Five Most Memorable Sport Events Held in New Orleans

New Orleans

The dust has barely settled on Super Bowl LVIII and already we are looking forward to Super Bowl LIX. It seems like a lifetime ago when the Super Bowl was about as exciting as a plate of undressed nachos. The NFC team usually ended up beating the tar out of the AFC team, or sometimes the other way around. You were lucky – unless you were a Buffalo Bills fan – to have a game like Super Bowl XXV, when the New York Giants beat Buffalo 20-19 after Scott Norwood’s field-goal attempt went wide right with four seconds to go.


Nearly every Super Bowl is a banger these days. We just witnessed another crazy game between Kansas City and San Francisco, with Patrick Mahomes and the defending champs beating the Niners (–2) 25-22 in overtime. Will they meet again next February at Super Bowl LIX in New Orleans?

It could happen. Just the other day, Kansas City overtook San Francisco on top of the NFL odds board at Bodog Sportsbook, jumping from +750 to +500 in early action. The Niners have slipped into second place at +600, down from +550 in the aftermath of Super Bowl LVIII.

Whichever teams make it to the Big Easy next year, Super Bowl LIX should be one heck of a show. But will it be one of the best sporting events ever held in New Orleans? The competition is fierce, as you can tell with our latest top five list here at Bodog.

5. Lexington vs. Lecomte

We start by going way back in time to 1855, when New Orleans was the mecca for horse racing in the United States. Metairie Course was one of four major tracks in the Big Easy, built in 1838 on the banks of the former Bayou Metairie. Over 20,000 rabid fans would pack the grandstand to watch the top thoroughbreds of the day.

No horse shone brighter than Lexington. Officially, this Louisiana-bred bay colt (originally named Darley) raced only seven times, winning six of those, but Lexington’s rivalry with Lecomte – the only horse ever to beat him on the track – was the stuff of legends.

When Lexington and Lecomte duelled at Metairie on April 14, 1855, the tensions were at a fever pitch. It didn’t turn out to be much of a contest; Lexington won the first heat, covering the four miles in 7:23, and Lecomte was pulled before the second.

That was the beginning of the end for the Metairie track. It was purchased in 1872 by a vindictive Charles T. Howard, the “Lottery King” of Louisiana, who had been refused membership in the Metairie Race Course Association the year previous. Howard shut down the track and turned it into a cemetery, which remains in place today.

4. Leonard vs. Duran II

Not only was New Orleans the centre of the horse racing world, it was also the birthplace of boxing as we know it. Arguably the first-ever world heavyweight championship bout was fought in 1870 in the suburb of Kennerville (now Kenner) between “Gypsy” Jem Mace and Tom Allen – although that was a bare-knuckles fight. John L. Sullivan and “Gentleman” Jim Corbett launched the modern era when they donned the gloves at Olympic Club Arena in 1892.

Instead of those landmark fights, we turn to the welterweight division for the most famous boxing match ever held in the Big Easy. Of the three bouts between “Sugar” Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, their second fight on November 25, 1980 at the Superdome was also a bit of a downer, but still the most famous chapter of their rivalry. This was the fight where Duran reportedly said “No más” in the eighth round, allowing Leonard to retain the WBC welterweight crown.

It was actually a close contest up to that point. Duran, who narrowly won their first bout at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, was down 68-66, 68-66 and 67-66 when he turned to referee Octavio Meyran and gave up. According to Duran, he actually muttered “No sigo, no sigo, no sigo” (“I’m not carrying on”) to himself, and not the two words that broadcaster Howard Cosell claimed he’d said.

Either way, like Lecomte before him, Duran was never quite the same after this loss. There were still two more title victories to come over Davey Moore in 1983, and Iran Barkley in 1989, but the shine was off Duran. Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns beat him in back-to-back fights, and Leonard dominated their third encounter in 1989, earning an easy unanimous decision at The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip.

3. 1982 NCAAB National Championship Game

Basketball hasn’t had much success in New Orleans over the years – remember the New Orleans Jazz (now in Utah), or the Buccaneers from the ABA? With the NBA’s current structure in place, the Pelicans will probably survive, but college hoops is where it’s at in the Big Easy, especially if you’re a supporter of the Tulane Green Wave.

The real star of the show is the Superdome. This venue has held the Final Four bracket for March Madness on six occasions, most recently in 2022, but it was the 1982 Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament that saw the biggest fireworks. The North Carolina Tar Heels, top seed in the East Region, faced the No. 1 Georgetown Hoyas from the West Region in the National Championship Game. Final score: North Carolina 63, Georgetown 62.

The matchup itself was epic. Over 60,000 fans were there for the first Final Four ever in a domed stadium, and they would see the lead change hands 15 times in this close contest. But this game’s place in history has only grown over the years, thanks to the NBA careers of the players involved: Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins for the Tar Heels, plus Patrick Ewing and Earl “Sleepy” Floyd for the Hoyas.

2. 1979 Sugar Bowl

College football is still big in the Big Easy, although it’s No. 2 on our list now that the NFL is the King of All Sports. It didn’t help when the NCAA decided in 1998 to take the spotlight off New Year’s Day and make the annual Sugar Bowl (established in 1935) one of four bowls in the rotation for the BCS National Championship Game – and one of six for the CFP title game, which first touched down at the Superdome in 2020.

Not that they always played for the national title at the Sugar Bowl. But this is the third-oldest active bowl game on the schedule, with a rich tradition that dates all the way back to the third iteration of Tulane Stadium (1926-1980). They’ve been playing at the Superdome since 1975, Hurricane Katrina (2006) notwithstanding. Of all the Sugar Bowls, the 1979 game between the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions and No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide stands proud as the best of the bunch.

Penn State, coached by Joe Paterno, was undefeated heading into January 1, but Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Crimson Tide were the 1-point favourites despite going 10-1. It was expected to be a defensive battle, and it was, leading to seven turnovers and 20 punts – 10 for each team. But Alabama’s wishbone offense was confounding enough for the Tide to pull out the 14-7 victory and win the championship.

1. Super Bowl XXXVI

Finally, we come to the Big Game itself. We could have made this list entirely of Super Bowls held in New Orleans, with 10 from which to choose. Tulane Stadium played host three times, then the Superdome for the following seven.

Chances are the one you remember is the most recent one: Super Bowl XLVII, where Beyonce performed at the Halftime Show, and the power went out during the third quarter. That was indeed a strong candidate for our list, with the Baltimore Ravens eking out a 34-31 win over the 49ers.

But as you can see, we’re going with Super Bowl XXXVI instead. This was the game on February 3, 2002 that started the New England Patriots’ dynasty. Facing “The Greatest Show on Turf,” aka the former champion St. Louis Rams, the Patriots were 14-point underdogs at the close, led by a fresh-faced Tom Brady taking over at quarterback for Drew Bledsoe.

Kurt Warner and the Rams did indeed rack up some serious yardage on New England – 427 yards in total. But they also coughed up the ball three times, keeping the game close enough for PK Adam Vinatieri to nail the game-winning field goal in a 20-17 final.

Super Bowl XXXVI has added significance because it was the first after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. U2, back when they still commanded respect, performed the Halftime Show; Mariah Carey, also still in her prime, sang the National Anthem, while president George W. Bush and former Dallas Cowboys QB Roger Staubach handled the coin toss.



Let’s hope Super Bowl LIX is even more memorable, and for less dramatic reasons. You can bet on it right now at Bodog Sportsbook. Check out our NFL odds page for the latest on the futures market, and we’ll see you in New Orleans.