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The Most Amazing Sports Comebacks We’ve Ever Seen

| September 9, 2020 9:02 am PDT
Most Impressive Comebacks in Sports History

The only thing more impressive than winning in professional sports is doing it in style. Some will suggest that dominating your opponents and winning via blowouts is the best method of victory.

It certainly will cause fans of the winning team to tear fewer hairs out. And if you’re betting on sports, at least when blowouts happen, you have a pretty good idea of where you stand going into the final moments.

Except, what about when blowouts turn into, well, not blowouts? I’m talking about wild sports comebacks that nobody thought could be possible.

There are the best comebacks, to be sure, but what about the flat-out most impressive comebacks in sports history? Everyone’s back is against the wall, all hope is lost, and yet the player or team finds a way to will themselves to a victory.

Unlikely as they may have been, these are the most impressive comebacks in sports history.

18. Peyton Manning Shocks the Bucs

You know you’re in for a wild ride when this one ranks last on a list detailing the best sports comebacks ever.

Back in 2003, Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts were looking at a certain loss, down 35-14 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

Indy scored to make it 25-21 with 3:40 to go, but the odds were still stacked against them to even tie the game, let alone win it. Indy recovered an onside kick on the next play, and the Colts went 58 yards in just over a minute to come within one touchdown.

The Colts failed to recover another onside kick attempt on the next play, but the Indy defense forced a Buccaneers punt, which set up the game-tying score.

Tampa Bay’s game-winning field goal try was blocked as time expired, which forced overtime. After the Colts forced a Buccaneers punt, Manning led yet another scoring drive, culminating in a game-winning field goal by Mike Vanderjagt.

The 21-point comeback itself isn’t that amazing, but the fact that the Colts forced OT and won this game with under four minutes on the clock makes it one of the most impressive sports comebacks ever.

17. Reggie Miller Scores 8 Points in 9 Seconds

This isn’t a 21-point comeback in under four minutes, but eight points in nine seconds feels pretty darn impossible.

Reggie Miller was to thank for this improbable sports comeback, as he scored eight points in nine seconds to help Indy get a win in game one of the 1995 ECS.

One of the best pure shooters the NBA has ever seen, Miller put his resume on the line in this one, as he accounted for eight points with the Pacers down six with just 18.7 seconds to go.

This comeback did require Knicks guard John Starks to choke at the charity stripe, but Miller still hit two three-pointers and sank two free throws to complete the magical comeback.

Scoring eight points in nine seconds is by itself amazing. But doing it in crunch time in the NBA playoffs? That’s about as impressive as it gets.

16. Plano East (Almost) Comes Back

I said I’d be going over the most amazing sports comebacks, regardless of level. That has the Plano East Panthers coming in lower than many would suggest they deserve, but level of competition has to matter.

Winning the game does, too.

Even so, they had one of the most insane comebacks ever, and anyone who was part of the game — or pays attention to high school football — would declare this as the best football game ever played.

Perhaps, but the fact that it was in a high school game, and the team coming back didn’t even win, makes it a tad less impressive.

That said, this was an unforgettable gem. The 1994 Texas State Championship between Plano East and John Tyler High was initially a slugfest, with the Panthers ready to score and make it a 27-24 game with roughly four minutes to go.

A strip-sack turned into a defensive touchdown as that drive neared the goal-line, however, and John Tyler High looked to be running away with the game. Their lead eventually grew to an overwhelming 41-17, following yet another fumble recovery for a touchdown on the next drive.

Just like that, a tight game turned into a total bloodbath.

Then the comeback began. With 3:03 to go, the game appeared to be over, but the Panthers answered back with a scoring drive to cut it to 41-23.

The Panthers attempted their first onside kick and got it, and scored again to cut it to 41-31. With belief growing, Plano East forced a fumble on the next kickoff, and with 50 seconds left, the Panthers scored yet again and cut the deficit to 41-37.

Could Plano East get an insane third consecutive onside kick? They sure did, and with 24 seconds, they tossed what looked to be the game-winning touchdown, going up 44-41.

Sadly, the Panthers kicked the ball deep down the field and watched helplessly as John Tyler High returned it for a score, winning 48-44.

Just. Wild.

15. Paul Lawrie Comes Back From 10 Strokes Down

The biggest comeback in PGA Tour history came at the 1999 British Open, and it was arguably just as much about Paul Lawrie’s comeback as it was Jean Van de Velde’s collapse.

Seriously, while this was the biggest comeback for a golf major, it also heads the biggest golf collapses in PGA Tour history.

While Van de Velde’s meltdown ranks as the worst PGA meltdown, Paul Lawrie still gets credit for completing a masterful comeback.

Down 10 strokes heading into the fourth round, Lawrie mounted a ferocious comeback that included a playoff win against Van de Velde and Justin Leonard.

Not only did Lawrie not give up in the face of sure defeat, and excel down the stretch, but he even came up in the clutch to take out two golfers to win the 1999 Claret Jug.

All things considered, it was quite impressive and easily one of the greatest golf comebacks ever.

14. Flyers Escape 3-0 Hole

Hockey is one of the more difficult sports to complete insane comebacks in, but the Philadelphia Flyers made it happen back in 2010 in the NHL ECSF.

Philly did not get this playoff series started off on the right foot, as they dropped game one in overtime and lost game two by one. They fell to 0-3 in the series with a 4-1 loss in game three, and their playoff run appeared to be over.

The Flyers wouldn’t quit, however, as they won an amazing 4-5 overtime game in game four to stay alive, before coasting 4-0 in game five. They outlasted the Bruins once again in game six, narrowly edging Boston out, 2-1.

Despite being down and out after three games, Philadelphia found themselves with one more shot to complete the impossible, as they headed back to TD Garden for game seven.

It wouldn’t be easy, as Boston scored almost immediately and even took a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead in the final game. The Flyers wouldn’t be discouraged, however, as they ripped off the next four games to complete one of the wildest NHL comebacks in history.

13. The Miracle of Bern

If mounting a comeback in hockey is tough, just imagine how difficult it can be in soccer.

Games often end in scoreless ties, and goals are hard to come by, so when Germany was down 2-0 at the break in the 1954 World Cup title game, their championship hopes appeared to be dashed.

This comeback was extra special for the German team, who was making their first World Cup appearance since World War II and was understandably trying to clean up their country’s image.

Germany got hit early, and things looked bleak with Hungary taking a 2-0 lead, but the German team regrouped and rattled off three straight goals in the second half to win the game.

The win not only came at the highest level of soccer, but it handed the German team their first-ever World Cup victory.

12. Tracy McGrady Takes Down the Spurs

Reggie Miller’s eight points in nine seconds is much more famous, perhaps because it was in the playoffs and came first. But it doesn’t touch what Tracy McGrady did to the San Antonio Spurs in 2004.

T-Mac went ballistic in this game, so much so that simply his scoring output in the final seconds is enough to get him on this list. The guy scored 13 points in 33 seconds, originally facing a 76-68 deficit with 35 seconds left in the game.

McGrady started the theatrics by hitting a three-pointer with 35 seconds to go, cutting San Antonio’s lead to 76-71. The Spurs hit two free throws on their next possession, pushing the edge back to 78-71.

T-Mac’s scoring barrage wouldn’t end there, as he converted a three-point and-one on his next possession, cutting San Antonio’s lead to just three points on one play.

Tim Duncan added two free throws to make the score 80-75 with 16.2 seconds left. McGrady wouldn’t waver, as he took a difficult in-bounds pass, dribbled to the top of the key, and sank an impossible three ball in the face of a smothering Bruce Bowen defense.

That insane shot cut San Antonio’s lead to 80-78 with 11.2 seconds left on the clock. The Spurs turned the ball over on their next possession, which led to Tracy McGrady racing down the court and shooting a last-second three-pointer.

Of course, it went in, giving the Rockets an improbable (and amazing) 81-80 victory.

This wasn’t an insurmountable comeback for Houston as a team, but they did need everything to go their way, including perhaps the craziest individual NBA performance to end a game, ever.

11. The Tribe Surprise the Mariners

Comebacks aren’t all that crazy in baseball, but the Cleveland Indians put that logic to the test back in 2001 when they scored an insane 12 runs after the seventh inning.

Seattle surely thought they had this game in the bag, as the Mariners went up 12-0 after just three innings and held a 14-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh.

Cleveland started their comeback there, scoring three runs in that inning and adding four more in the eighth. Their last gasp came in the bottom of the ninth, as they ripped off five more runs — all while facing their demise with two outs remaining in the contest.

The Tribe pulled off a miracle by forcing extra innings, where Jolbert Cabrera ultimately knocked in the winning run, allowing Cleveland to complete an amazing 15-14 comeback win.

10. This Is Sparta

As noted, comebacks in sports can be impressive at all levels. That certainly applies to the college football scene, where Michigan State completed one of the wildest comebacks in sports history in 2006.

It also happened to be the largest comeback in college football history (Division I-A).

Trailing 38-3 with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter, the Spartans mounted a ferocious comeback that would result in a thrilling 41-38 victory.

Adding to the intensity was the fact that it came against the rival Northwestern Wildcats, who surely were in victory lap mode.

Northwestern may have been guilty of celebrating too early, however, as Michigan State tacked on their first two touchdowns of the game in the third quarter. That saw them enter the game’s final stanza down 38-17.

Even after that mild third-quarter rally, it looked bleak for the Spartans. However, Michigan State blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown early in the fourth, and suddenly, the Spartans had hope with the score being 38-24.

Michigan State still had some work to do, but Northwestern helped them by failing to do anything on their next two drives, and the Spartans scored on both of theirs.

With the game tied 38-38, Michigan State picked off a pass to set up a 28-yard game-winning kick. It was an amazing comeback that saw the Spartans reel off 38 unanswered points, including 24 in the final quarter alone.

9. Texas A&M Denies Northern Iowa

Another team that probably figured they had a win was Northern Iowa, who held a 12-point lead over Texas A&M with 44.3 seconds left in their NCAA tournament showdown.

This game arguably featured one of the biggest choke jobs in sports history, but the Aggies still made every play they needed to make to complete this comeback.

The rally began at the 34-second marker when the Aggies rebounded a miss and scored a layup to cut the Northern Iowa lead to 69-59. Even then, there just wasn’t enough time for Texas A&M to realistically mount a successful comeback.

March Madness fans underestimated how poorly Northern Iowa would inbound passes, however. The Panthers put their ineptitude on full display right away, as their next possession was a turnover that led to a quick Aggies score.

Suddenly, the Aggies were within eight, but with just 25.8 ticks left, a comeback still seemed rather unlikely.

Northern Iowa laughed in the face of logic, as they inbounded the ball and tried to bounce the ball off of a Texas A&M player. That backfired, as the Aggies caught the ball and scored another easy bucket, cutting the deficit to 69-63 with 21.7 seconds left.

Texas A&M got the ball back again with 20 seconds to go, inbounded a pass, and promptly hit a three-pointer to cut the score down to 66-63.

Just like that, an impossible comeback turned into a one-possession game.

Northern Iowa finally did something right on their next play, as they launched an inbounds pass down the court for an easy dunk to stretch their lead to 71-66 with 19 seconds to go.

Alex Caruso converted an and-one on Texas A&M’s next play, while an Aggies steal and layup with 1.9 seconds left tied the game. The comeback was completed in under 44 seconds, which led to overtime.

The game took on a whole new form once there, of course, as the teams battled through two tense overtimes before the Aggies finished the job with an insane 92-88 win.

Needless to say, this reminded everyone as to why live sports betting during games can be so appealing.

8. Comeback vs. Comeback: Bruins Down Maple Leafs

One of the best sports comebacks ever came in 2013 when the Boston Bruins outlasted the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Toronto, weirdly, came back from a 3-1 hole in the series after a tight 1-1 series got out of control. Their journey back started with a clutch 4-3 overtime win in game four, followed by consecutive 2-1 wins in games six and seven.

Surviving by the skin of their teeth, the Maple Leafs appeared to cement a historic comeback from a 3-1 hole after they took an alarming 4-1 lead in game seven.

As daunting as that appeared, the Bruins never gave up, as they ripped off four goals (three in the third period alone) to send the game to overtime. Boston closed the deal there, completing an improbable comeback to deny Toronto an even wilder comeback.

Two epic comebacks within the context of one series, and it came in the NHL playoffs. That absolutely goes down as one of the best comeback stories in sports.

7. Bills Come Back From 35-3 Hole

When you think about the best sports comebacks, the 1992 AFC playoff showdown between the Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers is near the top of anyone’s list.

I mean, the game was literally dubbed “The Comeback.

NFL writers have always been pretty liberal with the crowning of moments, but this one may end up living up to that name.

The Bills were eyeing a third straight Super Bowl run, but with Jim Kelly injured, they didn’t look like great bets to survive an early Oilers onslaught.

Houston’s early dominance turned into complete destruction, with the Oilers taking a 35-3 lead in the third quarter.

Buffalo somehow didn’t give in, even with star running back Thurman Thomas exiting due to injury. Playing with spare parts on offense, the Bills mounted their comeback, using a bad kick to get good field position.

That helped cut the lead to 35-10, which was followed by a recovered onside kick and subsequent score, just four plays later. That made the score 35-17 with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter,

After stopping the Oilers on Houston’s next drive, the Bills turned right back around and got another score — Frank Reich’s second in Buffalo’s last three drives. Houston then threw an interception on their next drive, which the Bills capitalized on with a third touchdown pass from Reich.

Just like that, Buffalo had cut a 32-point lead to just four, thanks to a wild 28-point third quarter.

After some sloppy play, the Bills had the ball again and took the lead with Reich’s fourth touchdown pass of the day — all coming in the second half, giving Buffalo an improbable 38-35 lead.

Houston responded by finally breaking a string of 35 unanswered points, with an Al Del Greco kick trying the game 38-38 and forcing overtime.

Despite winning the initial coin toss, the Oilers tossed an interception on their third play of OT, and Buffalo converted their final possession into a game-winning field goal.

Buffalo took the game in the unlikeliest fashion and ultimately used their wild 41-38 OT victory to propel them to yet another Super Bowl appearance.

6. Oracle Team USA Accomplishes the Impossible

Who cares about sailing? Normally, not me, and I certainly won’t pretend to be a sailing expert. I don’t know much about anything to do with water at all, to be frank.

I can still spot an amazing comeback in sports when I see it, though. Oracle Team USA certainly delivered one in 2013 when they staved off elimination to win the America’s Cup.

Labeled one of the greatest comebacks in sports history by The Wall Street Journal, this one really does pass the eye test when you consider what was at stake and how the comeback happened.

For one, Oracle Team USA was down 8-1 in a race to nine wins. They had to win seven straight races just to stay alive, and an eighth to win the championship.

Not only did Oracle Team USA thrive under immense pressure and defend their title from the year prior, but they faced failure repeatedly and came out on top.

Based on sheer difficulty and having to be borderline perfect for eight consecutive races, this America’s Cup win easily goes down as one of the best comebacks ever.

5. Cubs Outlast Indians in World Series

The Chicago Cubs didn’t just come back from a 3-1 series hole in 2016. They didn’t just do it to win the World Series. They ended a 108-year title-winning drought and ditched a never-ending curse in the process.

Everything was against the Cubs for so long, and once they faced off with the Cleveland Indians in 2016, it seemed to be the same old story.

Chicago’s promising season was on the rocks from the start, as Cleveland easily won game one (6-0) and then allowed just three runs in two more wins to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Just like that, Chicago’s dream season was about to dry up and disappear. One more win, and it’d be The Tribe everyone was talking about in the MLB world.

Chicago put their boot straps on and went back to work in game five, however, as they edged out the Indians for a clutch 3-2 win. The Cubs made things easier on their fan base in game six, smashing the Indians in a 9-3 win to force game seven.

That two-win rally pushed the 2016 World Series to a dramatic game seven, but to label this game as theatrical would be an understatement.

Chicago showed they were ready to rock early, as they scored first for a 1-0 lead in the first inning. They’d even hold a 3-1 lead after four innings, and after seven innings, the title looked to be theirs with a 6-3 lead.

Unfortunately, the Cubs had to make this wild comeback interesting. Cleveland ripped off three runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 6-6, before both clubs struggled to get anything going in the ninth.

That sent this one to extras, where the Cubs took an 8-6 lead. Cleveland managed to score in the bottom of the 10th and had a chance to win the game with one man on base.

Mike Montgomery was called upon to ice the game, and he did just that, protecting that 8-7 lead and handing the Cubs their first World Series since 1908.

Chicago didn’t have to mount a comeback in game seven, but bouncing back from an ugly start (and 3-1 hole) to win their first title in over 100 years was a sight to behold.

4. Liverpool Defies the Odds

I’m not an avid soccer fan, but even I know that Liverpool shocked the sports betting world when they took down AC Milan in 2005.

The bookies won’t forget it anytime soon, either.

After falling behind 3-0 at the break, Liverpool looked to be down and out. They hadn’t even managed one goal in such a massive game (playing for the FC’s Champions League Final), so who could expect them to score three?

Most sportsbooks altered their odds to win, meaning if you bet on Liverpool after that point, you could have made quite a bit of money.

I doubt Liverpool cared much about that, but something woke them up, as they fired in three consecutive goals to force a shootout. Once there, they won the shootout (3-2) and hoisted the trophy.

It was an improbable comeback by soccer standards, but considering what was on the line, it’s absolutely legendary.

3. Red Sox Emerge From 0-3 Hole

Much like the Chicago Cubs, the Boston Red Sox dealt with years of disappointment thanks to a troubling curse. The Red Sox hadn’t won a World Series since 1919 when the franchise traded Babe Ruth to the rival Yankees.

Since then, “The Curse of the Bambino” had lived on.

It wasn’t quite the 108-year dry spell Chicago bucked, but Boston still got the monkey off their back when they finally repaid some revenge to the pinstripes.

New York took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the 2004 ALCS, which would decide who would get to play in the World Series from the AL side.

It was all Yankees to start, but Boston dug their feet in and won two straight extra innings affairs. The first came in a 6-4 victory (12 innings), while game five was even tougher (14 innings).

Boston had the luxury of playing at home at Fenway Park for both of those games, but they continued to answer the call in game six, where they beat the Yankees (4-2) on the road.

With the series tied 3-3, the Red Sox slowly inched toward becoming the first MLB team to recover from a 3-0 playoff hole. Boston left no doubt in game seven, either, as they took a 6-0 lead and really never looked back.

The Red Sox went on to coast to a 10-3 win, punching their ticket to the World Series. Once there, they’d claim their first MLB title since 1919.

2. Cavaliers Upset Warriors After Being Down 3-1

You know it’s a pretty big comeback when you start seeing memes born from it. This amazing comeback in the 2016 NBA Finals is unforgettable for a number of reasons, but our lively social media-driven culture won’t let anyone forget about it.

The classic “don’t let (this situation) distract you from when the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead…” was born, and it may never die out.

That was thanks to the 73-win Warriors, who took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Personally dubbing themselves the best team the NBA has ever seen, Golden State was looking for a repeat as champions.

King James wasn’t having any of it, however, as he and Kyrie Irving both turned it on for a crucial game five, both chipping in 41 points in a 112-97 win. The game also included a low blow by Warriors forward Draymond Green, which resulted in a game six suspension.

Fueled by the Green suspension and their clutch game five win, Cleveland made game six look even easier. LeBron James poured in 41 points for the second game in a row, en route to an easy 115-101 win.

That victory forced a decisive game seven, allowing the Cavs a shot at history. Not only could Cleveland take out a 73-win team and avenge the previous season’s title loss, but winning would crown the franchise champions for the first time ever.

James and company wouldn’t be denied, as they played Golden State tightly throughout the final game.

The final moments included three legendary scenes, with James tracking down and blocking an Andre Iguodala layup attempt, Kyrie Irving hitting a clutch shot to take the lead, and Kevin Love stifling Stephen Curry’s last-ditch effort to win the series.

When the dust settled, James brought a title to The Land, and Cleveland overcame a 3-1 series hole — a feat that had never previously been done before in the NBA Finals.

1. Patriots Overcome 28-3 Hole in Super Bowl

Any of these sports comebacks could be argued into the top spot, but I saved the best for last. Just like anything else that would have an argument, this one was historic, insane, and definitely impressive.

New England entered Super Bowl LI as the clear favorites, but Tom Brady and co. never got proper footing. Neither team scored in an uneventful first quarter, but an explosive Falcons offense took over the game with a 21-3 run in the second quarter.

That wild run included a touchdown run by Devonta Freeman and Austin Hooper, as well as an 82-yard pick six that had this one looking like it was already over by halftime.

Atlanta added to that notion in the third quarter, when a Tevin Coleman touchdown run gave the Falcons what seemed to be a safe 28-3 lead.

Questionable play calling by the Falcons and a never-give-up mantra by New England made sure the lead wasn’t safe, however. New England scored on their next possession, while also managing to tack on a field goal to start the fourth quarter.

Still, with under 10 minutes to go and the score set at 28-12, the Pats’ hopes of a comeback looked less than promising.

Brady and co. kept trucking along, however, with a Danny Amendola touchdown and a James White two-point conversion pulling New England within one score with just under six minutes to go.

New England got the ball back in the final moments and found a way to get another score, with James White plunging into the end zone and an Amendola catch tying the game at 28-28.

This already served as the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, but it also gave way to the big game’s first-ever overtime battle.

OT wouldn’t last long, however. Tom Brady and co. marched the ball down the field quickly, with a James White touchdown run sealing an insane comeback and handing the Pats a 34-28 Super Bowl win.

Summary

This was a long list of some of the greatest comebacks in sports history. Kudos to you for making your way through it, and hopefully, I included all of the big ones you also deem the most impressive.

Of course, the whole point of this list wasn’t to just list the biggest comebacks ever. That’s fun and important, but I wanted to detail the sports comebacks that blew me away the most.

Whether it was circumstance, stage, the deficit, or something else, these sports comebacks took the cake.

And as amazing as they were, they remind us of how games are never truly over until they’re over. Keep that in mind for the next time you look to bet on any contests.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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