LeBron James Decision: The 10 Biggest New York Sports Heartbreaks
With LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Miami Heat this offseason, it was just another major letdown for New York sports fans.
The Knicks had actively been pursing James for over two seasons, having traded away an absurd amount of draft picks (many of which were lottery picks), and suffered far too many losing seasons for fans to bear.
New Yorkers believed all would be right again in Madison Square Garden once the Knicks signed James in the blockbuster free agency period of 2010.
But with the Knicks inability to sign James, that got me to thinking: what are the 10 biggest heartbreaks in the history of New York sports?
10. Mets Lose in Game Seven of 2006 NLCS
2006 was supposed to be the Mets’ year.
New York was the clear-cut favorite coming out of the National League, having cruised through the regular season, won 97 games, and won the NL East by 12 games over Philadelphia.
Control of the series went back and forth, and finally reached a Game Seven at Shea Stadium.
The Mets drew first blood when David Wright singled in Carlos Beltran in the bottom of the first inning.
The Cardinals answered in the top of the second when Ronnie Belliard laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Jim Edmonds from third base.
Those would be the only runs until the ninth inning, when Yadier Molina blasted a two-run homer to put St. Louis ahead for good.
Mets fans witnessed in the sixth inning one of the most spectacular plays in franchise history when Endy Chavez made an improbable leaping grab to rob Scott Rolen of a homer, and to double Edmonds off first.
The icing on the cake in this heartbreak, however, was not Molina’s home run off Aaron Heilman in the ninth, but rather how the game ended.
Carlos Beltran came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs, down by two runs, in Game Seven of the NLCS.
Beltran struck out looking at a curveball that bent at the knees for strike three.
Beltran’s strikeout would be the last playoff at-bat ever at Shea Stadium, and remains a sour image in the minds of most Mets fans.
9. Yankees Lose in Game Seven of 2004 ALCS
With a three games to none lead on the hated Boston Red Sox, the Yankees appeared to be headed back to the World Series.
The Red Sox had other plans.
Boston became the first team to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games.
After winning the first three games, the Yankees were in the drivers seat, needing to win just one of the next potential four games to advance to the World Series.
The Bombers blew a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning when Mariano Rivera couldn’t close the door on the Sox. In the 12th inning, David Ortiz hit a walk-off two-run home run to win the game for Boston, 6-4.
Game Five was similar to Game Four, in that Boston again won in extra innings on a David Ortiz hit. This time, Big Papi delivered a single to center field to bring home Johnny Damon.
Yankees fans, although a bit edgy having not been able to close out the Sox, watched their team return home with two chances to clinch a trip to the Fall Classic.
Game Six became infamously remembered by Yankees fans as the “Bloody Sock Game,” in which Curt Schilling hurled a gem with a partially torn tendon sheath in his right ankle.
His white sock was bloodied by the time Schilling exited the game after the seventh inning.
Yankees fans watched as their team lost another game, this by a score of 4-2.
Game Seven was not even close, and was practically over quicker than it started.
The Red Sox scored two runs in the first on an Oritz homer, four in the second on a Damon grand slam, and two in the fourth to make the score 8-1.
The Yankees never came closer than five runs, and eventually lost the game 10-3, while becoming the first team in MLB history to lose a seven-game series when leading three games to none.
8. Vinny Testaverde Tears Achilles Tendon in 1999 Season Opener
Think Tom Brady in 2008, except Vinny Testaverde for the Jets in 1999.
After piloting the Jets to the AFC Championship game in 1998, his first season with the team, Vinny Testaverde was determined to get New York to the Super Bowl in 1999.
The only problem was, he never had the chance.
In the Jets' season opener against the Patriots, Testaverde tore his Achilles' tendon and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Gang Green was poised to make a run at the Super Bowl after having been denied a trip to the big game by John Elway and the Denver Broncos in what turned out to be Elway’s farewell tour.
The Jets would have given their division foe the Indianapolis Colts a run for the division had they had their starting quarterback for more than a few plays.
New York would win the final four games of its season to finish with an overall record of 8-8, tied for last place in the division with the Patriots, and behind the Dolphins (9-7), Bills (11-5), and Colts (13-3).
Testaverde would have shining moments with the Jets in 2000 with the “Monday Night Miracle” and in 2001 when he got the Jets back in the playoffs.
However, he never came close to a Super Bowl appearance again. The 1999 season remains a tale of nothing more than a what-if fantasy.
7. Jets Lose 1982 AFC Championship Game
The Jets' loss in the AFC Championship at the end of the 1982 season was hard for New York fans to witness.
It didn’t make matters any better that they lost to arch-rival Miami.
On Jan. 23, 1983, the Jets played the Dolphins in what many New York fans remember as “The Mud Bowl.”
The game took place in Miami after rain had left the field in bad condition.
The Jets complained before the game about the Dolphins’ decision not to place a tarp over the field.
New York’s cries went unheard, as they eventually lost 14-0 in a very sloppy game.
Jets quarterback Richard Todd was limited by the weather conditions and Miami defense to 13-of-37 passing for only 103 yards and five interceptions.
Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe was on the receiving end of three of Todd’s five interceptions, including one which he returned for a 35-yard touchdown, and another that set up a Dolphins score.
New York fans viewed the loss as a missed opportunity and a rotten way to lose. It also left Jets fans pondering the what-if scenario of having played a drier field.
6. Knicks Lose 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals
New York didn’t just lose the 1995 semis, they lost it in horrifying fashion to arch rival Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
The infamous moment of the series came in Game One when Miller miraculously scored eight points in the final 16.4 seconds of the game and somehow helped Indiana win 107-105.
The performance, which still burns hot in the memories of Knicks fans, came at during the height of the Knicks/Pacers rivalry.
After New York had beaten Indiana in the 1994 conference finals en route to a heartbreaking loss to Houston in the Finals, the Knicks returned to the playoffs determined to avenge the loss.
The Pacers had other plans.
Despite Miller setting the tone for the series with one of the most outrageous playoff performances in NBA history, the semis still came down to a Game Seven.
The Knicks pulled even with Indiana after wins in Game Five (at home) and Six (on the road) evened the series.
Game Seven boiled down to the final seconds when Patrick Ewing’s layup as time expired clanged off the back iron, preserving a 97-95 Pacers win.
1995 would be the last time the Knicks would make a serious run at a title except for 1999, when an aging Ewing led New York to the Finals, only to lose to the Spurs in five games.
5. Jets Lose 1998 AFC Championship Game
The reason the Jets losing Vinny Testaverde in 1999 was so dramatic was because of the success the team enjoyed in 1998.
That season, the Jets went 12-4 and eventually earned a right to play the defending Super Bowl champion, John Elway-led Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
The game was played in Denver on a relatively warm January afternoon.
That season, Testaverde, in his first season as Jets quarterback, led New York to wins in each of the team’s final six games, and 10 of the final 11 games of the season.
New York rolled into the AFC Championship with a 34-24 win over the Jaguars.
The Jets had not been to a Super Bowl since Joe Namath led New York to an improbable win over the Baltimore Colts 30 years prior.
Nursing a 10-point lead at halftime, things were looking good for New York.
That is, of course, until Denver took the field in the second half.
The Broncos put up 20 points in the third quarter, and took a 20-10 lead into the fourth. Denver would add a field goal in the final period to seal the 23-10 win.
To this day, the Jets have not reached a Super Bowl since Namath won back in 1969.
4. Yankees Lose in Game Seven of 2001 World Series
Despite leading by one run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game Seven, and with the best closer in baseball history on the mound, the Yankees still couldn’t win the 2001 World Series.
After Alfonso Soriano hit a solo home run off of Curt Schilling to break a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth inning, the game came down to a battle of the bullpens.
The Yankees entered the ninth with a one-run lead and Mariano Rivera on the hill, who had already pitched a one-two-three eighth inning.
With runners on first and second and one out, Tony Womack hit a game-tying double. Rivera, one of the most trusted late-inning pitchers in baseball, had blown the save.
Rivera hit Craig Counsel with an 0-1 pitch to load the bases for Diamondbacks slugger Louis Gonzalez.
Rivera jammed Gonzalez, a lefty, in on the hands with his patented cutter, but ‘Gonzo’ was able to push the ball far enough over Derek Jeter’s head to win the game for Arizona.
The Yankees were denied a fourth World Series in as many years, and didn’t return to the Fall Classic until they won it all in 2009.
Having been within two outs of a World Series title and with Rivera on the mound, Yankees fans had to wait eight long years to avenge the heartbreak loss.
3. LeBron Doesn’t Sign With New York
July 8, 2010 will be remembered as an infamous date in Knicks history.
Having spent over two seasons dedicated not to winning, but rather to dumping salary cap, the Knicks failed to achieve their goal in luring coveted NBA free agent LeBron James to New York.
New York, once one of the prestigious NBA franchises in the 70s, and one of the most competitive of the 90s, became a laughing stock over the last decade.
Between the Isiah Thomas fiasco, the Stephon Marbury catastrophe, and all the historically bad free agent signings and trades, the Knicks became known as one of the worst professional franchises in all of sports.
That was all supposed to change, however, when the Knicks signed LeBron James.
New York shed salary cap space recklessly to leave room not only to offer James a maximum contract, but to possibly offer two, or maybe even three maximum deals during one of the most historic free agent periods of all time.
Earlier in the day, the Knicks officially signed free agent Amar’e Stoudemire to a five-year, $100 million contract, in hopes of pairing him with James.
But in an epic announcement, dragged out by a one-hour special on ESPN, James announced he would be leaving Cleveland to play with fellow 2010 free agents Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Knicks fans had been looking forward to the day LeBron suited up for the Blue and Orange for quite some time, and will have to continue to wait for their savior to avenge the championship-less Patrick Ewing era.
2. Patrick Ewing Doesn’t Win a Championship
Okay, so this New York heartbreak was dragged out some 15 years, so what?
When the Knicks ‘won’ the first NBA Lottery in 1985, they essentially won the draft rights to Patrick Ewing, center out of Georgetown University.
Ewing was supposed to be the answer to Knicks fans’ prayers, who had been yearning for a championship since the 1972-73 season.
Ewing grew as a player and eventually was surrounded by a formidable supporting cast, highlighted mainly by John Starks and Charles Oakley.
No. 33 played Hall of Fame-level basketball during his tenure with the Knicks, getting New York to the Finals in 1994 against Houston, and 1999 against San Antonio.
Ewing and the Knicks led the 1994 series three games to two, and needed only one win on the road in Houston.
Instead, the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets rattled off two wins to stun the Knicks, and deny New York a championship.
In 1999, an aging Ewing was faced with the daunting task of slowing down veteran David Robinson, and young-gun Tim Duncan.
The Knicks would eventually lose the series in five games. Despite one final push in 2000, Ewing and New York could not get it done.
Ewing would eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and named as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players.
However, Knicks fans still look back in disbelief at how New York never won a championship with Ewing.
1. Brooklyn Dodgers move to L.A.
This move tore out the hearts of every single Dodgers fan. What had they done to deserve such a punishment?
The Dodgers were huge in the 1950s before owner Walter O’Malley moved the team out west for the 1958 season.
During the 50s, the Dodgers won the pennant three times, including a World Series win over the Yankees in 1955.
The 1955 season marked the sixth time the Dodgers had won the pennant since 1941, but only the first time they won the Series.
The Dodgers lost to the Yankees in the World Series each time they won the pennant before 1955.
The elusive World Series win was immortalized by Brooklyn fans, as well as a singer named Billy Joel, whose single “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” featured the line “Brooklyn’s got a winning team.”
When O’Malley moved the Dodgers to L.A., he did so because he couldn’t get the city of New York to finance a new stadium. He got that in Los Angeles, and as a result, he broke the hearts of Brooklyn fans.
And to this day, there are still Brooklyn fans that have never gotten over the relocation of their beloved Dodgers.
The Heartbreaks That Didn’t Make The List
In no particular order, here are a few other events that broke the hearts of New York fans.
New York Rangers drought from 1940-1994- The New York Rangers were one of the NHL’s Original Six teams, and endured much success in the early years of the league.
However, despite various talented teams made up of solid coaches and skilled players, the Rangers went an unprecedented 54 years between Stanley Cup Championships, losing many tough series along the way.
Many Rangers fans believe the team was cursed in 1940, when it is said that Rangers management burnt the mortgage of Madison Square Garden in the bowl of the Stanley Cup.
1958-63 New York Football Giants- The Giants played in five NFL championship games, but failed to win any of them.
The most significant loss came in 1958 to the Colts.
The game, which the Colts won in overtime 23-17, is considered to this day to be one of the biggest reasons the NFL became popular in America.
Giants loss in 2003 playoffs- The Giants lost in the first round of the 2003 playoffs to the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 39-38.
The Giants led 28-14 at halftime, and 38-22 entering the fourth quarter.
Then the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points to take a 39-38 lead. Miraculously, the Giants hopes of advancing passed Wild Card Sunday were still intact late in the game.
Kerry Collins drove the Giants down the 49ers' 23-yard line with six seconds left, giving Matt Bryant a chance to win the game with a field goal.
However, the snap was botched by Trey Junkin, as a weak pass attempt was incomplete.
New York Mets make two awful trades- While the Mets may have made some questionable trades and signings in recent history, missing on transactions is nothing new.
In 1975 and in the height of his career, the Mets traded future Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver for practically no good reason.
Seaver would continue to win 20 games a season and dominate hitters after his tenure with the Mets.
And of course all Mets fans remember that Nolan Ryan once wore blue and orange.
New York parted ways with Ryan after the 1971 season, and never really gave the young pitcher a chance to blossom.
To this day, Ryan still has more career no hitters, seven, than the Mets do as a franchise, zero.
New York baseball Giants move to S.F.- The Giants moved out west in 1957, the same year as the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In fact, it was the Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley who pushed the Giants into the decision because the Dodgers couldn’t move west unless another team went with them.
The Giants won 17 pennants and five championships in New York before moving out west to San Francisco, where they have yet to win a championship.
The Giants' and Dodgers' departure left New York with just one team, the Yankees, for five seasons before the Mets were founded in 1962.
The Mets would adopt the colors blue and orange to commemorate the Dodgers and Giants.
2007 and 2008 New York Mets- Talk about your fall from grace.
One season after Carlos Beltran freezes up at the plate in the NLCS, the Mets found themselves leading the division by seven games on Sept. 12.
In one of the biggest collapses in sports history, the Mets lost 12 of their final 17 games, and missed the playoffs.
The following season, the Mets entered the final weekend of the regular season in playoff contention, only to miss out on a Wild Card berth.
The Mets could have clinched a spot with a win on the final day of the season against the Marlins (whom they concluded their season with for the second season in a row).
In the final game ever played at Shea Stadium, the Mets lost to the Marlins 4-2, and missed the playoffs again.
Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech This was a different type of heartbreak for New York fans.
Gehrig was, and still is to this day, one of the greatest players ever to play the game of baseball.
On July 4, 1939, a little over two months after his final game as a Yankee, Gherig delivered his famous speech, in which he declared himself the “luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Gehrig died at the age of 37 from a neurological disease, which would later take the name ‘Lou Gehrig's Disease.’