Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Page 2 [Print without images]

Monday, March 25, 2002
Worst choke artists of all-time

Page 2 staff

Every year around NCAA Tournament time, it seems folks start talking about "choking."

Roy Williams' Kansas team avoid a gag this year to reach the Final Four, but Bob Huggins' Cincinnati squad wasn't quite as fortunate.

All this got Page 2 to thinking about the 10 worst choke artists in recent sports history. We've compiled our list of the 10 worst offenders, and we want to here your choice. Check our readers' choices for the top choke artists. And be sure to vote in the poll to determine who's most in need of the Heimlich.

Greg Norman
Greg Norman had an epic collapse at the 1996 Masters.
1. Greg Norman
For a few years during the mid-1990s, the Great White Shark was considered the best golfer in the world ... yet he constantly fell apart during majors. His most egregious choke job came in the 1996 Masters, when Norman entered the final day with a six-stroke lead over Nick Faldo. The Shark gagged by shooting a 78, while Faldo shot a 67 to win the green jacket by five strokes.

2. California Angels
In 1982, with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 AL Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Halos lost three straight in Milwaukee and were eliminated. In 1986, up 3-1 in the ALCS and a single pitch from their first World Series appearance, ace reliever Donnie Moore gave up a two-strike, two-out homer to the Dave Henderson of the Red Sox, who went on to run out the series (and suffer their own humiliating choke to the Mets in the World Series, though that's another story). In 1995, holding a 13-game lead over the Mariners in August, the Angels managed to blow the lead and the division title.

3. University of Houston men's basketball
With Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler leading the way, Houston's "Phi Slamma Jamma" squads made three straight Final Fours in 1982-84 -- not surprising, since they featured two of the Top 50 NBA players of all-time -- but the Cougars never won a title. The absolute nadir was losing to the severely outmanned North Carolina State team of Jim Valvano in 1983, probably the biggest final game upset ever.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss and the 15-1 Vikings choked away the NFC title in 1998.
4. Minnesota Vikings
The Purple People-Eaters were 0-4 in Super Bowl games, including at least two where they probably had the superior team. But the worst chokes for the Vikes were a couple of times they failed to reach the Super Bowl: In 1998, when they were 15-1 but lost the NFC title game to the Falcons, and in 2000, when they lost the NFC title game to the underdog New York Giants by an embarrassing score of 41-0.

5. 1994 Seattle SuperSonics
The Sonics had the NBA's best record (63-19), but managed to become the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 8 seed when they blew a 2-0 lead in games in a best-of-5 series against the Denver Nuggets, a team with a 42-40 regular-season record that had lost the first two games of the series by an average of 17 points.

6. Michelle Kwan
Though she has been generally considered to be the world's best figure-skater for the past five years, Kwan was twice upset by American teenagers in the Olympic Games -- first by Tara Lipinski in 1998 and then by Sarah Hughes earlier this year. In both cases, she was obviously tight and failed to skate anywhere near her best, failing to win even though the judges were clearly dying to give the four-time world champion the gold.

7. 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
Baseball's most famous collapse. The Dodgers had a 13-game lead over their local archrivals, the New York Giants, late in August. The Giants managed to pull into a tie at the end of the regular season, then captured a best-of-3 playoff series on Bobby Thompson's ninth-inning three-run jack off Ralph Branca, "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."

Michelle Kwan
Michelle Kwan's brilliance hasn't extended to the Olympics.
8. 1992-93 Houston Oilers
Up 35-3 at halftime against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game, the Oilers managed to turn backup Bills quarterback Frank Reich into a one-day folk hero by losing 41-38 in OT, the biggest in-game turnaround in NFL history. This was particularly painful, since the Oilers never made the Super Bowl during their years in Houston.

9. Boston Red Sox
Does the name "Bill Buckner" mean anything to you? How about the name "Bucky Dent"? How about no World Series titles since 1918? We rest our case.

10. 1975 Pittsburgh Penguins
One of only two teams in any of the four major professional sports to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, the Pens let the Islanders off the hook big-time in their 1975 NHL playoff series. (The other team was the 1942 Red Wings, and we weren't around to see that one.)

Also receiving votes:
  • 1964 Philadelphia Phillies

  • 2000 Philadelphia Flyers

  • Jean Van de Velde

    Bill Buckner
    Bill Buckner will forever be known for his Game 6 error in 1986.
  • 1996 Detroit Red Wings

  • 1969 and 1984 Chicago Cubs

  • Miami Heat of late 1990s

  • Kansas men's hoopsters under Roy Williams

  • Phil Mickelson

  • Hana Mandlikova

  • Martina Hingis

  • Dan Jansen

  • Mary Decker Slaney

  • 1980 Russian hockey team