Almost Heroes: Sports Teams That Fell Just Short of Immortality

Darren - February 9, 2024

Almost Heroes: Sports Teams That Fell Just Short of Immortality

Darren - February 9, 2024

Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals (2008)

The Cardinals had a rare opportunity to win the Super Bowl for the first time when they played Pittsburgh in 2009. But they left Tampa empty-handed after a Santonio Holmes masterclass. This was a wild season for Arizona as they became the second 9-7 team to make the Super Bowl.

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Sports Illustrated

Meanwhile, Kurt Warner enjoyed a revival of fairytale proportions but there was no happy ending. The brave Cardinals bounced back from a massive deficit with 16 consecutive points. However, they couldn’t stop two key plays that saw Holmes cement himself as the game’s MVP (via


England (2020)

The Euro 2020 Final saw England host Italy at Wembley Stadium. It was a chance for England to win their first major international tournament since the World Cup in 1966. The perennial underachievers had a superb team and entered the game as favorites against an erratic Italian side.

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However, their manager Gareth Southgate made the fatal decision to sit back and protect an early 1-0 lead. This gave the Italians a chance to gain momentum and they equalized. Finally, the game went to extra-time and penalties. Three England stars missed their kicks as they wasted a generational opportunity (via The Guardian).

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Bleacher Report

Philadelphia Phillies (2011)

This was a harrowing heartbreaker for the Phillies because they had one of their greatest rosters. They witnessed slugger Ryan Howard tear his ACL and he was never the same player again. Meanwhile, the Cardinals beat Philadelphia by a single run after they exploded into life.

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This was typical of a Phillies franchise with more meltdowns than a candle factory. Philadelphia won a franchise record 102 games that season but it meant nothing in the playoffs. They entered the postseason as World Series favorites but they couldn’t make it count (via The Athletic).

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San Antonio Spurs (2013)

Losing in overtime is the worst way to suffer defeat. It means that a team came to the brink of victory but they couldn’t get over the finish line. That’s what happened to the Spurs when they faced the Miami Heat. Ray Allen was Miami’s hero as he scored a miraculous three-pointer to prolong the contest.


The Texan franchise was moments away from ending this game but they failed to stop Chris Bosh from passing. One block would have added another set of rings to their record books but that’s not what happened. In the end, the Spurs went home as LeBron James and the Heat won the Finals (via Bleacher Report).

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Buffalo Bills (2021)

The Bills and the Chiefs had one of the most epic postseason duels ever in 2022. This was a clash of two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. In the end, a coin toss decided this game because these two men were on fire. Mahomes proved his clutch qualities as he led Kansas City on a game-winning drive in overtime.

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Sporting News

It was soul-crushing for the Bills because they were brilliant. Many NFL fans called for the league to change the overtime rules because they felt Allen deserved the right to respond. However, he didn’t get a chance to touch the ball in overtime as the Chiefs sent Buffalo home without another trip to the Super Bowl (via The Athletic).


Utah Jazz (1998)

Everybody knows about Michael Jordan’s iconic final shot in 1998 for the Chicago Bulls. Usually, we celebrate this as the end of an era as well as a dynasty. A compromised Jordan came up clutch in the most dramatic circumstances. However, spare a thought for the Jazz who lost a franchise-changing game.

Fox Sports

History often forgets to mention that Utah entered the NBA Finals as favorites. Furthermore, John Stockton had the chance to seal the series for his team but missed his last shot. In the end, Jordan proved his clutch credentials again as he delivered one of his most legendary moments (via Stateside Sports).


Liverpool (2019)

The Reds feature for a second time on this list after another heartbreaking year. They almost ended their three-decade streak without a league title when they broke their points record in 2019. This was an insane season where they went on a relentless run and finished with a ludicrous 97 points.

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Sports Illustrated

However, this was still two fewer than Manchester City who edged them to the title again. Liverpool sought solace in the Champions League as they won their sixth European Cup. But it wasn’t the prize that their long-suffering fans desired. It was a cruel way for their year to finish because they came so close (via

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L.A. Times

New Orleans Saints (2018)

Saints fans still consider this a massive injustice after one of the most controversial no-calls ever. New Orleans played the Rams in one of the most infamous games in NFL history. It was one of New Orleans’ most heartbreaking moments because they should have won this clash (via SBNation).

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Yes, they wasted opportunities but the officials also handed the game to the Rams. Corner Nickell Robey-Coleman’s pass interference went unpunished and this was the defining moment. The Rams won the NFC Championship and went to the Super Bowl, eventually losing to New England. Everybody knew that the Saints were a better team and should have been there.