7: Woods does it again (2018/2019)
Tiger Woods is one of the best-known golfers of all time. Prior to 2018, he had 79 PGA Tour wins, the first of which came all the way back in 1996 at the Las Vegas Invitational. But it was 22 years later, and five years since he’d won a PGA title at all, when Tiger claimed his 80th at The Tour Championship in 2018. It came at the end of a five-year drought wrought with health issues. Woods had four back surgeries between 2014 and 2017 that led many to believe he would never truly compete again, much less win.
Then, in 2018, he came back and it was like he’d never left. After claiming the Tour Championship last year, Tiger went on into this season, winning both the Zozo Championship and his first Masters since 2008. Those wins put Tiger at 82 PGA wins over his long career, tying him for most ever with legendary golfer Sam Snead, who set the record in 1965. But even if he never wins that one more championship, for Tiger, who reached the top once more after hitting rock bottom for so long, it must feel like he has already won.
6: Auburn has a miracle. Twice. (2013)
In the span of two weeks in 2013, Auburn University pulled off two of the biggest miracles in football history. With the ball on their 26-yard line, quarterback Nick Marshal launched a Hail Mary. He got it pretty far, all the way down about the 20-yard line where it looked to fall right into the hands of two Georgia players, a fate that would have ended Auburn’s season. But instead, the two defenders ran into each other and knocked the ball back up and forward, straight into the arms of a still-running Ricardo Louis, an Auburn sophomore who could have strolled into the endzone for the touchdown.
But somehow, as incredible as that play was, they one-upped it two weeks later. This time, against an Alabama team looking for a third straight BCS championship, Auburn made an even more incredible comeback. Marshal threw a touchdown with very limited time on the clock to tie the game, but this time, he wouldn’t be the story. Alabama got the ball back and made it all the way to their 40-yard line. With one second left, which was put back on the clock after a referee review, the team went for a field goal, much to the confusion of everyone watching.
Adam Griffith, a rookie kicker who was attempting only his third career placekick at a college level, was tasked with making a 57-yard field goal. Had it worked, it would’ve given Alabama the victory and another trip to a BCS championship. But it didn’t. Instead, Auburn’s Chris Davis, who had been placed in the endzone in case the kick was short, caught it and ran. He ran more than 100 yards down the sideline all the way to the other endzone for what is still considered one of the most incredible plays in college football history.
5: UMBC makes history (2018)
March Madness is one of the most interesting parts of the sporting year. Every year, teams and players gather to play for a basketball championship. And every year, there are upsets and surprises and things we don’t see coming. But in 2018, something happened that had never in the history of college basketball playoffs happened before. UMBC, who came into the postseason ranked 177th, was playing against the Virginia Cavaliers, who many considered the best team in the country.
Even more important, Virginia was a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. That meant in the first round, they played a No. 16 seed, in this case, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. A 16th seed had never beaten a No. 1 seed, and most didn’t even get close to it. But UMBC didn’t seem to notice or care that they were underdogs. They led or were tied for much of the first half, leading to a 21-21 scoreline at the break. But after halftime, UMBC took the lead 30 seconds in and never lost it. They made 3-pointer after 3-pointer, they drove to the basket and hit their shots close and they defended well, absolutely dominating Virginia.
When the final buzzer sounded, UMBC was up 74 to 54, and were winners of the largest upset in college basketball history as, for the first time, a No.1 seed was out before the second round of the tournament.
4: The Red Sox bring it home (2013)
In 2013, the Red Sox were coming off of a 69-93 record in 2012. The team had played only a few games in 2013 when April 15, known as Patriots Day in Boston, arrived. They’d win that day with a walk-off single from Mike Napoli that would quickly be forgotten.
After the Boston Marathon bombings, the team clearly had new motivation to succeed. On the back of star players like Pedroia and Ortiz, along with players like Nava and Victorino, who played far and away their best seasons ever, they claimed a 97-65 record and a spot in the playoffs. And they kept winning, beating Tampa Bay 3-1 and Detroit 4-2 to earn a spot in their third World Series in 10 years.
In the World Series, the Red Sox would do something they hadn’t done in over 90 years: Claim a World Series title at home. For a still-grieving Boston, they couldn’t have asked for anything more than the victory at home
3: LeBron brings a title to Cleveland (2016)
In 2014, LeBron James made the decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, trying to win the team he began his career with their first title ever. They came close in 2015, losing in the finals to the Golden State Warriors 4-2, a series in which James put on an impressive performance. But that series would be topped one year later, when the same teams were back at it for a second final in a row.
In 2016, the Cavaliers began their finals run down 3-1. For two of their losses the Warriors weren’t even close, prompting many fans to predict the same result as 2012. But this time, LeBron wasn’t about to let his team, or his city, down. He rallied, playing three lights-out games in a row en route to a 4-3 series victory. James scored 41 points in Games 5 and 6 and got a triple-double in Game 7 on his path to a third finals MVP.
This victory marked the first time that the Cavaliers had won a title, and the first title for the city of Cleveland in any major sport in 52 years.
2: A victory 108 years in the making (2016)
Until 2016, the Chicago Cubs possessed the longest streak without a championship of any major sport: 108 years. Generations of fans had lived their entire lives without any chance to watch the team they loved take it all. Over time, it started to feel like it might never actually happen.
Then, in 2016, a chance. The Cubs finished the regular season with 103 wins and 58 losses, the most wins for the team since 1910, topping their division with ease. In the playoffs, the fan-favorite underdogs first dispatched of the Giants, beating them in a fairly dominant 3-1 series that sent them to a series against the Dodgers. The Cubs beat them, too, 3-1, after a four-run-ninth in Game 4 that saw them win 6-5 in a shocking comeback, giving the Cubs their first National League pennant since 1945.
In the World Series, it was clear the Cubs knew what was at stake. They played hard, but so did the Cleveland Indians. Wins by the Cubs in Games 5 and 6 brought a 3-3 scoreline and a Game 7 that would be one of the closest games of the season for the Cubs. It went to extra innings at 6-6 in Cleveland and, on the back of clutch hitting from Ben Zobrist and Miguel Montero and a closing defensive effort by Kris Bryant, the Cubs ended their season, and their drought, 8-7.
1: 5000-1 odds (2016)
Underdog runs can be some of the most inspiring stories in all of sports. But they’re also the rarest; we don’t typically see teams with everything against them pull out a movie-esque win. But that was exactly what Leicester City did in 2016, when their struggling soccer team pulled out the most miraculous season of all time.
Going into the year, bookmakers had the team at 5000-1 odds to win the Premier League, the top level of British soccer. The roster had barely escaped relegation the year before, and the idea of them even having a decent season was completely laughable. And they didn’t have a good season. They had a great one.
Starting the season with a 4-2 victory over Sunderland, they just kept winning. And winning. And winning.
The squad, which, coming into the season had been all but a joke, a team with no real chance at anything resembling success, with an Italian manager who had never won anything, with a lineup of players who had never been the best, they shouldn’t have had a chance. But, on May 2, they played. A win would give them the title, the most unlikely title in quite possibly the history of sports.
But they tied. In books or movies, that might be where it ends; close, still a miracle, but not close enough. For Leicester City, this was real life, and they still had a shot 24 hours later, when Chelsea played Tottenham, every Leicester fan was on Chelsea’s side. Chelsea, with the weight of a miracle story on their backs, made a comeback from 0-2 down to 2-2, a draw. A draw that gave Leicester City, a team who many people had never heard of, a team who’s odds were almost comically low, a Premier League Championship.
Ashton Stansel is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.