Ten bigger upsets than Warriors-Mavs

A 67-win team, with the likely league MVP and coming off an NBA Finals appearance, is totally dominated by a ragtag Warriors squad making its first playoffs appearance in a decade. Shocking stuff; the gut reaction is "biggest upset in basketball history." Then comes the reaction to the reaction--"no big surprise," say others in our cynical, cynical age.

To make sense of the upset's historic proportions, as only the well-read (if not well-written) proprietors of WRG can, we've thought of ten more shocking upsets that, to this day, make us shake our heads in disbelief.

10. NC State over Houston/Villanova over Georgetown.
Let's be honest. The Warriors didn't even pull the biggest upset in roundball history; these two Cinderella stories, playing for the NCAA Championship in the mid-80s, faced much greater odds. Forget the gauntlet of the tournament; to win the title, the teams overcame future NBA Hall-of-Famers--Houston sported Olajuwon and Drexler while Georgetown trotted out Ewing--who dominated the college game in a way Dirk can do for only about three minutes in the pros. And not only were '83 NC State and '85 Villanova no teams for the ages, they were hardly teams for the next level. Can you name one NBA player off either squad? Besides Nova's Ed Pinckney, who may or may not have been the focal point of my Bucks offense in NBA Live 95, but I digress.

9. Nuggets over Sonics.
Sticking with basketball, perhaps the most similar comparison to last week's series. Two favorites, in the Mavs and Sonics, with #1 seeds and Finals aspirations; two challengers, in the Warriors and Nuggets, that snuck into the playoffs with unspiring 42-40 records.

But for reasons articulated all over the interweb, '94 was the bigger playoff upset. This year, the Mavs slouched into the playoffs while the Warriors came in on fire. Back in '94, it was the Sonics closing the regular season on a scorching 17-2 run, while the Nuggets ended the year a ho-hum 6-8. When Seattle took the first two games in a best-of-five series, the only question was when they'd get their third win (as opposed to last week, when the only question was whether Dallas would get A win). Plus, what image will lodge in the minds of basketball fans for years to come--Matt Barnes' fauxhawk, or Dikembe Mutumbo's floor ecstasy?

8. U.S. over Russia.
Winter Olympics, men's ice hockey, 1980. Well-chronicled. Backdrop of Cold War between two superpowers somewhat more important than tiff between Mark Cuban and Don Nelson. If unitiated, watch ESPN Classic once in a while or rent "Miracle."

7. "Crash" over any other 2005 movie.
The Warriors: Not a good team. We should all agree on that. Crazy shots, lack of discipline, no clear ability to play in the half court. They might be on a hot streak, but they're never going to be coronated as the NBA's best. But fun to watch, like a cheesy B movie.

"Crash": Not a good movie. Manipulative, fake, preachy. And definitely painful to watch.

So of course it wins Best Picture.

That alone doesn't make an upset--the Academy keeps picking the wrong movie in recent years anyway. Witness "Forrest Gump" winning over "Pulp Fiction" and "The Shawshank Redemption," or back-to-back victories for "Gladiator" and "A Beautiful Mind"...good movies, but not ones we'll be urging our kids to rent in 20 years. Still, there's a difference betwen watercooler debate and out-and-out upset. And when a Best Picture doesn't make critics' top 100 list for the year--but the new Star Wars, Batman, and Harry Potter films do--you almost wonder what kind of world we live in. Almost.

6. Ric Ocasek over everyone.
For the hand of Paulina Porizkova.

Tough to find a basketball equivalent. Andris Biedrins winning the free-throw crown...Michael Ruffin being named MVP. Maybe.

Upsetting on a different level, too, but doesn't score higher because it offers hope for everyone.

5. U.S. over Great Britain
Any good sports fan knows the basketball upsets; any American can have an opinion about the Oscars or mismatched Hollywood couples. But this 1950 World Cup victory has faded into bolivian, probably unfairly. True, it was only the first round of the Copa Mundial, but given the nationalist fervor and every four-years stakes, that's still a heck of a lot more important than the first round of the NBA playoffs. And based on the U.S.'s pre-World Cup feats--they'd been outscored 2-45 in their last seven international games--and Britain's standing as one of the elite teams in the world, the only basketball comparison would be if the Celtics had been the ones upsetting the Mavs--in the Finals no less.

4. Henry V, English over the French at Agincourt
Made for a good play, movie, and one of the world's greatest speeches. 6,000 Brits outnumbered somewhere between 3-1 and 6-1 by the French, but suffering only a fraction of the casualties. The Warriors may have only played 6 1/2 guys, but they weren't that outmanned by the Mavs.

And Stephen Jackson, while highly quotable, lacks the certain flair of Prince Hal.

3. Dewey defeats Truman defeats Dewey.
Truman's presidential victory in '48 was such a surprise that the papers were already printed to favor his opponent...but you already know this, if you graduated elementary school.

The local newspapers were bullish on the Mavs--but not too optimistic.

2. Mighty Ducks over the Hawks, world.
In the tradition of the Bad News Bears. To recap for those of us over 30 or under 15, the Mighty Ducks--or as they were previously known, the Minneapolis District Five junior hockey team--were the consumate lovable losers: The team never scored and would always give up at least five goals (or so Wikipedia tells me, as I just can't seem to find my commemorative Ducks Trilogy DVD). But through the old power of redemption, hard work, and a sports montage or two, new coach Gordon Bombay leads a prepubescent Pacey and a bunch of "outsiders" to the league championship, defeating the Hawks--who have exactly one loss in the past 20 years, apparently--in a shootout.

A huge upset, no question. But what takes it from "Waterboy" territory to #2 on this list is what happened the next year: The Ducks (with a few quirky add-ons) take on the world's greatest junior hockey teams and win an international title.


I'd move the Warriors up here if they represent the U.S. in Beijing next year--and win gold, that is.

1. Joey Dorsey over Greg Oden.

No, seriously.

1. David over Goliath.

The original.

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