Best Underdog Stories of the Past Decade

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2014

Best Underdog Stories of the Past Decade

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    If there's one thing that sports fans have a soft spot in their hearts for, it's cheering for underdogs (unless they're going up against your favorite team, of course).

    Helping David beat Goliath is a long-standing tradition in athletics, and because we've all seen some good examples of underdogs over the past decade, I figured I would examine which ones are the best stories.

    Sure, some of these might have been bigger than others, but each of them have reminded us why it's so great to watch sports: the unscripted drama.

Honorable Mention: Average Joe's Dodgeball Team

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    OK, so it's just a movie about underdogs who try to take down bullies and a stacked team in a dodgeball tournament, but that doesn't mean that the squad from Average Joe's in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story isn't an inspiration to us all!

    It's a story about persistence, pride, glory, overcoming self-doubt and doing something memorable to win a championship.

    If that's not the definition of an underdog in sports, I don't know what is.

2013 Team Oracle (America's Cup)

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    Sailing might not be a sport many of us frequently watch, but last year's America's Cup would have been the best time to try and get into it.

    After trailing 8-1 in a best-of-17 format, America's Team Oracle defeated the odds to stage a remarkable comeback that went into the history books.

    Underdogs overcome long shots to get to greatness, and Team Oracle did just that by holding off Emirates Team New Zealand from winning just one more race to close out the title.

Wigan Athletic

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    It's one of the most stunning upsets in European soccer history, with little known—or supported—Wigan Athletic defeating the mighty Manchester City to capture the 2013 FA Cup.

    With a last-minute goal from sub Ben Watson off of a corner kick, Wigan won its first-ever FA Cup and first major title in its history.

    And to do it against a club that has won two of the past three Premier League titles makes this underdog story that much sweeter.

2007 Appalachian State Mountaineers

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    There have been a number of great upsets in college football over the years, but there might not be a bigger underdog to actually pull one off since the Appalachian State Mountaineers did so against the Michigan Wolverines in 2007.

    With the Wolverines holding down the No. 5 ranking following a year in which they nearly played for the national championship, Appalachian State proved that even the little guys can win one every once in awhile.

    Back and forth for the majority of the contest, it wasn't until the Mountaineers blocked a last-minute field-goal attempt that the deal was sealed, sending the FCS team into a frenzy inside of the Big House.

Gabby Douglas

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    Many of us know Gabby Douglas due to her remarkable 2012 Olympic debut. She became the first U.S. women's gymnast to take home the individual, all-around gold medal.

    And while she also earned the team gold with her U.S. mates, the adversity that she overcame to get to London is well documented.

    In order to reach her goal of making the Olympics, Douglas was forced to leave her family and ignore the comments from doubters who weren't sure about her commitment to the sport.

    The sacrifices Gabby Douglas made at a young age in order to pursue and accomplish her dreams make for one hell of an underdog tale with a storybook ending.

2008 Fresno State Bulldogs Baseball

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    The Fresno State Bulldogs only made the 2008 College World Series because they won their conference tournament, and few thought the team would make much noise in the postseason.

    Finishing with just a 33-27 overall record during the season, the Dogs got hot at the right time to become one of the biggest Cinderella teams in recent memory, taking home the title in historic fashion by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs to earn the school's first-ever national championship.

2011-12 Los Angeles Kings

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    Whenever a No. 8 seed makes it out of the first round of the NHL playoffs, it's something noteworthy.

    But when that team actually makes a run all the way to the championship round and then wins it, it's another thing entirely, especially after dominating the top-seeded, Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks in its opening-round series.

    That's exactly what happened with the L.A. Kings back in 2012, who overcame the odds of a less-than-stellar regular season to end up hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup after they played higher-seeded teams through their entire run.

2006-07 Golden State Warriors

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    Much like the hockey world was shocked in 2012 by the aforementioned L.A. Kings taking down the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks, the Golden State Warriors did the same in the NBA five years prior.

    The Warriors became the first No. 8 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in a best-of-seven series, taking down the Dallas Mavericks in stunning fashion.

    Even after the Mavs won 67 games and had the league MVP in Dirk Nowitzki leading them, the Warriors rode a raucous crowd and an experienced coach in Don Nelson to expose the Mavs and prove that they were an underdog that was fun to root for.

Y.E. Yang

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    If there's one thing that 14-time major winner Tiger Woods typically does to opponents, it's intimidate them with his focus and intensity, especially when wearing his usual red shirt during the final round of a tournament.

    Unfortunately, that didn't happen for Woods in 2009's PGA Tournament.

    Then the No. 1 player in the world, Woods was upstaged by the guy ranked 110th, Y.E. Yang, who overcame a three-stroke lead in that last round to capture his first major title.

    Yang has only won two total PGA tournaments in his career, but one of his wins came against the greatest golfer of the past 25 years.

David Andrews

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    I chose former Tennessee high school basketball player David Andrews here for his remarkable story, but, really, there have been a number of underdogs just like Andrews who have captured the attention of the sports world.

    Born with Down syndrome, David went from being his high school team's biggest cheerleader and inspirational leader to its deadliest three-point shooter.

    After hoping to get her son in a game back in 2012, the boy's mother got her wish—and then some—as David wasn't just put in one game during garbage time but actually played regularly and even started once.

    Stories like this make sports so fun to follow.

2014 Kansas City Royals

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    There have been a lot of great underdogs over the years, but one whose story is happening right before our eyes is this year's Kansas City Royals. The Royals have made the World Series for the first time since 1985.

    Following a wild, walk-off finish in the Wild Card Game against the Oakland Athletics, the team swept the favored Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series, winning both games in California against the squad with the best home record in baseball. The Royals then made light work of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series.

    Few expected the Royals to reach the playoffs, let alone the World Series, yet they are just two wins away from a championship.

2005-06 George Mason Men's Basketball

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    There haven't been too many teams that can brag about having the NCAA tournament that the 2005-06 George Mason men's hoops team had.

    After coming in as a No. 11 seed, the Patriots made a remarkable run that included defeats of No. 6 seed Michigan State, No. 3 seed North Carolina, No. 7 Wichita State and No. 1 Connecticut to reach the Final Four. At that point, their luck finally ran out.

    Winning one game might be lucky, but to win four in a matter of a couple weeks takes talent, and the underdog Patriots proved that they had a lot of it.

2007 New York Giants

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    It might not have been the largest point spread leading up to a Super Bowl, but the 12-point difference between the undefeated New England Patriots and the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII was actually one of the biggest spreads in the Big Game's history.

    No matter to the G-Men, though.

    Getting a taste for the Pats in the regular-season finale, the Giants used a stingy, attacking defense that pressured Pats quarterback Tom Brady into rushed decisions and used a little bit of theatrics to take home the Lombardi Trophy.

    Although New York came in as heavy underdogs, they were confident leading up to the game that they had what it took to beat New England, and they backed it up.

Jeremy Lin

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    One of the most compelling underdog sports stories ever comes from Jeremy Lin, who went from zero to hero like few athletes ever have before.

    After being overlooked coming out of Harvard in 2010, Lin dazzled in the Summer League that season and signed with his hometown Golden State Warriors, who eventually cut him.

    Scooping him up off of waivers, the New York Knicks took a chance on the kid, with him taking full advantage of the opportunity by infecting the entire city of New York with Linsanity thanks to his play.

    Although the underdog story and craze lasted for a month or so, Lin was able to show his skills off and go from sleeping on a former teammate's couch to signing a megadeal with the Houston Rockets after his coming-out party.

Mine That Bird

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    I don't care if you like watching horse racing or not, but when a competitor faces 50-1 odds and actually wins, it's something that should be celebrated as an underdog story gone gloriously right.

    That's exactly what happened with 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who overcame a 19-horse field to capture the unprecedented victory, rewarding anyone who actually bet on the long shot to win the roses.

    Unfortunately, the colt was unable to become even more legendary, though, finishing second and third in the other two legs of the Triple Crown.

    Still, Mine That Bird is an underdog—or should I say, underhorse—that defined the spirit of the word.

2004 Boston Red Sox

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    Eighty-six years.

    That's how long the Boston Red Sox had waited to end the now-defunct Curse of the Bambino.

    Enduring the Bill Buckner error in 1986 and Aaron "Bleepin'" Boone in 2003, the 2004 version of the BoSox appeared to be one of the biggest disappointments in sports history, going from a Game 7 in the ALCS a year prior to getting humiliated by the rival New York Yankees the next season.

    In the words of Lee Corso, though, "Not so fast, my friend."

    In a stunning turn of events, Boston chipped away at the Yanks' 3-0 series lead by creating memorable moments that no one could foresee coming.

    Ballsy stolen bases, walk-offs against the usually unhittable Mariano Rivera and experiencing a little bit of the luck that Boston fans had been without for so long helped the team turn the series around.

    The aptly named "Group of Idiots" didn't just comeback from a historic deficit in the ALCS against the Yanks but kept the good times rolling by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for the franchise's first World Series title since 1918.

    These underdogs were left for dead but proved to have resuscitated themselves just in time to leave their mark on the sports world.