Underdogs date back to biblical times when the smaller David went up against Goliath. Since then, it’s our nature to root for someone or some team with the odds against them. Even though the options are endless, this handful of the best underdog stories in sports history reigns supreme.
New England Patriots Imperfect Season
It looked improbable that the Giants would get another crack at the Patriots after a 38-35 loss in Week 17 with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers standing in their way in the NFC. But an improbable run through the NFC playoffs gave us the rematch everyone wanted to see. The Giants and their vicious pass rush tormented Brady en route to a 17-14 victory, spoiling the Patriots’ storybook conclusion.
From Regulation to Champions: The Story of Leicester City
Rarely do we see a 5,000-to-one underdog as a wise bet, but Leicester City did just that with its 2015-16 Premier League title. The championship run is more improbable because the Foxes were on the brink of regulation. Yet, Leicester City outlasted juggernauts like Manchester United, Manchester City, and Chelsea to take home the crown.
The Mountaineers Reach Their Peak
The 2007 college football season will go down in history as one of the wildest we have ever seen. The season of the upset started during the opening week when the Appalachian State Mountaineers shocked the world and defeated the Michigan Wolverines.
In what was supposed to be a tune-up game for Lloyd Carr’s fifth-ranked squad, App State put up 21 points in the second quarter to take a 28-17 lead at halftime. Everyone assumed that Chad Henne and Mike Hart would figure it out in the second half, but the FCS darlings held on after blocking Michigan’s game-winning field goal attempt.
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Meet the Mets
Before they had an owner who would spend a billion dollars to win a World Series championship, the New York Mets were the laughingstock of baseball. In 1962, the Mets finished the season with a record of 40-120-1, one of the worst winning percentages in baseball history.
It seemed improbable that the Mets would even have a .500 record after having five seasons of 100 losses before 1969. After an unlikely comeback to win the NL East from the collapsing Chicago Cubs, the Mets, behind their amazing pitching staff that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and a young Nolan Ryan, won the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Buster Said Knock You Out
There was no one more intimidating than Mike Tyson in his prime. Most of Tyson’s fights seemed like foregone conclusions before the bell rang—especially against Buster Douglas. Douglas entered the fight with a 29-4-1 (19 KO) record compared to Tyson’s 37-0 (33 KO). Ergo, Douglas was a 42:1 underdog against the knockout master.
It was clear that Tyson was not himself in the Tokyo Dome, eventually dropping to the canvas after a flurry of lefts and rights from Douglas. After the shocking conclusion, both fighters were never the same. Douglas lost his only title defense against Evander Holyfield, while Tyson gnawed at Holyfield’s ear a few years later.
There are countless examples of underdogs overcoming the odds and shocking the world. And your version of the best underdog stories in sports history may differ slightly. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to broach the subject without including the surprising results of these five events.
Dianne Pajo is a writer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.
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