Top Five Greatest Chokes in Sports History
1. San Antonio Spurs, 2013 NBA Finals: Up five points with 28 seconds to play, the Spurs fell victim to a range of woes: missed free throws, poor substitution strategy, botched defensive assignments. And so instead of hoisting a fifth NBA championship trophy, the Spurs had to collect themselves for a Game 7 challenge.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs, 2013 NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Losses don’t get more painful than this. Leading 4-1 in the third period and 4-2 with under two minutes remaining in Game 7, the Leafs somehow let the Boston Bruins score two straight goals plus an overtime clincher. Boston would advance to the Stanley Cup finals. Toronto would wonder how it all went so wrong so fast.
3. Phil Mickelson, 2006 U.S. Open: Phil just finished second in his sixth U.S. Open, but none have been as tough to watch as the 2006 version. Mickelson stood on the 18th tee needing a par to win or a bogey to force a playoff. He got neither, carding a train-wreck of a double bogey that remains one of golf’s most painful moments.
4. Chicago Cubs, 1909-present: The billy goat. The meltdown in ’69. The ’84 Padres. Steve Bartman. What more needs to be said, really? A century-long choke.
5. Portland Trail Blazers, 2000 Western Conference Finals: This choke may need an asterisk, as there are plenty who believe that the hands around the Blazers’ necks weren’t their own, but the refs’. In Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Blazers had a lead of 15 late in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers, but lost the game, the series, and any hope of creating a dynasty.