The 75 Most Astounding Sports Moments of My Lifetime

I will never understand people who don’t enjoy sports. It truly is the greatest unscripted drama available on the planet. I tried making a list of the 50 greatest moments in sports that were the most memorable, meaningful and astounding over my lifetime (1980+), the types of moments that make you remember exactly where you were and who you were with when they happened. It turned out that drawing the line at 50 was not sufficient to include them all, so I went with 75 in hopes that in the years to come, the list can be expanded to 100, saving space for only those most stunning occasions. In compiling this list, I took into account not only the unpredictability and improbability of the events, but also their overall significance to the sports landscape. Spoiler alert: there is nothing particularly stunning to me about tennis or golf, there is a healthy dose of homerism among these selections for my favorite teams, and I tend to find horse racing more exciting than the average bear. Untimely deaths, while always stunning (Dale Earnhardt, Kobe Bryant, Len Bias), were kept off the list to keep the tone as positive as possible.

#75: Usain Bolt Wins Third Gold Medal in 100m Dash (2016)

While the result itself wasn’t particularly surprising, it has to be considered a stunning moment when the same man wins the gold in the 100m dash three straight times. Bolt retired as the only man to ever demonstrate such long-lived dominance, and also still holds the world record in the event (9.58 seconds).

#74: Mark McGwire Hits Home Run #62 (1998)

This would admittedly be a lot higher had it not been tarnished by the steroids scandal (or eventually broken by another player draped in the same scandal). Nevertheless, watching one of the most storied records in sports fall after 37 years was a sight to behold, especially between these rivals. Seeing Sammy Sosa, who chased McGwire that summer and himself would surpass 61 homers by season’s end, out there high-fiving him added an element of camaraderie to the moment.

#73: Afleet Alex Wins Preakness After Falling Down (2005)

What could have been the greatest tragedy in the history of horse racing instead turned triumphant due to the incredible feat of athleticism showcased by the winner. When leader Scrappy T blew the turn coming for home, Afleet Alex stumbled nearly to his knees and touched his nose to the ground while in the midst of his full-on drive. Remarkably, the colt not only maintained his balance and was able to steady while still in motion towards the ground, but he also was able to stand right back up and regain enough momentum to propel his speed into the winner’s circle. Had he fallen at full speed, it’s likely he and jockey Jeremy Rose would have taken out and been trampled by the majority of the field behind them.

#72: Earthquake Pauses Bay Area World Series (1989)

Shortly before Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and the San Francisco Giants, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck the bay area, shaking the stadium and forcing an evacuation of the damaged stadium and cancellation of the game. Who can forget Al Michael’s iconic reaction of “I’ll tell you what, we’re having an Earth—! ” during the live broadcast as the video and audio feeds cut out during the quake. The series would resume ten days later, but with an eerie undertone.

#71: Victory Gallop Denies The Triple Crown By A Whisker (1998)

After the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet made a three wide move turning for home and opened up a seemingly insurmountable four length lead in late stretch, it appeared that horse racing would have a Triple Crown winner for the first time since 1978. But there was Victory Gallop closing like a freight train, gobbling up those lengths late to snatch it away in a thrilling photo finish. I still can’t believe he got there.

#70: John Elway’s 98 Yard Drive (1987)

Pinned on the two yard line and trailing by 7 to Cleveland, John Elway marched the Broncos down the field to tie the game. They would advance to the Super Bowl after winning in overtime, but Elway would have to wait another decade to win it.

#69: J.R. Hildebrand Hits The Wall on Final Lap of Indy 500 (2011)

Rookie J.R. Hildebrand held an insurmountable lead on the final lap of this race, and looked poised to pull an unbelievable upset. However, the decision to go high above the car of Charlie Kimball, who was a lap behind at that point, resulted in Hildebrand crashing into the wall some 1000 feet from the checkered flag. He had built a lead so impressive that the crashed car was still able to skid across the finish line in second, as the late Dan Wheldon took advantage of the mishap to win his second Indy 500. Hildebrand has not finished higher than 6th in the race since.

#68: Roger Clemens Throws Broken Bat At Mike Piazza (2000)

One of the strangest sports moments ever came in Game 3 of the 2000 Subway World Series between the Mets and Yankees. With Roger Clemens pitching to Mike Piazza, an inside pitch jammed Piazza, splintering his bat back towards the pitcher, the ball clearly foul. Clemens then inexplicably picked up the broken bat and threw it as hard as he could back at Piazza, who had stopped running about a quarter of the way down the baseline. As benches began to clear, Clemens could be seen mouthing the words “I thought it was the ball!” in defense of his mistake, but that also begs the question- Why would he be throwing the ball at the baserunner rather than to first base? I’m still so confused.

#67: Mike Tyson Bites Off Evander Holyfield’s Ear in Heavyweight Title Fight (1997)

The two greatest fighters of their generation squared off for what may have been the most highly anticipated boxing event of the modern era, a rematch of Holyfield’s upset victory just seven months earlier between the two former champions. Tyson had complained of head-butting in that match, and when Holyfield began to dominate this one and added a head-butt for good measure that caused a cut on Tyson’s eye, Tyson retaliated by biting an inch of cartilage from Holyfield’s right ear and spitting it onto the floor. The match was stopped for several minutes, but Holyfield was determined to continue after the profuse bleeding was contained. Not to be deterred, Tyson promptly bit Holyfield’s left ear as the third round concluded, and was disqualified from the fight as pandemonium ensued. Holyfield would later claim that Tyson chose disqualification over unconsciousness.

#66: True Madness- The Battle of Unranked Teams in the National Championship (2014)

A bizarre edition of March Madness culminated with these two teams meeting for the title. Neither had played in the tournament the year before and neither finished the season ranked in the AP Top 25. To this day it is the highest combination of seeds to ever play for a title, and is the only NCAA Championship game ever to not feature one team seeded at least third. Both teams earned the trip however, as Kentucky’s all-freshman lineup knocked off the 35-0 #1 Seed Witchita State in the second round, and UConn took out the last #1 seed Florida in the Final Four. Just as Kemba Walker had done three years prior, Shabazz Napier got hot and willed the Huskies to their fourth title, but this one came out of nowhere.

#65: Robin Ventura Charges Nolan Ryan on the Mound and Immediately Regrets His Decision (1993)

In perhaps the greatest baseball brawl of all time, it is impossible to forget the apparent hesitation by the 26-year old Ventura to rush the mound before being put in a headlock and the recipient of several blows to the head by the 46-year old Ryan, who could have easily been mistaken as his father. Ryan said after the incident that he had used to move many times to secure steers on the ranch, which is just perfect.

#64: #11 Seed VCU Beats Kansas to Advance to the Final Four (2011)

Led by Head Coach Shaka Smart, the 11th seeded VCU Rams became the ever first play-in team to advance to the Final Four, and they did it by knocking off a loaded 32-2 Kansas team that was seeded first overall in the 2011 tournament, controlling the game pretty much throughout. Kansas never drew within two possessions after the under four minute timeout, and lost this one by 10. As a result of this and other upsets, this became the first tournament ever without a single one or two seed in the Final Four.

#63: The Fifth Down Touchdown (1990)

Colorado received an extra down on this winning goal-line drive over Missouri, scoring a touchdown on an unconscionable fifth down play that was miscounted as fourth down by incompetent officials. The Buffaloes would go on to parlay this win into a share of the National Championship that would otherwise have gone unanimously to Georgia Tech.

#62: Maximum Security DQ’d From Kentucky Derby Romp (2019)

When 20 three-year old colts line up to run against one another in the mud, there is always going to be some shoving for position, but in this edition it was determined that the move by the eventual winner was egregious and dangerous. It was difficult to believe that the stewards would take down the favored colt Maximum Security (who was much the best, violation or not) due to an incidental move for position while already in the lead, but they did just that in unprecedented fashion, moving up 65-1 shot Country House for the win as bettors everywhere tore up tickets.

#61: Dodgers-Astros World Series Games 2 and 5 (2017)

Only a year after baseball gave us one of the greatest games every played, the 2017 World Series delivered two instant classics in the span of a week. In Game 2, a Marwin Gonzalez solo shot off of Kenley Jansen tied the game at 3 in the top of the 9th to force extra innings. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa both delivered solo shots in top of the 10th, and the Astros took the lead 5-3. Yasiel Puig answered that with leadoff bomb to make it 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th, and then Kike Hernandez drove in the tying run with a two out single after a close play at the plate. Not to be outdone, George Springer blasted a two run homer in the top of the 11th to makes it 7-5, but Culberson answered with a two out homer on the bottom side. Then Puig struck out with a full count to end the game. Runs abounded in Game 5, with home runs flying out the park for both teams, and the Astros led 12-9 after 8 innings. Yasiel Puig delivered a two run blast with the Dodgers down to their last couple of outs to cut the deficit to 12-11, and Chris Taylor singled in the tying run to send yet another game in extra innings. But Jansen lost control in the bottom of the 10th, and Alex Bregman walked it off with a game winning single.

#60: Appalachian State Blocks Field Goal to Upset Michigan in the Big House (2007)

When FCS program Appalachian State dominated throughout this game and blocked a late field goal to upset the #5 ranked Michigan Wolverines on their home field, they became the first FCS school to ever defeat a ranked FBS opponent. Michigan dropped from #5 to completely out of the the Top 25 the following week- the first and only time that has ever happened as well. Appalachian State would go on to win the FCS title, but this is still rightfully regarded as the greatest upset in college football history.

#59: Cavs Overcome 3-1 Finals Deficit to Defeat 73-Win Warriors (2016)

The Golden State Warriors set an NBA record in 2016, when as defending champions they finished the season with an unfathomable record of 73-9. After taking three of the first four games of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by hometown hero LeBron James, it seemed a certainty that they would earn back to back titles, as they had not lost three straight games all season. A flagrant foul by Draymond Green in the Game 4 victory resulted in his suspension from Game 5, which became a loss along with Game 6 as the series headed back to the Bay Area for a decisive Game 7. The Warriors lost again, becoming the first team to lose an NBA Finals after leading 3-1. All told, Golden State lost as many games in the postseason as they did in the regular season, and one of the greatest NBA seasons ever seen did not culminate in a World Championship. This was the only time in four consecutive Finals meetings between these two teams that the Cavs came out on top, and it seemed the least likely. Go figure.

#58: Aaron Freaking Boone (2003)

Walk-off home runs for the pennant are a rare event indeed, and twenty-five years after Bucky Freaking Dent broke the hearts of Red Sox nation, Aaron Boone did the same with a Game 7 bomb. As if an 11 inning affair in an elimination game between the two arch rivals could be any more epic, Boone entered as a pinch-runner in the 10th before leading off the inning of the 5-5 tie and improbably launching the first pitch from knuckleballer Tim Wakefield high into the left field bleachers to win the pennant. This would extend the Curse of the Bambino for one more season.

#57: One Yard Short (2000)

Trailing 23-16 in the Super Bowl with six seconds remaining, the late Steve McNair hit a wide open Kevin Dyson to seemingly send the game into overtime for the first time in history. However, linebacker Mike Jones sniffed out the play as Dyson’s eyes got big, and he dropped off his man to make the tackle a yard short of the endzone as the clock ticked to zero. A game of inches, indeed.

#56: Michigan State Knocks Off Rival Michigan on a Botched Punt 6 (2015)

A lot had to go wrong here for Michigan to lose this game at home leading by two with ten seconds left against its archrival, and boy did it ever. A botched snap in this situation certainly wasn’t ideal, but simply falling on top of the ball here probably would have been enough to secure the win, as Michigan State still would have found themselves just out of field goal range with only enough time remaining to run a single play. Alas, punters don’t always think quite so quickly on their feet, and this one decided to play hero ball, making the spectacularly poor decision to instead chuck the ball up for grabs into the air. The results were simply disastrous and almost impossible to grasp. The faces that you see after the play say it all.

#55: #11 Seed George Mason Beats UConn to Advance to the Final Four (2006)

This was an absolutely insane game that actually saw the heavy underdog George Mason blow a four point lead with 14 seconds left to play in regulation, as UConn, the #1 overall seed in the tournament, was able to tie the game with a layup as time expired and send it into overtime. Such a scenario almost always favors the team with superior talent, but stunningly, the Patriots found themselves up five points with 14 seconds left at the end of the overtime period. Amazingly, a UConn three pointer followed by a missed free throw gave the Huskies one final shot to win the game, but the greedy perimeter shot from Denham Brown rimmed out, and pandemonium ensued. This was the most stunning of all the 11 seeds to make the Final Four, even if probabilities don’t reflect that fact due to the lack of play-in-game impact.

#54: Mine That Bird Wins Kentucky Derby at 70-1 Odds (2009)

Tom Durkin was probably the best to ever do it. After dismissing Mine That Bird at the half pole, who sat well back in last, the colt had been completely forgotten as he snuck through on the rail to obliterate the field and post a mind-boggling upset as the longest shot in the field, and also the most decisive winner in over 60 years. The moment where Durkin pauses on air to figure out which horse has taken the lead out of nowhere followed by his reaction of incredulity is unforgettable, and proves how truly stunning this moment was.

#53: The Minneapolis Miracle (2018)

The Vikings actually led this divisional playoff game 17-0 at the half, but allowed the Saints to come storming back to take a 24-23 lead late in the game. With time winding down for more than one or two plays and facing a 3rd and 10 from their own 40, Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs, who made a leaping catch to grab the football, and in doing so eluded Saints free safety Marcus Williams, causing him to collide with cornerback Ken Crawley and leaving no defenders underneath to tackle Diggs, who waltzed into the end zone for a game winning touchdown.

#52: Tyus Edney Saves UCLA Season With Length of the Court Layup (1995)

The Bruins would go on to be National Champions in 1995, but it nearly wasn’t to be. Trailing by one to Missouri in the second round after a late bucket put Tigers ahead, Tyus Edney dribbled the length of the court in under 5 seconds, complete with a nifty behind the back dribble, to lay it in off the glass for the buzzer beating win.

51: Kawhi Leonard Shot Hits Every Piece Of Rim, Falls In To Win East (2019)

There is nothing like a Game 7 buzzer beater win, and this one propelled the Raptors to their first ever NBA Final appearance. Toronto went to their star Kawhi Leonard with four seconds left in a tie game, and Leonard dribbled all the way to the right wing before letting it fly at the buzzer. The ball then hit every conceivable piece of the rim before finally falling in a good couple of seconds after the horn sounded. One of the NBA’s least emotional athletes finally got to celebrate, and the Raptors would go on the win a World Championship for the first and only time in franchise history.

#50: Bills and Chiefs Score 25 Points in Final Two Minutes (2022)

A battle between two of the NFL’s most exciting offenses put a cherry on top of a thrilling Divisional playoff weekend that featured four games that all came down to the last possession. Trailing 26-21 just after the two minute warning, Bills quarterback Josh Allen found a wide open Gabriel Davis in the end zone for a 27 yard touchdown pass, and converted a two point conversion to take a 29-26 lead. But the Chiefs responded quickly, as a Patrick Mahomes slant pass found the other-wordly speed of Tyreek Hill in the middle of the field as he waved goodbye to Bills defenders before entering the end zone to re-take the lead 33-29 with just over a minute remaining. After driving back down the field, Allen had the Bills inside the 20 yard line with 17 seconds to play, and again found Davis in the middle of the end zone for the go-ahead score. The clock showed just 13 seconds remaining as the Bills kicked the extra point to lead 36-33, seemingly in need of just a single stop to advance to the AFC Championship. The decision to kick the ball out of the back of endzone rather than squib kick to eliminate those valuable seconds proved meaningful as Mahomes connected for a 25 yard pass right out of the gate, and then after using one of the three timeouts they had conserved, hit another one to bring the Chiefs within field goal range and tie the game. It was a foregone conclusion that whichever team won the coin toss would score immediately, and Mahomes did just that to secure the win. All told, the 25 points scored in the final two minutes of the game set a new playoff record, and provided unparalleled entertainment.

#49: Kerri Strug Vaults US To Gold On One Leg (1996)

This was the perfect example of unscripted drama. With the US Women’s Gymnastics team holding a narrow lead over the favored Russians heading into the final rotation on vault, the team began to falter. Strug fell and injured her ankle on her first vault, and since teammate Dominique Moceanu had fallen as well, Strug needed to land one final vault in order to clinch the gold. In a gritty effort, she landed the vault on one leg before saluting the judges and collapsing in pain, which was enough to secure the first ever Women’s Gymnastics gold for the US. 

#48: Unranked Indiana’s Christian Watford Beats #1 Kentucky (2011)

This game may not seem as significant to those outside of Hoosier Nation since this was a non-tournament game played in December. But for these young Hoosiers and their legion of fans, this was the game that turned the entire program around, and arguably prevented arch rival Kentucky from an undefeated season, which would have unseated the 1976 Hoosiers as the last to do so. It is easy to forget after all of the hoopla regarding the 2015 Wildcats that this was actually the superior unit, and had Christian Watford’s trailing buzzer beater not gone in on this night, Kentucky may well have been more focused in their only other loss before winning it all, the SEC Championship to Vanderbilt.

#47: Jordan Poole Tears Out Houston’s Soul (2018)

This was a CRAZY finish. Michigan really never should have been in this spot to begin with, having had two chances to ice the game that resulted in missed shots and fouls, and another shot to tie it that resulted in a missed layup and another foul. Then again, Houston never should have been in this position either, as they went 2-6 on those three trips to the line, culminating when former Hoosier Devin Davis missed two while up two and 4.9 seconds remained. Michigan opted to use their final timeout to draw up a play after the second miss, having only 3.6 seconds to get a shot off across the entire length of the floor. Jordan Poole was open waaaay beyond the three point line, but nailed a desperation shot at the buzzer. Michigan would eventually advance to the National Championship game.

#46: Michael Phelps Beats Cavic For 7th Gold Medal (2008)

What made this race so memorable wasn’t necessarily that Phelps won it, but rather the way that he won it and its significance. Rival Serbian Milorad Cavic held a massive 0.62 second lead over Phelps at the halfway mark, but Phelps dug in and closed the gap steadily towards the finish. Cavic attempted to coast into the wall while Phelps took an extra half stroke, and the two appeared to touch the wall at the exact same time. The official results showed that Phelps touched the wall 0.01 second sooner, giving him the gold. Despite a Serbian protest and a bit of controversy, the result was upheld, and Phelps earned his 7th gold medal of the Beijing games, tying Mark Spitz’s record, and allowing him to set a new one when he won his 8th a night later with the 4 x 100 Medley Relay Team. Phelps swam the butterfly leg. 

#45: Buster Douglas Knocks Out Mike Tyson (1990)

People forget how truly invincible Tyson was during this time period. Douglas came into this fight as a huge underdog; odds in Vegas were 42-1. This wasn’t a horse race with some ten other contenders entered, this was a fight between two people, and he was 42-1. Just think about that for a moment. Still, he wore down Tyson throughout the fight and eventually delivered an uppercut followed by four quick punches in the 10th round that knocked out the champ. This wasn’t a decision, Douglas actually knocked Tyson unconscious in this stunner. 

#44: Kordell Stewart Hail Mary Pass to Michael Westbrook in the Big House (1994)

An epic pre-conference battle between #4 Michigan and #7 Colorado ended in thrilling fashion when trailing 26-21 with enough time for just a single play, Buffaloes quarterback Kordell Stewart launched a 64-yard desperation pass into the end zone. The pass was deflected by receiver Blake Anderson and into the hands of Michael Westbrook, who secured it for the soul-crushing win in the Big House. I watched this game with a Michigan fan who was reduced to tears by the outcome. (It is also somewhat comical that Michigan home losses in general made three separate appearances on this list!)

#43: Bryce Drew Upsets Ole Miss (1998)

The #13 seeded Valparaiso Crusaders trailed the #4 seed Ole Miss by two points with just 2.5 seconds left and had the ball underneath their opponent’s basket. Inbounder Jamie Sykes threw a baseball pass beyond the half court line, which Bill Jenkins quickly caught and passed in one motion to a trailing Bryce Drew, who drilled a three for the win. This play is remembered less for its significance than it is for its impeccable execution and situational difficulty, as well as the fact that the underdog hero Drew was coached by his father Homer. 

#42: U.S. Reed Beats The Buzzer From Halfcourt (1980)

Until 2016, this was the only half-court buzzer beater in NCAA Tournament history. Trailing defending champion Louisville by two points after the Cardinals had hit a go ahead bucket with five seconds left, U.S. Reed let fly a desperation heave from midcourt that hit nothing but the bottom of the net as time expired, and Arkansas prevailed by one. 

#41: Northern Iowa Half Court Bank Shot, Northern Iowa Blows 12 Point Lead in Final 44 Seconds (2016)

These two events deserve to be paired together, as they occurred less than 48 hours apart, and such a juxtaposition of good luck and bad luck against two teams from the same state is almost impossible to comprehend. The first game was a back and forth affair against Texas. Trailing by two and with ten seconds remaining, the Longhorns drove into the lane and tied the game with a runner, and overtime appeared imminent. But with just 2.7 seconds left on the clock, Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson launched a half-court prayer that banked in for a most improbable win. Two nights later, Northern Iowa led favored Texas A&M by 12 points with 44 seconds left, a 99.99% win probability. Nevertheless, a series of incredibly ill-advised decisions as the Aggies pressured the in-bounds passes led to a double overtime loss. Mathematically speaking, this has to be considered the greatest collapse in the history of the tournament, if not all of sports.

#40: Spurs Meltdown in NBA Finals (2013)

With a 3-2 series lead in Game 6 of the NBA Finals in Miami, the Spurs found themselves up 5 with 28 seconds left, a 98.5% win probability. A series of events that included a LeBron James three and a Kawhi Leonard missed free throw gave the Heat one last shot to tie the game in the closing seconds. James missed the three this time, but Chris Bosh came up with a huge offensive rebound and passed to the sharp-shooter Ray Allen, who drained a corner three with 5.2 seconds remaining to tie the game. The Heat won in overtime, and took Game 7 to win the Championship two nights later. 

#39: Adam Vinatieri Kicks Super Bowl Winning Field Goal For Massive Upset (2002)

As pressure situations go, I’ve always been of the opinion that field goal kickers have the most thankless job imaginable. To me, it seems infinitely more difficult to kick a ball into the air and through an elevated goal from 100+ feet away than it is to knock down a free throw with the game on the line. Vinatieri’s 48 yard field goal as time expired gave the Patriots their first Super Bowl in 2002, beating the heavily favored Rams (+14!) and beginning somewhat of a dynasty for the franchise after what is still the largest Super Bowl upset of my lifetime. Two years later, he made one from 41 yards in the same situation, and to this day is the only kicker to be the deciding factor in two Super Bowls. 

#38: Rich Strike Wins Kentucky Derby at 80-1 A Day After Drawing Into The Field (2022)

After consecutive several years of formful, merry-go-round style runnings of the Kentucky Derby where the pace was moderate and the speed held, we received an all-time shocker of a pace meltdown closer when Rich Strike broke through along the rail to win at odds of 80-1, the longest odds for a winner in over 100 years. Even more amazingly, the colt had drawn into the field just a day earlier after a late scratch, and many bettors and handicappers likely did not even give a look to the longest shot in the field. There were reasons to believe that he would close well in the event of a faster than expected pace, but you could have stared at PPs until you were blue in the face and never been able to convince yourself to use him on top against this bunch. To add to the flukiness of the affair, the colt’s connections opted to not even attempt a shot at the Triple Crown and skipped to Preakness altogether. He finished off the board in the Belmont after that.

#37: Fiesta Bowl Trickery (2007)

In one of the wildest college football games ever, mid-major Boise State pulled off a shocking upset over heavyweight Oklahoma in a day where games like the Fiesta Bowl still mattered immensely to programs. The series of trick plays began with a hook and lateral touchdown on 4th and 18 from the 50 that tied the game and forced overtime. That play would have been amazing in and of itself, but when Boise State scored converted on 4th and 2 for what would have been another tying touchdown, head coach Chris Peterson opted to go for the jugular and lined up for a two point conversion for the win. The Broncos then ran another trick play, “The Statue of Liberty”, and with a bit of slight of hand, quarterback Jared Zabransky handed off to Ian Johnson, who raced into the endzone for the win. In the post-game interview, Johnson dropped to one knee and proposed to his cheerleader girlfriend, adding to the mass-hysteria. Besides the entertainment value provided by such unorthodox play-calling, this game is remembered as the turning point for when mid-major programs announced their arrivals as foes to be taken seriously. 

#36: Two #15 Seeds Beat #2 Seeds on a Single Day (2012)

The #15 over #2 seed upset is happening a bit more frequently, but is still considered an astounding shock when it happens. Heading into the 2012 tournament though, only four such upsets had occurred since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The idea that even one of these upsets would happen was considered a longshot, but seeing two of them in back to back time slots on the same day was almost too much to bear. While KenPom gave Lehigh a reasonable chance to pull the upset over Duke at 22.2%, the Norfolk State over Missouri win remains to this day the least likely of all of the 15/2 upsets that have happened, as it had just a 3.8% chance of occurring. Combined, the likelihood of both of these games being won by #15 seeds stood at just 0.8% overall. (It is also a reminder to beware of teams with poor defensive efficiency profiles come tournament time, as they are always ripe to be upset).

#35: #16 Seed UMBC Knocks Off #1 Seed Virginia (2018)

Many of us believed that this was one upset that we would never actually see happen, and we may never see it again. How the #1 overall seed Virginia ever lost to this unknown crew of Retrievers I will never completely understand, but this game was dominated by the underdog from start to finish, and my bracket was destroyed in the first round. This did fuel some fire in the Virginia program however, as they would return to win the National Championship a year later, essentially refusing to lose.

#34: Luis Gonzalez World Series Walk-Off Single (2001)

The Arizona Diamondbacks became a franchise in 1997, and it didn’t take long for them to earn their first championship, thanks to this amazing upset against the far more history-rich New York Yankees. The usually invincible Mariano Rivera was unable to hold a 2-1 lead in the 9th inning after surrendering a double to Tony Womack. Eventually Luis Gonzalez came to the plate with the bases loaded, and lofted a softly hit blooper over Derek Jeter’s head and into the outfield for the walk-off Game 7 win. Inconceivable. 

#33: Mario Chalmers Ties The National Championship (2008)

In a classic example of why it’s important to hit your free throws, Memphis held a 9 point lead with 2:12 to play in the National Championship- a 97.1% win probability at that point- but couldn’t seal the deal. They missed four of five free throws to end the game, and Kansas miraculously found themselves down just 3 with the ball and 10.8 seconds remaining. Point guard Sherron Collins nearly threw the ball away, but a cutting Mario Chalmers corralled it and nailed an ice-cold three to tie the game. The Jayhawks rode this momentum to absolutely obliterate the Tigers in overtime in route to their third National Championship. 

#32: Brandi Chastain Wins Women’s World Cup For USA (1999)

In a captivating moment that both elevated interest women’s sports in general and brought soccer to the forefront of national pride, Brandi Chastain scored the fifth kick in a penalty shootout over China to give the US its first World Cup ever. In an act of “momentary insanity”, Chastain ripped off her jersey and collapsed to her knees in a black sports bra, an image that became iconic in the aftermath.

#31: David Beats Goliath (1985)

For 8th seeded Villanova to defeat defending champion Georgetown, who held a 35-2 record entering this game a nine point favorite and had already beaten them twice, it would take an effort nearing perfection. That is exactly what they delivered, shooting an astonishing 78.6% from the floor and dominating at the free throw line, outscoring the Hoyas by 16 points from the stripe. They are still the lowest seeded team to ever win an NCAA Championship.

#30: The Ultimate Cinderella- Elite 8 Run for St. Peter’s (2022)

The mighty Peacocks of Saint Peter’s shocked the world in 2022, becoming the first 15 seed ever to advance to the Elite 8, a scenario that was given just a 0.3% probability before the tournament started per KenPom. It wasn’t as though the bracket opened up for them to a large extent either- after defeating a 2nd seeded Kentucky team that many had picked to win the region and becoming just the tenth 15 seed to advance in the first round, they had to beat a 30-2 Murray State team second round that was an underseeded 7th. The Peacocks weren’t done yet, as they upset a 3rd seeded Purdue team that was ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season to complete their improbable cinderella run, earning bonus points for dispatching my two arch enemy schools while doing so.

#29: The Kihei Clark Pass and Virginia National Title Run Miracles (2019)

It took a trifecta of simply incredible circumstances to propel Virginia to its first national title in school history, but the first play is the one that seems to carry a lasting impact of amazement. With a trip to the Final Four on the line, the Cavaliers trailed Purdue by two with just under six seconds left, and Ty Jerome was at the line for the second of two free throws, which he needed to miss intentionally in order to have any chance to tie the game. Mamadi Diakite tapped the miss all the way beyond the half court line, and Kehei Clarke tracked it down with about three seconds left before lasering it right back up to court from where it came to Diakite, who knocked down a buzzer beating jumpshot to force overtime (and confuse the announcer). After winning that one, they were all but left for dead in the Final Four against Auburn, trailing by 4 with the ball with under 10 seconds left. But Kyle Guy nailed a three to cut the lead to one, and after Auburn made one of two free throws, was fouled on another three as time expired. Guy knocked down all three free throws to win the game. In the Championship, these comeback kids again trailed by three on their final possession, but a corner three from De’Andre Hunter was enough to force overtime and the eventual win for the title.

#28: Reggie Miller Scores Eight Points In Nine Seconds (1995)

The intense rivalry between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers felt almost like a rite of spring for the better part of the 1990s, and this was its defining event. Trailing by six with 18 seconds remaining in Madison Square Garden in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals (a 0.6% win probability), the Pacers inbounded to Reggie Miller, who promptly knocked down a quick three to cut the lead in half. Miller then stole the in bounds pass, and instead of driving to the hoop, actually gathered himself and ran back behind the perimeter, turned and buried another three to tie the game. The Pacers made a mistake to foul John Starks on the in bounds pass, but Starks choked and missed both free throws. Miller rebounded after Patrick Ewing failed to convert on an offensive rebound, and was fouled in the process, and then sank both free throws to seal the win. The game is remembered not only for this shocking comeback, but for the energy created by the constant trash talk between Miller and Spike Lee, who was seated courtside. The Pacers would go on to win the series.

#27: The Catch: Montana To Clark (1982)

Those old enough to actual remember this play live probably have it ranked higher than I do. In the NFC Championship, the 49ers faced a 3rd and 3 from the 6 yard line late in the game. A blown play forced quarterback Joe Montana toward the sideline as the Cowboys pass rush bore down hard. Montana pumped faked and threw and errant pass towards the back of the end zone, which receiver Dwight Clark pulled out of the sky to secure the win. Montana admitted in the aftermath that he could not see Clark, but knew where he would be. In terms of significance, this play is remembered as a passing of the torch from Dallas to San Francisco in terms of NFC control. 

#26: Tua Tagovailoa Overtime Bomb Wins National Championship (2018)

The legend of Nick Saban grew even more untouchable after this game. Trailing rival Georgia 13-0 at halftime of the National Championship, the anemic Crimson Tide needed a new direction. Saban benched starting QB Jalen Hurts for freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who promptly led a comeback that would lead Alabama to overtime. A win in that spot was not a foregone conclusion, however, as Georgia kicked a field goal on their first possession, and after getting the ball back, Alabama allowed a 16 yard sack on first down that pushed them out of field goal range. No sweat for the southpaw Tagovailoa, who promptly delivered a 41 yard laser beam touchdown pass to Devonta Smith to win the title in stunning fashion.

#25: Vince Young Scrambles to Win National Championship (2006)

In what is widely considered the greatest game in College Football history, Texas beat two-time defending AP champion USC, who entered the game on a 34-game winning streak. Trailing 38-32 and facing a 4th and 5 from the USC 9 yard line late in the game, quarterback Vince Young found his receivers covered and had no choice but to make a run for it. He received a crucial block from Justin Blalock and bolted into the end zone to win the National Championship. It was a fitting end to legendary broadcaster Keith Jackson’s career. 

#24: Michael Jordan’s Last Shot As A Bull (1998)

The Chicago Bulls won their sixth World Championship in eight years as the legendary Michael Jordan sunk a deep jumper from just inside the three-point line to seal the win and cap off an incredible 45 point performance. Jordan appeared to clearly push off on Bryon Russell to create space for the shot after crossing over, but no offensive foul was called by the officials. In all seriousness, how could it have been? This was Michael Jordan, the greatest to ever play the game, hitting a championship winning shot in his final game as a Bull. That’s a “play on” 100 times out of 100. 

#23: Scott Norwood Wide Right (1991)

The Buffalo Bills lost their first of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances when Norwood’s 47-yard kick veered way wide right, never even providing a moment’s suspense in regard to its accuracy. Norwood had not been a successful long-range kicker and arguably took more slack than he deserved, having a career long of only 48 yards and missing all four of his other prior attempts beyond 40. In the next three years, the Bills lost the Super Bowl by 13, 35 and 17 points respectively, making this 1 point loss- the only Super Bowl ever decided by that margin- more and more painful for the city as time went on. Buffalo has not won a major sports championship since 1965, and this missed kick becomes more and more of a punchline for that futility as time goes on.

#22: Red Sox Overcome 3-0 Deficit to Win ALCS (2004)

In arguably the greatest series comeback in sports history, the Boston Red Sox overcame a 3-0 ALCS deficit against the arch rival New York Yankees in route to their first World Series Championship since 1918. To this day, they are the only MLB team to ever win a series after trailing 3-0. But before that happened, the Red Sox had to force a Game 5 as they headed to the bottom of the 9th trailing 4-3 in Game 4. Ace reliever Mariano Rivera walked Kevin Millar to start the inning, and pinch-runner Dave Roberts successfully stole second after three pick-off attempts by Rivera. Roberts scored to force extra innings on the subsequent single by Bill Mueller. David “Big Papi” Ortiz won the game with a two run blast in the 12th, and the rest is history. 

#21: Doug Flutie Hail Mary Beats Miami (1985)

This was a true win for the “little guy” in every sense of the word, as this miracle play both elevated underdog Boston College back to national prominence and catapulted diminutive quarterback Doug Flutie to a Heisman Trophy win. Defending champion Miami held a 45-41 lead as Boston College lined up for one final play from midfield. Flutie narrowly avoided a sack and had to run backwards some 15 yards before heaving the ball into a 30 mph wind towards the end zone. The Miami secondary allowed Gerard Phelan to run behind them and the ball landed in his arms for a stunning win.

#20: Santonio Holmes Super Bowl Catch (2009)

This was a highly entertaining Super Bowl from start to finish between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. James Harrison returned an interception 100 yards at the end of the half to give the Steelers the lead, but the Cardinals stormed back on a 64 yard touchdown reception by Larry Fitzgerald to take the lead with 2:34 to play. But Big Ben Rothelisberger marched the Steelers down the field and connected with Santonio Holmes, who made an unbelievable shoestring catch in the endzone to deliver a sixth Super Bowl title to Pittsburgh.

#19: American Pharoah Wins The Belmont Stakes (2015)

Fans of horse racing had been waiting since Affirmed’s 1978 campaign for a Triple Crown winner, and had suffered through 13 failed attempts since then. Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah entered the Belmont Stakes with a strong shot to break that drought off a dominating 7 length win over the slop in the Preakness. The professional, once-in-a-lifetime colt left no doubt as he won the Belmont by an authoritative 5 lengths to become the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner and the first one of my lifetime. He also became the sport’s only Grand Slam winner later that year when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic and displayed similar dominance in doing so. 

#18: Steve Bartman Interferes With Moises Alou (2003)

The Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908 or even competed in one since 1945, but they held a 3-2 NLCS advantage at home and took a 3-0 lead into the top of the 8th inning. With one out and a man on second base, Luis Castillo hit a foul ball down the left field line. Cubs left-fielder Moises Alou attempted to make a play on the ball, but a fan named Steve Bartman who was seated on the wall reached to catch it as well, deflecting it away from Alou, who failed to secure it for the second out. Alou’s belligerent reaction in particular seemed to put the team’s chemistry out of whack immediately. Ivan Rodriguez singled to drive in a run following the Bartman play, but the Cubs still should have been out of the inning with a 3-1 lead on the next play as Miguel Cabrera hit an easy double play ball to shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Alas, Gonzalez booted the ball, and the Marlins went on to score 8 runs that inning before clinching the series at Wrigley Field in Game 7 the following night. The stuff of nightmares…

#17: The Malice In The Palace (2004)

Leading by 15 points late with the November game well in hand, Pacers’ forward Ron Artest committed a hard foul on Ben Wallace of the Pistons, which the latter did not appreciate. Wallace retaliated with a hard shove that sent Artest flying backwards and the benches cleared. That might have been the end of it, but in an attempt to calm himself, Artest laid down on the scorer’s table, and this prompted an unruly fan to throw a cup of beer in Artest’s direction, hitting him while he laid there. In an unprecedented lack of self-control, Artest ran into the stands to attack the fan while teammates Jermaine O’Neal and Steven Jackson entered the fray as well, the three of them throwing punches in an ugly scene. Chaos ensued for several minutes as fans entered the court and exchanged more punches with players, and the game was ultimately called off as the Pacers players attempted to enter their locker room while being bombarded by beer cans and water bottles. The lengthy suspensions levied on the Pacer players responsible doomed a once promising season that many predicted to have championship potential.

#16: The Band Is On The Field (1982)

I laugh out loud every single time I see this play. If this list was ranked in order of the most preposterous sports moments, this would probably be at the top. The combination of so many lateral passes (there were five) with the stunning lack of awareness of the Stanford band just created such a chaotic, hilarious conclusion to this game, which was spearheaded when Cal’s Kevin Moen barreled into Stanford trombone player Gary Tyrrell in the end zone while still carrying the football. The fact that this most unlikely series of events came in such a huge rivalry game in star quarterback John Elway’s last home game and that the loss came at the hands of the home team adds to its status as one of the most astonishing finishes in college football history. 

#15: Music City Miracle (2000)

As lateral passes go, the Stanford-Cal game was more ridiculous, but the implications of a similar play on the professional level in a playoff game no less simply hits a lot harder. Trailing 16-15 with 16 seconds left, the Tennessee Titans lined up to receive a kickoff from the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round. The Titans’ Lorenzo Neal retrieved the kick and handed it behind him to tight end Frank Wycheck, who started to scramble to his right but then stopped and threw a lateral pass across his body to Kevin Dyson, who was planted firmly on the sideline. Dyson then ran 75 yards into the end zone to deliver a shocking home victory. 

#14: Kirk Gibson Pinch-Hit Home Run In World Series (1988)

In Game 1 of the World Series, injured NL MVP Kirk Gibson entered the game as a pinch-hitter as the Dodgers trailed the Oakland A’s 4-3 with two outs and one man on in the bottom of the 9th. AL save leader Dennis Eckersley was on the mound for Oakland, and quickly put Gibson in an 0-2 hole. After looking at three balls to bring the count to full, Gibson was looking for a backdoor slider based on a scouting report he had been provided on Eckersley. Gibson got that exact pitch, and when he did, he crushed it over the right field wall and won the game for the Dodgers. The image of Gibson limping around the bases and giving two distinctive fist pumps became an iconic one. Gibson would not make another plate appearance for the rest of the series, but the Dodgers rode the Game 1 momentum to capture the World Series in five games. 

#13: Keith Smart Shot Wins Title For Indiana (1987)

In what was one of the most entertaining, back and forth Championship Games of all time, Syracuse really had no excuse to lose this game, but they couldn’t hit their free throws down the stretch, and this enabled Keith Smart to score the last six points for the Hoosiers, which was enough to deliver a fifth National Championship. Howard Triche went 1 of 2 on a trip to the line late and Derrick Coleman missed the front end of a 1 and 1 that the Orangemen strangely did not line up to rebound, and the Hoosiers found themselves down 1 with the ball and 28 seconds remaining. Indiana wisely held for the last shot, and as Smart threw a jump pass inside to forward Daryl Thomas, he paused briefly before cutting sharply to receive the give and go, and knocked down a baseline jumper while still in motion. Syracuse was so shell-shocked that they failed to call time out despite four or five seconds remaining when the bucket went in, leaving just one second on the clock, and not enough time to run a designed play. (Big East Homer Billy Packer is so upset that Syracuse lost that he can’t even focus on the shot itself).

#12: Jalen Suggs Drills Half Court Buzzer Beater In Final Four OT (2021)

An epic game that seemed like it could never end will be forever characterized by Jalen Suggs jumping onto the scorer’s table in an eerily empty gym, his teammates celebrating below him, and as the defining moment of the spectator-less 2021 tournament in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Heavy underdog UCLA had advanced all the way to the Final Four despite having to play in the play-in-game, a feat arguably deserving of an entry on this list in and of itself. The Bruins had battled the undefeated and top seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs all game and forced overtime. Down two with the ball after a back and forth, high-level of play final stanza, Johnny Juzang missed a runner in the lane, but captured his own rebound for an easy layup. With just 3.3 seconds left, it appeared the game was headed to another overtime, but Suggs had other ideas, as he let fly a half-court prayer that banked off the glass and in, advancing Gonzaga to the championship in a most dramatic fashion.

#11: Bill Buckner’s Error (1986)

Before the 2004 team finally reversed the curse, this was the play that buried the hopes of the entire franchise in the wake of the Championship drought that lingered since the 1918 season and the parting of ways with Babe Ruth. With the Red Sox leading the World Series 3-2 against the Mets, they entered the bottom of the 10th inning with a 2 run lead and a championship in sight. However, three straight two out singles allowed the Mets to tie the game again. Mookie Wilson then hit a slow roller down the first base line that Bill Buckner badly misplayed, as the ball rolled to the left of his glove and through his legs, allowing the winning run to score. The Mets would win Game 7 and the World Series, and Buckner was absolutely lampooned as the scapegoat for what became the most significant error in Major League history. 

#10: Patriots Goal-Line Interception (2015)

In a wild, emotional roller-coaster of a game, the Patriots overcame a 10 point second half deficit to take a 28-24 lead on a Tom Brady pass to Julian Edelman with 2:02 left to play. With time winding down on Seattle, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a deep pass to Jermaine Kearse, which was tipped but eventually caught by the receiver while he was laying on his back in an incredible turn of events. Marshawn Lynch ran the ball just short of the goal line on the next play, and the Seahawks appeared to be in business, sitting on 2nd down and goal inside the 1 yard line. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll opted for a risky slant pass play despite having one of the league’s best backs in Lynch at his disposal, but New England was ready for it, and cornerback Malcolm Butler stepped in front of the pass and picked it off on the goal line, sealing the Super Bowl win for the Patriots. The play-call was the subject of endless debate and is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in NFL history. 

#9: Patriots Erase 28-3 3rd Quarter Deficit to Win Super Bowl (2017)

The Falcons led the Patriots 28-3 with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter, and based on that had a 99.6% probability to win their first Super Bowl. However, the perplexing refusal by Kyle Shanahan to run the ball into the ground resulted in turnovers and quick punts that gave the Patriots extra life, putting the ball in the hands of the greatest QB to ever do it one too many times. Once the Patriots tied this up at 28, it was a foregone conclusion that they were going to win in overtime, completing the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. I was sick to my stomach over the absolute malpractice necessary to blow such a commanding lead.

#8: Joe Carter World Series Walk-Off Home Run (1993)

Walk-Off home runs are a rare enough thing in an ordinary baseball game (about 2% of games end this way), let alone on the sport’s biggest stage, and this is the only time one has resulted in a World Series win in my lifetime. The Toronto Blue Jays led the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 in the 1993 World Series, but trailed Game 6 by a score of 6-5 heading into the bottom of the 9th. Phillies closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams began the inning by walking Rickey Henderson, and then gave up a single to Paul Molitor. With one out, Joe Carter sent a low, inside pitch from Williams to deep left field off a 2-2 count. It left the stadium and brought home the Championship to Toronto for a second consecutive year.

#7: David Tyree Helmet Catch in Super Bowl (2008)

The significance of this phenomenal upset cannot be understated. The 2007 New England Patriots entered the Super Bowl with an undefeated record and looked to achieve the first perfect season since the 1973 Miami Dolphins. But the stout defense of the New York Giants frustrated Tom Brady and company all night, and kept the game close in a low scoring affair. Trailing 14-10 late in the game, Eli Manning was forced out of the pocket and all but sacked on 3rd and 5 and threw up a prayer pass which David Tyree caught against his helmet as he fell backwards for the first down. New York scored on the following play and dealt New England a crushing defeat, the likes of which the city of Boston will probably never get over. 

#6: Miracle On Ice (1980)

Those older than me or that may be bigger hockey fans than me will probably have this higher, but I can certainly appreciate its significance, especially in the Cold War era. In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the US knocked off the Soviets, who had won 6 of the previous 7 gold medals, in the semifinal round, scoring two goals in the final period for a 4-3 comeback win. It is hard to quantify the enormity of this upset, but it is widely considered one of the largest in sports history. A long-lasting source of national pride, this win lives on through Al Michaels’ immortal call, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The US would go on to win the gold medal. 

#5: NC State Alley-Oop For The National Championship (1983)

This was a classic David vs. Goliath matchup, as the fearsome Phi Slamma Jamma talent of Houston was far superior to the 6th seeded Wolfpack. But NC State stuck to the game plan, and found themselves in position to hold for the last shot in a tie game. Houston applied intense pressure and NC State nearly turned the ball over twice. The second time, Charlie Wittingham overplayed the dribble to avoid the steal to such an extent that he found himself well beyond his range as time ran down, and had no choice but to throw up a desperation heave. He left it well short and Houston, presumably believing they were heading to overtime, had no one near the basket. The Wolfpack’s Lorenzo Charles grabbed the airball and slammed it home as time expired to win a most improbable championship, and one of the greatest upsets in sports history. 

#4: Marcus Paige and Kris Jenkins Trade Buzzer Beaters (2016)

This is undeniably the greatest moment of my lifetime in a title game. It gets the edge over the NC State win simply because it featured two incredible last second shots rather than one. After a courageous comeback from a 10 point deficit following the under four minute timeout, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit an unbelievable three to tie the game, having to jump awkwardly and hang into the air after Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu made a desperation dive for the ball. With 4.7 seconds left and the game tied, all eyes turned to Villanova senior point guard Ryan Arcidiacano, who everyone in the building had to believe would take the final shot. However, he did what seniors do after realizing he had dribbled into double coverage, and found a trailing Kris Jenkins, who knocked down a wide open three from NBA range at the buzzer to bring Villanova its first championship since 1985. 

#3: Iron Bowl Kick Six (2013)

What makes sports so amazing is that it has the ability to create scenarios that were previously unimaginable. When something happens that no one has ever seen before, that is when you realize you have witnessed something truly astounding. When Chris Davis returned a missed Alabama field goal 100 yards to win the game, many football fans watching the game may have been unaware that such a return was even possible in terms of the rules. This game had it all. The rivalry aspect, the significance aspect (Auburn earned the right to advance to the SEC Championship and subsequently, the National Championship) and the element of astonishment to a superhuman degree. But what many forget is that such a finish never should have happened to begin with, which adds to the irony of it all. In a moment of weakness, Alabama head coach Nick Saban got greedy and made a giant error. The game was heading to overtime, but Saban wanted one second put back on the clock, and after a review, the officials agreed. Kicking a 57 yard field goal in that situation was a pretty bad decision from a risk/ return standpoint, but it gave us what I believe was the most astounding moment in the history of the sport. 

#2: The Laettner Shot (1992)

It may be controversial to place this at the top of the hoops list ahead of game winning shots in National Championship games since this was merely a regional final. But consider the following: This was probably the greatest college basketball game ever played even before Christian Laettner hit the shot. These were two blue blood programs, one of which was the defending champion, and both had scored triple digits in back and forth fashion. Also consider the difficulty of the final shot relative to the other games on this list. Grant Hill had to throw a perfect baseball pass across halfcourt to the free line to Laettner, who Kentucky had to know was going to get the ball if Duke had it their way. Then, Laettner had the composure and presence of mind to realize he had enough time to take a single dribble and get his feet set after he caught the ball. He drilled the jumper from behind the free throw line to complete a perfect 10-10 shooting performance, and pandemonium ensued. Duke went on to win the title, one of only two repeat champions during my lifetime.

#1: Cubs Win First World Series In 106 Years In Drama-Filled, Extra Inning Game 7 (2016)

There is little better in sports than a hotly contested Game 7, but what made this particular winner-take-all contest even more improbable was that the Cubs had been seemingly left for dead, trailing 3-1 in the series and on life support heading into Game 5. After squeaking out a low-scoring Game 5 win and then blowing the Indians out in Game 6, the stage was set with a return to Cleveland. Two franchises with a combined 176 years since their last World Series Championship would play a single game to deliver one to a starved fanbase. The Cubs had control early, and even after a 5-1 lead was cut to 5-3, a David Ross provided some insurance with an unlikely home run off of Andrew Miller. But the goat awoke in the bottom of the 8th. Four outs away from a World Championship and leading by three with a tired Aroldis Chapman on the mound, the Indians were able to tie the game after a pinch hit double from Brandon Guyer and a soul-crushing two run bomb from Rajai Davis. The latter may have been the lowest point of my entire life as a sports fan.

After the Cubs failed to score in the top of the 9th, panic set in, but Chapman was able to shut down the Indians and force extra innings. A rain delay immediately followed, because of course it did- Cubs fans were really going to have to earn it if they wanted to celebrate on this night. Jason Heyward delivered a now legendary locker room speech during the delay because he knew what we all knew: if the Cubs didn’t score in the top of the 10th, they were going to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion.

Kyle Schwarber gave the Cubs life, starting off the inning with an important leadoff single to cap a 3-5 performance and cement an incredible comeback story. Pinch-runner Albert Almora was able to advance to second on a nifty piece of base running following a warning track fly out by Kris Bryant. In a puzzling move, manager Terry Francona opted to walk Anthony Rizzo to create a double play opportunity against the switch-hitting Ben Zobrist, who doubled in the go ahead run on a 1-2 count in an incredibly clutch piece of hitting. The move proved costly, as Rizzo scored what would be a crucial insurance run on the ensuing single by Miguel Montero.

It wasn’t going to be that easy though, as even with a two run lead in the bottom of the inning, the Indians didn’t roll over easily. Carl Edwards Jr. was able to retire the first two batters, but a walk and a single later, the Indians had life, bringing the winning run to the plate with a man on first. Luckily for the Cubs, that hitter was Victor Martinez, not one the Indians’ greatest threats and among the worst hitters in baseball that season, and Mike Montgomery was able to force a softly hit ball down the third base line, which Kris Bryant easily corralled for the win. After the greatest game of any sporting event I have ever witnessed, the curse was finally broken.

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