The 5 Biggest Upsets in Sports History

It’s been over 25 years since James “Buster” Douglas did the impossible and knocked out Mike Tyson, but people are still talking about it. It was such a major event, that folks can even remember where they were when it happened. That’s the power of this moment. That’s the power of any moment where the unfathomable occurs, why there’s so much beauty in the upset.

In every match there is a favorite, and there is an underdog. One team is supposed to come out on top, and one team is merely a stepping stone to the other’s inevitable victory. But sometimes, the stars align, and David puts it all together and topples Goliath. That’s what went down 25 years ago when Tyson hit the mat. And Buster Douglas gave us that moment.

This was unquestionably one of the biggest upsets the world of sports has ever witnessed. And there have been some amazing ones. Here are the five we believe represent the greatest of all time.

1. David Tyree (helmet) catches the Patriots off guard

Super Bowl XLII was supposed to be the night that the New England Patriots capped off a perfect 19-0 season. But in the end, it was the New York Giants who found themselves celebrating under the falling confetti. Quarterback Eli Manning was the MVP who drove the Giants to a 17-14 upset victory, but this night will always be remembered for David Tyree and his improbable “helmet catch.”

2. Jets beat the Colts in Super Bowl III

There was no one picking the New York Jets from the AFL to defeat the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. No one except Jets quarterback Joe Namath. In fact, he guaranteed it. And on Sunday, January 12, 1969, Broadway Joe proved to be a man of his word, as he led the Jets to a 16-7 upset against the heavily favored Colts.

 3. Rulon Gardner defeats Alexander Karelin

American Rulon Gardner was about to face the greatest obstacle of his life at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was the gold medal match in Greco Roman wrestling, and he was set to face three-time defending Olympic champion, Alexander Karelin. This guy was considered unbeatable. In fact, he hadn’t lost an international match in 13 years; he didn’t even concede a point in the last 10. But somehow Gardner got up 1-0, and managed to hold onto that lead for the rest of the match. This victory is easily one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

 4. Wildcats topple the Hoyas

Going into the 1985 NCAA Championship game, Patrick Ewing and the Georgetown Hoyas were the baddest team in all the land. They were riding a 17-game winning streak and looking to win back-to-back national titles. Everyone believed they’d be cutting down the nets at the end of the night. Unfortunately, the eighth-seeded Villanova Wildcats didn’t see it that way. They came to play. They came to win. And that’s exactly what they did, as they upset the Hoyas 66-64.

5. “Miracle on Ice”

The 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic ice hockey team had no business beating the Soviet Union in the medal round. The USSR was an unstoppable force that had dominated the sport for years. But Herb Brooks and his melting pot of college stars believed that they could pull of the impossible. Their 4-3 upset win proved it to be true. And in doing so, they had us believing in miracles.