Jordan Spieth’s stunning collapse at the Masters—a tournament where he held a five-shot lead heading into the back nine on the final round and ended up losing by three strokes—was a shocker for sure. But under the intense championship pressure in the sports world, the 22-year-old Texan is not alone when it comes to blowing big leads on the biggest stages. Here are the five worst sports collapses over the last four decades.
5. 2000 NBA Playoffs: Blazers Cough Up 15-Point Game 7 Lead to Lakers
This was the beginning of the Lakers’ latest dynasty—that almost wasn’t. The team went 67–15 in the regular season—tops in the NBA—and the reward was getting to host a 59-win Portland team in a winner-take-all Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. But the Blazers controlled the game from the outset and led 75–60 in the fourth quarter, when suddenly everything went wrong. Portland didn’t score for nearly seven minutes, while missing 13 straight shots, as Los Angeles got hot and tied the game at 75, and then pulled away—punctuated by an alley-oop from Kobe Bryant to Shaquille O’Neal—for the 89–84 win.
4. 1978 Red Sox: Boston Can’t Hold 14-Game Lead Over New York
On July 19, Boston held a 14-game lead over New York. By Sept. 16, they found themselves behind by 3.5 games—a 17.5-game turnaround. But the Red Sox would win 12 of their final 14 games to set up a one-game playoff with the Yankees. But that winner-take-all contest—played at Fenway Park—would only result in more heartbreak for a once-snake-bitten franchise. Leading 2–0 in the seventh, Boston’s Mike Torrez gave up a three-run home run to Bucky Dent to put the Yankees in front for good. The Red Sox would put the tying run in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth innings, but failed to drive either of them in.
3. 1999 British Open: Jean van de Velde Loses 3-Shot Lead on Final Hole
Jean van de Velde was aiming to be the first French player to win the British Open since 1907, when he went into the final hole in the final round with a 3-shot lead. All he needed was a double bogey or better for the victory on a hole he had already birdied twice. Instead he hit a shot into the grandstands, one into the woods, and another into the water and recorded a triple bogey to force a playoff, where he lost to Paul Lawrie.
2. 1993 NFL Playoffs: Oilers Squander 35–3 Lead to Bills, Lose in OT
Playing without an injured Jim Kelly, the two-time defending AFC Champion Buffalo Bills dug themselves a 35–3 hole early in the third quarter to the Houston Oilers, at home in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. Then they woke up. Backup quarterback Frank Reich threw three third-quarter TD passes—all to Andre Reed—and the Bills forced overtime with an improbable rally. They ended up winning 41–38 on a 32-yard Steve Christie field goal.
1. 2004 ALCS: Yankees Blow 3–0 Lead to Red Sox
In a rematch of the previous year’s epic, seven-game series—which was highlighted by Aaron Boone’s thrilling extra-inning Game 7-winning home run—the two teams again combined for an unforgettable series in 2004. But this time, the script was flipped, with the Yankees on the wrong end for once.
Winning the first three games by a combined 32–16 score, New York seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, while Boston was staring at another crushing defeat by their bitter rivals. But down 4–3 in the ninth inning of Game 4—and with Mariano Rivera on the mound—the Red Sox started their series rally. A walk to Kevin Millar, followed by a steal of second by Dave Roberts, and then a run-scoring single by Bill Mueller sent the game to extras, where a David Ortiz home run won it in the 12th.
Ortiz would get another extra-inning walkoff hit the next night to win Game 5, 5–4 in 14 innings. Curt Schilling’s now-legendary “bloody sock” performance—one run allowed in seven innings just a day after ankle surgery in a 4–2 win—forced a Game 7 that Boston would win in a laugher 10–3 to complete the first-ever 0–3 comeback in baseball postseason history.