The 2024 Summer Olympic Games are on the horizon, and of course, there’s excitement about the event. The best of the best are preparing to give their all on the highest level of sports. With the Games’ rich history of unforgettable moments, you can be sure that there won’t be a shortage of new ones in this year’s competition.

Black athletes have made incredible contributions to the Olympics and created some of the most memorable moments in sports history during the competition. As we gear up for this year’s Summer Games, let’s pay homage to some of the greatest Olympians and reflect on their most classic moments.

1. Jesse Owens wins gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in front of Hitler

There is a significant mashup of culture and politics at the Olympic Games. It’s a part of its appeal and what makes it so unique. There is no shortage of differences between countries’ political views, but in the world of sports, there is an understanding. Sports -- like music -- are a unifier. However, one of the more glaring juxtapositions that we’ve seen occurred at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Jesse Owens won his first of four gold medals in the 100-meter dash in 10.3 seconds while Adolf Hitler watched him defeat his country’s team. Hitler was to meet and shake hands with all the gold medalists, according to the International Olympic Committee. After only meeting with the German medalists in what was seen as poor sportsmanship, the IOC admonished him. It seemed as if Hitler wanted to only honor his own people at the games.

However, it was reported that after Owens’ win, he and the infamous dictator shared in a “congratulatory wave.”

2. Jackie Joyner-Kersee's historic performance at the 1988 Seoul Olympics

1988 was an amazing year for Jackie Joyner-Kersee. In the Olympic Games that year, she took home two gold medals — one for the long jump and the other for the heptathlon. Joyner-Kersee still holds the record for the highest score in an Olympic heptathlon at 7,291 points. The impact of her win was two-fold. Certainly, she wowed spectators at the event and brought home gold for Team USA, but beyond that, she became a bit of a household name. As it’s often said, representation matters, and she represented the best parts of who we are.

3. Muhammad Ali’s debut at the 1960 Rome Olympics

For many boxers, the Olympics is where they get to showcase their talents on a grand stage for the first time. As an amateur, the Games are a great way to measure just how far along your skills are. It was no different for Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, as he embarked on his storied boxing career. During the Rome Olympics in 1960, he dominated his competition in the light heavyweight division. Ultimately, Clay defeated Zbigniew Pietrzykowski, a three-time European Olympic champion. This win gave the famed boxer much notoriety before turning pro in October 1960.

4. Michael Johnson sets new records at 1996 Atlanta Olympics

Michael Johnson won gold medals at three Olympic Games: Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. However, he grabbed the nation's attention at the 1996 event in Atlanta during the 200-meter and 400-meter races. With his upright stride, Johnson set a record of 19.32 seconds in the 200-meter race at the time. It’s always more special for athletes to win for their country on home soil.

5. Team USA’s loss to the Soviet Union at the 1988 Seoul Olympics

It might seem weird to include a loss on this list of winning moments, but this is a classic and provided an impetus for Team USA to begin taking their basketball plan more seriously. In 1988, the Soviet Union defeated the U.S., whose roster boasted young stars Mitch Richmond and David Robinson. Of course, the expectation was that Team USA would prevail. However, there were other programs with more talent and experience. Without this loss, we would have never gotten the 1992 Dream Team in Barcelona.

6. Sugar Ray Leonard gives Andres Aldama a boxing clinic at the 1976 Montreal Olympics

Sugar Ray Leonard is another legend of the squared circle. Ironically enough, George Foreman provided color commentary as Leonard defeated Andres Aldama from Cuba. The decision was a technical knockout in the final round. After this bout and a brief retirement, the North Carolina-born athlete went pro in 1977. He went on to be one of the most memorable boxers of all time.

7. Tommie Smith and John Carlos do the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

In the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 1968 Olympics was a unique event for Team USA. During the men’s 200-meter race, two Black Americans received medals. Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze respectively, and the silver medal went to Australia’s Peter Norman. All three men adorned an Olympics Project For Human Rights badge on their jackets. However, Smith and Carlos saw it fit to take their message a step further.

They decided to put up their fists for a Black Power salute to show solidarity with the struggles of Black people in the United States. At the time, the IOC didn’t revere the moment. The show of solidarity was seen as a political statement the committee believed had no place in the Olympics. Thus, both Smith and Carlos were suspended from the rest of the games and banned from the Olympic village.

Of course, we look back at this moment with a different lens nowadays. It’s statements like these that have helped nudge society forward, albeit at a turtle’s speed.

8. The Dream Team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

The 1992 Dream Team was deemed so because of its sheer star power. In 1988, Team USA sent collegiate stars to the Olympics while the rest of the world sent their pros. After their loss, there was a philosophical overhaul to how Team USA Basketball would approach the event. The United States stepped up their game and sent their pros, running the table from start to finish with stars like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

9. Muhammad Ali lights the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics

The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta had a special hometown flare to it, and a lot of it was due to the opening ceremonies. Thirty-six years prior to this event, Ali won at the 1960 Olympics as an up-and-coming boxer. To close the opening ceremonies, Ali received the Olympic torch last and had the honor of lighting the flame for the 1996 event. Most importantly, he did so in a city like Atlanta, where Jim Crow laws once ran rampant — the types of laws that Ali used his voice to fight to change. Even with the shakes, Ali showed his perseverance in this moment, and lit the flame to a thunderous ovation.

10. Usain Bolt at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Quite possibly the best to ever do it, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won gold at three Olympic Games. However, his final race was arguably his most emotional. Athletes often have a short shelf life performing at the top of their crafts, and the level of sacrifice and dedication involved when it comes to training is massive. He knew that the time had come for him to move on. Most impressively, he didn’t run his best race. Bolt didn’t beat the world record, but he won handily, which spoke to his level of greatness.

11. Gabby Douglas’ gold medal performance at the 2012 London Olympics

Team USA Gymnastics has such a rich roster of talent. Gabby Douglas got the attention of the nation when she won gold in London at the 2012 competition. Although we may chuckle at her version of “The Dougie,” her competitive spirit was no laughing matter. She helped her country’s team maintain their dominance over the world competition with grace and fervor.

12. Simone Biles’ final floor routine at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Simone Biles is a household name because of her expert ability to rise to the occasion. A professional at her core, she helped continue the greatness of Team USA Gymnastics in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio. Winning gold in her floor finals performance helped skyrocket Biles to fame, carving her name in history and into our hearts.

13. Team USA Basketball wins bronze at the 2004 Athens Olympics

A pivotal moment in the lineage of Team USA Basketball was their bronze win at the 2004 games in Athens. Facing the pressures of bringing home another gold medal, Team USA simply couldn’t put enough good games together with a poorly constructed roster. This moment is remembered as one they never want to experience again. It humbled them, and it also was a coming out party for the game on a world stage. Basketball had then become a global entity, and competition from there on out would be as fierce as ever.

14. Carl Lewis wins gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics

Carl Lewis began to make his name in the 1980s in track and field. He boycotted the 1980 event due to it taking place in the Soviet Union, but when the Olympics came to the United States in 1984, Lewis was ready for the challenge. He hit the racetrack to win his first of many medals in his Olympic career. That year, he took home the gold in the 100-meter and 200-meter races, the 4x100-meter relay, and the long jump.

15. The Redeem Team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

Redemption was the name of the game for the 2008 Redeem Team. Playing on its 1992 Olympic predecessor, Team USA Basketball sought to regain its global prominence in the sport. The goal was simply to correct all the mistakes from 2004. Personnel was a top priority, and team chemistry was going to be necessary to win. Not to mention, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James didn’t want to be associated with what was deemed a failure. So, in their Finals match against Team Spain, Team USA rose to the occasion with veteran Kobe Bryant hitting some of the timeliest buckets to walk away with the win. It’s safe to say that Spain learned up close what “Mamba mentality” was all about.