On Monday night, around 11:38 pm EDT, I crawled into bed, set my alarm for 8 a.m. and, half-sleepingly, began playing Words With Friends on my iPad. In the background, on TV was Game 4 of the 2011 Western Conference Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Team That Shall Not Be Named. (Yes, I do this too. Deal with it.)
Ten minutes later, the iPad was down and I was sitting up, tweeting like a madman as Dallas finished the fourth quarter on a 17-2 to force overtime, eventually winning 112-105 and taking a commanding 3-1 in the series, which heads back to Dallas.
That night, I tweeted to a few friends, asking if this was one of the 10 worst collapses in American sports history. I was slightly rebuffed, and understandably so. But in my lifetime, are there ten worse?
With the help of colleagues, Facebookers and Tweeters, here are the top worst one-game sports collapses in my lifetime, in chronological order.
(Note: The key here is, one game. This excludes series collapses like the ’04 ALCS (sorry Boston… actually, I’m not sorry) and season collapses like the ’07 Mets blowing a seven-game lead with 17 games left, giving the Phillies the division title.)
Oilers @ Bills: 1992 NFL AFC Wild Card Playoffs
For me, this is one of those, “Where were you when…?” games in that I’ll never forget where I was, at my aunt’s house. Houston jumps out to a 35-3 lead in the 3rd quarter, only to watch Frank Reich (not Jim Kelly) lead them to a 41-38 win in overtime.
Pacers @ Knicks: 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 1
Officially, Reggie Miler hits a three, gets a steal and hits another three to tie the game against the Knicks with 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Unofficially (as in, according to me, the bitter Knicks fan), Miller hits a three, pushes Greg Anthony to the floor and gets away with it, gets the steal then hits the three. Check the link for yourself.
Duke @ Maryland: 2001 ACC Game (Gone In 60 Seconds) (submitted by @jorogers12)
Another “Where were you?” game (watching in my dorm room in Syracuse my sophomore year). Maryland leads Duke 90-80 with one minute to go. Led by Jay Williams, Duke erases the deficit in regulation and goes on to win in overtime.
TrailBlazers @ Lakers: 2000 Western Conference Finals, Game 7
The Blazers, with Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Detlef Schrempf, a young Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire, lead the Lakers 75-60 with about 10 minutes left in the 4th and looking to be cruising to the Finals. Coincidentally, that’s the point when I turned the game on my mother’s kitchen (yep, another “Where were you?” game. Make sure you watch Kobe break Scottie’s ankles then throwing the lob to Shaq at the end.
Giants at 49ers: 2002 NFC Wild Card Game (submitted by @chelleb7 and @MrGetItOnJones)
The Giants jump out to a 35-14 point lead in the third quarter, and would have made it 42-14, but Jeremy Shockey’s drop in the end zone forces Big Blue to settle for a field goal. That glimmer of hope gave was all the 49ers needed. The Giants still had a chance to win it at the end… that’s when Trey Junkin’s name became as infamous to Giants fans as Bucky Dent’s name is to Red Sox fans.
Marlins @ Cubs: 2003 National League Championship Series, Game 6 (The Bartman Game)
Five outs away from their first World Series appearance since the Civil War, the Cubs blow Game 6 in an excruciating fashion. Everyone remembers the actions of one Steve Bartman, but Alex Gonzalez should share some of the blame. Thankfully, MLB actually has footage of this game.
Barton College vs. Winona State: 2007 NCAA Division II National Championship Game
What? Division II? Trust me on this. Winona State, winners of 57 straight games, blows a seven-point lead in the final 45 seconds… and I dare you to find 10 better finishes in ANY sport.
Eagles @ Giants: 2010 NFL Season, Week 15 (The Miracle at The New Meadowlands)
The score was 24-3 at the half. The Giants led 31-10 with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Then all hell broke loose. As with their previous entry on this list, the Giants had a chance to salvage the game, as all Matt Dodge had to do was kick the ball out of bounds…
Ravens @ Steelers: 2010 AFC Divisional Round
My beloved Ravens jump out to a 21-7 lead at the half in Pittsburgh… then the wheels fell off faster than Helly Hansen jackets in the 90s.
Mavericks @ Okla. City: 2011 Western Conference Finals, Game 4
As previously discussed, the Mavericks, down 15 with less than five minutes to go, tie the game and win in overtime. OKC now goes back to Dallas for Game 5, where you think there will be surely finished.
Mariners @ Indians, 2001: Down 14-2 after six innings, the Indians score three in the 7th, four in the 8th and five in the 9th to tie it (while being down to their last strike three times), then win it in the 11th. (Because MLB doesn’t have a clue, I can’t find any video of the game, so the box score will have to suffice.)
Spurs @ Rockets, 2008: (submitted by @ellekay13) Tracy McGrady scores 13 points in 33 seconds.
Dolphins @ Jets, 2001: Dolphins blow a 30-7 second half lead in The Monday Night Miracle.
Gonzaga vs. UCLA, 2001 NCAA Tournament Second Round: (submitted by @itsronnyg) Gonzaga blows a 17-point second half lead, culminating with Adam Morrison crying on the court .
Mavericks @ Lakers, 2007: (submitted by @ddixon2281) Dallas blows a 27-point fourth quarter lead at Staples Center.
Colts @ Buccaneers, 2003: The Bucs’ 21-point collapse in the final five minutes taught us two lessons: Never bet against Peyton Manning at night, and NEVER turn off Monday Night Football.
Patriots @ Colts, 2006 AFC Championship Game: Down 21-3 in the second quarter, Peyton Manning excercises his Patriot demons and leads the Colts to the Super Bowl XLI.
Bayern Munich vs. Manchester United, 1999 UEFA Champions League Final: I know, I know, it’s soccer and half of you have no idea who these teams are. But around the world, this is one for the ages. United, down 1-0 in stoppage time, scores twice to win the title and complete The Treble? What’s the Treble? Google it.
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