Photo Credit: saturdayblitz.com
With the recent caving-in of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, here is a list of some of the worst heartbreaks in sports since 2006. As hard as watching heartbreaking endings in sports feels, especially when it happens to your favorite team or your favorite athlete, sports would be dull without the excitement and uncertainty of what happens next and how each game or event ends (EXCEPT IN SERIOUS LIFE OR DEATH SITUATIONS).
So, as bad as this may feel for me to write or for you to read, many (NOT ALL) of these heartbreaks give each of these sports a piece of the excitement which they contain. Considered heartbreaks include games and events from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NCAA football, NCAA basketball IndyCar, NASCAR, and golf. The rankings factor in magnitude of the sporting event and how unlikely a heartbreak happening was before it ended up happening. They will include a summary regarding what happened and how each event ended up playing out. The list will start at the bottom and count up.
2012 Indianapolis 500
2013 Green Bay Packers over Chicago Bears
2013 New England Patriots over Denver Broncos
2013 Auburn Tigers over Georgia Bulldogs
2016 NFC Divisional Round Game, Arizona Cardinals over Green Bay Packers
Honorable Mentions (Buzzer Beaters):
2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament Championship Game, Villanova Wildcats over North Carolina Tar Heels
2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament 2nd Round Game, Wisconsin Badgers over Xavier Musketeers
2016 NCAA Basketball Big East Tournament Semifinal, Connecticut Huskies force 4th overtime against Cincinnati Bearcats and win
2014 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Quarterfinals, Portland Trailblazers over Houston Rockets (Game 6)
2016 NCAA Basketball 1st Round Game, Northern Iowa Panthers over Texas Longhorns
2016 NCAA Basketball Missouri Valley Conference Championship, Northern Iowa Panthers over Evansville Purple Aces
2013 NBA Finals, Miami Heat force Game 7 with San Antonio Spurs and go on to win championship
35. 2015 U.S. Open
Jordan Spieth, after a dominant showing in the 2015 Masters tournament, was at the mercy of the club of Dustin Johnson in the U.S. Open. Johnson lined up from about 12 or so feet away to take a putt to beat Spieth, but his shot was off the mark and ended up coming to rest about 3 feet away from the hole. Everyone (most people) in the world thought Johnson would make the putt to end up tied Spieth, in which case they would have had to have played another round to decide the winner. The ball, however, wasn’t having any of it, as Johnson’s putt was off the mark, giving Spieth the 1-stroke victory in his 2nd consecutive major golf tournament championship.
34. 2006 NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals
Up 3 games to 1 in the Western Conference quarterfinals after a buzzer beater from Kobe Bryant to seal the game 4 win for the Los Angeles Lakers, the Lakers appeared to be on their way to taking down the Phoenix Suns. However, the Suns won 3 straight games, including 2 blowouts, to knock out the Lakers in unbelievable fashion. The Lakers became just the 8th team in NBA history to blow a 3 games to 1 series lead and lose the series in 7 games.
33. 2009 Super Bowl XLIII
The Arizona Cardinals led the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 23-20 after trailing earlier in the game by a score of 20-7. Then, they let the Steelers march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown with 35 seconds to go. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the touchdown into triple coverage to receiver Santonio Holmes, who just barely managed to get the tips of both his feet down in the back corner of the end zone with control of the football.
32. 2015 NBA Western Conference Semifinals
This 2014-2015 Los Angeles Clippers team looked like it could have been the one to break the curse and win the title. With a 2-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, the Rockets had to resort to a “Hack-a-Shaq” strategy on Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who is one of the league’s worst free throw shooters. The Rockets still ended up losing game 4, so it looked like the Clippers, up 3 games to 1, would move on. The Rockets, however, had other plans, and won 3 straight games. The Clippers became just the 9th team in NBA history to lose a playoff series after leading 3 games to 1.
31. 2015 American League Division Series
After taking a 2 games to 0 series lead, the Texas Rangers allowed the Toronto Blue Jays back into the series. With the series tied at 2, having not led at all in games 3 or 4, the Texas Rangers had a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning before committing 3 errors and allowing Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista to hit a 3-run home run and perform the infamous “bat flip”. The Blue Jays went on to win the game by a score of 6-3 and went on to win the series 3 games to 2 despite having trailed 2 games to 0.
30. 2013 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinal
After blowing a 3 games to 1 series lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins were in a 4-1 hole in the 3rd period of game 7, with the series tied at 3 games a piece. The Bruins rallied to force overtime at 4-4 and won the game 5-4. After appearing to have the 3 games to 1 comeback in the bag, the Maple Leafs allowed 4 late goals and saw themselves eliminated from Stanley Cup contention.
29. 2013 Sao Paulo Brazil Indy 300
Whenever someone would try to pass Takuma Sato down the nearly 1-mile long backstretch in the closing laps, he would move in front of them and block them to make them lose all of their momentum. On the final lap, however, James Hinchcliffe dove inside, Sato shifted over to block, and Hinchcliffe then popped outside for the final corner. Sato had the inside line, but due to the tightness of the turn, he drifted outside at the exit of the turn. Hinchcliffe, starting the turn on the outside, exited the turn on the inside with more momentum that Sato. He shifted over JUST in front of Sato and led the last few hundred feet of the race, the only point in the race during which he had the lead, to deny Sato his 2nd straight and 2nd career IndyCar series victory.
28. 2014 NHL Western Conference Quarterfinal
The San Jose Sharks led the series 3 games to 0 over the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference quarterfinal before the Kings came back to win the series 4 games to 3 and advance to the Western Conference semifinals against the Anaheim Ducks. The Kings ended up winning the Stanley Cup that year, despite almost being swept out of the playoffs in the 1st round. The Sharks became just the 4th team in NHL history to lose a playoff series after going up 3 games to 0. The Kings, meanwhile, became just the 2nd team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup after rallying from down 3 game to 0 in a playoff series, and they became the 1st team in NHL history to rally from down 3 games to 0 in a non-Stanley Cup Final playoffs series and go on to win the Stanley Cup.
27. 2006 Insight Bowl
The Minnesota Golden Gophers led the Texas Tech Raiders by a score of 38-7 about half way through the 3rd quarter. The Red Raiders ended up scoring 31 unanswered points to send the game to overtime tied at 38. The Golden Gophers kicked a field goal to take a 41-38 lead in overtime, but the red-hot Red Raiders answered with a touchdown to win the game by a score of 44-41. At the time, the blown lead by the Golden Gophers was the largest blown lead by any team in NCAA FBS bowl history. Now, it is tied for the largest with the 31-point blow lead by the Oregon Ducks in the 2016 Alamo Bowl against the TCU Horned Frogs.
26. 2010 NHL Eastern Conference Final
The Boston Bruins led the series 3 games to 0 over the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference final before the Flyers came back to win the series 4 games to 3 and advance to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins became just the 3rd team in NHL history to lose a playoff series after going up 3 games to 0, and the 1st team to do so since 1975.
25. 2016 Alamo Bowl
The Oregon Ducks marched out to a 31-0 halftime lead over the TCU Horned Frogs, who just weeks ago had had College Football Playoff aspirations shattered by a heartbreaking 30-29 loss against the Oklahoma Sooners. In the 2nd half, TCU took over the game after Ducks’ quarterback Vernon Adams was hurt at the end of the 1st half and never returned. The Horned Frogs tied the game up at 31-31, before sending it into overtime. In the 1st overtime, TCU took a 38-31 lead before Oregon sent it into 2nd overtime at 38-38. Oregon took a 41-38 lead in 2nd overtime before TCU sent the game into 3rd overtime at 41-41. TCU took a 47-41 lead (missed 2 point conversion) in 3rd overtime before holding Oregon to 2 yards on 4 plays to prevent them from tying the game or taking the win. The 31-point blown lead by the Ducks tied the largest in NCAA FBS bowl history, tied with the 2006 Insight Bowl when the Texas Tech Red Raiders defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers after trailing 38-7.
24. 2007 AFC Championship Game
The New England Patriots appeared to be heading to their 4th Super Bowl in 7 seasons with a 21-3 lead over the Indianapolis Colts. However, the Colts chipped away at the Patriots’ lead and eventually, for the 1st time in the game, led 38-34 with exactly 1 minute to go after a rushing touchdown from their running back, Joseph Addai. The Patriots watched on after blowing the largest lead in conference championship history as the Indianapolis Colts went on to win the Super Bowl over the Chicago Bears.
23. 2015 ABC Supply 500
With 21 laps to go and leading in his “hometown” race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, the Nazareth, Pennsylvania native Sage Karam spun out on his own at the exit of turn 1. The car just let go, and Karam spun and hit nose 1st on the outside retaining wall, so the nose cone of the car broke off of the car and flew through the air and ended up hitting the helmet of Justin Wilson as Wilson drove past. Wilson passed out, thus losing control of the car and curving to the inside retaining wall. He was in a coma until his death the following day due to the hit from the nose cone and the brain injury he suffered. Not only did Karam lose the race, but Wilson was killed because of the freak accident with the nose cone off of Karam’s car.
22. 2010 Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants
The New York Giants led 31-10 with under 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter at home over their rivals the Philadelphia Eagles in a game that meant so much to them late in the season if they wanted to win the division and get to the playoffs. The Giants ended up allowing 4 late touchdowns, including a 65-yard punt return by receiver DeSean Jackson as time expired, to the Eagles and losing the game by a score of 38-31. The loss ended up killing the Giants’ playoff hopes, as they did not win the division (they finished tied with Eagles, but due to getting swept by the Eagles the Eagles got the tiebreaker) due to the loss, and did not earn a wild card berth either.
21. 2012 Firestone 550
Graham Rahal, having not won an IndyCar race since his 1st ever IndyCar race at St. Petersburg in 2008 (68 consecutive races without a win), led by around 1.4 seconds over the late Justin Wilson with just over 2 laps to go before tagging the wall and losing all sorts of momentum. With about 1 and 1/2 laps remaining, Wilson blew by Rahal and hung on to steal the victory, which would end up being his final win before his death in 2015.
20. 2016 Texas A&M vs. Northern Iowa, NCAA Tournament 2nd Round
Down 69-57 with 44 seconds left, the Texas A&M Aggies used a combination of pressure, forcing turnovers, and great shooting to outscore the Northern Iowa Panthers, who squeaked into the NCAA tournament and into the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament on buzzer beaters, by a score of 14-2 and force overtime after erasing the late 12-point deficit. The Aggies ended up winning by a score of 92-88 in double overtime after pulling off one of the most improbable comebacks in NCAA basketball tournament history.
19. 2015 American League Division Series
With a 2 games to 1 series lead, the Houston Astros led the Kansas City Royals 6-2 in the 8th inning of game 4. The Royals were able to stave off elimination with a 5-run inning, and then added 2 runs in the 9th inning to win the game by a score of 9-6. The Royals went on to win game 5 and take the series 3 games to 2, win the American League Championship Series, and win the World Series.
18. 2012 National League Division Series
The Washington Nationals, after leading the best-of-5 series 1 game to 0 and then falling behind 2 games to 1, won game 4 and took an early 6-0 lead in game 5 at home against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 3rd inning. The Cardinals were able to close the gap to 6-5 by the 8th inning, but the Nationals responded and put up another run to take a 7-5 lead into the 9th inning. After having led all night long, the Nationals allowed 4 runs in the top of the 9th inning to the Cardinals, and they could not respond, falling to the Cardinals 9-7 and losing the series in heartbreaking fashion, 3 games to 2. After a dream season in which the Nationals recorded a franchise record 98 wins, their hopes of their 1st ever World Series title were shattered in one of the worst ways possible.
17. 2016 NBA Western Conference Final
The 2015-2016 Oklahoma City Thunder underachieved (if you consider 55-27 underachieving) all season long given the roster they had after sitting deep in the shadows of the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. After getting blown out in the Western Conference semifinals by the Spurs in the 1st game, the Thunder ended up taking 4 of the next 5 games to win the series in 6 games, and then ended up winning 3 of the 1st 4 games with the Warriors in the Western Conference finals. After having the series and an NBA Finals berth all but locked up, the Thunder dropped 3 straight games and ended up losing the series in 7 games, becoming just the 10th team in NBA history to lose a series after being up 3 game to 1.
16. 2014 AFC Wild Card Game
Up 31-10 at halftime, the Kansas City Chiefs continued their momentum by forcing a turnover and taking a 38-10 lead early in the 3rd quarter. Having lost their top 2 running backs Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, however, ended up coming back to bite them, as the Indianapolis Colts surged and made a huge comeback to beat the Chiefs by a score of 45-44, denying the Chiefs their 1st playoff victory since 1994 and making the 28-point blown lead the 2nd-largest in NFL playoff history. The largest occurred in 1993, when the Houston Oilers led the Buffalo Bills by a score of 35-3, only to lose the game 41-38 in overtime.
15. 2016 AFC Wild Card Game
After coming back from down 15-0, the Cincinnati Bengals had a 16-15 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers with the ball, needing to get 1 more 1st down to seal the victory. Running back Jeremy Hill fumbled the ball away, giving the Steelers another opportunity to score. The Steelers drove down the field and kicked a field goal to win the game 18-16 to keep the Bengals from winning their 1st playoff game since 1991.
14. 2014 BCS National Championship Game
The Auburn Tigers led 21-3 over the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles late in the 1st half. The Seminoles came back to take a 27-24 lead, but then fell behind 31-27. With just over 1 minute to go, Seminoles’ quarterback Jameis Winston led an 80-yard drive and connected with receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the game-winning touchdown to rally from down by 18. The Tigers had blown an 18-point lead in the championship to lose the game by a score of 34-31 after a season full of improbably victories to get them that far.
13. 2008 Super Bowl XLII
The 2007-2008 New England Patriots were the most dominant team of all-time, after finishing out the regular season with a 16-0 record, the only team to do so in NFL history. They made it to Super Bowl XLII, and were 1 win away from the 1st ever perfect 19-0 NFL season, but they ended up losing 17-14 to the New York Giants after having a lead towards the end of the game.
12. 2015 Final Four
The Kentucky Wildcats were aiming to become just the 2nd perfect team in NCAA basketball history and the 1st team to go 40-0. Sitting 38-0, the 1st team to ever do so, the Kentucky Wildcats looked unstoppable despite some close calls on their road to the Final Four. The Wisconsin Badgers, despite being big underdogs (as all teams were to Kentucky that season) were able to hang with Kentucky for the entire game before pulling ahead winning at the end by a score of 71-64, ruining Kentucky’s chances at a 40-0 season, and allowing the only perfect team in NCAA basketball history, the 1975-1976 Indiana Hoosiers, who went 32-0, to celebrate.
11. 2016 NBA Finals
The 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors started off the season with a record-setting 24 consecutive wins, which blew the previous record (15-0, 1948-1949 Washington Capitols and 1993-1994 Houston Rockets) out of the water. They also ended up winning a record 54 straight home regular season games, which blew the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls’ record of 44 out of the water. The Warriors ended up finish the regular season with an all-time best record of 73-9, which topped the previous record set by the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls at 72-10. The Warriors advanced to the NBA Finals after rallying from down 3 game to 1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder to take the series in 7 games. The Warriors went up 3 games to 1 over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, only to do what the Thunder did to them and drop the next 3 games to lose the series in 7 games, becoming just the 11th team to do so in NBA history after being up 3 games to 1, and the 1st team to ever do so in the NBA Finals. The greatest regular season team of all-time did not win the NBA championship.
10. 2006 Indianapolis 500
19-year-old rookie Marco Andretti closed the door on Sam Hornish with one lap to go, causing Hornish to lose all kinds of momentum, and appeared to have the race wrapped up and to become the 1st American rookie winner of the race since 1927, when George Sounders won the race. Hornish surged back on the last lap and won the race by the 3rd-closest (2nd at the time) finish in race history.
9. 2016 Daytona 500
After leading all the laps from 160 through 199, with 1 lap to go, Matt Kenseth was under attack from Denny Hamlin on the high side in the final corner of the race. Kenseth went high to block Hamlin, only to then become under attack from Martin Truex Jr. on the low side, whom he then closed down on to block as well. Kenseth made contact with Truex and lost all of his momentum, which sent him back to finishing in 14th place.
8. 2012 AFC Championship Game
After Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans dropped a touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco that would have given the Ravens a 27-23 lead on the road against the New England Patriots late in the 4th quarter of the AFC Championship game, Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff lined up for a field goal attempt to try to tie the game at 23 and send it into overtime. Not only did Evans drop the go-ahead touchdown pass, but Cundiff missed the 33-yard field goal, and the Patriots marched onto Super Bowl XLVI with a 23-20 victory over the Ravens.
7. 2016 NFC Wild Card Game
After leading most of the game, the Minnesota Vikings blew a 9-0 lead to fall behind the Seahawks by a score of 10-9. The Vikings drove into field goal range with a few seconds to go, only to watch kicker Blair Walsh shank the potential game-winning 27-yard field goal, giving the Seahawks the victory and allowing them to advance further into the playoffs.
6. 2015 Michigan State @ Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines had a 23-21 lead over the Michigan State Spartans with 10 seconds to go in the 4th quarter. Michigan lined up to punt, but the punt was mishandled and the Spartans recovered it and returned it for the game-winning touchdown as time expired. The odds of Michigan blowing the game in the fashion which they did made the loss hurt even more, as they still could not claim their 1st win since 2012 in the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry.
5. 2010 Cleveland Indians @ Detroit Tigers, June 2nd
Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga retired the first 26 batters he faced before Cleveland Indians infielder Jason Donald grounded a ball between 1st and 2nd base with 2 outs in the 9th inning that was fielded by Tigers 1st baseman Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera fielded the ball and flipped it over to Galarraga at 1st base for what should have been called an out. Donald, although clearly a few feet short of the bag when Galarraga caught the ball in his glove, was called safe by umpire Jim Joyce, costing Galarraga a perfect game, which would have been just the 21st perfect game in MLB history. Joyce later admitted his mistake, however, there was nothing he could do to change the call that clearly robbed Galarraga of a perfect game with just 1 out to go.
4. 2015 Super Bowl XLIX
After a circus catch by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, one which he caught lying on the ground after kicking the ball into the air, the Seahawks were in the Red Zone against the New England Patriots, down by a score of 28-24. On the 1-yard line, quarterback Russell Wilson threw a slant pass to a wide open Ricardo Lockette, but cornerback Malcolm Butler flew in out of nowhere to intercept the pass and seal the championship for the Patriots.
3. 2015 NFC Championship Game
After leading at halftime by a score of 16-0, the Green Bay Packers let up a touchdown on a fake field goal attempt by the Seattle Seahawks in the 3rd quarter. After that, however, the Seahawks did not have much going for them, as the Packers led 19-7 late in the 4th quarter. Packers’ safety Morgan Burnett intercepted Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson up by 12 late in the 4th quarter, but lay down and did not advance the ball. The Seahawks got the ball back and ended up scoring to make it a 19-14 game. Then, on an onside kick attempt, Packers’ receiver Brandon Bostick, instead of blocking for receiver Jordy Nelson to make the catch, decided to go for the ball himself. In doing so, he bobbled it, and Seahawks’ wideout Chris Matthews came away with it. The Seahawks ended up scoring a touchdown and converted on what ended up being a Hail Mary 2 point conversion to take a 22-19 lead. The Packers ended up tying the game up at 22 the next drive to send it into overtime. The Seahawks got the ball to start in overtime. Russell Wilson, despite having been o for 4 with 4 interceptions when targeting receiver Jermaine Kearse so far that day, hit Kearse deep for a score to give the Seahawks the nearly impossible 28-22 victory to send them off to Super Bowl XLIX.
2. 2013 Iron Bowl
When the clock hit 0:00 with the score tied at 28, Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban argued that there was 1 second left on the clock when running back TJ Yeldon went out of bounds at the Auburn Tigers’ 39-yard line. The review showed that there was 1 second left, and Saban brought out the field goal unit. Kicker Adam Griffith’s kick was short and a little bit to the right, and Auburn cornerback Chris Davis Jr. caught the ball in the back of the end zone and returned it over 100 yards to the Alabama end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The decision by Saban to challenge for that extra second ended up costing Alabama a shot to win the game and go on and play for the SEC title game, and a shot to play in the BCS National Championship and win their 3rd consecutive NCAA football championship. Instead, he got to watch Auburn play in both after their stunning 34-28 win.
1. 2011 Indianapolis 500
23-year-old rookie JR Hildebrand had the race well in hand before slamming the wall coming out of the final turn of the race. He skidded to the finish line, only to come home in 2nd place after being passed by the late Dan Wheldon. The win ended up being Wheldon’s last before he passed away later that year in October in a crash. Hildebrand, like Marco Andretti in 2006, also blew a golden opportunity to become the 1st American rookie winner of the race since 1927.