Sports tell the stories of victories, defeats, rarities, rivalries, and miracles. And every once in a blue moon, one team or athlete defies the titanic odds pitted against them in an extraordinary fashion. Here are 10 of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
10. Europe, Ryder Cup (2012)
Down 10-6, it seemed as if the Americans had victory all but guaranteed. It wasn’t until the final day that Europe came back to win eight matches and tie one of the 12 singles matches. It was Martin Kaymer who holed the vital putt, besting Steve Stricker and claiming Europe’s second consecutive win and fifth total win in the last six Cups. Their unlikely triumph became known as the “Miracle of Medinah.”
9. Indianapolis Colts, Monday Night Football (2003)
With only five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Monday Night Football, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts trailed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28-7. But the Colts would not go down easy. Rallying quickly and resolutely, the Colts scored 21 points and went on to stun the Bucs winning 38-35 in a wildly dramatic upset. The Bucs head coach at the time, Jon Gruden commented, “A lot of those players, I tip my hat to Manning. He made some miraculous throws, and they made some incredible catches.”
8. Indiana Pacers, Eastern Conference Semifinals (1995)
Only 18.7 seconds remained in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Pacers were down by six points against the New York Knicks. As Knicks fans chanted, cheered, and waved banners that read “New York Brick,” Reggie Miller of the Pacers was readying one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history. Though the buzzer continued ticking down, Miller continued scoring. As unpredictable as it was implausible, Miller racked up eight points in only nine seconds to seal one of the greatest victories of any postseason.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Finals (2016)
The Golden State Warriors led the Cleveland Cavaliers 3-1 in the 2016 Championship Finals. With no other team in NBA history having ever come back from a deficit of that magnitude, victory was in plain sight. But, LeBron James and his first team would not succumb to the same fate of the many others that had failed before them. Roaring back, the Cavs tied the series 3-all to force a Game 7. In the epic final matchup, James and company dethroned the reigning champion Warriors 93-89 and winning the franchise’s first league title.
6. Buffalo Bills, “The Comeback” (1993)
After trailing Houston 35-3 in the second half, the Buffalo Bills overcame a 32-point mountain, throwing four touchdowns to win 41-38. This unlikeliest of victories is often referred to as simply “The Comeback,” and stands as the biggest comeback in NFL history.
5. Boston Red Sox, World Series (2004)
After trading Babe Ruth in 1918, the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ haunted the Boston Red Sox for decades, not winning a single World Series let alone appearing in one until 1986. In the 2004 World Series, it seemed the vengeful spirit of Babe Ruth would once again have his reprisal. The Red Sox trailed the New York Yankees 3-0 in a best-of-seven-game series. In the fourth game, the Yanks were just three outs shy of becoming World Series champions. But then something remarkable happened. The Sox refused to go down. Not only did they hunt down the seemingly insurmountable Game 4 win, but they won Games 5 and 6 to force Game 7. They conquered the Yanks in a resounding 10-3 victory, finally breaking the 86-year curse. To this day, the Red Sox are the only team in the MLB to overcome a 0-3 series deficit.
4. New England Patriots, Super Bowl (2016)
It was the third quarter on the biggest stage in sports when the New England Patriots lagged behind the Atlanta Falcons 28-3. Patriots fans began to mourn and Falcons fans prepared to rejoice. But before the pro-Falcons and anti-Patriots postgame festivities could begin, New England scraped their way back. In all of their resilience and determination, Brady and the Pats hacked away at a 25-point lead to tie the game 28-all and force overtime. A shocked nation watched on as the Patriots scored the game-sealing touchdown, claiming the Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time in the past 15 years.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs, Stanley Cup Final (1942)
In 1942, the Detroit Red Wings had swept the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first three games of the four-game Stanley Cup Finals. As they led the fourth game 2-0, the Wings prepared to celebrate, but the Maple Leafs never stopped fighting. They clawed their way back from a 2-point deficit to win 4-3. With hope re-instilled and spirits high, Toronto demolished the Red Wings 9-3 in Game 5, shut them out 3-0 in Game 6, and were crowned champions after winning 3-1 in Game 7. It was the single greatest comeback, and the first-ever 3-0 comeback, in the history of the NHL.
2. Liverpool, “Miracle of Istanbul” (2005)
In 2005, the Liverpool FC entered into the Champions League Final against AC Milan as underdogs. And it seemed as though they were, as Milan had built a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 wall by halftime. The bookies adjusted Liverpool’s winning odds at 100-1. Whatever was spoken between the Liverpool players during halftime should be shared in every team’s locker room. Within the first 10 minutes of the second half, Liverpool scored and proceeded to score two more times in just six minutes. Tied at 3-all the game went to extra time coming down to a shootout. After triumphing 3-2 in the narrowest of margins, Liverpool etched their names in the history books. One astounded journalist wrote, “Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. The greatest Cup final ever.”
1. Muhammad Ali, “The Rumble in the Jungle” (1974)
Often referred to as “The Rumble in the Jungle,” this was one of the most spectacular moments in boxing history, let alone sports history. The 1974 match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali was the miraculous comeback story of the century. In 1967, Ali was the renowned heavyweight champion of the world. But his titleship crumbled after he refused to enter into the U.S. Army, resulting in a three-and-half-year suspension from boxing. When Ali returned to face new big bad heavyweight George Foreman, he put on a show like no other. By the ninth round of the match, he unleashed a blinding onslaught of punches that sent Foreman stumbling. Ali emerged victorious as the same graceful butterfly and ferocious bee he had always claimed to be.