The Most Epic Collapses in Sports History
In sports, fans love to talk about their teams' wins, glorious comebacks and triumphs over adversity.
Speak to a Red Sox fan and they will tell you all about 2004. Just don't ask about 2011.
Yet, epic sports collapses are often excruciatingly painful to watch and remain etched in our collective consciousness for ages, often defining the victim team for years to come.
Here are the most epic collapses in sports history.
No. 20: Phil Mickelson at Winged Foot
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How can you make an epic collapses list without Winged Foot?
Phil Mickelson was up +3 near the finish to the 2006 US Open when he sent a ball sailing into a garbage can.
As you can guess, things went downhill from there and he finished in second place.
No. 19: 1978 Boston Red Sox
Boston went from a 12-game lead over their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, in July to losing a one-game tie-breaker to end the season.
Worse yet, the Yankees went on to win their second World Series in a row.
No. 18: 2010 Boston Celtics
Yes, Kendrick Perkins was injured. But how do you collapse when you are up deep into the fourth quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Finals against your hated rival?
No. 17: 1938 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates were a great team in 1938 and they actually led their division rivals, the Chicago Cubs, by seven games heading into September.
But, then the Pirates dropped 13 of 25 and the Cubs went on a run, forcing the Pirates out of the playoffs.
No. 16: 2004 Los Angeles Lakers
Derided mid-season as dysfunctional, the Lakers made it to the 2004 NBA Finals.
With a team that included Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone, how could they lose?
The answer: putting forth a bickering, disgraceful choke job in a 4-1 NBA Finals series loss to a Detroit Pistons that did not have a single player as good as any one of the Lakers' stars.
No. 15: 1969 Chicago Cubs
Baseball's lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, are the only team capable of creating an awful swing like 1969.
In August, Chicago was leading the New York Mets by 9.5 games. By the end of the season, they were a full eight games back and far gone from the playoffs.
How do you even manage to lose that much?
No. 14: Andy Roddick at Wimbledon 2009
Roddick's performance at Wimbledon in 2009 remains the peak of his career. Going five sets and 16-14 in the final one with Roger Federer remains his singular achievement as a player, greater even than his straight sets 2003 U.S. Open championship win over Juan Carlos Ferrero.
But Roddick's performance was also a massive collapse because, up a set and multiple tie-breaker points, he missed an easy volley that turned the tide of the match. Federer won the set and never looked back.
No. 13: 1934 New York Giants
The 1934 Giants were the first team ever to take a seven game lead into September and still not make the playoffs.
The feat is still rare, but the 1938 Pirates were the next team to accomplish it.
No. 12: 2007 New York Mets
What do you do if you are the New York Mets and you hold a seven-game lead in mid-September?
Blow it away with a 5-12 final stretch to the season that sinks your franchise into a half-decade death spiral.
Or was that the Bernie Madoff scandal?
No. 11: 2011 Miami Heat
After "The Decision," the Miami Heat's trio of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh looked unbeatable. And, after some early season hiccups, they dutifully made it to the NBA Finals and crushed the Dallas Mavericks.
But then, beginning in Game 2, it all fell apart and Dallas' underdog veterans took the NBA title in six games. James would not live down the collapse until his first championship a year later.
No. 10: 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
The "shot heard round the world" remains one of the most iconic moments in baseball history.
It was also the last moment in an epic Dodgers collapse that began in mid-August when they let a 13.5 game lead over their rival New York Giants slip away.
Of course, the Giants had a 37-7 record down the stretch. Try doing that in baseball today!
No. 9: 2006 Dallas Mavericks
The Dallas Mavericks, up 2-0 on the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, squandered a 13 point cushion with 6:33 left on the clock. The consequences were dire: they lost all momentum and the series.
The only reason this epic collapse ranks 9th is due to the awful officiating towards the end of Game 3. Is it a collapse when the officials so obviously help your opponent win?
Interestingly, Dallas got its sweet revenge in 2011 when the Mavericks upset the favored Miami Heat to win the first post-"Decision" NBA Finals.
No. 8: 1994 Seattle Sonics
The 1994 Sonics were led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, two stars who took them to the No. 1 overall seed with a 63-19 record.
With the Chicago Bulls gone from the title picture, this was supposed to be Seattle's year. But then, somehow, they lost their first round series to the Denver Nuggets in five games.
It was the first time a No. 8 seed defeated a No. 1 seed in NBA Playoff history.
No. 7: 2003 Chicago Cubs
Chicago was up 3-1 on the Florida Marlins in the NLCS, ready to go to the franchise's first World Series in a half century. Led by Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs were the team to beat.
But the Cubs let Game 5 go, then, with an assist from Steve Bartman (though to blame him is grossly unfair) Game 6 and Game 7. The team hasn't been the same since.
The Cubs may be the most collapse-prone team in American sports.
No. 6: 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
Pennant races are incredible breeding grounds for epic collapses.
After all, only in baseball could the 1964 Phillies blow a 6.5 game lead with 12 games remaining by losing a crazy 10 in a row.
Very clutch, fellas. Very clutch.
No. 5: Jean Van De Velde, 1999 British Open
Winged Foot may be the most famous collapse in golf lore, but de Velde's British Open performance puts it to shame.
The French golfer needed only a double bogey or better on the last hole to win the major, but couldn't manage it, putting up a triple bogey and losing a playoff for the title.
No. 4: Houston Oilers, 1992 AFC Wild Card
Houston's collapse remains one of the worst in NFL history.
Up 35-3 in the 3rd quarter, Houston players watched Buffalo Bills fans stream out of the stadium. But the Oilers couldn't hold on, coughing up an overtime loss.
The franchise never recovered in Houston.
No. 3: 1995 California Angels
The Angels blew 10+ game leads to both the Rangers for the AL West title and the Yankees for the Wild Card.
How did they possibly blow both leads?
No. 2: 2010 Boston Bruins
The Bruins hold the incredibly dubious honor of blowing a 3-0 lead in the NHL Conference semifinals to the Philadelphia Flyers.
It's nearly impossible to burn a 3-0 lead and the Bruins made the process excruciating for fans to watch, ultimately losing a 4-3 nail-biter in Game 7.
No. 1: 2008 Detroit Lions
The 2008 Detroit Lions ultimately collapsed as a team and a franchise, setting the ultimate standard for futility with an 0-16 season.
The collapse was so drastic that the entire team, coaching staff and front office were overhauled and the Lions may now be entering their first golden era in decades.