With their defeat of the Golden State Warriors in this year’s NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavs avoided becoming the 34th franchise in pro sports history to lose the title in their sport in consecutive years. The last pro sports team to lose consecutive titles were the Texas Rangers… they lost the World Series in 2010 to the San Francisco Giants and then lost the following year to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In the NBA, the last team to lose back-to-back NBA Finals were the New Jersey Nets. They lost the finals in 2002 and 2003. It’s a close race for the most back-to-back title losses in pro sports: There have been 11 in the NHL, 10 in MLB and nine in the NBA. There has been only three teams that lost back-to-back Super Bowls.
Here’s a look at the franchises that lost consecutive title games/series in the four major pro sports.
Toronto, 1935, 36
Toronto, 1938, 39, 40 *
Detroit, 1941, 42
Detroit, 1948, 49
Montreal, 1951, 52
Montreal, 1954, 55
Boston, 1957, 58
Toronto, 1959, 60
Detroit, 1963, 64
St. Louis, 1968, 69, 70 *
Boston, 1978, 79
Detroit, 1907, 08, 09 *
NY Giants, 1911, 12, 13 *
NY Yankees, 1921, 22
NY Giants, 1923, 24
NY Giants, 1936, 37
Brooklyn Dodgers, 1952, 53
NY Yankees, 1963, 64
L.A. Dodgers, 1977, 78
Atlanta Braves, 1991, 92
Texas Rangers, 2010, 2011
NY Knicks, 1951, 52, 53 *
Ft. Wayne Pistons, 1955, 56
St. Louis hawks, 1960, 61
L.A. Lakers, 1962, 63
L.A. Lakers, 1965, 66
L.A. Lakers, 1968, 69, 70 *
L.A. Lakers, 1983, 84
Utah Jazz, 1997, 98
New Jersey Nets, 2002, 2003
Minnesota Vikings, 1974, 75
Denver Broncos, 1987, 88
Buffalo Bills, 1991, 92, 93, 94 *
- Lost three or more consecutive title games/series
The Golden State Warriors-Cleveland Cavaliers match-up in this year’s NBA Finals is a repeat of last year’s title series won by the Warriors. It is the 14th time in NBA history that two teams played in the NBA Finals in consecutive years.
Those 14 occasions are the most of the four major sports. Repeat finals teams have squared off nine times in the history of the NHL; it has happened nine times in Major League Baseball. In the NFL, however, there has been only once where the teams that played in the Super Bowl appeared in the game the following year.
Let’s take a look at the repeat finals match-ups in each of the four major sports.
Golden State-Cleveland, 2015, 2016
Miami-San Antonio, 2013, 2014
Chicago-Utah, 1997, 1998
L.A. Lakers-Boston, 1984, 1985
Philadelphia-L.A. Lakers, 1982, 1983
N.Y. Knicks-L.A. Lakers, 1972, 1973
Boston-L.A. Lakers, 1968, 1969
Boston-L.A. Lakers, 1965, 1966
Boston-L.A. Lakers, 1962, 1963
Boston-St. Louis Hawks, 1960, 1961
Boston-St. Louis Hawks, 1957, 1958
N.Y. Knicks-Minneapolis Lakers, 1952, 1953
Detroit-Pittsburgh, 2008, 2009
Montreal-Boston, 1977, 1978
Montreal-St. Louis, 1968, 1969
Toronto-Detroit, 1963, 1964
Montreal-Toronto, 1959, 1960
Montreal-Boston, 1957, 1958
Detroit-Montreal, 1954, 1955, 1956
Toronto-Detroit, 1948, 1949
Toronto-N.Y. Rangers, 1932, 1933
L.A. Dodgers-N.Y. Yankees, 1977, 1978
Milwaukee Braves-N.Y. Yankees, 1957, 1958
Brooklyn Dodgers-N.Y Yankees, 1955, 1956
Brooklyn Dodgers-N.Y. Yankees, 1952, 1953
St. Louis Cards-N.Y. Yankees, 1942, 1943
N.Y. Yankees-N.Y. Giants, 1936-1937
St. Louis Cards-Philadelphia A’s, 1930, 1931
N.Y. Yankees-N.Y. Giants, 1921, 1922, 1923
Chicago Cubs-Detroit, 1907, 1908
As I’m sure you noticed, there were two instances where two teams played for the championship in three straight seasons: In the NHL from 1954-56 when the Red Wings and Canadians did it three years straight; and in MLB when New York teams the Yankees and the Giants played in the World Series each year from 1921-23.
In the 32 previous times prior to the Warriors and Cavs meeting for the second straight season, the same team won the title in back-to-back seasons 17 times… in 13 seasons the two teams split championships. In the two cases where teams played each other in three straight seasons, one team won two straight then lost the third time.
Could the Warriors and Cavs become the first NBA teams to go back-to-back-to-back?
Of the four major professional sports in the U.S. (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL), the NHL probably ranks last on the sports fan interest list. But if you are not a hockey fan, and specifically, an NHL fan, you are missing out on one of the most exciting aspects of sports: the Game 7 overtime game… hockey’s version of sudden death.
On May 13, the New York Rangers Derek Stepan scored an overtime goal in Game Seven of the Rangers series against the Washington Capitals. That goal advanced the Rangers into the Eastern Conference Finals.
That Game Seven OT goal was the 14th time since 2000 that an NHL series was decided in the final game of the series on an overtime score. It was also the fifth straight year that at least one NHL playoff series ended with a Game Seven OT goal; in fact, there were two such games in the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 NHL playoffs. With three NHL playoff series remaining to be played this season, could their be a second such game/series this year?
What makes these NHL Game Seven OT games so special is that they happen far more frequently than the other three sports. The NBA has had only two Game Seven series end in overtime since 2000; MLB has had only one seven-game series end in extra innings in Game Seven since 2000. (Of course, the NFL does not have multiple-game series, but there have been 17 playoff games that have ended in overtime this century.)
Here’s a brief look at some other stats from Game Sevens and overtime in the four major professional sports since 2000:
* There have been 66 series that have gone to a seventh game in the NHL since 2000.
* There have been 45 playoff series that have gone to a seventh game in the NBA since 2000. The only two series that ended in overtime of the seventh game since 2000 were in 2002 when the Lakers defeated the Kings in the Western Conference finals and in 2006 when Dallas won game seven in OT in their Western Conference semifinals against San Antonio.
* The only MLB seven-game series to end in extra innings since 2000 was in 2003. The New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 6-5 in 11 innings to win the American League Championship Series and advance to the World Series. They lost to the Florida Marlins in six games in the World Series that year. There have been 12 series that went seven games in the MLB post-season since 2000; four happened in the World Series, four happened in the ALCS, and four happened in the NLCS.
* Of the 17 NFL playoff games that have ended in overtime, four were a conference title game (the last was this past season when the Seahawks defeated the Packers), seven were in a divisional playoff contest, and six were in a Wild Card game. None of the Super Bowls since 2000 ended in OT; in fact, no Super Bowl game has ever gone into overtime.
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Through games of August 14, the New York Yankees have a 61-58 record, three games over .500. Big deal, right? Well, should the Yankees falter and end the season at .500 or below, they would break a current streak of 21 seasons where they played above .500. The last time the Yankees did not finish a season above .500 was in 1992 when they went 76-86.
The Yanks’ streak of 21 seasons above .500 is not, however, the longest active streak in professional sports. The NHL’s Detroit Red Wings this past season had a .567 winning percentage. It was the 22nd straight year with a winning percentage above .500 for Detroit. The last time the Red Wings finished at .500 or below was in 1990-91 when they ended the season at .475.
Looking at the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL), there are 23 franchises that have current streaks of five winning seasons or more. The NHL has more than half of those teams with 12. Baseball is next with five; the NBA has four such teams, and the NFL has only two teams that have finished above .500 in five (or more) of the last seasons.
Here’s a look at the 23 pro sports franchises that have current streaks of five or more seasons of finishing above .500.
Franchises, current streak of seasons above .500
Detroit (NHL) 22
New York Yankees (MLB) 21
San Antonio (NBA) 17
Vancouver (NHL) 14
New England (NFL) 13
San Jose (NHL) 10
New York Rangers (NHL) 9
Houston (NBA) 8
Pittsburgh (NHL) 8
Boston (NHL) 7
Chicago (NHL) 7
Philadelphia (NHL) 7
Washington (NHL) 7
Miami (NBA) 6
St. Louis (MLB) 6
Tampa Bay (MLB) 6
St. Louis (NHL) 6
Atlanta (MLB) 5
Texas (MLB) 5
Oklahoma City (NBA) 5
Green Bay (NFL) 5
Los Angeles Kings (NHL) 5
Phoenix (NHL) 5
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Sports fans who like the drama of “win-or-go-home” Game Sevens have to be happy with the NBA and NHL playoffs this season. As we enter the final series in both sports, we have seen 12 Game Sevens (seven in the NHL and five in the NBA). That’s the most Game Sevens for the combined NBA and NHL playoffs in history.
For the NHL, the seven Game Sevens ties the most in league history since 2011 and 1994. If the Rangers-Kings Stanley Cup series goes to a deciding seventh game, that would break the league record. Of the seven series that have gone seven games, the Kings have played in three of them. In the NBA, the five Game Sevens is the most in league history.
In looking at playoff series in the NBA and NHL since 2000, the NHL has had more Game Sevens. The NHL has had 63 Game Sevens, while the NBA has had 43. (Note: the NBA went to seven-game playoff series in all rounds starting in 2003; the NHL has had seven games in the playoffs since 1987.)
The Memphis Grizzlies hold the distinction of the team that has suffered the most Game Seven defeats in the last four years. The Grizzlies have lost a Game Seven in three of the last four years.
Since 2000, the Boston Bruins have the most Game Seven defeats with six. Ironically, the Bruins NBA counterparts in Boston, the Celtics, have the most Game Seven defeats in the NBA this century with four. That’s a lot of disappointment for Boston sports fans since 2000.
Following are the NHL and NBA franchises with the most Game Seven losses since 2000.
Game Seven losses since 2000 in the NHL
4: Anaheim, Colorado, Ottawa
3: Buffalo, Calgary, Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Jose, Toronto, Vancouver
Game Seven losses since 2000 in the NBA
3: Houston, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Sacramento
2: Atlanta, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Portland, San Antonio, Toronto
Major League Baseball has seen 11 series go to a deciding Game Seven since 2000. Two teams, the Boston Red Sox (oh, those poor Boston fans) and the New York Yankees have two Game Seven defeats since 2000.
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