise’s first ever Lombardi Trophy.

Like the Titans, the Eagles also tried to recreate the Philly Special against the San Francisco 49ers in 2021 and failed miserably.

Vince Carter appears to suffer injury, dunks seconds later

In addition to being a great dunker and scorer, Vince Carter was also a great actor.

During a February 2013 game against the Golden State Warriors, Carter appeared to suffer a lower-body injury on a missed jumper. The Dallas Mavericks collected the offensive rebound off the miss and began to wind down the second-quarter clock as Carter was limping around and hunched over in the corner.

Seemingly thinking Carter was too hurt to be a threat offensively, Harrison Barnes left the Mavs forward alone to double-team Elton Brand in the paint. Turns out, Carter was healthy enough to make a back-door cut and rise up for a two-handed slam.

The Warriors wound up winning the game, which had to be karma from the Basketball Gods for Vinsanity’s theatrics.

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