The clock does not always strike midnight for Cinderella.
Holding onto a seven-point lead in the Premier League with just five games remaining, Leicester City is closing in on what many are calling the most improbable title run in sports history.
The Foxes came into the season with 5000-1 title odds and a relegation label plastered all over them. Instead, they have rolled to a 21-9-3 (W-D-L) record with a goal differential of plus-26.
Until recently, Leicester fans seemed hesitant to start thinking about a potential championship, but reality has started to set in. Not only has the club’s first Premier League title in their 132-year history become a possibility, at this point, it is expected.
To call this the biggest Cinderella in sports history is a label that carries a lot of weight. Every sport has seen its share of monumental upsets and logic-defying runs, so we are going to take a look at each sport’s “Leicester City.”
First, ProSoccerTalk’s Joe Prince-Wright explains how the script to Leicester’s Cinderella run was written.
Six clean sheets in their last seven games (plus five shutouts on the spin) tells you they’re keyed in to grind out results when it matters most. That’s the sign of a champion. Winning at all costs and dispelling any defensive fragility which held them back at times earlier in the season.
It has truly been the perfect storm for Leicester as everything has gone right, while clubs around them have sputtered. Now it’s up to them to finish the job.
The NBA may not always be ripe with upsets, but ProBasketballTalk’s Kurt Helin says the 2007 “We Believe” Golden State Warriors, who entered the playoffs as the eighth seed, are responsible for the biggest upset in NBA history.
The Warriors were matched against the Dallas Mavericks — a 67-win team led by MVP Dirk Nowitzki (he had a 50-40-90 season), a team that had lost just five games at home throughout the campaign. They were serious title contenders expected to roll through the first round… like Manchester United through Leicester.
Led by Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, the Warriors would eventually become the NBA’s first eight seed to ever knock off a one seed in a seven-game series.
On the ice, it’s a no-brainer. ProHockeyTalk’s Mike Halford talked to NBC’s Al Michaels, who describes the unforgettable “Miracle on Ice.”
The 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team had an outside shot at a bronze medal as the Games began in Lake Placid. The group’s average age was 22 and most of the players had just finished their college careers. The Soviet Union team, on the other hand, were amateurs in name only. They spent eleven months each year on the ice either training or dominating competition on the international level. Had the Soviets been allowed to play in the National Hockey League at that time, almost everyone on their roster would have been a star.
NASCARTalk’s Daniel McFadin dives into Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 underdog story, saying “he managed to defy all expectations by rallying to win the 1992 Cup Series Championship.”
When it comes to baseball, look no further than the 1969 New York Mets, writes HardballTalk’s Craig Calcaterra. From 1962 to 1969, the Mets went from a laughingstock to World Champs.
The 1969 season started as usual, with the Mets digging themselves a nine-game hole by the end of May. Their record — hovering around .500 — was a bit better than it had been in recent years, but they still stood in fourth place, scaring no one. Then, suddenly, manager Gil Hodges’ men began to make a move.
After winning the National League pennant, the Mets defeated the dynasty that was the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series to earn the eternal moniker the “Amazin’ Mets.”
There are a field of Cinderellas to sort through in college basketball as March Madness hosts an abundance of jaw-dropping upsets every year. However, CollegeBasketballTalk’s Rob Dauster says 2013 Florida Gulf Coast, aka Dunk City, may be the closest thing the sport has had to Leicester.
FGCU become the seventh No. 15 seed to upset a No. 2 seed in the first round back in 2013, and they then became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. They did so by beating down both Georgetown and San Diego State, to the point that they were showing off with alley-oops with a couple of minutes left in the game.
College football is a similar story as Cinderellas usually only wear the glass slipper for a game or two. But the biggest upset? Well, Appalachian State got to be Leicester for one game in 2006, writes CollegeFootballTalk’s John Taylor.
Yes, App. State was in the midst of a three-year run as FCS champions. That didn’t stop the oddsmakers from making ASU 33(ish)-point underdogs for their game against No. 5 Michigan in the Big House that September afternoon — especially as said oddsmakers were armed with the knowledge that no FCS had ever beaten an FBS team ranked in the Top 25.
A late field goal allowed App. State to tear down the winningest program in football history, 34-32. Let that sink in for a second.
But, do any of these Cinderellas really compare to what Leicester is doing this season? Will anything like this ever happen again?
Let the debates begin.