The 50 Biggest Upsets in Sports History
Over the years, we have seen our fair share of David beating Goliath.
Upsets are going to happen, and the best thing about them is they occur when you least expect it.
For the fan with no ties, these are some of the greatest moments in sports history. Even more so for the fans of some of these teams, as these are the events that they still live for to this very day.
For the fans of the team that was upset, some of these tragic events still haunt them, making them only wish to never have to experience something as upsetting as that ever again.
The following are the 50 greatest upsets in sports history.
50. Aaron, I Wish We Weren't in Kansas City Anymore
The defending 2011 Super Bowl champions were coming into Arrowhead Stadium with a 13-0 record, and it looked as if nothing was going to stop them.
Except something did, and that was the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs.
Yep, a team with a losing record was able to take down Aaron Rodgers and one of the best offenses in the league. The perfect season went straight out the window.
The Packers were able to get past the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants, but they just couldn't get past the Chiefs.
Not to mention, the team was playing with a new quarterback in Kyle Orton and a new head coach in Romeo Crennel.
49. Oil Spill
When the Detroit Red Wings are in the NHL playoffs, it is pretty hard to go against them.
Especially in the first round when they are the overwhelming favorites as the No. 1 seed and are taking on the No. 8 seed Edmonton Oilers.
The series was tied at 2-2, but the Oilers came through in the end, and sealed the deal in Games 5 and 6.
They took it all in front of their home crowd, causing one of the biggest upsets in NHL playoff history.
Coming into the 2011 NCAA basketball tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks were heavy favorites to take the whole thing.
The Jayhawks were the only No. 1 seed left in the tournament, but they were about to take on one of the two remaining Cinderella teams in the Elite Eight.
That team was the VCU Rams, who came in and shocked the world when they defeated the Jayhawks convincingly with a 71-61 final score.
The Rams went on to play in the Final Four, to only be defeated by last year's runner-up, the Butler Bulldogs.
While they didn't win it all, their defeat of the Jayhawks was a big enough win for them to be happy with their season.
47. Yang Making the Change
Back in 2009, Tiger Woods was still considered an unstoppable force on the golf course.
Woods came into the 2009 PGA Championship final round with the lead, something he hasn't dropped in his last 14 tries.
This time would be a different result, as Y.E. Yang of South Korea took this one from the world's greatest golfer.
His putter just wasn't treating him well that day, and it resulted in a three-shot win for Yang.
I am sure after this Tiger thought things couldn't get any worse.
46. Please Keep All Hands and Feet Inside the Railings at All Times
The 2003 Chicago Cubs were looking to break their curse just a season before the Boston Red Sox actually did so.
The Cubs came into the 2003 MLB playoffs as favorites to win it all, as coach Dusty Baker finally had the lovable losers going somewhere.
Things seemed to be going perfectly fine, as the Cubs were heading into Game 6 of the NLCS with a 3-2 lead over the Florida Marlins.
The Cubs were up 3-0 in the eighth inning, and it seemed as if nothing could keep this team out of the World Series.
Well, one thing—a foul ball that will go down in infamy as the most famous foul ball in the history of baseball.
Cubs fan Steve Bartman reached out to grab the ball, which made it impossible for Moises Alou to make the catch in the left field foul territory.
The Marlins went on to score eight runs that inning, and would eventually win Games 6 and 7.
45. Zen Master Is Not so Calm
Before playing the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, coach Phil Jackson was 9-0 when his team reached the championship round.
Against the Pistons though, the Zen Master would finally fall on his 10th try.
After the team lost during the 2003 NBA playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs, they went out and signed point guard Gary Payton and power forward Karl Malone. Joining these two aging superstars with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal pretty much guaranteed this team another championship.
The Pistons handled this "dream team" quite well, finishing them in just five games.
Jackson didn't handle the loss too well, deciding to retire shortly after the loss.
He came back though, and won another two titles in 2009 and 2010.
44. Pack Get Whacked
Coming into the 1998 NFL playoffs, the Green Bay Packers were the defending champions, and the Denver Broncos were just another wild-card team.
As the story would go, both teams would eventually meet in the playoffs, and it would be the defending champs that would fall to the Broncos and quarterback John Elway.
The Broncos were by far huge underdogs coming into this game, as this was the team's fifth Super Bowl appearance, losing all four before.
Elway was the QB the last three times they lost, so it was hard to believe that things would be any different, especially against the Pack.
The cheeseheads were overwhelming favorites—11.5 points to be exact—but they lost the game by seven.
43. LSU, Florida, UCLA and...George Mason?
For the George Mason Patriots to even be in the NCAA tournament, that calls for an upset on its own.
When they defeated (in order) No. 5 Michigan State, No. 3 North Carolina, No. 7 Wichita State and then No. 1 Connecticut to take the Washington D.C. bracket of the 2006 tournament to make the Final Four, well now you are talking about an upset.
The team was unable to get past the Florida Gators, who eventually went on to win the whole thing.
Well, not all stories have a perfect ending.
42. Culture Shock
The Americans have never really been that great at soccer, or football, whatever pleases you. Basically, they have never been that great at moving things with their feet.
So when they were able to defeat the English team 1-0 at the 1950 World Cup, many fans who had heard of the news stateside had to be shocked, especially considering the team were 500-1 shots to win the game.
Not to mention, they were outscored 45-2 in their last seven international matches.
41. Beat Up the Cop
Coming into UFC 70, many were pretty sure Gabrielle Gonzaga was going to get his world rocked by the beast of a fighter that was Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic.
In a shocking result, Gonzaga took him out with his own signature move, which was a high kick—one that he planted right onto Filipovic's head.
It was one of the biggest shocks in UFC history, which eventually opened the door for Gonzaga to get bigger matches, including an eventual title shot.
He is looking to make another upset as he wants another shot at the title.
40. Can't Clinch for Finch
Coming into the 2008 Olympics, the U.S. softball team hadn't dropped a game since 2000.
The team was riding a 22-game winning streak in Olympic play, but all things have to come to an end, as Japan defeated them at the Beijing summer games.
Too bad softball has been dropped from the 2012 Olympics. No shot at redemption.
39. Come On, Man
Not sure if I can call this an actual upset, or just that I am upset that this still qualifies as a win.
Back in 1972, the United States Olympic basketball team were favorites heading into the gold medal round against the Soviet Union.
The team had not lost their last 63 games, but somehow they lost this one 51-50.
The catch was that there was a ton of controversies with the clock, giving the Soviets three different opportunities to pass the ball in.
Whatever the case, the team still was only up by two at the moment.
38. No Jokey, Down with the Hokies
What was just supposed to be an easy win for the Virginia Tech Hokies actually turned into a nightmare.
Their football team was taking on the James Madison Dukes, who were an FCS team. The Dukes were actually regarded to be a good team during the 2010 season coming in with a win already, but no one imagined they could beat an FBS team.
Especially the No. 13 Hokies.
Well, VT learned their lesson in trying to beat up the little guy.
37. Don't Mine Me
Calvin Borel, you are a lunatic. But wow, can you win.
He is nuts because whenever he races, he will get behind the pack so that he can get in position to ride the rail to make a push to the front.
Borel entered the 2009 Kentucky Derby jockeying Mine That Bird, a 50-1 shot to win the race.
He faded back, took the rail and, well...
Yep, you guessed it. He won.
36. "I Coulda Been a Contender"
Alright, this quote actually has to do with a completely different movie, On the Waterfront, but both have to do with a struggling boxer.
The film Cinderella Man actually is based on this story, which is about heavyweight boxer James Braddock.
Fighting—literally—for a shot at making something of himself, Braddock finds his way back to ring and starts to climb the ranks as a journeyman.
He finally lands a shot at the heavyweight title, and is pitted against the champion Max Baer.
A 10-to-1 underdog, Braddock upset the big man to win the title.
Be right back—I have to go watch this flick again.
35. A Walk-off to Turn the Talk off
Things haven't been good for the Pittsburgh Pirates since the 1970s, but things were excellent in 1960.
The Pirates came into the World Series as total underdogs against the New York Yankees, who were looking like the team to beat.
It would take a total of seven games, but finally a walk-off home run by Bill Mazeroski sealed the deal and claimed the city of Pittsburgh their first Series pennant since 1925.
It would take another 11 years for them to win their next title, and then once again in 1979. More recently, any time the Pirates have managed to win a game it has been considered an upset (I'm just joking with you Pirates fans! You guys are starting to look good!).
34. Don't Mess with Coach K
After defeating the Duke Blue Devils in the 1990 NCAA championship game, pretty much the same UNLV Running Rebels team was ready to take them on in the 1991 tournament semifinals.
The Running Rebels were coming in with a 45-game winning streak, but that didn't scare coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.
They took this one 79-77, sending the Rebels running as they marched on to the finals to take on the Kansas Jayhawks.
They won that game, too.
33. Unusual Suspect
This is John Daly. Some of you know him as an avid drinker, others know him as an avid smoker but a few of you recognize him as a champion golfer.
Yep, that is right. Mr. Daly himself won the PGA Championship in 1991. He was an alternate for the tournament, and felt that he should return the favor by winning it all.
This was when we all didn't know Daly for how we know him today. Now, well, let's just say mystery was much better.
32. This Party Is Just Getting Started
"Who are the Boise State Broncos, and what is this WAC team doing in the Fiesta Bowl?"
That was likely what you were asking yourself when the Broncos made the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, but from there on the team has become a household name.
Coach Chris Petersen's squad came into a matchup against the Oklahoma Sooners as 7.5-point underdogs.
The team was up by 11 going into the second half, but they were in trouble as the Sooners went on a 25-point run in the second half to a seven-point lead with less than two minutes o the clock.
The Broncos marched downfield, and tied the game to take it to overtime.
The Sooners scored on their first play and made the extra point. Now the Broncos had to score.
The team did just that, and all they had to do was kick a field goal to keep things going.
Instead, Petersen made one of the ballsiest calls in sports history, having quarterback Jared Zabransky pull off the Statue of Liberty play—that back up Taylor Tharp thought up—to make the two-point conversion and win the game.
You know you get pumped thinking about this game just from reading this.
31. Off to Nethereverland
The majority of MLB's stars come from the Dominican Republic, so when the World Baseball Classic was created, many had assumed that they would take the cake.
Well, we were wrong.
In the 2009 tournament, the DR fell to....
Yep, you guessed it—the Netherlands!
Oh. That isn't who you were thinking, was it?
30. Fourth Time Is the Charm
OK, if it were only this easy.
The Arizona Diamondbacks entered the MLB in 1998, and somehow they are world champions just four years later?
Not only that, they beat who, you may ask? Oh yes, the New York Yankees.
The newbies were down 1-2 going into the closing outs of Game 7, but they were able to get by future Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera to take the game and the series.
If it were only that easy for every team in dire need of a title.
29. Enjoy It While It Lasts
OK, so maybe I wasn't completely telling the truth earlier when talking about Americans being pretty bad at soccer.
They decided why not shock the world once again, so they did just that against Spain at the FIFA Confederations Cup back in 2009.
The team was going into the semifinal match against the best team in the world, Spain, and somehow they came out on top with a 2-0 victory.
It was a triumphant moment for American soccer.
The next round wasn't as great, as they fell to Brazil 3-2 after having a 2-0 lead in the final.
28. Seriously? Couldn't Win 89 in a Row?
So if you weren't aware, the UCLA Bruins basketball team was pretty much unbeatable during the early parts of the 1970s, as they went on to win 88 games.
It wasn't until game No. 89 where they would trip up, as the team fell to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 71-70 during a 1974 matchup.
Coach John Wooden was clearly upset with his team, as 88 just wasn't enough.
27. Hoosier Daddy?
In 1954, a little school known as Milan High School with a class of just 161 students went up against Muncie Central High School in the Indiana High School State Basketball Championships.
That school had a class of 1,600 students and they were considered favorites.
Well, let's just say it was defensive battle, as the little guys won the game 32-30.
The story would go on to be known by a much wider audience with the movie Hoosiers.
26. Making History
Don Haskins will go down in history for many reasons, one of which will be when his Texas Western basketball team took down the Kentucky Wildcats in the NCAA championship game.
The team took them down 72-65, cementing themselves in college basketball history.
Beating the basketball powerhouse wasn't the only big thing that happened that day, as Haskins broke the color barrier by having African Americans starting in every position for him.
25. Chaminade Downs No. 1
Chaminade University (ever heard?) were nobodies in the college basketball world.
They were pitted against the No. 10ranked Virginia Cavaliers in a 1982 regular-season game, but Chaminade came out on top winning the game 77-72.
I will ask you once again, have you ever heard of Chaminade?
24. Bulldogs Beat the Bulldogs
Fresno State is not that well regarded as a baseball program, so when the Bulldogs came in and stole the NCAA World Series title from the Georgia Bulldogs, it was definitely an upset.
The team came into the tournament with an overall record of 33-27, and they only really got in because they won the WAC conference.
They were the first-ever No. 4 seed to advance to the NCAA World Series finals.
Their defeat of Georgia is quite possibly the biggest upset in college baseball history.
23. The Ultimate Fighter?
Matt Serra was the winner of The Ultimate Fighter 4, and with that he was given the automatic chance to take on the current welterweight champion of the world.
While that was a great storyline and incentive for people to get into the program originally, it was quite a laughable prize considering it is hard enough to get a shot at a title in the UFC.
Well, Serra got his shot, and it was against Georges St-Pierre, who would turn out to be a 10-to-1 favorite.
Serra didn't only beat St-Pierre, but he took it in the first round by TKO.
Perhaps the biggest upset in UFC history.
22. Leon Spinks Stings Like a Wasp
What stings harder than a bee? A wasp, and that is what hit Muhammad Ali when he lost to Leon Spinks.
These two were pitted against each other in 1978, and what many had assumed to be an easy Ali win turned out to be far from the truth.
Spinks was basically nothing more than a challenger, but he was reluctantly given a shot at Ali.
It wasn't an easy win, but he took it with the decision in the 15th round.
21. October Dominance
The Boston Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1918, so they made sure to take the 2004 title in dramatic fashion.
The Red Sox entered the postseason as the AL Wild Card, and they had to take on the Anaheim Angels. They swept them pretty much with ease, setting themselves up for a rematch with their AL East rivals, the New York Yankees.
Against the Yankees, their hopes were falling quickly as they found themselves down 3-0 in the series.
Somehow, things started going right for them and they quickly changed the direction of this round. It became 3-1, then 3-2, then 3-3 and somehow they were able to take it all by winning Game 7.
The Red Sox became the only the fourth team to come back from being down 3-0 in a playoff series that is best out of seven.
The reason why this one stands above the rest is because they were playing their rivals in the Yankees, and it all ended with the Red Sox winning the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals.
20. Battle of the Shades of Red
Maybe this one deserves to be a little higher, but I am going to have it sitting right here.
While it seems like a joke to think that a No. 16 seed will ever beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Harvard Crimson had us all in disbelief when they knocked off the Stanford Cardinal.
The Crimson won the game 71-67, cementing their place in upset history.
Unfortunately, the after party against the ninth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks was cut short as the team lost 82-64.
19. The Miracle Man
As we learned this 2011 NFL season, coach Jim Harbaugh can make amazing things happen on the football field.
He turned around an awful San Francisco 49ers into a playoff contender, but before that he was making just as much noise as head coach of the Stanford Cardinal.
In 2007, his Cardinal team was going up against the USC Trojans. Pete Carroll's squad was a 41-point favorite going in, but that didn't seem to faze the Cardinal.
It was a tight game, but Harbaugh's squad was able to come out on top, winning the game 24-23 with a game-winning touchdown drive in the final minute of the game.
The 1969 World Series was between the New York Mets and the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles had one of the strongest pitching rotations in all of baseball, and they believed that would be what would get them through the match.
The Mets came into the series—well, that season—as anything but contenders.
Still, they came out of this one with a 4-1 victory, and will go down in history forever as the "Miracle Mets."
17. The End of a Dynasty
The Oakland A's were coming into the World Series winning once in two previous tries, so they had high hopes the third time around would give them their second title in three years. Plans changed when they were going to take on Lou Piniella and his Cincinnati Reds.
The A's, being their for the third time in just as many years, were ready to become a dynasty. Unfortunately, one for three just won't do it.
The A's were just never in it, as the Reds took Game 1 7-0.
That was all she wrote, as the Reds went on to sweep them to claim the 1990 World Series.
16. Revenge Is Sweet
Don Nelson was the former coach of the Dallas Mavericks, but eventually stepped down from his position to return to his position as general manager.
After one season of sitting out, he came back to the coaching ranks and took over the Golden State Warriors.
With the Warriors, he would take them into the playoffs during the 2006-07 season as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Can you guess who No. 1 was?
Yep, the Mavericks.
The Warriors took out his former squad in six games.
15. Rafa Ousted
Rafael Nadal and losing just don't go together when we are talking about the French Open.
At 2009, things were different at Rolland Garros, as Rafa fell to journeyman Robin Soderling.
Nadal came into this semifinal match winning the four last French Opens, and it was pretty much guaranteed that he would be in the final once again.
Soderling took out Rafa in four sets with set scores of 6-2, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 and 7-6 (7-2).
I think it is fair to say that nobody saw this coming.
14. "Knock out the Fat!"
George Foreman, you make a mean grill, but you also pack a mean punch.
Even at 45 years old!
Foreman went up against heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994, and somehow he came out of that fight as the champion of the world.
He won the match in 10 rounds. It only took 20 years to get him back in the ring, but his patience certainly paid off.
13. Greatest Show on Turf Meets the Greatest Show on Earth
Before the New England Patriots were who they are today, they were just another team fighting to be elite.
This process took place during the 2001 season.
They started out the season with quarterback Drew Bledsoe under center, but an injury in Week 2 made the team replace him with some kid out of Michigan named Tom Brady.
That kid took the team into the NFL playoffs, all the way up to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots were pitted against Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams, otherwise known as the Greatest Show on Turf.
Well, Brady owned the show that night, as he took the Patriots down the field during the final minutes to clinch the Patriots the championship and the beginning of something big.
12. Party Pooper
Ben Hogan was going for his fifth U.S. Open title but this guy Jack Fleck just had to go and mess everything up (alright, he was much younger than what is pictured).
Fleck defeated Hogan at the 1955 U.S. Open, where the two had to play in an 18-hole playoff.
He only won three tournaments over his entire PGA career, and this just happened to be one of them.
If Hogan would have won, he would have had 10 career major titles. Unfortunately, he never got a shot like this again.
Fleck's comeback is noted as one of the best in golf history, as he came back from being down nine strokes after day one.
11. Come Here Papa Bear
Alexander Kerelin was regarded by many as the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler in the world.
He came into the 2000 Summer Olympics without dropping a match in the last 13 years, never dropping a single bout to international competition.
Still, a nobody from Wyoming representing the United States in the Olympics was able to bring an end to this.
That man was Rulon Gardner, and boy, did he shock many.
Look at that picture. How did he beat that?
10. "I Tend to Think of Myself as a One-Man Wolfpack"
The NC State Wolfpack taking down Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and the Houston Cougars in 1983 is one of the biggest moments in upset history.
Wolfpack coach Jimmy Valvano had his team marching into the NCAA championship game with a tough road ahead of them, but they came out and they fought that road.
The game was not easy, but the Wolfpack came out on top, taking the title in a 54-52 victory for the ages.
9. Hey Seattle, Take a Seat
Dikembe Mutombo liked to wave his finger telling his opponents "no" when he blocked them, so when his Denver Nuggets took down the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics, he shook that finger all day long.
The Nuggets were the No. 8 seed in the 1994 NBA playoffs that season, but Mutombo came up huge for the team to stop their opposition of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp.
Starting out the series 2-0, the Nuggets roared back to take the next three games and moved onto the next round (the first round still had just five games back then).
8. It Ain't Ova Till It's Nova
The Georgetown Hoyas, coming into the 1985 NCAA championship game, were the No. 1-seeded team in the tournament and the defending champs.
The Villanova Wildcats were the No. 8 seeds coming into this one, and were regarded as having no chance.
They took down the Hoyas, winning the game 66-64. The Wildcats had to shoot 78.6 percent this game, but they did what they had to do to upset the best team in the country.
7. One and Done
Roger Federer was coming into the 2009 US Open with the goal of winning his sixth straight title in New York.
Things didn't go as planned, as the tall Argentinean Juan Martin del Potro, who was the No. 6 seed, found a way to upset the then-world No. 1.
Federer was clearly the favorite going into this match, and there was really no way that anyone would have seen him dropping this one.
Del Potro took the champion to five sets, winning the fifth 6-2.
Things certainly didn't go well for Federer after this tournament either, as he has only won one Slam title since the loss.
6. Upset with the Upset
If you buy a horse and you are going to name it Upset, well then you better do just that.
Well, OK, you did it.
Going up against Man o' War and many other horses at the Sanford Memorial Stakes in the early 1900s, Upset was given 100-1 odds.
Man o' War had never lost a race in its career, so it was quite a surprise when Upset's nose crossed the line before any other horse's.
Well, at least the owner lived up to the promise.
5. Big House Bust
Oh boy, Michigan Wolverine fans, you may want to click on through to the next slide.
The No. 5-ranked Wolverines were hosting Appalachian State in the Big House in 2007, but honestly, it turned out to be a big mess.
The Wolverines were clearly the huge favorites in this game, as they were giving 27 points for the line.
The Mountaineers showed up to play, and play is exactly what they did.
They took the Wolverines to the brink, and they defeated them 34-32 in the Big House, which could go down as the biggest upset on their home turf ever.
4. Deal with the Devil?
Alright, so did quarterback Joe Namath make a deal with the devil or something when he guaranteed the New York Jets would win Super Bowl III?
Going into the game against the Baltimore Colts, Namath announced that the team would win the Super Bowl.
Many had believed that the Colts were overwhelming favorites in this game, but Mr. Namath had a different feeling in his gut.
Well, he kept his promise, as the team took the game 16-7.
3. Bite This
Going into his 1990 fight against Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas was a 42-to-1 shot to win the match, but all it took was a single shot from his first to knock out the big mean man.
Tyson was by far one of the most feared boxers around, but Douglas was not afraid of the man that actually bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear back in 1997.
Douglas took out Tyson, and then he took his heavyweight title.
The New England Patriots were looking to complete their perfect season, but it was the New York Giants who would play party pooper at the 2007 Super Bowl.
This game of course had one of the most iconic catches in sports history, as David Tyree caught a pass by pressing the ball against his helmet. This catch would lead the Giants onto their game-winning drive, where they took the game with a 17-14 lead.
There was no doubt that many had pretty much labeled the Patriots as winners before the game even started (12-point favorites), as this team was proven under coach Bill Belichick with quarterback Tom Brady. The Giants, on the other hand, were nobodies, but they became somebodies with this win.
There is nothing more upsetting than losing a shot at perfection.
1. "Do You Believe in Miracles?"
Of all the research I did, and from what I had set in my mind before going into this list, the United States hockey team defeating the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics topped every list.
The Soviets were the favorites heading into this game, as they were a team full of tradition and experience. The Americans, on the other hand, were made up of a bunch of random players, most of whom were college players or nobodies.
Still, somehow, they were able to take Lake Placid by storm and take down the mighty Soviets in what will go down as the greatest sports upset of all time.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!