Last night the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Golden State Warriors 118-94 to take a strangle hold 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals. With the loss, the 73 win Warriors are on the brink of elimination. The Thunder will just need to win 1 of the next 3 games to move on the the NBA Finals.
This season the Warriors famously broke the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls regular season wins record of 72 regular season wins. Many questioned if it was worth it to risk their health for the playoffs to chase a record. Of course in hindsight everybody can try to sound smart and say they should've rested but that isn't what I'm trying to debate right now.
My question is where would a loss in the WCF for the 73-9 Golden State Warriors (should they not come back from 3-1) rank among all time chokes in major sports history?
Even down 3-1 I don't think the Warriors are out of it, especially with game 5 and a potential game 7 at home, but in the NBA it is extremely rare for teams to blow 3-1 series leads, especially in the later playoff rounds. I can think of countless times baseball and hockey teams have came back in my lifetime but in the NBA it's wicked rare. I know the Celtics did it against the 76ers in the early Larry days, but that was 30+ years ago. I think the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead against the Suns when Kobe did that wicked lame celebration after hitting the game winner. Last year the Clippers did it against the Rockets I believe but that's really all I can remember in the last 10 or so years.
IMO when I think chokes, I mainly think MLB, NBA, NHL just because they play series in the playoffs. NFL teams have blown leads or big chances too, most notability my Patriots in Super Bowl XLII when they failed to go 19-0. However I just feel like in football and one game scenarios anything can happen. Where with a series format, the better team usually wins, so when upsets happen they are even more shocking. NFL will still be included, I just think instances of an NFL losing in the playoffs it's not as big of a choke as say blowing a 3-1 series lead. Also a lot of great chokes have happened in the final days of major golf tournaments as well but I don't follow golf and frankly couldn't give less of a shit about golf so those chokes won't be in the discussion.
Okay let's begin. In my sports fandom (about 15 years) many great teams have blown chances at championships and many teams have blown large series leads. IMO these are the worse chokes since 2000 in no particular order (unless noted) just off the top of my head
- Russell Wilson throws INT on 1 yard line in Super Bowl XLIV
- 2014-15 University of Kentucky basketball loses in the Final 4 when they were 38-0
- 2007 Patriots go 18-1 losing Super Bowl 42 to NY Giants
- 2011 Green Bay Packers go 15-1 lose first playoff game at home by 3 scores to 9-7 NY Giants
- 2011 Texas Rangers in the World Series
- 2002 San Francisco Giants in the World Series
- 2010-11 Miami Heat lose NBA Finals
- 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers lose NBA Finals
- 2011 Boston Red Sox miss playoffs after up 11 games in September
- 2004 Yankees blow 3-0 series lead in the ALCS
- 2003 Chicago Cubs blow 3-1 series lead to Florida Marlins, lose game 6 in heart breaking fashion
- 2009-10 Boston Bruins, 2013-14 San Jose Sharks blow 3-0 series leads in Stanley Cup Playoffs
- 2001 Yankees lose World Series
- Boise St kicker that missed twice from inside 40 against Nevada to blow perfect season and chance at NC
- Billy Cundiff misses 31 yard field goal in 2011 AFC Championship game
So obviously there are tons of examples and I'm sure I forgot a ton, plus there is everything pre-2000. If we are looking at that list of solid chokes IMO these are the 5 worst should the Warriors blow it.
5. 2003 Chicago Cubs (blow 3-1 series lead in 2003 NLCS)
Blew 3-1 Series lead, games 6 and 7 at home with two aces pitching, blew 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of game 6. Should have won the 2003 National League Pennant. The fact that it wasn't a great team and weren't expected to win World Series going into the playoffs keeps it lower.
4. 2007 Patriots (lose Super Bowl 42, go 18-1)
Just knock the fucking ball out Rodney. It's big choke but IMO, more bad luck than anything, Patriots led 14-10 late in the 4th quarter. I blame the offense a lot more than I blame the defense.
3. 2011 Texas Rangers (Blow 3-2 World Series lead, multiple late inning leads in game 6, one strike away from World Series victory)
I feel like people forget this one because baseball's popularity among people my age is dying. The 2011 World Series was the best World Series I ever watched. As a fan of baseball it was amazing, game 6 is one of the favorite baseball games of all time just because of how crazy it was. After losing the 2010 World Series, the Texas Rangers were back and looked like they were going to close it out, leading 3-2 going back to St. Louis they blew multiple chance in game 6 to win the World Series. Despite everything in the bottom of the 9th they were just one strike away from a championship. Then David Freese happened. It sucks because I hate the Cardinals and really enjoyed these Rangers teams as a baseball fan but the Cardinals were a team of destiny in 2011, nothing was going to stop them.
2. 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (go 73-9, don't even make finals)
Should the Warriors not comeback, I think losing in the Western Conference Finals after breaking the single season wins record is the 2nd biggest choke of all time.
Yes the West is tough, yes Steph Curry is banged up, but this team is loaded. The Warriors broke records and shot the ball at an amazing rate in 2015-16. For most of the season they looked unstoppable. Until last night they hadn't lost back to back all year long. 39-2 at home. This team has been getting great praise, and rightfully so all season.
However if they don't even MAKE the Finals despite 73 wins IMO it's one of the biggest disappointments in sports history. It may unfair that in sports nowadays all the matters is championships but that's the way it is, and if this team doesn't even make it to the Finals IMO it has to be one the biggest chokes in the history of sports. I do not think they are dead yet though, although odds and stats would say the Thunder are going to the Finals, a lot can happen. The Warriors have 2 of the potential 3 games remaining at home, still have one of most talented rosters in the league, if anybody can comeback it is them.
1. 2004 New York Yankees (blow 3-0 series lead in ALCS)
Make no mistake about it, this is the worst choke/collapse/blow up in the history of sports. The Red Sox were dead, they lost game 3 19-8. They were losing in the 9th inning of game 4 against the greatest closer in baseball history. They had to win four straight, they had games 6 and 7 in New York, they were cursed, they were going up against the Evil Empire, they were the Red Sox going up against those damn Yankees.
Yet the Red Sox got hot, grinded out two extra inning wins, had Curt Schilling give a miraculous performance in game 6, then exploded for 10 runs in game 7. Yankees just win 1 game in 4 tries and none of this ever happens.
They don't, Red Sox win the pennant, win the World Series, end the curse. Go on to win two more World Series in the next decade. The Yankees who were a dynasty for nearly a decade going into the series were no more, despite winning a World Series in 2009 they have never been the same since. The fear is gone.
So if the Warriors don't comeback I think it is the 2nd worst choke in the last 15 years. Who knows where in all of history? I think a lot has to do win the how this series goes, if they lose game 5 at home or in a buzzer beater in game 7 I think history will be different. What do you think?