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Evel Knievel: Daredevil

Published: 11/30/2012

Daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel sails over seven Mack trucks during a practice jump in the open-air Canadian national exhibition stadium in Toronto, Canada, in this Aug. 20, 1974, file photo. Knievel, the hard-living motorcycle daredevil whose exploits made him an international icon in the 1970s, died Friday, Nov. 30, 2007. He was 69. (AP Photo)

Daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel sails over seven Mack trucks during a practice jump in the open-air Canadian national exhibition stadium in Toronto, Canada, August 1974. (AP Photo) For more great photos, see our slideshow of the Greatest Daredevils of All Time.

If anyone in this world defined the concept of Daredevil, it was Evel Knievel.

Five years after the motorcycle great's death at age 69, we offer a look at his five most magnificent jumps. They weren't all successful – in fact, most of them ended in crashes. But that just brought Knievel more notoriety (and more broken bones – a Guinness-worthy total of 35).

5. Houston Astrodome. Knievel's two appearances at the Astrodome in 1971 were among his few legendary jumps that were actually successful. In classic Knievel form, he jumped 19 cars, setting a record that stood for 27 years. Another record Knievel set? Attendance at the Astrodome – he sold more than 100,000 tickets for his two-day appearance.

4. Wembley Stadium. In 1975, Knievel crossed the pond (though it was a bit too far to jump), making a much-publicized appearance at London's Wembley Stadium. There, he attempted to jump 13 city buses – single-decker buses, not the city’s famous double-decker ones. Despite the shorter buses, the attempt ended in a crash when Knievel failed to stick the landing. He broke his pelvis, announced his retirement, and insisted in walking out of the stadium on his own.

3. Kings Island. Knievel's retirement didn't last long. Just months after the Wembley jump, his injuries healed, Knievel announced that he was back in the game and would jump 14 Greyhound buses at Kings Island theme park in Ohio. The successful jump was televised and ranked as the all-time most-watched episode of ABC's Wide World of Sports.

2. Snake River Canyon. After years of attempting to secure permission to jump the Grand Canyon, Knievel gave up and set his sights on a different canyon. Idaho's Snake River Canyon was still wide enough that a standard motorcycle had no chance of clearing it, so Knievel made plans to take flight in the Skycycle X-2, which was a lot more like a rocket than a motorcycle. The 1974 jump was unsuccessful… but spectacular.

1. Caesar's Palace. It's hard to pick a single greatest Evel Knievel jump, but his Caesar's Palace appearance seems to be the most likely contender. One of his earlier jumps, the 1967 stunt brought Knievel his worldwide fame. As he attempted to jump the Caesar's Palace fountains, he came up short, crashed, and suffered multiple broken bones and a concussion that kept him in a coma for almost a month. He also got televised on ABC's Wide World of Sports for the first time and launched (literally!) his longstanding career in daredevilry. It was the first of many amazing jumps.

Written by Linnea Crowther

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