Last week Sheffield Wednesday came back from 4-0 down and won a penalty shootout to advance to the Championship play-off final, cementing the performance as one of the greatest comebacks in the sport’s history.
Sports often remember their greatest moments within themselves. As much as the traditional underdogs who overcome unfathomable odds get their share of the limelight, so do the teams that manage to extricate themselves from the most unforgiving situations and emerge with the most unexpected victories.
With that in mind, here are the ten greatest comebacks in professional sports history.
10. Dave Wottle won the 1972 Berlin Olympics for the 800m
The 800-meter run at the 1972 Berlin Olympics was supposed to be a controversial event. Russia’s Yevgeny Arzhanov and Kenya’s Mike Poyet were among the top contenders, but the eventual champion, Dave Wottle, was not. At least, that’s what it looked like once the race got underway.
Pass two people on the last turn and three down the house
His trademark title holder, Wottle, who had barely trained before the Olympics due to sore hamstrings, was in last place after one of the laps. But as he entered the race in the backstretch, he made a powerful spurt and regained contact with the main pack. He passed two people on the final turn and three on the home stretch to claim Olympic gold at just 21 years old.
Wottle edged second-place finisher Arzhanov by just 0.03 seconds to win the United States’ first gold medal in the event in 16 years.
9- Tiger Woods wins the 2019 Masters tournament
Today, Tiger Woods is recognized as one of the greatest golfers of all time. But even his legend was in doubt when he entered the 2019 Masters.
Tiger has dealt with a range of personal issues, including a highly publicized divorce and cheating scandal, as well as substance abuse issues. He also had several injuries that put his career in jeopardy. Many wondered if he could walk the length of a golf course.
Unfazed, Tiger covered the distance until he finished with his fifth green jacket, one short of Jack Nicklaus and his fifteenth major championship. He was also the second-oldest player to win the Masters title in the beautiful swansong of a legendary career.
No. 8: Los Angeles Kings come back in 1982 5-0
The 1982 Los Angeles Kings were tied with the Wayne Gretzky-led Edmonton Oilers 1-1 in a five-game series. Their chances of outrunning their favored opponent, led by an all-time MVP, looked slim as they entered the third period trailing 5-0.
They put five points past the Oilers to force overtime
Rather than implode, the Kings would stage one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when they got past five Oilers goalies to force overtime, scoring their first and winning 6-5.
The Kings dropped Game 4 but won Game 5 and moved on to the next round, shocking Edmonton. The match is remembered as a miracle in Manchester because Kings’ home stadium, The Forum, sat on Manchester Boulevard in Englewood, California.
7 – Tracy McGrady scores 13 points in 33 seconds
The Houston Rockets were playing an in-state game against the San Antonio Spurs in December 2004. The Spurs had won the NBA Finals over the New Jersey Nets and had future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili at their disposal.
The Spurs led 76-68 with 36 seconds left for a seemingly comfortable win – until Tracy McGrady had second thoughts. He started a scoring streak with a three-pointer before converting a four-point play. He then hit two more consecutive three-pointers, hitting the last with 1.7 seconds left to put his team ahead 80-78.
Parker missed three game-winners as time expired and the performance was cemented as one of the best players in basketball. “T-Mac” finished the game with 33 points and explained why Kobe Bryant called him “the toughest guy.” [he] ever to play against.”
6- Sheffield Wednesday came back from 4-0 down
The latest addition to our list is English football side Sheffield Wednesday, who took advantage of a 5-1 penalty shootout victory to bounce back from their 4-0 defeat in the first leg of the League One Promotional Play-off against Peterborough United last week.
We witnessed a historic match
The win was particularly important to coach Darren Moore, who had suffered racial abuse during the game the previous week. He summed it up well, saying, “We witnessed a historic game” in his post-match press conference on the touchline.
There is an added level of importance when a comeback happens during pivotal ties, and for Sheffield Wednesday it would be hard to find one more important than the playoffs to achieving promotion.
5 – New England Patriots trailed 28-3
The Atlanta Falcons were leading 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 entered halftime of the deciding game with a 21-3 advantage. The Falcons also scratched first in the second half with an early touchdown.
That’s when Tom Brady pinned another feather to his cap in the greatest rally in league history. He and the Pats spring to life and score 25 unanswered points, including a tying touchdown with 58 seconds remaining to force overtime.
The momentum was all on the New England side at this point, and to no one’s surprise, they found the end zone first via James White’s one-yard touchdown run. It was the first time in Super Bowl history that a team went into the fourth quarter with a lead of 17 or more points and did not win. Over 30 records were broken by the time all was said and done.
4 – The Minnesota Vikings won the game they trailed 33-0
The Minnesota Vikings looked poised for one of the most embarrassing defeats of the 2022 NFL season. They went into the game 10-3 but trailed 33-0 against the lowly Indianapolis Colts, who were led by interim coach Jeff Saturday who had never coached in college or the NFL.
He scored 39 points, all in the second period 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 finished with 460 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions as Minnesota sealed the largest comeback comeback in league history.
While it’s inexcusable for the Colts to blow such a giant lead, it also led to one of the best moments ever for the sport. So at least there is that.
3 – The Cleveland Cavaliers draw 3-1 against the Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals in 2015 and came back even better in 2016. They went 73-9 to set the record for all-time regular season wins and just came back from a 3-1 deficit in the best scores. Seven series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
With their team trailing 3-1, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving made the greatest three-game stretch ever. Both scored 41 points in Game Five, LeBron scored another 41 points in Game Six, LeBron made game-saving blocking while Irving made the game-winning shot in Game Seven.
Cleveland captured the championship at Golden State and ended a 52-year drought as a city in the NBA’s greatest comeback story.
2 – Boston Red Sox broke the “Bambino Curse”
The Boston Red Sox have been under a curse — a curse placed by baseball’s all-time 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, the Yankees.
On his way out the door, Ruth put a curse on the Sox and said they would never win a championship. That curse lasted 86 years and seemed to tighten its grip on the city in 2004 when the Sox found themselves down 3-0 to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
He carried that momentum into the World Series and defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in just four games
But to everyone’s shock, the Sox pulled off four straight wins, becoming the first MLB team to win a series that they were trailing 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 insults have expiration dates.
1 – Barcelona won 6-1 against Paris Saint-Germain
The Spanish football giants faced Barcelona in the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League in 2017. They lost 4-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg, and despite leading 3-1 in the second leg, they needed three goals to book. Their ticket to the next round.
All hope seemed to be lost until Neymar scored a free kick in the 88th minute and then converted a controversial penalty kick at 90′ + 1′. The comeback was completed in the 95th minute when Sergi Roberto found the net to give Barcelona a 6-1 victory (6-5 on aggregate).
Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani later revealed that he was so distraught over the loss that he needed counselling. The match is remembered as one of the football team’s best and most heroic displays.