Underdogs, the opposition that no one expects to win. Supernatural records, the kind that seems impossible to break. Legacy, moments that will live on forever. All of these attributes combine to make sports what it is. Every once in a while, these underdogs will shock us. Those amazing records will be broken. And legacies are tarnished. Here are some of the most shocking moments in sports that not even the players themselves expected.
The Unexpected Leicester Wins Premier League
If you ever want to know what a longshot championship season looks like, just refer back the 2015-16 Leicester team. Not only did they defy all odds of winning the championship, (5,000-to-1!) they also made franchise history by winning their first trophy. Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all had off years. This allowed the small market team to seize the moment.
This all happened 12 months after finishing 14th in the prior season. Has there ever been a higher leap in dominance in sports before?
Miracle On Ice
One of the greatest miracles to date happened at the 1980 WInter Olympics. No one could have foreseen the victory that the American Olympic hockey team pulled off. Going up against the strong team from the Soviet Union, there is no other way to describe this but to label it a miracle.
The U.S. team was filled with college players and amateurs while the Soviet Union team had been on top for years. Many American fans even wondered if their team would be able to score. But oh, how the table turned. Team USA ended up winning 4-3 and etched their spot in history.
A 55-Year-Old Record Falls
During the 2016-17 NBA season, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook had been playing like a man possessed. Kevin Durant had just left him to join the Warriors and Westbrook played every game with a chip on his shoulder. As the season progressed, he was collecting triple-doubles (double-digit statistics in three statistical categories) like they were nothing.
The Nuggets were playing hard, with a chance to make the playoffs. If they were to lose, they would be eliminated. The game was on the line and the Thunder got the ball to Westbrook, who sunk the long-range three-pointer for the win. Westbrook accomplished three things: He hit an amazing game-winner, eliminated the Nuggets from playoff contention and landed his record-breaking, 42nd triple-double for the season. A record that was 55 years in the making.
Rousey Loses In Dramatic Fashion
PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty ImagesRonda Rousey single-handedly brought the UFC the long-awaited recognition that it had deserved. The way she was confidently winning her matches and using her platform to represent strong women in the media were just a few of the things that made her the golden child of UFC. That is until she faced Holly Holm at UFC 193.
Rousey had been a lock to defend her title and there were no questions about it. The boxing specialist Holm put an end to the dominate Rousey talks and started a new narrative in UFC; anyone can be defeated. A second-round kick ended this bout.
The Wolverines Get Cut
Heading into the 2003 college football season, the Michigan Wolverines were ranked number five in the preseason polls and they had National Championship hopes. They were starting the season on a lighter note by playing the Division 1-AA Appalachian State Mountaineers. No one thought so much would be at stake before the game started.
Quarterback Armanti Edwards led the Mountaineers to a shocking 34-32 victory. Not only were college football fans stunned but the sporting population as a whole was. A smaller school coming in and beating the Wolverines like that on opening day was something else.
Tracy McGrady Loses His Mind
The Houston Rockets had just acquired Tracy McGrady for the 2004-05 season. McGrady was excited about the idea of winning championships with all-star Yao Ming. The team would do great things in the future but what McGrady did on December 9, 2004, might be the greatest comeback performed in half-a-minute.
They needed 13 points to win against the great San Antonia Spurs and that is what McGrady provided in 33 seconds. He scored four three-pointers in that time frame, including an And-one that resulted in a four-point play. The final three-pointer would be the game-winner. Just look at it like this, he scored another players season average in 33 seconds. As well as hit the game-winner.
Buster Knocks Tyson
Hopefully, you are aware of who Mike Tyson is. He is more than just a cameo in a movie. He used to be one of the most ruthless heavyweight boxers of all-time. He was quoted one time saying “if I don’t kill him, it don’t count”. Imagine stepping into the ring with someone that huge who says things of that nature.
Heading into his February 1990 bout with Buster Douglas, Tyson was the 42-1 favorite to win. This was one of the most surprising upsets in sports history when Douglas knocked out Tyson. His three heavyweight titles were lost in the process.
Frank Reich Does The Impossible
How many quarterbacks can say they pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NFL playoff history? Frank Reich can say it. Reich was the backup when the playoffs started but when the starter got injured, he stepped up in the Wild Card round against the Oilers. By the third quarter, his team was down 35-3. By the time the clock had expired in regulation, the game was tied and they went on to win in overtime.
He led the Bills to another playoff victory but by the AFC Championship game, the real starter had returned and Reich went back to the bench. He would never become a starter and just played backup for the rest of his career.
Did You Bet On Mark?
The 1976 Australian Open had so many different favorites to win. In fact, there were at least 211 other players that had a better chance at winning than Mark Edmonson. He came into the open ranked a measly 212 in the world and that included a handful of other Australians ahead of him.
Edmonson battled through the earlier rounds and they were far from easy. Then he worked his way up to the number one seed Ken Rosewall in the semi-finals where he would handle his business. After that, he took on the top-ranked Australian John Newcombe. He ended up securing the title which was highly improbable for him. No Australian has won the Australian Open since then.
All It Took Was 0.4 Seconds
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe Lakers were on a quest to win yet another championship after acquiring aging Karl Malone and the older Gary Payton in the 2003-04 season. After beating the Timberwolves in the prior playoff series, they had their hands full with the San Antonio Spurs in the next series.
After both sides had won two games apiece, the very decisive game five came down to 0.4 seconds and the Lakers down two. With Kobe Bryant on the team, everyone was sure that is where the ball was going. But then in a surprising turn of events, point guard Derek Fisher caught the inbound ball and threw up a prayer. Count it, ref.
Bolt’s Legacy Tarnished?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF
Usain Bolt’s record in races that mattered was untouched. The Jamaican sprinter had emphatically won every major championship and Olympic race since the time he won in China back in 2008. And for those who follow Bolt, they all know he steps it up on the big stage too. So when the 2017 World Championships came, Justin Gatlin won, and it just felt wrong.
Fans were booing, but when Bolt started his honor lap, some started to cheer. It was a strange environment to be in after witnessing the greatest sprinter of all time lose his final 100-meter race. A race he had dominated and broke several records in. “I remember after losing the 100m someone said to me, ‘Usain, no worries, Muhammad Ali lost his last fight also, so don’t be stressed about that’,” Bolt said.
The Perfect Season Incomplete
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesThe dominance of the New England Patriots during the 2007 regular season was evident. They had just picked up Hall of Fame receiver Randy Moss during the offseason so Tom Brady had a great target to throw to. They skated through the season, going undefeated at 16-0 and were on a path to complete the perfect season.
That is when the New York Giants stepped in during the Super Bowl to shut all that noise out. The Giants had a regular season record of 10-6 and had barely made it into the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. But a blind pass to David Tyree who caught the ball with his helmet saved the game for the Giants and would end up being the biggest play en route to the Giants winning Super Bowl XLII.
Warriors Drop The Ball
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesIts no secret the Golden State Warriors were a monster of a team during the 2015-16 season. They broke the Chicago Bulls’ record for the best regular season when they went 73-9. They were the clear favorites heading into the playoffs. But a man named LeBron James and his pal Kyrie Irving had something to say about this.
The Warriors took a commanding 3-1 lead in the finals and all hope looked lost for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then the Cavs went on and won two straight games forcing a game seven, win-or-go-home battle. The game was close the whole time and when a clutch basket was needed, Irving provided the most clutch three-pointer, statistically speaking, in NBA finals history. James made true to his promise of bringing a championship back home to Cleveland and there are memes still out there today on how the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the finals.
The Spartans Keep Up The Fight
In 2006, the biggest comeback in NCAA Division 1 football had been completed by the Michigan State Spartans. The Spartans were facing the Northwestern Wildcats and both of them ended up proving that they knew how to score in bunches. With only ten minutes left in the third quarter, the Spartans looked to be defeated.
Trailing 38-3, there really wasn’t much else that Michigan could have done. Except they rallied and got it done. Scoring 38 unanswered points, the Spartans completed the biggest comeback in D-1 history and shocked the Wildcat fan base.
Nova Takes Down Georgetown
Entering the 1985 final of the NCAA basketball championship, Georgetown was surely the favorite to cut down the nets at the end. Not only did they win the previous year, they also had future NBA star, Patrick Ewing on the team. Meanwhile, Villanova was looking to become the first number eight seed to win the tournament.
You knew it was going to be a long day for Georgetown as Villanova would shoot at an extremely efficient rate (they made 78.6 percent of their shots). That mark is good for one of the best in college basketball history. Their efforts pushed them to a 66-64 win that no one could have predicted.
First Ever “Walk-Off” Touchdown
In the finals three minutes of the 2018 playoff matchup between the Vikings and the Saints, there were four lead changes. That is the same number of lead changes that occur throughout an entire game on most occasions. If you were watching this game, you felt the pressure of what was on the line; both teams were fighting to get one step away from the Super Bowl.
Wikings receiver Stefon Diggs was able to shake loose from rookie Marcus Williams and at this moment, Williams accidentally hit the other player coming to help instead of Diggs. This was the first-ever walk-off touchdown in playoff history.
The Super-Team Loses
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesLeBron James went from the face of the NBA to the villain when he had announced he would be leaving his hometown and heading to the Miami Heat. He joined forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and the newly formed team was instantly the favorite to win it all.
They hit a couple of bumps throughout the regular season but once they found their groove, it was over for the competition. Making it the finals as everyone thought, they would face the veteran and savvy Dallas Mavericks led by Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk and the Mavs ended up winning in six games. It left many laughing at James for leaving and getting the same results had he stayed in Cleveland.
Brady Is The New Man In Charge
TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty ImagesHeading into Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots had second-year quarterback Tom Brady at the helm. Drew Bledsoe had been knocked out by a hit so Bill Belichick went with Brady to lead them through the playoffs. They reached the Super Bowl and were set to face “The Greatest Show on Turf” aka the St. Louis Rams.
The Patriots ended up handling the Rams but who saw that coming? Thanks to a 48-yard, game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri, a new legend was born. From then on out the Patriots have been on a dynasty run like no other.
Duke Strikes Back
Brian Bahr/ALLSPORTIt had been the fourth matchup of the season for Maryland and Duke. And as it would turn out, the matchup in the Final Four would be the biggest one yet. After taking a huge lead of 39-17, Maryland looked to be heading into the final game of the tournament until Duke turned things up.
“You’re losing by so much, you can’t play any worse,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told the Blue Devils during a timeout. “So what are you worried about, losing by 40?” The speech must have worked as Shane Battier led the team back to victory with a 23-12 run to end the game.
Miracle In Motown
The final play between the Packers and Lions in the 2015 season ended with a marvelous Hail Mary pass. The Packers needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive after losing the last four of their five matchups. The Lions were playing to knock down their division rival.
On the final play, as time expired, Aaron Rodgers scrambled out of the pocket and did some nifty moves to avoid being sacked. As he once again found his footing, he launched the ball 67 yards for a touchdown to Richard Rodgers. Miracles do happen.