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If it seems as if all major sports championships are dramatic or historic these days, it is because that has become the norm.
On Monday night, Alabama completed an improbable comeback with a backup quarterback, forcing overtime and beating Georgia in the college football national championship. That was just the latest incredible championship event among major North American sports in the past 24 months.
In fact, of the biggest sports – NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football, college basketball – only two or three of the championship events in the past two years were not dramatic or historic.
We had overtimes, dramatic endings, blown leads, unforeseen heroes, the end of epic championship droughts, and some of the biggest comebacks in sports history featuring athletes who will go down as some of the greatest ever.
Here is a look back at the past 24 months in sports championships and why they stand up to any two-year span in North American sports history.
January 2016 — Alabama wins the college football national championship with a thrilling fourth quarter.
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Alabama and Clemson played the first of their three consecutive college football playoff matchups. Clemson held a three-point lead after three quarters. In the fourth quarter, the two teams together scored five touchdowns and 40 points as Alabama pulled out a 45-40 win.
April 2016 — Villanova wins the college basketball championship with a buzzer-beater.
Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit a shot that will go down in sports history, winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
April 2016 — Jordan Spieth collapses at the Masters.
Jordan Spieth led after each of the first three rounds and had built a 4-stroke lead with nine holes to go. He then played the next three holes at 6-over, including the infamous 12th hole, where he hit two straight shots into the water.
June 2016 — The Golden State Warriors blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals and the Cleveland Cavaliers win Game 7 after trailing in the fourth quarter.
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One of the few events we are not including is the ho-hum 2017 NBA Finals, though it included several future Hall of Famers and all-time greats. But that’s OK because the 2016 matchup between these two teams was an all-timer itself. Despite losing Games 5 and 6, the Warriors held a four-point lead in Game 7 with just over five minutes to go. But the Cavs outscored the Warriors 10-2 over the final five minutes and win the title.
October 2016 — The Cleveland Indians blow their own 3-1 lead, and the Chicago Cubs end their 108-year championship drought in thrilling fashion.
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After the Cubs won Games 5 and 6, it looked as if they would cruise to an easy win in Game 7. They led 6-3 in the eighth inning but blew that lead, and the Indians forced extra innings. After the Cubs scored twice in the top of the 10th, things got tense again in the bottom half of the inning, but a grounder to Kris Bryant ended the most famous championship drought in sports.
January 2017 — Clemson wins the college football national championship with a last-second touchdown.
In the rematch of the 2016 championship game, it was Alabama that blew a second-half lead this time. The Crimson Tide led by 10 late in the third quarter, but Clemson scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns. The last came in the final seconds, with the game ending 35-31.
February 2017 — The Atlanta Falcons blow a 28-3 lead, and the New England Patriots win the first overtime Super Bowl.
Despite the greatness of the New England Patriots dynasty, the Pats like to make things interesting in their Super Bowl wins. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won their fifth championship in Super Bowl 51 after trailing 28-3 in the second half. For the Falcons and their fans, it was a championship meltdown they won’t soon forget.
June 2017 — The Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup with a goal in the final 90 seconds, but only after the Nashville Predators had a goal waved off because of an inadvertent whistle.
The 2017 Stanley Cup Final did not have a Game 7 like some of the other big series recently, but it was still a thriller. It had the Penguins going for a repeat and the upstart Predators and their fish-throwing fans. It also had controversy as the Predators looked as if they might force a Game 7 when a goal put them up 1-0 in Game 6. But the official lost sight of the puck and inadvertently blew his whistle, negating the goal. The Pens then scored twice in the final 90 seconds – one an empty-netter – and claimed the Cup.
October 2017 — The Houston Astros win Game 7, giving them their first championship just four years after losing 111 games.
Game 7 was not the most thrilling, but it ended an otherwise thrilling World Series. It was the new Evil Empire versus the new Kings of Moneyball. It was a $250 million payroll versus the team that had lost 111 games just four years earlier. Five of the seven games were decided one or two runs, and two of the games went to extra innings. In the end, the Astros won their first championship.
January 2016 — Alabama comes from behind with a backup quarterback to win the college football championship in overtime.
These are all things that happened to Alabama during the national championship game: A player collapsed on the sideline. Another player tried to fight somebody on his own sideline. The team scored no points in the first half. It missed two field goals, including one at the end of regulation. It couldn’t stop Georgia on third-and-long. Its starting quarterback threw for just 21 yards and got benched. A true freshman quarterback was forced into meaningful action for the first time all season. And, oh, by the way, it won the national title with a long touchdown pass in overtime.
If we move beyond the team sports, the past 24 months also included the Rio Olympics and the historic performances of Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, and Michael Phelps.
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And there was the 2017 Australian Open, which Serena Williams won while pregnant.
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And if we really want to go international, there was also the Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko title fight and Eder’s goal in extra time to win the 2016 Euros for Portugal, just to name a few. In other words, it has been a pretty good two years in sports.
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Now check out how Tua Tagovailoa became the unlikely hero for Alabama’s most recent championship.