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10 Biggest Comebacks in Sports History

by Toby Oliva
fact checked by Rachel Jones

In sports, where triumph and defeat often dance on a razor’s edge, a special category of awe-inspiring moments exists as the greatest comebacks. These remarkable turnarounds, where athletes and teams defy the odds and rise from seemingly insurmountable deficits, etch tales of resilience into the annals of history. From gripping basketball courts to sprawling football fields, the ten biggest comebacks stand as testaments to human tenacity and the unpredictable nature of competition.

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10 Michael Jordan’s NBA Comeback in 1995

Michael Jordan Returns (March 19, 1995)

Michael Jordan’s NBA comeback in 1995 was like a slam dunk of epic proportions. Who could forget the Chicago Bulls legend hanging up his jersey to chase a baseball dream, only to lace up those iconic sneakers again and return to the hardwood? It was like something out of a sports movie!

The basketball world held its breath as MJ announced his return, and boy, did he deliver. After a brief stint in minor league baseball, Jordan’s comeback was like a breath of fresh air. He slid back into his Bulls jersey with finesse, as if he’d never left. The crowd went wild, and so did history.

He didn’t just come back; he came back with a vengeance. He led the Bulls to three more consecutive NBA championships, sealing his comeback with the sweet taste of victory. He reminded everyone, “Hey, I’m still the king of the court.”

9 Liverpool FC 2019 Semi-Final Comeback

Liverpool x Barcelona ( 4-0 ) | Extended Highlights And Goals | UCL 2019

One of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history occurred during the 2019 UEFA Champions League semi-final. Liverpool FC, facing FC Barcelona, managed a stunning turnaround after being down 3-0 from the first leg. In the second leg at Anfield, Liverpool exhibited extraordinary resilience and determination.

The team’s relentless attacking style led to a 4-0 victory, resulting in a 4-3 aggregate score that propelled them to the final. The victory was highlighted by two goals each from Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum. This comeback showcased Liverpool’s tactical prowess and unwavering spirit as they overcame a seemingly insurmountable deficit against a top-tier opponent.

This historic comeback captured the hearts of football fans and demonstrated the unpredictability and magic that sports can bring. It stands as a testament to the power of teamwork, strategy, and the belief that, against all odds, victory is attainable.

8 New England Patriots Super Bowl Comeback

Relive the Patriots’ Amazing 25 point comeback in Super Bowl LI

Fearlessly forging ahead, the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI orchestrated an awe-inspiring revival that amazed us all. With an incredible burst of energy, they managed to string together an impressive 25 consecutive points, turning the game on its head and leveling the playing field by the end of regular play. But the real magic happened during overtime—that’s when the Patriots, like true champions, took charge with a triumphant march down the field. And just like that, victory was sealed with an emphatic touchdown, bringing the final score to a captivating 34-28.

We can’t help but marvel at this shining example of determination and resilience. The Patriots showed us what it means to never give up and to keep fighting against all odds. Their clever tactics and unwavering spirit proved that even in the toughest situations, comebacks are more than possible—they’re a reality.

7 Tracy McGrady Scoring 13 Points in 33 Seconds

That time Tracy McGrady scored 13 points in 33 seconds | SportsCenter | ESPN Archives

Tracy McGrady’s legendary 13 points in 33 seconds comeback deserves a spot in the hall of fame of heart-pounding sports moments. It’s 2004; the Houston Rockets are trailing the San Antonio Spurs by a seemingly insurmountable eight points with just half a minute left on the clock. Most folks would’ve already flipped to another channel or mentally chalked this one up as a loss. But not T-Mac.

In a display of sheer basketball magic, Tracy went into overdrive. With ice in his veins, he knocked down four consecutive three-pointers, leaving defenders scratching their heads and fans jumping off their couches. It was like watching a video game in cheat mode. Those 33 seconds felt like an eternity as the Rockets defied all odds.

This comeback is even more legendary because McGrady did it practically single-handedly, willing his team to victory. It’s the stuff of sports folklore, the kind of performance that has you yelling at your TV in disbelief and cheering as if you were courtside.

Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in 33 seconds reminds us that in sports, anything is possible. It’s a tale of determination, skill, and a dash of pure magic, making it a no-brainer for the list of the biggest comebacks in sports history.

6 Cheick Kongo Knocks out Pat Barry

The iconic ending to Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry | ESPN MMA

In the wild world of sports, Cheick Kongo’s knockout victory over Pat Barry is one of the most jaw-dropping comebacks you’ll ever witness. With the crowd on the edge of their seats, popcorn suspended mid-air, and a few skeptics even contemplating a bathroom break. It’s the MMA arena, and Kongo is trading blows with Barry.

The fight’s humming, and Barry suddenly delivers a haymaker that turns Kongo’s lights out. The ref’s almost counting Kongo out; folks were starting to shuffle towards the exits, and then BOOM! Outta nowhere, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kongo shakes off the cobwebs and retaliates with a monstrous right hand that sends Barry crash-landing onto the canvas.

It’s the moment that you rub your eyes and wonder if you’re watching a Hollywood script play out in real life. The arena erupts, the commentators are losing their minds, and Kongo is probably wondering where he got that burst of superhuman strength from.

In the realm of epic sports comebacks, Kongo’s knockout of Barry secures a top-tier spot. It’s like a reminder that as long as there’s a breath left in an athlete’s body, they’ve got a shot at turning the tide.

5 Alex Smith’s Injury Comeback

The Superhuman Comeback Story of Alex Smith

When we talk about epic comebacks in sports, one name that absolutely deserves a spot on the list is Alex Smith. We’re talking about a guy who faced off against a potentially life-ending injury and still managed to claw his way back onto the football field.

It’s 2018, and Alex Smith leads the Washington Football Team (formerly known as the Redskins) like a champ. But then, BAM! He suffers one of the gnarliest leg injuries you can imagine—a compound fracture that required multiple surgeries and even had doctors flirting with the idea of amputation. Ouch doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Fast forward to 2020, and guess who’s back? Yup, you got it—Smith is strapping on his helmet again. This dude went through over a dozen surgeries and grueling rehab sessions that probably felt like torture and uncertainty. But he didn’t let that stop him.

Watching Smith back on the field after all that adversity was like seeing a real-life Rocky Balboa. Sure, the stats might not have been mind-blowing, but the fact that he was out there, throwing passes and taking hits, was a victory in itself.

4 Reggie Miller’s Comeback Against the New York Knicks

Reggie Miller scores 8 points in 9 seconds vs. Knicks in 1995 playoff game | ESPN Archives

Reggie Miller’s epic comeback against the New York Knicks is one for the ages, cementing his spot in the pantheon of sports legends. Picture this: it’s the 1995 NBA Playoffs, and the Knicks are leading by six points with just 18.7 seconds left on the clock. Most folks would’ve thrown in the towel, grabbed their popcorn, and called it a night. But not Reggie.

Miller, the sharpshooting maestro, had other plans. He sank a quick three-pointer, making it a one-possession game. The crowd at Madison Square Garden could hardly believe their eyes. But Reggie wasn’t done. He forced a turnover on the ensuing inbound pass, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Another three-pointer? You bet. Tie game.

The Knicks, once looking like they had it all sewn up, were now a bundle of nerves. But Reggie was ice cold. With just a few ticks left, he stepped back and drilled a dagger of a three-pointer, sealing a miraculous comeback that left jaws on the floor. The crowd was stunned, and you could hear the collective gasp reverberating through the arena.

3 Tiger Woods’s Golf Comeback

Tiger Woods 2018 Comeback – The Greatest in Sports History

Tiger Woods’s golf comeback is like a Hollywood script coming to life. I mean, this guy is the definition of a legend, and his return to the green is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Remember when everyone thought he was done, hanging up his clubs due to injuries and setbacks?

Well, he told adversity to hike and made one of the most epic comebacks in sports history.

I’m talking about a guy who had more surgeries than a smartphone has updates, yet he still roared back onto the scene. The dude won the 2019 Masters Tournament, which was like the ultimate mic-drop moment. People high-fived strangers in the streets; that’s how big of a deal it was.

It’s not just about the wins, though. It’s the sheer determination that Woods showed. He battled through pain, doubters, and naysayers and proved that he’s still got that magic touch with the clubs. It’s the kind of stuff that gives you goosebumps and makes you believe in the power of a good ol’ comeback story.

2 Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series Comeback

2004 ALCS Gm7: Red Sox advance to the World Series

The Boston Red Sox’s 2004 World Series comeback? Oh, that’s like the ultimate underdog story meets baseball magic. The Sox were down 3-0 against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series. People were already giving their saddest “wait till next year” speeches. But cue the dramatic music; the Sox decided they weren’t done yet.

These guys pulled off an epic rally with jaws dropping nationwide. They not only won four straight games against the Yankees, but they did it with flair, crushing any doubt that lingered.

And here’s the kicker: They didn’t just stop at the ALCS. They carried that momentum into the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. With a mix of clutch hits, standout pitching, and a pinch of “never say die” attitude, they swept the series and grabbed their first championship in 86 years.

Bostonians went wild, and even non-Sox fans couldn’t help but tip their hats to the incredible turnaround. The 2004 Red Sox’s comeback isn’t just a sports memory; it’s a reminder that no matter how bleak things seem, a team with heart, guts, and some killer bats can flip the script and make history.

1 Kansas Jayhawks’ NCAA National Championship Comeback

Full final 3 minutes from Kansas’ comeback title over UNC

In the realm of jaw-dropping sports comebacks, the Kansas Jayhawks’ NCAA National Championship triumph surely takes the cake. It’s crunch time in the championship game, and the Jayhawks are trailing by a seemingly insurmountable margin. Fans are gripping their seats, hoping against hope for a miracle.

But guess what? Miracles do happen, and this one was a doozy. Down by a considerable deficit, the Jayhawks unleashed their inner comeback kings, leaving everyone’s jaws on the floor. With sweat-soaked brows and an unwavering determination, they staged a mind-boggling rally that will forever be etched in sports history.

It wasn’t just about the points they scored but the sheer tenacity that fueled their drive. With each basket, the deficit shrunk, and the excitement soared to stratospheric levels. The Kansas Jayhawks’ journey from the brink of defeat to the ecstasy of victory is a story that encapsulates the essence of sports—the thrill of the game, the power of teamwork, and the never quit attitude.

fact checked by Rachel Jones