Most heartbreaking losses in Philly sports history
It was hard to watch the 76ers’ crushing loss to the Raptors Sunday night and not think of all the crushing season-ending losses that have preceded it. And it was hard not to watch Kawhi Leonard without thinking of all the other athletes who’ve broken the hearts of Philly fans over the years. Ronde Barber. Kurt Warner. Joe Carter. Patrick Kane. John Lucas. Maybe you don’t want to be reminded of the most heart-breaking losses in Philadelphia sports history, but remember this: We survived these. We’ll survive this one too.
(USA Today Images)
Flyers-Blackhawks, June 9, 2010, Wachovia Center
There was a moment when nobody even realized the puck went in the goal. Nobody except Patrick Kane. The Flyers trailed the Blackhawks three games to two in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and they trailed 3-2 in the third period of Game 6 before Scott Hartnell scored to send the game into overtime. Four minutes into OT, Patrick Kane shot around Kimmo Timonen from an impossible angle to the far left of the Flyers’ net, and because the puck lodged in the netting it was impossible to tell that the puck had gotten through goalie Michael Leighton. The goal light didn’t go off, the officials didn’t signal goal, but the Blackhawks began celebrating their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years. It was a devastating and abrupt end to the Flyers’ bid for their first Cup in 35 years.
Eagles-Buccaneers, Jan. 19, 2003, Veterans Stadium
There wasn’t a last-second play that beat the Eagles in the 2001 NFC Championship Game, but it was still as crushing a loss as Eagles fans have ever experienced. This was supposed to be their year. They had home-field advantage, they had the No. 1 seed, they had won 10 of their last 12 games, and they had the perfect opponent — a Buccaneers team that had never won a cold-weather game that the Eagles had beaten earlier in the season. But after Brian Mitchell’s 70-yard opening kick return and Duce Staley’s 20-yard touchdown, the Bucs dominated. Despite being thoroughly outplayed, the Eagles only trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter and had a 1st-and-goal on the Bucs’ 10-yard-line when Donovan McNabb’s pass intended for Antonio Freeman was picked off by Ronde Barber, who pranced 92 yards for the final TD in Veterans Stadium history and shattered the hopes and dreams of Eagles fans everywhere.
Phillies-Blue Jays, Oct. 23, 1993, Skydome
Some 26 years before Kawhi Leonard broke the Sixers’ hearts, another Toronto athlete did it in similar fashion. The Phillies led the Blue Jays 6-5 with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 6 of the 1993 World Series and were two outs from forcing a Game 7 when Joe Carter smashed a 2-2 Mitch Williams fastball over the left-field fence at Skydome, scoring Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor and giving the Blue Jays the World Series title. The site of Carter skipping and jumping his way around the bases still gives Phillies fans nightmares.
Eagles-Cards, Jan. 18, 2009, University of Phoenix Stadium
Another NFC Championship Game, another colossal disappointment for Eagles fans. This time the Eagles had the lead in the fourth quarter and were minutes from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa before Kurt Warner once again broke Philly’s hearts, much like he had done seven years earlier with the Rams. The Eagles took a 25-24 lead with 10:45 left in the fourth quarter on Donovan McNabb’s 62-yard TD pass to DeSean Jackson. But the Cards then drove 72 yards for the game-winning TD, converting a 4th-and-1 along the way. The Eagles had one more chance, but Donovan McNabb’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete when Rod Hood, a one-time Eagle, tripped Kevin Curtis at the Cards’ 30-yard-line on 4th-and-10. Next time the Eagles won a playoff game, Nick Foles was their quarterback.
St. Joe’s-Oklahoma State, March 27, 2004, Brendan Byrne Arena
Upstart St. Joe’s was 30-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country when the Hawks faced Oklahoma State in the Elite 8 in East Rutherford for a berth in the Final 4 in San Antonio. St. Joe’s took a 62-61 lead with 29 seconds left on a straight-on 3-pointer by Pat Carroll. With 10 seconds left, OSU’s Joey Graham lost the ball near the top of the key, but it bounced right to teammate John Lucas, who buried a 3 from the left wing with 6.9 seconds left. National Player of the Year Jameer Nelson’s potential game-winning 15-footer from the foul line fell short, and one of the greatest stories in Philly college basketball history ended one basket shy of the Final 4.