By: Ryan Wooley
With the NBA Finals now approaching game five and LeBron James now on the door step of his first NBA title, it raises the question what if the Heat somehow go on to lose in seven games to the Thunder? Where would the loss fit into history in regards to sports collapses?
Now I know what most of you are thinking. No team in NBA history has ever lost after holding a 3-1 series lead in the Finals, so why would I even entertain the thought it would happen in 2012? Well the easy answer to that is just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean it can’t. Plus, with game five still in Miami, all the pressure is on the Heat to close it out before heading back to Oklahoma City for a game six and a potential game seven.
I mean think about it. Can you imagine the pressure LeBron and company would feel if they don’t win the title Thursday night knowing they have to win it on the road in a hostile environment in either game six or seven? They can say it’s just another game all they want, but after LeBron’s first trip to the Finals which resulted in getting swept by the Spurs, and last year’s meltdown which had the Heat blowing a 2-1 series lead to the Mavericks, the thought of being the first team to blow a 3-1 series lead would no doubt be in the back of their minds, especially with how the Thunder have played in their three losses.
Now truthfully do I really think it will happen? No, I don’t. But I do think Oklahoma City will take game five and force a game six which then opens up the chance for it to happen. But let’s say it does go to the Thunder in seven. Where would it rank among the all-time collapses in professional sports? I think it would clearly be at the top of the list because of three reasons. One, because it’s never happened before. Two, because “the big three” would be 0-2 in trips to the NBA Finals. And three, because LeBron James would have either choked it away in the closing moments like he is known to do, or he did his part and he was let down again by his cast of teammates.
How about you? Where would you rank the collapse if it does happen to unfold and what are your top five collapses of all time? Below are mine as it stands now—but all would drop a number if the Thunder find a way to pull it out.
1) 2004 New York Yankees- Still the first and only MLB team to hold a 3-0 series lead in the ALCS and lose in seven games. It also was the catalyst for the Red Sox turning the corner and winning their first World Series since 1918—not to mention against their biggest rival.
2) 2003 Chicago Cubs- They were just five outs away from making their first World Series appearance since 1945 until the Steve Bartman incident, which was used as the excuse as to why the Cubs fell to the Marlins in seven games of the NLCS. I don’t subscribe to that theory as Bartman maybe cost Chicago one out, as it appeared Moises Alou would have caught the foul ball, but who knows if he would have. Bartman also didn’t cost the team the 8 runs they gave up in the inning following the incident or game seven.
3) 2009 Detroit Tigers-A painful memory for all of us in here in Detroit isn’t? They spent nearly the whole season in first place only to become the first team in MLB history to blow a three game lead with four to play. They also lost their one game playoff game with the Twins in 12 innings.
4) 2007 New England Patriots-They not only became the first team to ever go 16-0 in the regular season, but were the odds-on favorites to beat the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42. With under three minutes it appeared they would join the 72 Dolphins as the only teams to ever win the Super Bowl undefeated, but the defense couldn’t hold as Asante Samuel dropped a game clinching interception which then led to Eli Manning hitting Plaxico Burress for what proved to be the game winning touchdown with :35 seconds to play.
5) 1992 Houston Oilers-If there was ever a game to show fans why not to leave a game, this would be the one. Buffalo was trailing 35-3 in the third quarter and many Bill fans had already went home during this Wildcard affair thinking it was over, but the Bills battled back to force overtime and win the game 41-38.
Honorable Detroit Mentions:
2007 Detroit Lions- Oh yes. We all remember it well don’t we? The Lions jumped out to a 6-2 record and seemed poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 as all they had to do was go 4-4 in their final eight games and they would finish with a 10-6 mark. Well, low and behold Detroit couldn’t win but one more game, finishing the season 7 and 9 and then went on to not only finish the 2008 season 0-16, but failed to win another road game for three years.
2009 Detroit Red Wings-They were forced to play both game one and two on back to back nights with many saying that it would hurt Detroit and give the edge to the Penguins. The Wings however would go on to take the first two games and seemingly control of the series and eventually found themselves up three games to two heading into game six. They however would go on to lose game six and the deciding game seven at the Joe.
2005 Detroit Pistons-The Pistons were looking to repeat as NBA Champions for the second time in franchise history and after finding themselves in a 0-2 hole, fought their way back to tie the series at two and seemed to be in position to take a 3-2 lead heading back to San Antonio. Rasheed Wallace however made a huge error leaving Robert Horry open for a crippling three which helped the Spurs take the game and eventually the series in seven games.
Follow Ryan Wooley on Twitter: @WooleyMammoth85