1995: The inaugural “Extreme Games” took place in Newport, Rhode Island. It was a fringe sports center for such fringe disciplines as skateboarding, skysurfing, downhill luge racing, bungee jumping, and BMX. Early critics considered the gravity-defying, white-knuckle X Games more stunts than sports, but audiences fell in love with its new brand of alternative athletes and their lunatic gall. Original corporate sponsors were basically a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Skater Needs: Mountain Dew, Taco Bell, and Advil.
1999: Tony Hawk landed the first-ever 900 in the Skateboard Best Trick event—an insane 2.5 revolution airborne spin. Hawk made 10 excruciating attempts to land this trick during regulation time, wiping out each try. Nevertheless, organizers granted him one more chance past the clock, and he stuck the landing on his 11th pass, taking first place.
2000: Dave Mirra became the first BMX rider to land a double backflip at the X Games. He plummeted down a 20-foot vert wall for speed, squared up for this highly anticipated trick, and sailed effortlessly through the rest of what has become a legendary run. In 2016 Mirra died, bringing attention to depression in athletes. He had been the first extreme sports star to be diagnosed with CTE, a condition brought on by repetitive brain trauma.
2003: With a mouthful of braces, 13-year-old Ryan Sheckler won the Skateboard Park event, becoming the youngest X Games gold medalist. He’s starred in his own MTV show, appeared in a Justin Bieber music video, and continues to skate to this day. Longtime X Games fans have pretty much watched this kid grow up. He kept his record until 2017, when Brighton Zuener took gold in Women’s Skateboard Park on her 13th birthday.
2009: Ashley Fiolek became the first deaf athlete to medal when she earned first place in Women’s Moto X Super X event. Her explosive debut at the X Games inspired subsequent generations of adaptive athletes, and her famous friendship with Iranian motocross racer Noora Naraghi encouraged women across the world to pursue extreme sports.
2012: BMX star Garrett Reynolds won his fourth street competition—which is remarkable, because at that point, there’d been only four of these events in X Games history. He went on to get one silver medal in 2013, but then quickly recovered to take gold in every BMX freestyle street event afterward. He’s more or less the most immaculate BMX rider in the world.
2017: By the time Brazilian skateboard master Bob Burnquist retired from the X Games at 40 years old, he’d racked up 30 medals (including 14 gold), making him the most decorated X Games athlete ever. Though Burnquist has medaled in every skateboard category, he was the undisputed king of Big Air, which involves taking an elevator to the top of a 70-foot-tall ramp and surrendering oneself to the mercy of gravity while throwing in some fancy tricks for good measure.