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O. J. Simpson (Feb. 25, 1978)
Why him?: His Hall of Fame football career was winding down — Buffalo dealt him to San Francisco one month later — but Simpson was already a famous face to TV and movie audiences, appearing in The Towering Inferno, Roots, and running through airports for Hertz commercials. Simpson got a few laughs on SNL, but not as many as the show would get at his expense two decades later.
Most Memorable: ''Celebrity Battle of the Sexes and Races,'' which pitted Simpson and heavyweight champ Leon Spinks against Sandy Duncan and Marie Osmond. —Jeff Labrecque
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John Madden (Jan. 30, 1982)
Why him?: The championship-winning ex-coach and Miller Lite pitchman was just beginning his reign as football's pre-eminent TV analyst — he'd just announced his first Super Bowl. In fact, an SNL film crew followed the famously flight averse coach on his train ride from Detroit to New York.
Most Memorable: Madden was best just being himself, especially when he told old football stories about some of his outlaw Raiders. He saved his best joke, though, for producer Dick Ebersol, who he told strait-faced after rehearsal that he didn't want to do the show. Ebersol said he almost had a heart attack before Madden broke out in smile. —Jeff Labrecque
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Howard Cosell (April 13, 1985)
Why him?: The loquacious, pontificating broadcaster famously had launched a rival late-night show back in 1975, titled... Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell. When his show quickly tanked, SNL, then called just Saturday Night, swiped the longer title.
Most Memorable: You're not. Going. To believe this. But the cast made fun of Cosell's loud, nasally, staccato delivery, especially during a Cosell family bar-mitzvah sketch. —Jeff Labrecque
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Joe Montana (Jan. 24, 1987)
Why him?: San Francisco's star QB already had two Super Bowls under his belt, and his weekend was open after the Giants literally had knocked him out of the game and ended the 49ers season just weeks earlier.
Most Memorable: Montana played Phil Hartman's earnest, bland roommate in a sketch where each characters' thoughts could be heard. In the end, Joe Montana, a.k.a. Joe Cool, excused himself and announced his intention to go masturbate. I'm sure his teammates never gave him a hard time about that! —Jeff Labrecque
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Michael Jordan (Sept. 28, 1991)
Why him?: Basketball's most recognizable star — and Nike's shoe-selling machine — had finally won an NBA championship, the first of six.
Most Memorable: In ''Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley,'' Al Franken's clueless self-help guru got the NBA's MVP to say, ''I don't have to dribble the ball fast and throw it in the basket.'' Gosh darn it, people do like him. —Jeff Labrecque
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George Foreman (Dec. 17, 1994)
Why him?: The 45-year-old boxer had just regained the heavyweight title, 20 years after losing it to Muhammad Ali. Foreman 2.0 was a grinning teddy bear who'd endeared himself to talk-show hosts and, later, health-conscious grilling aficionados.
Most Memorable: For one sketch, Foreman travelled back in time to box an overmatched Adolf Hitler (Mike Myers). —Jeff Labrecque
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Deion Sanders (Feb. 18, 1995)
Why him?: Sanders had just gotten his first Super Bowl ring with the San Francisco 49ers, so it seemed like the right time for the man nicknamed Prime Time to head to another big stage.
Most Memorable: The great American two-sport athlete had a historically miserable outing as host, never more embarrassing than the tone-deaf ''Simple Rappers'' sketch. —Darren Franich
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Derek Jeter (Dec. 1, 2001)
Why him?: The Yankees shortstop was recovering from a stinging World Series defeat, but he still may have been the biggest celebrity of any kind in New York at the time — as well as one of sport's most eligible bachelors.
Most Memorable: Jeter scored in drag, playing a teammate's wife in one sketch, but his best bit was a testy Weekend Update exchange with Red Sox partisan, Seth Meyers. —Jeff Labrecque
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Jeff Gordon (Jan. 11, 2003)
Why Him?: The fact that he was without a doubt NASCAR's biggest mainstream star qualified him to be the first driver to host the show.
Most Memorable: We're going to have to go with his perseverance in that uncomfortable (and unfunny) opening monologue bit.
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Tom Brady (April 16, 2005)
Why him?: New England's star quarterback had just won his third Super Bowl title. He was dating a beautiful actress, Bridget Moynahan, and he woke up every morning looking like Tom Brady.
Most Memorable: Most jocks take the easy road on SNL, but Brady sang and danced during his opening monologue — despite fair warnings from the cast. It wasn't pretty — but it was brave and set the tone for a fun show that took chances with its star. —Jeff Labrecque
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Lance Armstrong (Oct. 29, 2005)
Why him?: Armstrong had just dropped the mic on a brilliant career, retiring from cycling after his second Tour de France victory. In hindsight, his stilted hosting gig may have been a sign of the rough days ahead for Armstrong.
Most Memorable: The sketch in which Armstrong composes a song for then-fiancée Sheryl Crow. —Darren Franich
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Peyton Manning (March 24, 2007)
Why him?: The quarterback and true-life Steve Rogers analog had just won the Super Bowl.
Most Memorable: But his real triumph came later, when he became the rare athlete host on SNL to not embarrass himself. Heck, he was downright charming — never more so than in a Kenny Powers-esque Digital Short when he plays football with a group of kids... and becomes very, very competitive. —Darren Franich
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LeBron James (Sept. 29, 2007)
Why him?: In those happy long-ago days before the controversial move to Miami, James was coming off a great almost-championship season with the Cavs and seemed in the mood to spoof his image.
Most Memorable: James' monologue — or rather ''LeBronologue'' — is one for the ages, with James pulling an Eddie Murphy and playing every member of his family. —Darren Franich
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Michael Phelps (Sept. 13, 2008)
Why him?: Phelps had just confirmed his status as the proof-of-concept for human evolution at the 2008 Olympic games, where he won like 90 gold medals and beat the Soviets or whatever.
Most Memorable: He had the good fortune to host the same evening that Tina Fey debuted her Sarah Palin impression, thus assuring that no one would ever talk about just how terrible a host Michael Phelps was. Until now, at least. —Darren Franich
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Charles Barkley (Sept. 25, 1993 and Jan. 7, 2012)
Why him?: Barkley had just been declared an MVP before his first hosting gig in 1993. He hosted again earlier this year because, well, he's Charles Barkley.
Most Memorable: Always game for anything, Barkley didn't really impress either time, but give him some credit for doing a spot-on Shaq impression. —Darren Franich