Top Ten Upsets of the 2010s

William Pitts
Trevor Bayne celebrates his victory in the 2011 Daytona 500, one of the decade's greatest upsets.
Trevor Bayne celebrates his victory in the 2011 Daytona 500, one of the decade's greatest upsets. / Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
facebooktwitter

The last ten years of sports have brought us many great moments. Some of them came in the form of classic David vs. Goliath-level feats, from Tiger Woods winning the Masters at 43 to Leicester City's unlikely run to a Premiere League Title. To commemorate the decade, here's TBL's list of the 10 greatest upsets of the 2010s. Enjoy.

Jets over Patriots in 2010 Playoffs

In terms of NFL upsets, this one has sadly been overlooked-- which is a shame, because this was almost as shocking as the Patriots' loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

While the Jets brought the same team that made it to the previous year's AFC Championship Game as a wild card, the Patriots were a 14-2 juggernaut, with Tom Brady coming off an MVP season. In fact, Football Outsiders rated that year's Patriots offense as better than that of the 16-0 Patriots from three years earlier. On paper, the Patriots played this game well enough to win; Brady threw for just short of 300 yards and the Patriots outgained the Jets on offense 372-314. But New England made uncharacteristic mistakes and wasted long possessions, leading to a 28-21 loss to the Jets. To date, this is the last time the Patriots have been eliminated short of the AFC Championship game.

Trevor Bayne wins the 2011 Daytona 500

A season that would eventually end with NASCAR's first points standings tie would fittingly begin with, arguably, its greatest upset. After the previous year's Daytona 500 was plagued with delays caused by growing holes in the track surface, the speedway underwent a massive repaving that drastically changed the character of the race. The 2011 Daytona 500 saw a then-record 74 lead changes among 22 different drivers, over half of the field. After crashes forced two separate "green-white-checkered" finish attempts, Bayne, who had just turned 20 the previous day, found himself in the lead and - with drafting help from Carl Edwards - held on to win NASCAR's greatest race. He became only the second driver (after Jamie MacMurray, who coincidentally, had won the previous year's race) to win in only his second career start.

Chelsea Beat Bayern Munich...in Munich

The stars seemed to align for Bayern Munich in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. They were playing on their home field (with Munich as the host city that year), and their opponent was a Chelsea team coming off a disappointing 6th place finish in the Premier League. When Thomas Muller gave Bayern the lead in the 83rd minute, it looked like it would be enough. Five minutes later, Didier Drogba equalized for Chelsea, and the game eventually went to a shootout. Anyone who knows anything about international football knows that English teams have historically been inept in shootouts while German teams have reigned supreme. On this day, the opposite took place in front of 80,000 stunned fans in Munich; Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger missed from the stripe, allowing Drogba to slot home the goal that made Chelsea the European champions on Bayern's home field.

Leicester City wins the 2015-16 Premier League

This team wasn't supposed to stay in the top-flight, let alone win the whole thing. They barely staved off relegation the previous season, then the manager that pulled off the escape was sacked for reasons not pertaining to football (let's just leave it at that). No team looked less capable of a title. But this was probably the perfect season for a team like Leicester to rise up. All of the typical contenders tripped over themselves. Defending champions Chelsea suffered a dramatic collapse under Jose Mourinho. Manchester City started hot but fell apart. Tottenham Hotspur put up a fight but ran out of gas near the finish.
Like a good wine, this title only looks finer with age. In the following years, the Premier League went right back to being dominated by the same core group of five teams. Perhaps Leicester will join this group one day - they sit in second this week, though well behind Liverpool.

LeBron and the Cavs Come Back to Beat the 73-9 Warriors

Of all the ways for Cleveland to finally win a title, it was only natural it came in the form of a massive upset. The 2016 NBA Playoffs were shaping up to be a coronation for the Golden State Warriors as the greatest team in NBA history. After a 73-9 regular season record, the Warriors survived a scare in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder to force a rematch of the previous year's Finals against the Cavaliers. After four games, the Cavaliers were once again on the ropes down 3-1, but the momentum turned in the fifth game in Oakland when Draymond Green committed a flagrant foul that resulted in a suspension from the following game. The Cavs won the next two, forcing a climactic seventh game in Oakland which will be best remembered for LeBron James' iconic block on Andre Iguodala with 1:50 to go. Kyrie Irving hit a three-pointer soon after, and the lead held, giving Cleveland its first sports championship in 42 years while reducing LeBron to a sobbing wreck on the parquet.

Iceland over England

Euro 2016 was the first 24-team European Championship, giving us our first glimpse of some less heralded football nations on the international stage. One of those, Iceland, took their chance and ran with it, snatching a last-minute win over Austria to sneak into the knockout stage. After falling behind to England on a fourth-minute penalty, Iceland struck back with two goals in the next twelve minutes and held on the rest of the way for a shocking win. Even for a footballing nation with a long history of disappointment, England losing to a nation of less than 400,000 residents was a new low, and the fallout was swift and immediate. Manager Roy Hodgson turned in his resignation immediately, and only two years England reached the semifinal of the World Cup.

UMBC over Virginia

Despite March Madness's storied history of upsets, one thing still hadn't happened by March 2018 - a 16 seed beating a one seed. The 31-2 Virginia Cavaliers had taken a blow before the game when their top player, De'Andre Hunter, suffered a season-ending wrist fracture. But still, it didn't seem like it would be enough to cost them a first-round game. The most stunning part of this upset was how thoroughly dominant the underdogs were after halftime. UMBC went on a 15-4 run after the break and never looked back. Virginia wouldn't forget this loss, though. The following year they bounced back to win the national championship.

Germany fails to make it out of the group stage in 2018

Previous champions haven't really had a good time at the World Cup recently. After winning in 2006, Italy fell in the group stage in 2010. The same happened with Spain in 2014. Last year, 2014 champions Germany proved that even they weren't immune. They brought back most of the cast that helped them crush Brazil 7-1 four years earlier, including coach Joachim Low. In fact, that might have been the problem - an aging roster that couldn't keep up with the rest of the world. Oh, and Jerome Boateng, who was easily the worst player of that World Cup. It's telling that after he was red-carded in their second game against Sweden, Germany came back to win for their only points of the World Cup. Four days later, they suffered a shocking 2-0 loss to South Korea to seal their early exit.

Tiger Wins the Masters at Age 43

Any other year, Tiger winning a Masters would be considered the furthest thing from an upset. But in 2019, eleven years after his life was turned upside-down and his career spiraled into injuries and mediocrity, another green jacket for Tiger was the last thing anyone expected. Woods hovered near the top of the leaderboard in the late stages until the 12th hole of the final round, when Francesco Molinari hit into a water hazard, putting Tiger out front. After going back and forth with Molinari over the final six holes, Woods made par on 17, meaning a bogey on 18 was all he needed to take home his first major title in 11 years. No surprise, he two-putted the last hole and made bogey. Classic Tiger. He just had to make it more dramatic for us.

Blue Jackets sweep Lightning in first round

Anyone who's watched the NHL knows that winning the President's Trophy for best regular season record is never a barometer for postseason success. In the past twenty years, only four P.T. winners went on to win the Stanley Cup, while six lost in the first round of the playoffs. None did so in as humiliating a fashion as last season's Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied an NHL regular season record by winning 62 games, yet failed to notch a single victory in their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After dropping the first game, 4-3 at home, the following three games weren't particularly close. The final straw was a 7-3 pounding in Columbus in which six different Blue Jackets found the back of the net.

facebooktwitter