Everyone loves a good underdog story. And in the sports world, there is nothing better than when the unthinkable happens. Upsets and shocking moments are something that sports fans across the globe can rally around, and we are ready to bring you some of the best to have ever happened. From a No. 16 seed knocking off a No. 1 in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to Buster Douglas’ shocking win over Mike Tyson, we take a look at some of the most surprising results in sports history.
The top 20 times underdogs shocked the sports world can be seen below.
Harvard Upsets No. 1 Stanford In 1998 NCAA Women’s Tournament
Two decades before an upset featured later on this list, Marc 14, 1998 marked a historic day in college basketball. The top-ranked Stanford Cardinal faced the No. 16 seed Harvard Crimson with Stanford as the heavy favorite at Maples Pavilion on their campus. However, it was the Crimson — led by Kathy Delaney-Smith — who were able to come out on top. It marked the first time that a 16-seed was able to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament. Harvard would go on to lose in the second round of the tournament against No. 9 seed Arkansas.
Robin Soderling Beats Rafael Nadal At 2009 French Open
In one of the most shocking moments in tennis history and on one of the sport’s biggest stages, the “impossible” happened when Robin Soderling became known as The Man Who Took Down Rafa. Soderling, who was a relative unknown, recorded a shocking upset at the 2009 French Open when he knocked off the virtually unbeatable Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. It remains one of the biggest and most stunning moments in Grand Slam history to this day. Soderling scored a 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 victory and celebrated his big win by launching his racket into the crowd. He probably wants that back.
Greece Wins 2004 European Championship
Greece is not known as a powerhouse in the world of soccer, but back in 2004, they were able to stake their claim as the kings of Europe. Greece faced off against Portugal at Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on July 4 in the UEFA Euro 2004 Final. Oddly enough, the two teams had also played in the opening game of the tournament — with Greece winning 2-1 — and advanced to the knockout stage from Group A. Thanks to a goal from Angelo Charisteas in the 57th minute, Greece was able to score a 1-0 victory and claim the championship. Theodoros Zagorakis of Greece was the Man of the Match. Greece entered the tournament with 80-1 odds to emerge as champions.
Rulon Gardner Wins Wins Greco-Roman Wrestling Gold In 2000
American Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner was able to take down a giant at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Gardner emerged from the Summer Games with a gold medal after doing the unthinkable and knocking off Aleksandr Karelin of Russia. Entering the match, Karelin had been undefeated for 13 years and had not given up a point in six years. Gardner went on to win the 2001 World Championship and became the only American to ever win both a World and Olympic title in his sport. Gardner attempted a comeback in the 2012 Olympics, but could not reach the 264.5 weight limit.
Man O’ War Race To 100-to-1 Underdog Upset
Man o’ War is widely regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time. The thoroughbred won 20 of 21 races during his racing career for a total of $249,465 in earnings. That amount is equivalent to $3,120,000 today. It is that one loss, however, that really stands out. The lone loss came to a horse appropriately named Upset which was a 100-to-1 underdog. The race took place at Saratoga Race Course, which is now known as the Graveyard of Champions. Man o’ War was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1957.
No. 8 Nuggets Upset SuperSonics In 1994 NBA Playoffs
The Denver Nuggets entered the 1994 NBA Playoffs as the No. 8 seed, facing off against the No. 1 seed Seattle SuperSonics. After opening up the postseason in a 2-0 deficit, the Nuggets were able to rally and win the series 3-2. It was the first time in league history that a No. 8 seed had knocked off a top-ranked team. In the following round, the Nuggets once again found themselves in a hole, 0-3, and rallied back to force a Game 7 against the Utah Jazz. Unfortunate for Denver, they lost the final game by ten points and were bounced from the postseason.
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Roberta Vinci Def. Serena Williams At 2015 US Open
Serena Williams, the greatest woman’s tennis player in the history of the sport, entered the 2015 US Open semi-final looking to claim her fourth Grand Slam of the year, but Italian Roberta Vinci had other plans. The No. 43-ranked player was given 300-to-1 odds to defeat Williams in the match, but she was able to pull off the impossible and scored a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 against the world No. 1. “This is an incredible moment for me. It’s like a dream. I’m in the final. I beat Serena. For me it is an amazing moment,” she said following the monumental win.
Pittsburgh Pirates Win 1960 World Series
The 1960 World Series ended with one of the most memorable moments in Major League Baseball history. If you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, you definitely know what this is about. The Pirates and New York Yankees played to a Game 7 for the World Series title which ended when Bill Mazeroski hit a ninth-inning home run to give Pittsburgh the win. It is the only time in World Series history that the champion was determined by a walk-off home run. Mazeroski has a statue outside of the right field entrance of PNC Park. He and Pirates Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, Willie Stargell, and Roberto Clemente are the four players honored with statues outside of the ballpark.
New York Jets Win Super Bowl III
Super Bowl III took place on January 12, 1969, between the New York Jets and the Baltimore Colts. The Jets entered the game as a huge underdog, but Joe Namath was able to lead New York to victory. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. Namath completed 17-of-28 passes for 206 yards but did not record a touchdown or throw for any passes in the fourth quarter. Despite that, Namath was honored as Super Bowl MVP.
USA Shuts Out England At 1950 FIFA World Cup
Known as The Miracle Match or the Miracle on Glass, the United States stunned the world during the 1950 FIFA World Cup. The United States was taking on powerhouse England at Estadio Independencia in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and entered as heavy underdogs with part-time players. However, Haitan-born center Joe Gaetjens was able to come through with a miracle goal to give the USA a 1-0 victory. The game was profiled by author Geoffrey Douglas for his book The Game of Their Lives. The book was made into a film titled, The Miracle Match.
New York Mets Win 1969 World Series
The “Miracle Mets” were born in the 1969 World Series when the New York Mets were able to knock off the Baltimore Orioles in five games in one of the biggest World Series upsets ever. Donn Clendernon earned MVP honors for the Mets, which were the first expansion team to win a division title, a pennant, and World Series. It was the team’s first season with a winning record. The Mets accomplished all of that in just eight years. 1969 was the first World Series since 1954 that hosted games in New York that didn’t involve the New York Yankees.
Appalachian State Beats Michigan In 2003
Appalachian State became the poster child for underdogs in college football. Appalachian State made the trip to Ann Arbor to face off against the Michigan Wolverines, who were ranked No. 5 in the polls and considered a potential contender for the national championship. However, the Mountaineers had different plans and scored a stunning 34-32 win after blocking a field goal at the end of regulation. Appalachian State became the second FCS team in history to defeat a ranked FBS team. The loss dropped Michigan from the Top 25 poll entirely.
UMBC Upsets No. 1 Virginia In 2018 NCAA Men’s Tournament
20 years after the first upset on the list, the No. 16 seed UMBC Retrievers were able to make history in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament by knocking off the No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers. No. 16 seeds had lost their previous 135 games to No. 1s since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. It was just the second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance for UMBC, while the Cavaliers were the No. 1 overall seed in the field. To make the win even more impressive, the Retrievers never trailed in the second half and emerged with a blowout win, 74-54.
Holly Holm KOs Ronda Rousey At UFC 193
Ronda Rousey was one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts and was as marketable as any UFC fighter in the history of the sport. However, her world came crashing down at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia when she faced off against world champion boxer Holly Holm in the main event of UFC 193. Rousey entered the bout undefeated (12-0) and was virtually unbeatable, but Holm connected with a straight left hand and high kick to Rousey’s neck which knocked her out for the Upset of the Year. Rousey then went on a lengthy lay-off, before returning and being knocked out for the second fight in a row thanks to current UFC women’s featherweight and bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes.
Villanova Upsets Georgetown For 1985 NCAA Championship
The Villanova men’s basketball team, which has returned to glory in recent years, was led by head coach Rollie Massimino in 1985 when they shocked the world and defeated the Georgetown Hoyas, 66-64, to claim the national championship. Villanova was the No. 8 seed entering the tournament and remains the lowest-ranked team to claim the title. It was also the last game ever played without a shot clock. The game took place at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky and was the first-ever national championship for Villanova. Wildcats standout Ed Pinckney claimed the Most Outstanding Player award.
New York Giants Win Super Bowl XLII
Entering Super Bowl XLVII, the New England Patriots were a 12-point favorite and the only team to record a perfect regular season (16-0) since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule. The New York Giants, meanwhile, were an NFC Wild Card team with a record of 10-6. That didn’t stop the G-Men from claiming the third Super Bow in franchise history, however, thanks to a stunning comeback victory. With the Giants trailing 14-10, Eli Manning heaved the ball downfield to David Tyree who made an unlikely one-handed catch by pinning the ball against his helmet.
Buster Douglas KOs Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas took place on February 11, 1990, at the Tokyo Dome in Japan. The bout, which was for the WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal heavyweight titles, was billed as “Tyson Is Back!” Douglas was a 42-to-1 underdog entering the match when he stunned the world by scoring a knockout in the 10th round to become the undisputed heavyweight champion. Douglas would lose the titles in his following bout at The Mirage in Las Vegas to Evander Holyfield, who scored a knockout in Round 3. Tyson would eventually reclaim the WBC and WBA titles with wins over Frank Bruno and Bruce Seldon in 1996.
N.C. State Wins 1983 NCAA Championship
Jimmy Valvano was able to get the job done. In the most famous ending in college basketball history, the North Carolina State Wolfpack were able to knock off the Houston Cougars at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The final play was a desperation 30-foot pass from Dereck Whittenburg, which ended with Lorenzo Charles throwing down a buzzer-beating dunk to give NC State a 54-52 win. North Carolina State’s win is the fourth biggest point-spread upset in Championship Game history while the game’s ending will forever be included in every college basketball highlight reel.
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The Miracle on Ice
“Do you believe in miracles?!” Played at the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States took on the Soviet Union, four-time defending gold medalists. The game was held at Olympic Center in Lake Placid, New York with 8,500 fans getting to see the United States team — consisted of amateur players and coached by Herb Brooks — knock off the unbeaten Soviet team, 4-3. Al Michaels was responsible for the iconic call at the end of the game.
Leicester City Wins 2015-16 Premier League
Leicester City shocked the world when it won the first Premier League title in the club’s 132-year history. It was shocking not only because of how putrid Leicester City had been throughout the years but because they had entered the table with 5000-to-1 odds. The team — which plays at King Power Stadium — was nicknamed “The Unbelievables.” The official nickname for the English club is The Foxes. The PFA Players’ Player of the Year was Riyad Mahrez while Jamie Vardy was named Premier League Player of the Season.