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The Biggest Sports Team Collapses in History

Updated November 6, 2017 1.4k votes 185 voters 32.8k views18 items

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Call them sports failures or call them upsets - either way, these sports teams and athletes embarrassed themselves and shocked people around the globe by making history, and not in a good way. These professional MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL teams, as well as individual athletes all squandered leads, stunk up their seasons, or lost at the worst possible moments to create the biggest sports collapses of all time. These are the most notorious upsets in sports history.

At best, these teams and athletes prove that where there is great expectation is often where the biggest disappointments arise. At worst, they've made fools of themselves in such a way as for it to go down in history.

These sports teams had huge leads in games, were way ahead in the standings, or had nearly won a game, series, or championship, but at the last minute collapsed completely and lost after coming so close to victory. It's not the best way to remember these teams, but unfortunately their collapses live on in infamy.
  • 1

    2006 Insight Bowl

    Photo: flickr / CC0

    Setting a record for the biggest comeback in NCAA Football Division I FBS bowl history, the 2006 Insight Bowl also featured the biggest collapse in college football in a single game. Coming in at 7-5, the Texas Tech Red Raiders were slightly favored over the 6-6 Minnesota Golden Gophers but fell way behind through the first three quarters in a 38-7 deficit with only eight minutes to play. The Gophers nearly had the bowl game won when the Red Raiders came back to add 31-unanswered points to tie the game at 38-all.

    Texas Tech forced overtime but Minnesota got the ball first in the extra session. The Gophers drive down the field in six plays to score a field goal, but the Red Raiders answered right back with a five-play touchdown run to win the game. Unsurprisingly just days after the collapse, Minnesota head coach Glen Mason was fired.
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  • 2

    1999 British Open

    Photo: Metaweb / CC-BY

    Unlike many of the other notable sports collapses on this list, the disaster at the 1999 British Open was not created by a poor team effort, but rather by an unfortunate play from a single athlete, golfer Jean Van de Velde. In an attempt to become the first Frenchman to win the tournament, Van de Velde built a substantial lead going into the 18th hole and had nearly already won the title.

    That lead however was squandered in the final strokes. Van de Velde could finish with a double bogey, or six strokes on the par four, and still win the event. Unfortunately for him, Van de Velde ran into a water hazard and needed seven strokes to finish the hole. That was only one too many but it allowed Paul Lawrie to take the championship.
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  • Photo: Bob Donnan / USA Today Sports

    A year after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, the Warriors looked set for a repeat. After one of the single most phenomenal seasons in the history of the game, Golden State was up 3-1, even if that single loss was a pantsing of a game. But with a two-game lead and a record-breaking regular season record of 73-9 (better even than the legendary '95 to '96 Bulls) the Warriors had this all locked down, right?

    Nope. Instead, the Cavs became the first team in Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit. With Steph Curry's three-point mojo utterly abandoning him just as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving activated their Wonder Twin powers, the championship went to seven games, seven games Golden State lost in dramatic, unexpected, and embarrassing fashion. How big a fiasco was it? A frustrated Curry was ejected from the penultimate game after throwing his mouth guard into the crowd, inadvertently hitting a fan.
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  • 4

    2011 Boston Red Sox

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

    After leading the American League East Division for most of the second half of the 2011 season, the Boston Red Sox went from heavy favorites to failing to qualify for the MLB Postseason after one heck of a collapse. The Red Sox first fell behind the New York Yankees in the division, but still held a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays as the season entered September, the final month of the season.

    However, Boston collapsed in September, winning only seven games and entering the final day of the season, September 28, tied with Tampa Bay. A Rays loss and Red Sox win would have put Boston in the playoffs, and that looked pretty likely as Tampa Bay went down 0-7 against the Yankees in their final game. The Rays went on to not only come back, but also win the game in extra innings, while the Red Sox, after a rain delay, fell to the Baltimore Orioles, ending their post-season run before it even began.
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