The 6 Biggest Upsets in Sports History
“Do you believe in miracles?” In 1980, famed sports announcer Al Michales asked this question to a shocked tv audience as the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey Team won gold at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games, beating the heavily favored Soviet Union team. It would go down as one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports.
But what makes a great upset? Is it a longshot beating the odds? Is it a huge underdog not just covering the spread, but winning outright? Or is it an iconic moment that inspires generations and makes heroes out of nobodies overnight?
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest upsets in sports history:
U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey Defeats the U.S.S.R at Lake Placid
Known as the Miracle on Ice, the U.S. Olympic Hockey team defeated the four-time defending gold medalist and heavily favored U.S.S.R. team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. While the Soviet team featured a roster full of professional players with significant experience, the U.S. team was made up of young amateurs and college players with minimal international experience.
Against all odds, the Americans pulled off the upset, winning 4-3 on a third period goal by team captain Mike Eruzione. By contrast, in an exhibition game just before the Olympic games began, the Soviet team beat the Americans 10-3. This unexpected victory vaulted the unknown American players and their head coach Herb Brooks into instant legends.
Tom Brady and the Patriots Defeat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI
Can you believe there was a time before Tom Brady was a household name? Way back in 2001, Brady and the Patriots were 14 point underdogs to the high-scoring St. Louis Rams led by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt. In his second year as a pro, Tom Brady led the game winning drive and marched the team down to field goal range with less than 2 minutes left. Adam Vinatieri drilled the field goal and Brady won his first Super Bowl.
Over the next 20 seasons, Brady would win six more Super Bowls, but his first title came during a big upset.
The Detroit Pistons Take Down the Star-Studded Los Angeles Lakers
In the 2004 NBA season, the Los Angeles Lakers revamped their already star-studded team by bringing in future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton to join forces with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In the past four seasons, the Lakers had won three NBA titles and were the heavy favorites when they met the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.
However, the Pistons had other plans. With strong defense and unselfish offense, the Pistons – led by Chauncy Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, and Richard Hamilton – brought down the mighty Lakers in just five games. They even held the Lakers to under 90 points in four of the five games.
Appalachian State Football Takes Care of Michigan on the Road
When Michigan scheduled Appalachian State for an early-season game, it was supposed to be a tune-up game to get them ready to face their Big 10 opponents. Instead, what they got was a humiliating defeat at home. Michigan was such a favorite that Las Vegas sportsbooks didn’t even post a line. This game, played on September 1, 2007 will also go down in history as the first time that an FCS school beat a ranked FBS opponent.
Leicester City Wins the English Premier League
From a betting perspective, one of the biggest upsets of all time is Leicester City’s Premier League championship in 2016. They were 5000-1 to win at the beginning of the season and stunned soccer fans all over the world when they won the league with a few games still remaining in the season. Lesson learned: never count any team out, no matter how long the odds.
UMBC Makes History in the NCAA Tournament
It had never been done before in the history of the NCAA Tournament, but in 2018, the 16-seeded University of Maryland, Baltimore County Retrievers took down the Virginia Cavaliers, a #1 seed and heavy favorite. A tie game at halftime, the game quickly got out of hand for UVA as UMBC went on to win 74-54. The upset snapped a 135-0 streak for #1 seeds at the NCAA Tournament and made UMBC into legends overnight.
Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? We hope you enjoyed taking a walk down memory lane and checking out some of the biggest upsets in sports history. We don’t know what will come this year, but you can be sure that there will be more upsets to come. Whichever game you do catch, upsets or not, Circa | Sports is the ultimate sportsbook in Las Vegas for sports betting. Stop by Circa Las Vegas, Golden Gate, the D, or one of the other Circa | Sports locations to place your bets in person, or place wagers using the Circa | Sports app anywhere in Nevada. You can download the app on iOS or Android to have your bookie right in your pocket and bet wherever you are in Las Vegas.