Ranking The Best Underdogs In Sports History

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Who doesn’t love an underdog? They are one of the best reasons that make sports genuine and full possibility. But being an underdog in sport, there is a certain aura that surrounds a player or team. How it all started, how they accomplished the unthinkable, and just how special it was to reach the pinnacle. Ever since sports entered the public eye, there have been a number of underdogs that beat the odds and wrote scripts that some say, even Hollywood couldn’t have written. Let’s take a look at the biggest underdogs in sports history.


Vegas Golden Knights

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Starting with the most recent, the Vegas Golden Knights are still writing one of the greatest stories in sports.
The old saying in Las Vegas is, “Don’t bet against the house.”And the truth is, nobody should bet against Vegas right now. Nobody in their right mind could have foreseen how unprecedented the Knights run to the top has been.
Vegas was awarded an NHL franchise back on June 22, 2016, and it took them less than two years to completely change the landscape of hockey.  Only two other expansion teams in hockey history, the 1918 Toronto Arenas, and 1968 St. Louis Blues, have reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. Aside from them rewriting the record books, the fact that they have accomplished so much in such a short amount of time, also adds to the gravity of just how special this type of story is.
Bringing a city together in the aftermath of unspeakable tragedy and turning that city into a premier destination for a game experience, significantly speaks to how special and how remarkable this franchise has become.
An expansion team expected to finish at the bottom of the league. Instead, a top-three record in the league, Pacific Division champions, 12 wins their first 15 playoff games and as of yesterday, Western Conference champions, and now just four wins from winning the Stanley Cup. There are no words left to describe how much more incredible the Golden Knights story can get.
Already writing the most unheralded sports story in ages, Vegas has become one of the top underdogs of all time.


Leicester City

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Before the Vegas Golden Knights stole the hearts of sports fans this season, Leicester City Football Club shocked the world with their unthinkable 2015-16 Premier League Championship win.
Up until the 2015-16 season, Leicester City had fallen on hard times. Just before the end of the 14-15 campaign, the club was on the verge of being relegated having on 19 points in 29 matches. In early April they were seven points away from safety. Leicester City would win seven of their final nine matches to finish in 14th place with 41 points. Some describe that turnaround as one of the greatest escapes from relegation in Premier League history.
But Leicester City’s story was only beginning.
In late June, manager Nigel Pearson was fired and replaced with former Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri. Under Ranieri, Leicester got off to an exceptional start. On December 19th, exactly one year to the day they bottomed out, the club defeated Everton 3-2 to take the top spot among the Premier League standings. A few months later, Leicester’s magical run continued when they beat Sunderland 2-0 coupled with Tottenham defeating Manchester United, qualifying them for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in the club’s history.
On May 2, Leicester City won the Premier League title after Tottenham blew a 2-0 lead to Chelsea.
Leicester City’s rise to the top is considered the greatest in sports for several reasons. A long shot at 5,000-1 odds when the season began, nearly escaping relegation the year prior, and the end result as the top club in British football, their underdog nature will never be duplicated.


2004 Boston Red Sox

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In baseball lore, and sports for that matter, the magnitude of the 2004 Boston Red Sox run to their first World Series title in 86 years might never be matched.
86 years of torment, curses, and missed opportunities were all staring the Red Sox and their fans in their face when they faced their most hated rival, the New York Yankees, in the American League Championship Series. Just one year earlier, the Sox had their hearts ripped out of them by those same Yankees, blowing a lead in game seven, ending in Aaron Boone’s walk-off winning home run in the 11th inning. During the regular season, Boston was neck and neck with the Yankees for tops in the AL East and played them tight all season. But even though they finished 3.0 games out of the division — which the Yanks won — a showdown in the playoffs seemed to be inevitable.
After sweeping the Angels in the ALDS, the stage was set for the Red Sox and Yankees to meet for a chance to go to the World Series.
The first three games were as discouraging and scripted as you can get for Red Sox nation, including a crushing 19-8 loss in game three. Now down 3-0, everyone thought it was over. But then, history altered. Boston took game four after coming back against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in the ninth sending the game to extras, leading to David Ortiz hitting a two-run walk-off homer. Ortiz played hero again in game five when he had the walk-off single to send the series back to New York.
Back in New York for game six, Curt Schilling put on a performance for the ages, still remembered as the “Bloody Sock Game”. In game seven, the Sox completed the most epic comeback in sports history. They won 10-3 sending them to the World Series for the first time in 17 years and finally got the better of the Yankees.
Boston made easy work of the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, sweeping them 4-0 and winning the World Series for the first time in over three-quarters of a century and reversing the “Curse of The Bambino”.
What the Red Sox did for their franchise and the city of Boston will never stop being talked about. Their comeback is the stuff of legends and role of the underdog, will never be discredited.

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1982-83 NC State Men’s Basketball Team

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Still, described as one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history, the 1983 North Carolina State men’s basketball team was the definition of an underdog.
Headed by the late, great Jim Valvano, the Wolfpack did rank as the number 19 team in the nation but weren’t given many expectations. In their first game, they lost their captain Dereck Whittenburg to a foot injury that would force him out the next 17 games. When they began conference play, NC State had already suffered ten losses. Knowing they would be able to qualify for the NCAA tournament by winning the ACC, the Wolfpack won their final three games (Wake Forest, North Carolina, Virginia), giving them the conference title.
Based in the West Region of the tourney, things weren’t going to get any easier for the Pack,
Stacked in a region with UCLA, UNLV, and rival Virginia, the Wolfpack as the number-six seed clawed and fought their way to the regional final. They got past Western Conference champ Pepperdine in double overtime for the right to play UNLV. They would defeat UNLV and were set to face second-seeded Utah. NC State was again victorious, which set up a rematch with Virginia for a chance to go to the Final Four. They would defeat Virginia sending them to the Final Four in Albuquerque.
With a chance to get to play for a National Championship, the Pack ousted Georgia in the semifinals. The win set up a showdown with the heavily favored Houston Cougars for the title.
NC State and Houston traded blows until late in the game. The game came down to the final seconds. Whittenburg took a shot with under four seconds left that was going to fall short. Battling Hakeem Olajuwon, NC State center Lorenzo Charles went up for the shot and with two hands, put it in the basket. The bucket won the game for the Wolfpack their first National Championship since 1974 and created an upset for the ages.
The NC State team from 1983 is remembered on several platforms.
From the coach to the players to the legendary opponent, that underdog Wolfpack squad will always rank in the top-tier.


1980 USA Hockey Team

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You can never mention sports and underdogs in the same sentence without referring the Miracle on Ice.
The Miracle on Ice, of course, is the rag-tag group of college kids who beat the Soviets in ice hockey in the 1980 Winter Olympics. It had been 20 years since the United States won gold in ice hockey in the Olympics leading up to the games in Lake Placid.
During those two decades, Russia, then known as the Soviet Union, had become the greatest and most feared hockey nation in the world. Everyone was expecting them to run roughshod through the competition at Lake Placid, except U.S. head coach Herb Brooks. Brooks began building a team in the summer of 1979, which he felt could finally beat the Soviets at their own game. When the Olympics finally arrived in February, no one knew what to expect from the Americans.
In group play, USA tied with Sweden in their first game on a late goal with the extra attacker. That dramatic finish set the U.S. on a crash course to meet with the Russians. They defeated Czechoslovakia 7-3, Norway 5-1, Romania 7-2, and West Germany 4-2. With a 4-0-1 record, the Americans advanced to the medal round.
To get to the gold medal game, it was the USA against the Soviets.
In without a doubt the most memorable game in hockey history, the Americans trailed twice to the Soviets, but their belief never wavered. Early in the third, Mark Johnson scored to tie the game at 3. A few minutes later, captain Mike Eruzione scored the biggest goal in USA hockey history, giving his team a 4-3 lead. As the clock ran down to the final seconds, a dream became a reality. When the final buzzer sounded, the U.S. had knocked off the Soviets and advanced to play for a gold medal.
Broadcaster Al Michaels famous line, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” still sends chills down the spine of not just every American hockey fan, but every hockey fan to this day.
The Americans would claim the gold medal a few days later defeating Finland, finishing the biggest underdog story in sports history. There will never, ever be another team that resembles the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. They brought a country in turmoil together and shocked themselves, and the world over.
The greatest underdog sports will ever see, HANDS DOWN.

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The tale of the underdog has existed and will exist for as long as there are competitive sports. These are just a few of these stories that sports have given us, but rest assured there are still plenty waiting to be written.


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