EDITORS' PICKS: GREATEST SPORTS UPSETS
LeBron James's triple-double performances alone couldn't secure Cleveland an underdog victory over the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals. But here are 10 other moments that left the sports world stunned. (Selected by the editors of The World Almanac in 2011.)
- •Horse Tale (Saratoga, NY: Aug. 13, 1919)Antigambling laws and the first World War had all but destroyed thoroughbred racing in the U.S. when along came a horse named Man o' War. In 1919 and 1920, he won 20 of 21 races, including the three jewels in the Triple Crown. Over 16 months, Man o' War made the U.S. the epicenter of the sport. The only blemish on Man o' War's record was a stakes race in Saratoga during the summer of 1919. The horse that went off with 100-to-1 odds and beat him by a half-length was named—what else?—Upset!
- •Sweep Victory (Cleveland, OH: Oct. 2, 1954)Cleveland looked invincible heading into the 1954 World Series, but the NY Giants swept them against all odds. Cleveland had a power-hitting lineup and a pitching staff with 4 future Hall of Famers. The Giants had NL MVP Willie Mays and not much else. Mays saved the day with an eye-popping catch in Game 1 that's still considered among the greatest ever. Pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes batted in deciding runs in the first 3 games. The Giants completed their sweep with a 7-4 Game 4 victory.
- •You Don't Know Jack (San Francisco, CA: June 19, 1955)Golfer Jack Fleck had yet to win a single tournament as a pro. That changed at the 1955 U.S. Open when, after 72 holes, he tied Ben Hogan, who was aiming for his fifth U.S. Open win. Fleck's performance was so unexpected that NBC actually ended its TV coverage of the tournament while he was still playing! Fleck defeated Hogan by three strokes in a playoff the next day to complete the greatest upset in golf history.
- •Do You Believe in Miracles? (Lake Placid, NY: Feb. 22, 1980)Hands down, the world’s best hockey team in 1980 was the Soviet Union's national squad. They regularly beat the world's top teams—including a 10-3 win over the U.S. two weeks before their Olympic face-off. The Soviets outplayed the U.S. for two periods and led 3-2. In the final period, Team USA scored twice in less than two minutes to take a 4-3 lead. The U.S. held off the Soviets for a tense 10 minutes for the win, then beat Finland for the gold medal.
- •Hoya Destroyas (Lexington, KY: Apr. 1, 1985)Many were calling Georgetown one of the greatest college hoops teams in history when the Hoyas took the floor for the 1985 NCAA Final against the Villanova Wildcats—a team they had beaten twice that season. But Villanova missed only one shot in the second half—and only six in the entire game—as they held off a furious charge by Georgetown in the closing minutes. Guards Harold Jensen and Dwayne McClain hit clutch shots in the final minutes as Villanova pulled off an epic upset 66-64.
- •Teenage Dream (Paris, France: June 5, 1989)No one at the 1989 French Open expected top-ranked Ivan Lendl to lose—especially not to the 17-year-old American Michael Chang. After dropping the first two sets in the Round of 16 match with Lendl, Chang battled back to tie the score. Fighting cramps and exhaustion in the fifth set, Chang used every trick including, at one point, serving underhand. Lendl lost the match on a double-fault, and Chang reeled off three more victories to become the youngest, and unlikeliest, French Open champion.
- •Busted by Douglas (Tokyo, Japan: Feb. 11, 1990)No fighter was more intimidating than the undefeated 23-year-old Mike Tyson in 1990. The fight with Buster Douglas was scheduled as a warm-up for Tyson's showdown with No. 1 contender Evander Holyfield. But Douglas fought like he had nothing to lose, and he was ahead on points when Tyson floored him in the 8th round. Douglas hung tough, pinned Tyson against the ropes, and knocked him out in the 10th round to become undisputed heavyweight champion.
- •Solid Gold (Salt Lake City, UT: Feb. 21, 2002)Heading into the long program at the 2002 Olympics, the mostly unheralded American figure skater Sarah Hughes was in fourth place. But Hughes had something favorites Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen (her teammates) and Russian Irina Slutskaya did not—the ability to elevate her game when a gold medal was within grasp. She nailed seven flawless triple jumps and watched as Kwan and Cohen fell and Slutskaya turned in a lackluster performance. Hughes was the Olympic champion.
- •David Stuns Goliath (Ann Arbor, MI: Sept. 1, 2007)College football teams often schedule "tune-up" games against weaker opponents in September. That's the only reason Appalachian State, a Div. I-AA school, was facing No. 5-ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Wolverines battled back from a surprising 28-17 halftime deficit and just needed a field goal to win, but the kick was blocked by the Mountaineers to preserve a 34-32 upset victory. It was the first time a Div. I-AA school had ever beaten a nationally ranked Div. I team.
- •Giant Shock (Phoenix, AZ: Feb. 3, 2008)The New England Patriots were gunning to be the first team since 1972 to complete a perfect season as they took the field against the underdog NY Giants in Super Bowl XLII. But New York's relentless pass rush gave the Giants a chance to win the game with under a minute left. Giants quarterback Eli Manning flipped a perfect pass to Plaxico Burress to seal a 17-14 win. The same New York fans who had booed Manning in December now cheered him as the Super Bowl MVP.