‘Jeopardy!’: Most Memorable Champions in Show History

by Madison Miller
Photo by: Eric McCandless/ABC via Getty Images JAMES HOLZHAUER, KEN JENNINGS, BRAD RUTTER

“Jeopardy!” is one of the most popular game shows in television history. It first started in 1964 as a daytime version. It has also outlived over 400 other game shows.

Alex Trebek was the beloved host starting in 1984 until he passed away in November. Now a former contestant, Ken Jennings, is the temporary host of the show.

There are over 8,000 episodes of the show, it has 39 Daytime Emmy Awards, and it is ranked as No. 45 out of TV Guide’s list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history.

As one of the most popular shows in television history, there are a number of noteworthy moments that longtime fans remember. One of the most recent touching moments was when a contestant wrote “We love you, Alex” as his Final Jeopardy answer. It was during Trebek’s final episodes as he battled pancreatic cancer.

Now Ken Jennings also ends each episode by saying “Thank you, Alex.”

What are some of the other champion moments fans will remember throughout the show’s history?

Ken Jennings

Ken Jennings is likely the most remembered of all the “Jeopardy!” contestants. This is partly because of how successful he was on the show as well as his current role as the host of the show.

Jennings started playing in 2004. His total winnings are $4,522,700, according to TV Insider. He also won the “Greatest of All Time” tournament to really cement him as one of the best contestants the show has ever seen.

According to TV Line, Jennings will wrap up his time as the host on Feb. 19. Then the executive producer of “Jeopardy!” Mike Richards will take over. Other upcoming guests will be Katie Couric, Aaron Rodgers, Bill Whitaker, Anderson Cooper and Mayim Bialik.

Jennings has taken every moment he could to honor the late Trebek. “Sharing this stage with Alex Trebek was one of the greatest honors of my life. Not many things in life are perfect, but Alex did this job pretty much perfectly for more than 36 years, and it was even better up close. We were dazzled by his intelligence, charm and grace,” he said during the first time he hosted.

James Holzhauer

James Holzhauer was in the headlines in 2019 when he went on an epic winning streak. He ended up with a total of $2,964,216 by the end of his 32-game streak.

Holzhauer was known for being particularly gutsy during his time on the show. He would often bet nearly all of his winnings at final Jeopardy to double the amount he earned.

He was also playing alongside Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at the “Greatest of All Time” tournament. Holzhauer was also known for writing little messages to his family on his Final Jeopardy answer card.

Brad Rutter

Brad Rutter was another contestant on the “Greatest of All Time” tournament, meaning he also had a pretty good record as well.

He played in 2000 and earned $5,153,436 during his five-game streak. At the time contestants could only play five games in a row, which is now no longer a rule.

Rutter has earned more than any other contestant on the show. Even Jennings is far behind his record-breaking amount.

Emma Boettcher

Emma Boettcher played in 2019 at the same time as James Holzhauer. She was most known for being the contestant to put an end to his 32-game winning streak.

Boettcher won a total of $198,002 for her time on the show and the Tournament of Champions. She had a four-game streak. Boettcher has the record for the highest single-day winnings for any female competitor.

Cindy Stowell

Cindy Stowell was on the show in 2016. She walked away with just $105,803 after a six-game winning streak.

Unfortunately, she passed away before her show aired. Stowell died from colon cancer. However, the show allowed her to watch copies of her episodes before she passed away.

Brayden Smith

One of the most recent champions of the show was Brayden Smith. According to HuffPost, he is referred to as “Alex’s Last Great Champion.” He won the show five times and was on some of the last episodes that Trebek was a part of.

Unfortunately, Smith passed away at the age of 24 on Feb. 5 unexpectedly.

On the show, he earned more than $115,000 and was looking forward to being on Tournament of Champions before he passed away.