An unbelievable turnaround
Sheffield Wednesday last week came back from a 4-0 deficit and won on penalties to advance to the League One promotion playoff final, cementing the performance as one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Sports are often remembered by the greatest moments within them. As much as traditional underdogs that overcome incomprehensible odds get their share of the limelight, so too do teams that manage to dig themselves out of unforgiving positions and walk away with the most unexpected victories.
With that in mind, here are the ten greatest comebacks in the history of professional sports.
10 – Dave Wottle wins the 1972 Berlin Olympic 800m
The 800 meters running race at the 1972 Berlin Olympics was supposed to be a highly-contested event. Russian Yevgeni Arzhanov and Kenyan Mike Boit were among the top challengers, but the eventual champion, Dave Wottle, was not. At least, that’s what it looked like once the race got underway.
He passed two people on the final turn and three on the home stretch
Sporting his trademark cap, Wottle, who could hardly train leading up to the Olympics because of knee tendonitis, was in last place after one of the two laps. But as the race entered the back stretch, he put in a hard surge and regained contact with the main pack. He passed two people on the final turn and three on the home stretch to seize the Olympic gold medal at just 21 years old.
Wottle edged out the second-place Arzhanov by just .03 seconds to win the USA’s first gold in the event in 16 years.
9 – Tiger Woods wins the 2019 Masters
Tiger Woods is known today as one of the greatest golfers of all time. But even his legend was doubted when he entered the 2019 Masters.
Tiger had dealt with a litany of personal issues, including a highly-publicized divorce and cheating scandal, plus substance abuse issues. He also suffered many injuries that put his career in jeopardy. Many wondered if he could even walk the length of a golf course.
Unperturbed, Tiger went the distance until he closed the tournament out with his fifth green jacket, one short of Jack Nicklaus and his 15th major championship. He was also the second-oldest player to ever win the Masters in a beautiful swansong to a legendary career.
#8: The 1982 Los Angeles Kings’ 5-0 comeback
The 1982 Los Angeles Kings were tied with the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers 1-1 in a five-game playoff series. Their chances of moving on past their highly-favored opponent, led by the sport’s greatest-ever played, looked slim when they entered the third period trailing 5-0.
they put five past the Oilers goalkeeper to force overtime
Rather than crumble, the Kings marked one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when they put five past the Oilers goalkeeper to force overtime, where they struck first and won 6-5.
The Kings dropped Game Four but won Game Five and moved on to the next round, much to the shock of Edmonton. The match is remembered as the Miracle on Manchester because the Kings’ stadium, The Forum, sat on Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood, California.
7 – Tracy McGrady scores 13 points in 33 seconds
The Houston Rockets were playing an in-state match against the San Antonio Spurs in December 2004. The Spurs were fresh off an NBA Finals win over the New Jersey Nets and had future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili at their disposal.
The Spurs were up 76-68 with 36 seconds to go in what seemed like a comfortable win—until Tracy McGrady had other ideas. He started his avalanche of points with a three-pointer before converting a four-point play. He then nailed two more three-pointers consecutively, sinking the final one with 1.7 seconds left to put his team up 80-78.
Parker missed a game-winning three as time expired and the performance was cemented as one of basketball’s best. “T-Mac” finished the game with 33 points and demonstrated why Kobe Bryant called him “the toughest guy [he] ever had to play against.”
6 – Sheffield Wednesday comes back from 4-0 down
The most recent addition to our list is the English soccer team Sheffield Wednesday, who used a 5-1 penalty-shootout win to bounce back from a 4-0 defeat in the first leg of the League One promotional playoff against Peterborough United last week.
We’ve witnessed a historical game
The win was especially important for manager Darren Moore, who the week prior had suffered racial abuse during a match. He summed it up well, saying: “We’ve witnessed a historical game,” in his post-match press conference on the touchline.
There’s an extra layer of importance when comebacks occur during pivotal matchups, and for Sheffield Wednesday, it’s hard to find one more important than a playoff to achieve promotion.
5 – New England Patriots overcome 28-3 deficit
The Atlanta Falcons were running rampant over the NFL in 2016-17. Quarterback Matt Ryan won the MVP trophy, and the franchise was on a fast track to its first-ever Super Bowl championship when it went into halftime of the deciding game with a 21-3 advantage. The Falcons scratched first too in the second half with an early touchdown.
That’s when Tom Brady pinned another feather to his cap of the greatest career in league history. He and the Pats roared to life and scored 25 unanswered points, including the game-tying touchdown with 58 seconds left to force overtime.
The momentum was all on New England’s side at this point, and to nobody’s surprise, they found the end zone first via a one-yard James White touchdown run. It was the first time in Super Bowl history a team entered the fourth quarter by 17 or more points and did not win. Over 30 records were broken by the time it was all said and done.
4 – Minnesota Vikings win a game they trailed 33-0
The Minnesota Vikings looked poised for one of the most embarrassing defeats of the 2022 NFL season. They entered the game 10-3 but trailed 33-0 to the lowly Indianapolis Colts, who were led by an interim coach in Jeff Saturday that had never coached in college or the NFL.
scored 39 points, all in the second half and overtime, to win 39-33
The Vikings did the unthinkable and scored 39 points, all in the second half and overtime, to win 39-33. Quarterback Kirk Cousins ended up with 460 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions as Minnesota stamped the largest comeback in league history.
While it is inexcusable for the Colts to blow such a gargantuan lead, it also led to one of the best-ever moments for the sport. So at least there’s that.
3 – Cleveland Cavaliers pull the 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals in 2015 and were back and better in 2016. They went 73-9 to set the all-time regular-season wins record and had just battled back from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
With their team trailing 3-1, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving put forth arguably the greatest three-game stretch by a duo of all time. They both scored 41 points in Game Five, LeBron scored another 41 in Game Six, and LeBron made a game-saving block while Irving nailed the decisive shot in Game Seven.
Cleveland captured the championship in Golden State and snapped a 52-year drought as a city in what is the NBA’s greatest comeback story.
2 – Boston Red Sox break the “Curse of the Bambino”
The Boston Red Sox were under a curse—a curse laid by all-time baseball hero and famous New York Yankee, Babe Ruth. What many people don’t know about Ruth is that he played for the Red Sox early in his career but was sold to their rival Yankees.
On his way out the door, Ruth placed a curse on the Sox and said they would never win a championship. That curse stood for 86 years and seemed to be tightening its grip over the city in 2004 when the Sox found themselves down 3-0 to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
carried that momentum into the World Series and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in just four games
But to everyone’s shock, the Sox ripped off four straight wins, becoming the first MLB team to win a series they once trailed 3-0. They carried that momentum into the World Series and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in just four games, winning their first title since 1918. Even curses have expiration dates.
1 – Barcelona wins 6-1 against Paris Saint-Germain
Spanish soccer giant Barcelona was up against it in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 in 2017. They lost 4-0 to Paris Saint Germain in the first leg and, despite being ahead 3-1 in the second leg, needed three goals to book their ticket into the next round.
All hope seemed to be lost until Neymar netted a free kick in the 88th minute and then converted a controversial penalty in 90’+1’. The comeback was completed in the 95th minute when Sergi Roberto found the back of the net to give Barca a 6-1 win (6-5 aggregate).
PSG striker Edinson Cavani later revealed that he was so distraught by the loss that he needed counseling. The match is remembered as one of the best and most heroic performances by a soccer team.