Top 15 Out-of-Nowhere Teams in Sports History
Top 15 Most Unexpected Seasons
Every sport has teams that pull out the nearly impossible upsets throughout the season. They may not all be Cinderella Stories that result with a championship win, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a spot in history.
Some of them have been made into movies or featured on YouTube and others are just a story of inspiration that will be remembered for years to come. These teams are the ones that shocked everyone and had a successful end to their season. From the Milan High School Indians to the USA hockey team, they have all surprised us with their successes.
The most recent achievement on the list happened by the Orioles year and the rest date back all the way to 1954. Although we were not all alive to see them happen, they are all stories that have been passed on through the years for their remarkable achievements.
As they say, “There is no I in team,” participation by all members and coaches are necessary to have an effective season; no matter what sport it is, cooperation and practice are required to succeed. Some of these seasons ended with last minute shots and others ended with a loss, but that didn’t stop them from surprising everyone.
The famous video of Coach Jim Valvano running on the court and the inspiring movie Miracle on Ice are examples of how popular these stories have become. Now let’s end the chit-chat and see which 15 teams made the cut for their unexpected, out-of-nowhere seasons.
15. 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
The NY Mets were eliminated on the last day of the season for the 2nd year in a row. This left the Phillies with a 92-70 record landed them first in the National League East. They swept past the Miluwakee Brewers, LA Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays losing only 1 game in each set to win the World Series; their first title since 1980
14. 2008-2009 Arizona Cardinals
Between 1984 and 2007, the Arizona Cardinals only had one winning season. They started the season 7-3 then went 2-4 to end the season with a record of 9-7. Considered to be the worst team in the playoffs, their hopes were not high.
They played the Atlanta Falcons in the wild card round and went on to divisional round to beat the Carolina Panthers. Finally, they moved on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagle for the NFC Championship. This led them to the first Superbowl in team history. They lost to the Pittsburg Steelers but finally got the chance at the big title.
13. 2008-2009 Boise State Broncos
Boise State was only in their 10th year of Division 1 football as they entered the Sugar Bowl as a huge underdog to the Oklahoma Sooners, one of college football's most storied programs. Boise State won the game 43-42 in overtime, scoring on a two point conversion using the "Statue of Liberty" play to tally their final points. The Broncos ended their season 13-0.
As a fun fact, their leading running back that scored the winning points immediately got down on his knees and proposed to his girlfriend that was a Boise State cheerleader (she said yes).
12. 1995-1996 Northwestern Wildcats
In their previous season, they went 3-7-1 and had not had winning season since 1971. Somehow the Northwestern Wildcats went 8-0 in the Big 10 Conference and made it to the Rose Bowl and ranked at #3 in the nation. On the way to the Rose Bowl they beat Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State. They fell to USC in the end but finally gained respect from other teams in the conference.
11. 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in late August, so their hopes of playoffs were optimistic at best. Something hit the Cardinals and they went through to win 23 of their last 33 games of the regular season and entered the playoffs as the wildcard. They upset the Phillies for the divisional round and the Brewers for the National League Championship.
Then they were off to play the Texas Rangers for the World Series. In game 6 of the series, the Rangers led by one game. The 6th game went into extra innings and David Freese hit a walk-off homerun in the 11th to force game 7. They beat the Rangers in game 7 with a score of 6-2 to win the 2011 World Series.
10. 1969 New York Mets
Going into the season, there was no hope for the New York Mets. They were in their 8th season as a franchise and had not yet managed to have a winning season and had never finished above 9th place. New York was trailing the Chicago Cubs by 10 games in August when the Cubs collapsed. The Mets had finally clinched a division win and a record of 100-62. They went on to the World Series to defat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles and became known as the “Amazin Mets.”
9. 2012 Baltimore Orioles
Their season just ended last night, but who knows Baltimore Orioles came from this year? Last year the team was 69-33. This year they ended the regular season 93-69, the complete opposite of last season. The Orioles have a knack for winning extra-inning games, as they have won 16 of them in a row. As of September 13th, the Orioles have successfully completed their first winning season since 1997.
8. 1983 NC State Wolfpack
This is the game where you see the infamous video of NC State Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano running out onto the floor after winning the NCAA Basketball Championship. Coming into the tournament as a 6th seed, there was not much hope for the team. In the elite 8 they beat #1 seed Virginia, then #4 seed Georgia Bulldogs in the final 4. In the championship game they faced Houston when Lorenzo Charles made the last second shot for the Wolfpack to go wild.
7. 2008 Fresno State Bulldogs
Only 5 players for the Fresno State Bulldogs were selected in the MLB draft, and only one of those was in the top 200 picks. But the Bulldogs proved everyone wrong. The team won the WAC tournament so they got an automatic bid and were a 4th-seed (equivalent to a 13-16th for basketball), the team had never won a championship in any sport.
They became the first #4 seed to ever advance to the College World Series. Six times in the series they faced elimination with a loss but they won them all. The Bulldogs even defeated 10 games against teams ranked in the top 20 to win the Championship title.
6. 2007-2008 New York Giants
Tom Brady led the New York Giants to the Superbowl in 2008 with a record of 12-4, an improvement from their 2007 season of a 10-6 record. They beat the Bucs and the Cowboys to get to the NFC Championship against the Packers. The NFC championship game was the coldest game in Lambeau history but the Giants pulled out a 23-20 victory in overtime.
Next step was the Superbowl against the undefeated New England Patriots who had a regular season record of 16-0. The Giants came out strong and beat the Patriots 17-14 and ruined New England’s perfect season.
5. 1985 Villanova Wildcats
To this day, the Villanova Wildcats hold the title for lowest seed to win the NCAA Tournament. They were an 8th -seed and managed to top out #1 Georgetown for the NCAA championship. On the way to the big dance they topped out 1st seed Michigan and 2nd seeds Memphis and UNC.
Georgetown was a powerhouse that was ranked 1st or 2nd the entire season and ended their season 35-3 after losing 66-63 to the Wildcats. On a side note, this was the last game played without a shot clock.
4. 2006 George Mason Patriots
The George Mason Patriots hold one of the most famous final 4 appearances in NCAA Basketball history. Ranked as an 11th seed, there was not much hope for the 23-7 Patriots but they proved everyone wrong. They easily passed by 6th seed Michigan State Spartans, 3rd Seed UNC Tarheels and 7th seed Wichita State.
For only the 2nd time in history the 11th seed Patriots managed to beat the #1 Ranked UCONN Huskies. Although they lost to Florida in the Final Four, the team proved that the underdogs can dominate. The school had never even made it to the Sweet 16 before 2006.
3. 1980 USA Hockey
Kids from the 90’s probably recognize this as the movie Miracle on Ice, but it really did happen. The Soviets had won the 4 previous gold medals in the Olympics until the USA Hockey team stepped up to the plate. The USA was down 3-2 in the 3rd and came back to win 4-3 against the defending champions. They went on to the finals and beat Finland to bring home the gold for the USA .
2. 1954 Milan High School Indians
This team was the inspiration for the movie Hoosiers. The Indians had an enrollment of 161 students and Indiana only had a single-class system at the time. They became the smallest school to win the state title thanks to a last minute shot by Bobby Plump. Besides Milan, the smallest school to win the title in a single class system was still 5 times Milan's size.
1. 2012 Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings were the first 8th seed to win the Stanley Cup. In the middle of the 2011-2012 season, head coach Terry Miller was dismissed from the team. The Kings hired Darryl Sutter in December. How the team managed to get a new coach in December and win the Stanley Cup is just outrageous.
As an 8th seed, they were the underdogs and went on to defeat the #1 Vancouver Canucks, #2 St. Louis Blues and #3 Phoenix Coyotes before beating the New Jersey Devils in game 6 of the finals. This was also the first Stanley Cup win for the Kings in team history.