Jim Brown dies at 87: Five greatest moments from the Hall of Famer’s iconic NFL career
The sports world said goodbye to an all-time icon on Thursday, with former NFL star Jim Brown dying at 87. The Hall of Fame running back, a three-time MVP and nine-time Pro Bowler, retired as one of the most accomplished players in the game. He then went on to a prestigious off-field career, starring as both an actor and civil rights activist.
Many of Brown’s biggest fans, of course, emerged as a result of his relentless play-making with the Cleveland Browns. With that in mind, here’s a look back at five of the greatest moments to mark Brown’s historic NFL career:
Rushes for record 237 yards vs. Rams
Season: 1st | Date: Nov. 24, 1957
It didn’t take long for the Syracuse product to make a name for himself in the pros. Just nine games into his rookie season, Brown ripped off 237 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries to headline a 45-31 win over the Rams. It was the largest single-game rushing total of any player in NFL history, and not until four decades later did another rookie eclipse the mark.
Matches single-game rushing record vs. Eagles
Season: 5th | Date: Nov. 19, 1961
Brown ran for “just” 99 yards against Philadelphia in Week 1 of his fifth season, but two months later, he rewrote history by matching his own record for single-game rushing yards, hitting 237 (to go along with four TDs) in a pre-Thanksgiving blowout of Philadelphia. The big day helped keep Brown on track for his fourth 1,200-yard rushing season in as many years.
77-yard TD catch vs. Bears
Season: 5th | Date: Dec. 10, 1961
Perhaps the defining play of Brown’s Hall of Fame career, this one came in a tight late-season loss to Chicago, but not for lack of effort from No. 32. Fielding a short pass inside Cleveland’s own 15-yard line, Brown shook off no fewer than five different Bears defenders while working the sideline, then outracing the entire Chicago secondary for the first score of the game. Best of all, he made the whole thing looked effortless in an era that predated the prevalence of pass-catching running backs.
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83-yard TD catch vs. Washington
Season: 7th | Date: Sept. 15, 1963
If Brown’s catch-and-run against the Bears is the most memorable, then his encore against Washington two years later is perhaps his most impressive. In year seven, with well over 1,500 career touches already on his odometer, Brown took another dump-off pass and this time casually bounced off at least four would-be tacklers before breaking into an easy 83-yard sprint for a score. The TD was a reminder of how simple he made the spectacular, and sparked a blowout season-opening victory.
Leads Browns’ NFL Championship win
Season: 8th | Date: Dec. 27, 1964
Brown once famously said that “yardage isn’t the big thing; having your team win the championship is.” At the tail end of the Browns’ 10-3-1 campaign of 1964, the superstar enjoyed the best of both worlds. Up against Don Shula, Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in the league title game, Brown led both sides with 114 yards on the ground, keeping Cleveland in control of a 27-0 shutout victory and securing the franchise’s most recent NFL championship.