Basketball’s 10 Biggest Upsets

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Disaster struck Team USA on Wednesday night as this year’s FIBA World Cup favourites lost a stunner to France in the Quarterfinals.

The Dream Team looked more like the B-team in their 10-point loss, as Team USA failed to make the medal round for the first time since 2002.  

Despite their poor performance, this isn’t the first time Team USA has copped an upset in the early stages.

Here’s a look at some of the Dream Team’s most infamous shortcomings, as well as a few other memorable hard-court upsets.

2007 Western Conference First Round – Dallas Mavericks vs Golden State Warriors

Little did we know the Warriors were poised for glory following their remarkable upset over the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs.

The Mavs finished the regular season 67-15 as they remained on the hunt for their first ever NBA Championship. The Warriors, meanwhile, limped into the playoffs on the final day of the season with a 42-40 record.

Bookmakers favoured the Mavs heavily with Dirk Notwizki in his prime, but they failed to account for a huge Baron Davis run in Game 1. The Warriors star point guard led Golden State to a 97-85 victory, right before the Mavs evened up the series in Game 2.

The Warriors steadied in Games 3 and 4 though, winning both before dropping Game 5 in Dallas. That set up a decisive Game 6 with Golden State up 3-2, inspiring a memorable 25-point blowout thanks to 33-points from Stephen Jackson.

The Dubs went on to lose to the Jazz in a five-game set, while the Mavericks won their first NBA title four years later.

March Madness 2014 – Mercer (78) vs Duke (71)

The Duke Blue Devils are a powerhouse in men’s College Basketball, having won five national titles in their 114-year history.

Not for the first time, Mike Krzyzewski’s team found themselves as the No. 3 seed heading into the 2014 tournament, but little did they know No. 14 seed Mercer was waiting to pounce.  

The first-round matchup was tilted well in Duke’s favour, but after losing in upset fashion to Lehigh two years prior, an upset wasn’t entirely off the cards.

Mercer went on to win 78-71, sending the Blue Devils packing in front of their hometown fans at PNC Arena. Beating Duke is always tough, but to do so in North Carolina makes this one a memorable upset.

1994 Western Conference First Round Game 5 – Seattle SuperSonics (94) vs Denver Nuggets (98)

The 1994 Seattle SuperSonics finished the regular season 63-19, earning the best record in the entire NBA.

The Denver Nuggets, who only just snuck into the playoffs, were up next. On paper, it looked to be a very one-sided matchup, but the Nuggets went on to pull off one of the all-time great playoff upsets.

Denver got off to a predictable start, losing the opening two games in Seattle in blowout fashion.

Then, the series shifted to Colorado, which led to a thrilling Game 3 victory followed by an overtime win in Game 4.

With the series all square, a decisive Game 5 back in Seattle favoured the SuperSonics. But with momentum on their side, the Nuggets overcame an early deficit to come back in the fourth quarter and send the game to overtime.

Kendall Gill’s shot with 0.5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Nuggets the spark they needed to romp the Sonics in overtime.

Dikembe Mutombo played the hero with 15 rebounds and eight points, but the Nuggets’ run of luck ended not long after as they lost a brutal seven game series against the Jazz in the Semi-Finals.

2002 FIBA World Championship – USA (75) – Spain (81)

As of this year, Spain has qualified for 12 World Cups. Historically speaking, none of their victories have come close to matching that of their 2002 FIBA World Championships win over the Dream Team, though.  

The USA led by as many as 13-points in the fourth quarter, right before Spain found some life to go on and win by six points.

It was an embarrassing exit for the host nation, even though most of Indiana failed to show up for the game.

2004 NBA Finals – Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons

The Lakers dynasty was in full swing entering the 2004 Playoffs having won three straight titles between 2000-2002.

The Pistons, who were most well-known for their stingy defence, finished with a 54-28 record to earn the third seed. Detroit made short work of the Bucks in the first round, before surviving a seven-game series against the Nets and a six-game set against the Pacers prior to facing the Lakers in the Finals.

Game 1 belonged to the Pistons 87-75, but the Lakers went on to claim an overtime victory in Game 2 to even up the series.

That was all she wrote though, as Detroit went on to win the next three games in not-so-close fashion to secure their third title.  

March Madness 2018 – UMBC (74) vs Virginia (54)

Upsets during March Madness are commonplace, but nothing tops the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s memorable upset over No. 1 Virginia in 2018.

The Retrievers had previously made the NCAA Tournament only once in school history, bowing out in the first round to Georgetown in 2008. After a decade long absence, UMBC returned as the 16th seed, only to square off against the nations top-ranked school in the first round.

Previously, no 16 seed had ever beaten a top-ranked school. UMBC didn’t just win though, they pummeled the Cavaliers by 20-points in a 74-54 victory.

The good times were short and sweet however, as UMBC went on to lose to Kansas State in the second round. Even so, if you ask any college hoops fan, they’ll tell you this was the biggest upset in NCAA history.

2019 NBA Finals – Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors

The Golden State Warriors opened the 2018/19 season poised to win their third straight title.

Even with LeBron James in the West, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all looked unstoppable, especially with a healthy Boogie Cousins returning to the lineup.  

Steve Kerr’s side was favoured to win the Championship at 2-1 odds in July, right before injuries saw the Dubs slump to second in the West behind a 58-24 record.

Golden State did it tough through the playoffs, but they still wound up in the Finals against a resilient looking Raptors side. The Warriors were favourites to win the title at $1.50 odds, but things got off to a rough start as the Dubs lost the opening game in Toronto.

Things swung back in Golden State’s favour during Game 2, but the Warriors then went on to lose Games 3 and 4 at home. A remarkable comeback saw the Warriors win Game 5, but it was the Raptors who were crowned champions with a Game 6 victory to win the series 4-2.

The highlight of the series was Kawhi Leonard’s MVP performance and unfortunately, Kevin Durant’s achilles tear. Individual performances aside, this was still one of the biggest upsets in NBA history, setting the course for a frantic free agency period that changed the landscape of the league forever.

Mississippi State (66) vs UConn (64) (2017)

Upsets aren’t only saved for men’s ball.

Fans of the women’s game will know all about UConn’s historic 111-game winning streak, ranging from November 2015 all the way through to March 2017.

The lucky team that finally trumped the Huskies was Mississippi State, who pulled off a remarkable 66-64 win in overtime during the Final Four.

As the scoreline suggests, the game wasn’t without its drama as the Bulldogs’ Morgan William pulled up just outside the key to drain a buzzer-beater. Unfortunately, Mississippi State went on to lose the Championship Game 67-55 to South Carolina three days later.

2004 Olympics – Puerto Rico (92) vs Team USA (73)

Prior to Wednesday night’s loss to France, Team USA had lost only nine times during the Dream Team era.

The list ranges from a pair of stunning defeats during the 1998 FIBA World Championship, all the way down to their 2006 loss to Greece.

Perhaps one of the most memorable losses for the American’s though was their no-show performance against Puerto Rico during the 2004 Olympics, kick-starting Athens with an absolute shocker in the opening stages of group-play.

The Dream Team didn’t just lose, they were torn apart by an inferior Puerto Rican side. The star of the game was long-time NBA player Carlos Arroyo, who chipped in with 24-points. The USA had a handful of excuses with Shaq, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett all missing, but with Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson still on the court, this is still a huge blemish on the Dream Team’s record.

Washington Generals vs Harlem Globetrotters (1971)

Official records are sketchy, but the Washington Generals apparently beat the Harlem Globetrotters in 1971, snapping their 2,495-game losing streak.

The Generals are part of the Globetrotters’ novelty act, often playing a normal game of basketball amidst Harlem’s tricks.

Some 48 years ago though, the Globetrotters reportedly got a little too carried away with entertaining and allowed a game-winning basket to guard Eddie Mahar, who earned the Globetrotters their first-ever victory.

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