ON THAT FIRST Sunday in February we should have known something special was brewing. When Super Bowl XLIX was decided on a last-second goal line interception—the Patriots had just a 15.6% chance of winning before that ill-fated play—it prefigured a sports year that would make a mockery of the odds.
By early April, Kentucky headed to the Final Four seeking to become the first team to go undefeated since 1976. The Cats' run at perfection proved to be a tease. But on the first Saturday in June, American Pharoah won the Belmont and, with it, the Triple Crown, the first horse to do so since 1978.
Five Saturdays later, Serena Williams won the Wimbledon women's singles title, her fourth straight major, and she heads into next month's U.S. Open on the threshold of a true Grand Slam, a feat no player has reeled off since 1988.
Then there was Jordan Spieth. With victories in the Masters and U.S. Open, a fourth at the British Open and a second at the PGA, the 22-year-old posted the all-time lowest cumulative score in a season's majors (-54) and rose to No. 1.
What are the chances of these things happening individually? What about in the same year? Statistician Ed Feng quantified the likelihood—or lack thereof.
1 in 522,675
COMBINED ODDS OF THE FOUR ITEMS BELOW AND SPIETH WINNING TWO OF FOUR MAJORS IN THE SAME YEAR ( .000191% )
1 in 3.5
US TO WIN WOMEN'S WORLD CUP ( 28.6% )
1 in 9.9
AMERICAN PHAROAH TO WIN THE TRIPLE CROWN BY MARKET ODDS BEFORE EACH RACE ( 10.1% )
1 in 17.7
KENTUCKY TO GO 38--0 LAST SEASON ( 5.7% )
1 in 70.4
SERENA WILLIAMS TO WIN GRAND SLAM BY MARKET ODDS BEFORE EACH TOURNEY ( 1.4% )
1 in 3,118.5
JORDAN SPIETH TO WIN GRAND SLAM BY MARKET ODDS BEFORE EACH TOURNEY ( .03% )
MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MAJOR COMPETITIONS WON BY ONE ATHLETE
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
Best year ever? To uncover the best date in sports see page 60.
Faces in the Crowd
The Case for
No NFL in L.A.
ERIC SCHWEIKARDT FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (NICKLAUS)
PL GOULD/IMAGES PRESS/GETTY IMAGES (GRAF)
JOHN BIEVER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WOODS)
HEINZ KLUETMEIER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (AMERICAN PHAROAH)
ERICK W. RASCO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WILLIAMS)
RICHARD HEATHCOTE/GETTY IMAGES (SPIETH)
Illustration by NICOLAS RAPP