Carl Lewis is one of the greatest athletes in American sports history. His resume, including nine Olympic gold medals, is truly remarkable. There was nothing he couldn’t do in track and field, but the man was far from perfect outside of his element.
For whatever reason, somebody thought it would be a good idea to have Lewis sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” before a 1993 NBA game between the New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls. He was fresh off winning two gold medals in Barcelona the summer before and was easily one of the most recognizable athletes at that time. But singing? Really?
Lewis’ rendition of the national anthem, for better or worse, is iconic, but it’s impossible to keep a straight face through it all. It’s still funny almost three decades later.
Carl Lewis National Anthem Fail
Whether it’s the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, or any other United States sporting event, a national anthem performance almost always starts things off. It’s a tradition unlike any other. What happened that night in New Jersey will be remembered more for its failure than its success.
At first, Carl Lewis was grooving. The Olympic track star obviously wasn’t the best singer in the world, but he was feeling it. Then, as they say, the wheels fell completely off the bus.
Lewis’ voice cracked during “AND THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE” and was hilariously forced to pause. He even promised the crowd he would make up for the blunder at the end at the anthem.
Thankfully, Lewis was able to to finish his rendition without too much laughter in the arena. The best jokes, however, came in the aftermath, and none were better than ESPN anchor Charley Steiner.
Steiner barely made it through his introduction to the clip without cracking up, but his contagious laugh after it ended was too good. He even got the classic one-liner off, saying Lewis’ performance was “written by Francis Scott Off-Key.”
Over two decades later in 2016, Lewis went on a “Where Are They Now?” segment on the Oprah Winfrey Network to admit he was under the weather that night and discuss what his famous blunder did for his career.
“I’m actually glad it happened because it’s a part of your journey. And the great thing about it, kids will come up and they’ll say, “Oh, I saw your anthem, but I didn’t realize you were that fast.’”
Performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of the thousands of people is not easy. So many others have experienced failures on the big stage.
Christina Aguilera messed up the words at Super Bowl XLV. Fergie’s performance at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game was something… different. Roseanne Barr just screamed into a microphone at a San Diego Padres game for undoubtedly the worst national anthem performances of all time.
During the coronavirus pandemic and COVID-19 outbreak, it’s sometimes hard to find something sports-related to smile about. But if you need a quick laugh and pick-me-up, turn on Carl Lewis’ national anthem or watch his atrocious first pitch.
Those two things alone should cheer anyone up.