When it comes to sport everyone loves a great comeback story. Whether it’s someone's career we thought was heading for the exit, or a team on the brink of defeat, it is part of the reason we watch sport, and quite often brings us moments we will remember forever. These are our top 10.
And with the Super Bowl just around there really is only one place to start…
New England Patriots
The most recent of any of these 10 achievements only happened less than 11 months ago, but is something that will be talked about for decades to come.
All eyes were on the biggest sporting event of the US calendar; the Super Bowl as the New England Patriots came back from 25 points down midway through the 3rd Quarter to beat the Atlanta Falcons in. Statistically at the time of the 25 point lead the Falcons had a 99.8% chance of going on to win.
At the start of the 4th Quarter the deficit was reduced, but still a very healthy 19 points, and it was all but a formality that the Falcons would be lifting the trophy – after all in the NFL play-off history of the 133 times a team had a 17 point lead going into the final quarter 133 had gone on to win.
However, a field goal and 2 touchdowns followed by two 2-point conversions sent the game into overtime for the first time in Super Bowl history, and orchestrated by legendary quarterback Tom Brady the Patriots scored another touchdown to complete the most unlikely of comebacks.
Mr 'Lean Mean Grilling Machine' George Forman won his first world heavyweight title in 1973 when he upset the legendary Joe Frazier in the ‘Sunshine Showdown’, before retiring in 1977 aged just 28. He then became an ordained Christian minister, before deciding to make a return to the ring some 10 years later.
His comeback was decidedly average until he was given a Heavyweight Title shot against fellow American Michael Moorer. Coming off a loss, being unranked, and fighting the reigning Champion who was 19 years his junior not many people gave Foreman a chance, and this seemed to be justified as he was easily outboxed for 9 rounds.
However, everything changed in an instant in the 10th round as Foreman landed a short, sharp, swift right hand to the chin of his opponent. Mooerer never saw it coming, and he collapsed to the canvas. Unable to beat the referees 10 count Foreman had in the blink of an eye won back the title he lost 20 years previous, and in doing so became the oldest man to be crowned world heavyweight champion at the age of 45 – a record that still stands to this day.
Every football fan of a certain age knows where they were on the 25th May 2005 when the Champions League Final took place at the Olympic Stadium in Istanbul.
Trudging off the pitch at half-time, trailing 3-0, some Liverpool fans started leaving the stadium and countless thousands turned off their TV’s. What they missed was (given the importance of it) the greatest comeback in football.
Within 15 minutes of the restart the Merseysiders were level, as they scored 3 goals in 6 minutes. The match went to extra time and then a dreaded penalty shootout, where captain by the inspirational Steven Gerrard Liverpool held their nerve to triumph and win their 5th Champions League Title.
Ian Botham & Bob Willis
Australia were on the verge of wrapping up an easy victory leading England 2-0 at the Ashes. But champion duo Ian Botham & Bob Willis had other ideas.
Chasing the Aussie’s 401-9 declared England were all out in the first innings for just 174 (with only Botham scoring anything of note) and then reduced to 135-7 in the second innings. Staring down the barrel of an innings defeat you could get 500/1 for an England victory with the bookies.
Step forward Ian Botham who stood firm to score 149, and by the time the rest of the team were out England actually had a lead of 129. It wasn’t much, but it offered a glimmer of hope. What it needed was a bowler to also have the game of his life – now step forward Bob Willis. He proceeded to take 8 wickets for a mere 43 runs, as Australia crumbled to 111 all out, as England sealed a remarkable 18 run victory. The momentum gained in this victory helped the England team on to win the series 3-1.
Snooker has never been regarded as one of the more thrilling sports, but it seemed that gone midnight on April 28th 1985 the whole nation was gripped by the greatest final the sport had ever seen.
Northern Irishman Dennis Taylor was up against Steve Davis who had been champion in 3 of the last 4 years, and constantly World Number 1 for over 2 years.
Davis started with the form of a champion and took Taylor apart as he raced into a 8-0 lead, but slowly and surely Taylor clawed his way back into it, with the match eventually being tied at 17-17, before Taylor famously won it after potting the final 4 balls in a super tense finale.
18.5 million people watched the ‘Black Ball Final’ on BBC 2, which is still a record that stands to this very day.
You would think the most famous horse ever would be an unlikely entrant into this list, but at the 1973 Grand National, Red Rum hadn’t won any of what would turn out to be 3 National’s, and it looked even more unlikely when the joint favourite horse Crisp strode ahead and lead by a whopping by 33 lengths.
However, as the Australian horse began to tire, Red Rum ridden by Brian Fletcher began to catch him. Coming off the 30th and final fence Crisp still had a 15 length lead, but the Irish horse was gaining with every stride and by the finishing line was ahead by 3/4 of a length, to take the greatest prize in horse racing, and breaking the course record by 19 seconds.
Another surprise name on this list, and going into the Wimbledon finals of 1993 the multi time champion Graf was indeed the big favourite going up against Jana Novotna, who at the time hadn't a major win to her name. And true to form she already had one hand on the title as she won the first set via a tie break.
However, whether Graf took her foot off the gas or Novotna turned it up the match completely changed and Czech player blew here away to take the second set 6-1. Novotna’s form continued into the deciding set where she raced into a 4-1, and the German seemed down and out, especially as Novotna was serving to go 5-1 up. But when the Czech double faulted at the pivotal moment the match quickly disintegrated her and within minutes the relentless powerhouse Graf grabbed 5 games on the trot to win a third consecutive Wimbledon title.
European Ryder Cup Team
Titled, the 'Miracle at Medinah' by media covering the event, golf fans still need to pinch themselves when thinking about the near-impossible achievement of the European team, who dragged a 10-6 point deficit back going into the final day of the 2012 tournament to win 14½–13½.
Made all the more sweeter as it was in the US’s own backyard all but 1 player from the European team scored points, in the greatest golfing comeback ever!
Although not a sport that gets much attention in the UK Reggie Miller’s achievements in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Semi Final against the New York Knicks made the news over here.
With a mere 18.7 seconds remaining in the game, and Miller’s Indiana Pacers trailing 105–99, Miller scored an unfathomable 8 points in just 8.9 seconds!
First Miller took the inbounds pass from Mark Jackson, made a 3-pointer, then stole the inbounds pass from Anthony Mason, dribbled back behind the arc and tied the game with another 3, stunning the crowd at the iconic Madison Square Garden. On the ensuing possession, Knicks guard John Starks was fouled by Sam Mitchell. Starks missed both free throws, and although Patrick Ewing managed to get the offensive rebound, his shot was just a bit long and hit the back rim. Miller got the rebound and was fouled with 7.5 seconds left. He made both free throws. Trailing by 2, New York had one last chance to win the game, but failed to get a shot off, giving the Pacers an unlikely victory.
At one point considered to be the greatest Mixed Martial artist ever, he was the clear favourite going into his Middleweight Title fight with Chael Sonnen in August 2010. He had won his first 11 fights in the UFC, and had defended his title a record 6 times.
However, Sonnen hadn’t read the script – he stunned Silva with a punch, and took him to the floor where he continued to beat on him. This onslaught continued for 23 minutes – In his first 11 fights ‘The Spider’ had only been hit 208 times – Sonnen proceeded to hit him 289 times.
However, Champions never give in, and with just 110 seconds, Silva dug deep and somehow managed to lock ‘The American Gangsta’ in a triangle armbar. Sonnen was forced to tap, and Silva defended his title.
It is still regarded as the greatest comeback in the near 25 years of the Mixed Martial Arts company.