The Greatest Comebacks in Sports
The history of sport is littered with examples of athletes and teams overcoming improbable positions to emerge victorious.
The question is, which are the greatest comebacks in sports? We’ve gone back through the record books to identify the best sports comebacks of all time.
Zanardi Comeback Defies Logic
When it comes to personal sports comebacks, you would be hard-pushed to beat Alex Zanardi’s achievements after having his legs amputated.
The former Formula 1 driver was competing in the Championship Auto Racing Teams series when he was involved in an awful crash in 2001.
Zanardi designed his own prosthetics that allowed him to race again. He subsequently won Touring Car events before becoming a world and Paralympic hand-cycling champion.
Red Sox & The Curse of the Bambino
The Boston Red Sox’s decision to trade Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 was the catalyst for a barren run that became known as the ‘Curse of the Bambino’.
The Red Sox went into the 2004 American League Championships Series against the Yankees having not won the World Series for 86 years.
They recovered from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Yankees in Game 7 before sweeping the St Louis Cardinals to win the title. The curse was broken!
Brady Inspires the Patriots
The Patriots went 14-2 during the regular NFL season in 2016 and were big favourites to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons opened up a 28-3 lead midway through the third, but the Patriots subsequently embarked on one of the greatest sports comebacks of all time.
Led by star quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to send the game to overtime where they scored a touchdown to seal a 34-28 victory.
Super Subs Break Bayern’s Hearts
The 1999 Champions League final saw Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United aiming to make history by claiming a unique treble.
After conceding an early goal to Bayern Munich, the Premier League club dominated possession but were unable to create many clear-cut chances.
Step forward substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who both scored in injury time to spark wild celebrations on and off the pitch.
The Miracle of Medinah
Team Europe looked down and out when they trailed the Americans 10-4 heading into Sunday’s singles in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
However, Europe achieved one of the greatest comebacks in Ryder Cup history by winning eight and tying one of the 12 singles matches.
Martin Kaymer’s five-foot putt on the 18th hole to defeat Steve Stricker took the score to 14–13, and the outright victory was secured when Tiger Woods missed a putt on the final green.
King James Slays the Warriors
Golden State Warriors were the dominant force during the 2015/16 NBA regular season, winning a record 73 out of 82 games.
After unsurprisingly progressing to the NBA Finals, the Warriors looked well on course to clinch the title after opening up a 3-1 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James had other ideas as he led the Cavaliers to victory in the next three games – the first time a team had overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
Cubs End 108-Year Drought
The Chicago Cubs won back-to-back World Series in 1907 and 1908, becoming the first Major League Baseball team to play in three consecutive championships and the first to win it twice.
Little did they know at the time they would have to wait another 108 years before winning the title again, and it nearly did not happen.
The Cubs were 3-1 down against the Cleveland Indians but fought back to clinch the series in Game 7 to finally put an end to their World Series drought.
Jack Nicklaus cemented his status as a golfing legend by winning his sixth Masters title under challenging circumstances in 1986.
He posted a six-under-par 30 on the back nine for a final round of 65 to become the oldest Masters winner in history aged 46.
Nicklaus had not won any tournaments in the previous two years but defied the odds to secure his eighteenth career major.
Woods Puts Adversity Behind Him
Tiger Woods was the dominant force in golf from the late 1990s through to the early 2010s, before outside issues put a dent in his reputation.
Infidelities, divorce, car crashes and injuries saw Woods endure a massive fall from grace that many pundits predicted he would never recover from.
However, he proved the doubters wrong by producing a storyline for the ages after claiming a fifth Masters title and 15th major championship in 2019.
Jordan Gets Back in the Groove
Michael Jordan stunned the sporting world in 1993 by announcing his retirement from basketball following his third straight NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls and the death of his father.
He subsequently announced he was signing for the Chicago White Sox in the MLB, but failed to show the same level of skill in a different sport.
Jordan returned to basketball in March 1995 and subsequently helped the Bulls win another three NBA titles. It was like he had never been away.
Dudek Cheats his way into the Record Books
Liverpool’s comeback against AC Milan in the final of the 2004/05 Champions League is a remarkable story, but it is one that is sullied by cheating.
Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek wrote himself into Reds’ folklore by saving two penalty kicks to hand Liverpool the trophy after they had recovered from a 3-0 deficit during normal time.
However, Dudek gained an unfair advantage by coming miles off his line for some of Milan’s penalties. A great comeback, but ultimately tainted.
Flyers Dash the Bruins’ Hopes
The Philadelphia Flyers’ comeback in the 2010 Eastern Conference semi-finals was one of the most unlikely recoveries in the history of the NHL.
The Flyers lost the first three games but roared back to level the series. Boston raced into a three-goal lead in the deciding game, but the Flyers recovered to win 4-3.
They subsequently progressed to the Stanley Cup Finals but were beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks. However, their comeback against the Bruins was truly epic.
Barca Achieve Mission Impossible
Barcelona pulled off the biggest Champions League comeback ever to eliminate Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 in 2017.
Faced with a 4-0 deficit following the first leg in Paris, Barca won the second leg 6-1 with three of the goals coming from the 88th minute onwards.
The result cemented the widespread feeling that PSG lack the intestinal fortitude required to win the Champions League.
Botham Bashes the Aussies
Australia were on the verge of going 2-0 up against England in the 1981 Ashes series at Headingley when Ian Botham strode to the crease.
His swashbuckling innings of 149 forced the Aussies to bat again and Bob Willis ripped through the tourists with figures of 8-43 to seal a remarkable 18-run win.
England had become just the second Test team to win after following on, and that momentum swing helped them go on to a 3-1 series victory.
Taylor Digs Out the Nugget
When Dennis Taylor trailed snooker legend Steve Davis 8-0 after the opening session of the 1985 Crucible final, an easy victory was on the cards.
Taylor refused to accept defeat and fought back to tie the game at 17-17 to force a nerve-jangling final frame against ‘the Nugget’.
He eventually clinched the title on the final black to complete one of the most remarkable comebacks in sporting history.
Viren Shakes Off Stumble
Lasse Viren went into the 1972 Olympic Games as a virtual unknown but announced himself to the world with one of the most stunning sporting comebacks in history.
The Finnish athlete’s hopes of winning gold in the 10,000 metres seemed to be over when he stumbled and fell just before the halfway mark in the final.
However, Viren dusted himself down and battled back into contention before storming to victory in a world-record time. He subsequently won the 5,000m – a double he repeated in Montreal in 1976.
Charlton Stun Shankly
Charlton Athletic gave Huddersfield Town manager Bill Shankly a day to forget after recovering from an impossible position in December 1957.
The Addicks were 5-1 down with half an hour to play, before battling back with just ten men to grab a 6-5 lead with two minutes remaining.
Huddersfield appeared to have snatched a point when they equalised, but Charlton claimed a remarkable 7-6 win when John Ryan scored with the final kick of the game.
Seles Crowns Brave Comeback in Australia
Monica Seles won eight Grand Slam tennis titles before the age of 20, before suffering a horrific setback in 1993 as she was stabbed on court by a fan obsessed with Steffi Graf.
Seles suffered badly with depression and an eating disorder following the attack and did not compete for two years.
She returned in 1995 and lost that year’s US Open final to Graf, but crowned her comeback by winning her ninth Grand Slam in Australia the following year.
The Miracle of Bern
The German national team went into the 1954 World Cup eager to repair their country’s reputation after the atrocities of the Second World War.
They progressed to the final in Bern where they faced Hungary – a team widely regarded as one of the finest to ever grace international football.
Hungary led 2-0 at half-time, but the German team regrouped and netted three unanswered goals in the second half to win the World Cup for the first time.
Deontay Wilder scored a brutal 12th-round knockdown on Tyson Fury in December 2018 but was left stunned as the British heavyweight somehow rose from the canvas.
Wilder felled Fury with a superb right hook-left hook combination and proceeded to celebrate as the Gypsy King looked to be out for the count.
However, Fury answered the count of the referee before holding his own for the remainder of the round to claim a controversial draw.
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