Super Bowl LI saw the New England Patriots deliver one of the greatest sporting comebacks in history, plugging a 25-point deficit to triumph in overtime against the Atlanta Falcons. Within that historic game, the performance by New England’s Tom Brady helped to solidify his place in NFL history, befitting of his status as greatest quarterback of all time.
As New England fans can tell you, by no means is it fun to see your favorite sports team fall behind, but one of the most exciting things that can happen is when luck starts to change and your team makes an unbelievable comeback. Sure, they aren’t very common, but the world of sports has had a rich history of great comebacks. Here are 12 of the most memorable championship comebacks ever witnessed in sports.
Cleveland Cavaliers, NBA Finals – 2016
The 2016 NBA Finals saw off-again/on-again hometown hero LeBron James deliver one of his finest performances of his career as he helped the Cleveland Cavaliers complete one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history. Helping to bring the Cavs back from a 3-1 deficit and dethroning the defending champions Golden State Warriors 93-89 to capture their first league title. The Cavaliers were the first franchise to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, giving Cleveland its first major sports championship since the 1964 NFL Browns and ending the longest title drought for any American city.
Chicago Cubs, World Series – 2016
The 2016 World Series saw both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians trying to end a World Series Championship Win drought — 108 years for the Chicago Cubs and 68 years for the Cleveland Indians. While both cities and fans have been waiting a very long time for a chance to rewrite history, it looked like Cleveland wouldn’t have to wait much longer, leading the series 3-1 just after Game 4. Coming back from behind, the Cubs went on to win Game 5 and 6, forcing the series to head into a winner-take-all, last chance Game 7 affair. The Chicago Cubs ended a 108-year drought when they beat the Indians in the tenth inning with a final score of 8-7.
Liverpool, Champions League Final – 2005
A night Liverpool fans will never forget. Rafa Benitez’s side barely scraped through to the knockout stages to make it into the finals against AC Milan. While the Reds were being given a footballing lesson by the Italian side, trailing 3-0 at halftime, the tide turned by the second half. Captain Steven Gerrard inspired an amazing burst of three goals within six minutes to force the game into extra added time. Turning the game on its head, Liverpool then went on to win the title on penalties.
Oracle Team USA, America’s Cup – 2013
While sailing isn’t a sport on most people’s radar, the America’s Cup finals is probably one that even novice sports fans have heard about. Considered as one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time, the Oracle Team USA, defending the Auld Mug, came back from an 8-1 deficit to win eight consecutive races and claim victory in the first-to-nine series.
Reggie Miller’s 8 Points in 9 Seconds Game – 1995
Known as one of the greatest moments in NBA playoff history, the Indiana Pacers were down six points with 18.7 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals. With that, Reggie Miller pulled off a comeback like no other against the New York Knicks. Miller miraculously scored eight points in nine seconds to cap one of the most furious rallies in postseason history and etch his name into NBA folklore.
German National Team, World Cup Final – 1954
During the 1954 World Cup Finals, the German National team (West Germany at the time) found itself two goals down just after eight minutes into the match. By halftime, the Germans were able to pull level, but in the 84th minute, a second goal from Helmut Rahn gave Die Nationalmannschaft an emotional first World Cup victory, which is now known as the “Miracle of Bern.”
England, Headingley Ashes Test – 1981
England was at 500-1 odds during the pivotal match in “Botham’s Ashes” back in 1981. With Australia on the verge of going 2-0 in the Test series, Ian Botham came to the rescue. Botham’s incredible innings of 149 made the Aussies bat again, with England’s Bob Willis taking 8 for 43 to pull an incredible win. England had become just the second Test team to win after following-on, and that momentum helped them to go on to a 3-1 Ashes series victory.
Dennis Taylor, World Snooker Championship Final – 1985
Steve Davis was the world number one for two years leading into the final, and so many expected an easy win when Davis was up 8-0 against Taylor. Taylor then staged an amazing comeback to drag it back to 17-17 and force a nerve-jangling final frame in which he provided the most extraordinary sporting narrative by sinking the final black. The final concluded well after midnight, with more than 18.5 million people glued to their television screens.
Toronto Maple Leafs, Stanley Cup Final – 1942
The 1942 Stanley Cup Finals saw the Toronto Maple Leafs facing off with arch-rivals the Detroit Red Wings. While Detroit was sweeping the series, having won the first three games and leading 2-0 in the fourth game, the Maple Leafs didn’t give up. Having rallied for a 4-3 win to stay alive, the Leafs went on to destroy the Red Wings 9-3 in Game 5. Soon after, Detroit’s spirits were broken as Toronto rolled to 3-0 and 3-1 victories to complete the first and only comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals.
France, Rugby World Cup Semi-Finals – 1999
France found themselves 24-10 down after powerhouse Jonah Lomu’s two tries put the All Blacks in total control of their 1999 World Cup semifinal. The pre-tournament favorites looked destined to make it into the finals until Christophe Lamaison turned the match around when he added 28 points — including a try, two drop-goals and two penalties. France went on to seal a remarkable 43-31 win at Twickenham.
Europe, Ryder Cup – 2012
Known as the “Miracle of Medinah,” the Europeans looked like they didn’t have a chance against the Americans, trailing 10-6. During the final day, Europe won eight and tied one of the 12 singles matches, with Martin Kaymer holing the crucial putt to defeat Steve Stricker. The win allowed the cup to remain in Europe, earning a second consecutive win and fifth in the last six contests.
The Rumble in the Jungle – 1974
One of the most iconic fights in boxing history saw the biggest, baddest heavyweight on the planet, George Foreman, take on the greatest of them all, Muhammad Ali. In 1967, leading up to the match, then-champion Ali was stripped of his title and suspended from boxing for three-and-half years for his refusal to comply with the draft and enter the U.S. Army. During the match, Ali had wore Foreman into the ground and by the ninth round he vacated the ropes to unleash a barrage of punches and send Foreman spinning. Ali showed the world he could still “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”
- TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images, Bob Thomas/Getty Images, Photo Courtesy of EPA, Photo Courtesy of FIFA, Arunabha Sengupta/Getty Images, Adrian Murrell/Getty Images, Grahm Chadwick
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