With their third championship in four years, basketball fans are looking at the Golden State Warriors as one of the game’s dynasties. But Cleveland Cavs, with their third loss in the title series in the last four years, had a performance that puts them among the most dubious in all of sports.
The Cavs became the first pro sports team this century (of the four major sports, NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA) to lose the championship three times over the course of four years. The last pro team to lose a title three times in four years was the Buffalo Bills who lost in the Super Bowl in four straight years, 1991-94. The Cavs also became the first NBA team to lose the Finals series three times in the span of four years since the Los Angeles Lakers lost in the NBA Finals three consecutive years, 1968, 1969 and 1970.
Here are the teams in the four major pro sports leagues that lost in the championship series/game three times over the course of four years.
Detroit Tigers, 1907, 1908, 1909
New York Giants, 1911, 1912, 1913
Cleveland Browns, 1951, 1952, 1953
New York Giants, 1958, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963
Minnesota Vikings, 1974, 1975, 1977
Denver Broncos, 1987, 1988, 1990
Buffalo Bills, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994
New York Knicks, 1951, 1952, 1953
Los Angeles Lakers, 1962, 1963, 195, 1966
Los Angeles Lakers, 1968, 1969, 1970
Cleveland Cavs, 2015, 2017, 2018
Toronto Maple Leafs, 1933, 1935, 1936
Toronto Maple Leafs, 1938, 1939, 1940
Montreal Canadians, 1951, 1952, 1954, 1955
Detroit Red Wings, 1961, 1963, 1964
St. Louis Blues, 1968, 1969, 1970
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Have the New England Patriots been the best NFL team this century? Which NHL team has been the best since in the beginning of the 21st century? Which NBA team has the best winning percentage since the 1999-2000 season began? Which baseball franchise has won the highest percentage of games since 2000?
The answers to the above questions in a second.
As we get ready to close the book on 2016, I started thinking about which franchises in the four pro sports (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) have the worst winning percentages since 2000, or in this century… 17 years’ worth of seasons.
If we go based strictly on winning percentages, the NFL’s Cleveland Browns are the “worst” pro sports franchise this century. The Browns, through games of December 21 (their recent victory over San Diego is not included in these totals) were 85-185, a .315 winning percentage.
Following are the two franchises in each of the four pro sports leagues with the lowest winning percentages since 2000 (for the NHL and NBA, I started with the 1999-2000 seasons).
NFL: Cleveland 85-185, .315; Detroit 96-174, .356.
NBA: Washington 579-827, .412; Minnesota 594-812, .422
MLB: Kansas City 1233-1521, .448; Pittsburgh 1247-1503, .453
NHL: Atlanta .428; Columbus .432.
So how about those with the best winning percentages? As you might have expected, the New England Patriots have been pro sports best team this century, based on winning percentage, compiling a 199-71 record (through games of December 21), a .737 winning percentage. The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs are the only other sports franchise over .700… they are 1002-404, .713.
Here’s a look at the two franchises in each of the four pro sports leagues with the highest winning percentages since 2000.
NFL: New England 199-71, .737; Indianapolis 175-95, .648.
NBA: San Antonio 1002-404, .713; Dallas 886-521, .630.
MLB: New York Yankees 1592-1158, .579; St. Louis 1550-1203, .563.
NHL: Detroit .586; San Jose .557
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Over the past several years, we have heard the word “parity” thrown around quite a bit, especially in the world of sports. Professional teams like the Montreal Canadians, the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakes, and at various times in the NFL, the Cowboys, Steelers, Packers and 49ers, have all enjoyed long success in their respective league.
While the fans in those towns may enjoy the dynasties that were built, other cities and executives within each of the four major sports leagues would rather see the wealth spread around a bit to other teams.
Back-to-back titles have happened in each of the four major sports in the last two decades. The Yankees won three straight titles in the late ’90’s; the Patriots won back-to-back Super Bowls in 2004 and 2005 (there has not, however, been a team that has won three straight Super Bowls); the Lakers won three consecutive NBA titles earlier this century (and the Miami Heat are hoping for a third straight title this year); and, the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. But those days when a franchise won five or more straight championships are very much a distant past.
So which of the four major sports in the last 20 years has seen the “most” parity? Let’s start the discussion with a few numbers.
Different champions: Of the four sports, the NHL has had 13 different franchises win the Stanley Cup in the last 20 years. The NFL is close behind with 12 teams winning at least one Super Bowl in the past two decades. The World Series has been won by 11 different teams since 1993, while the NBA Championship has seen only eight franchises hoist the title trophy since 1993. Slight advantage to the NHL.
Repeat champions: Of the four sports, the NFL has had the most repeat champions (teams that won more than one title) in the last 20 years with seven (Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants and Pittsburgh). The other three sports have each had five repeat champs in the past 20 seasons. No advantage.
Back-to-Back titles: In the past 20 years, the NHL has had the fewest consecutive titles by a team, one. That happened in 1997 and 1998 when the Red Wings won back-to-back titles. It has happened only twice in major league baseball in the last 20 years; it has occurred three times in the last 2o Super Bowls. In the NBA, there have been seven times when a team won back-to-back titles (on two occasions, those teams won a three-peat). Advantage NHL.
So based on these three factors, the NHL, in my opinion, has had the most parity over the past 20 years.
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs took their NBA Finals series to a Game Seven with the Heat winning their second straight title. Now the question is: Can (or will) the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins take their Stanley Cup series to a seventh and deciding game?
Here’s a trivia question for you: When was the last time the NBA and NHL saw their finals series both go to a deciding seventh game in the same season? Answer to follow…
For the record, this was the 18th Game Seven in NBA Finals history and the first since 2010 when the Lakers beat the Celtics in seven games. If you compare the three professional leagues that have a seven-game finals playoff (major league baseball, the NBA and the NHL), the NHL has had the fewest Game Sevens since 1947 (when all three leagues were in existence at the same time) with 14. Major League Baseball has had the most Game Sevens with 26 since ’47.
Only once since 1947 have all three sports had a Game Seven decide their champion. That happened in 1955. The Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the New York Yankees in seven games to win the ’55 World Series; Syracuse won the NBA title in 1955 winning the championship in a seventh game victory over Ft. Wayne; and Detroit won the ’55 Stanley Cup playoffs over Montreal by winning Game Seven.
Other than 1955, there have been a handful of times when two of the three sports saw their title series go the distance with seven games. Major League Baseball and the NBA have gone seven games in the finals in four seasons (1952, 1957, 1960 and 1962… note it hasn’t happened in over 50 years); the NHL and MLB have gone seven games in the finals in six season (1964, 1965, 1971, 1987, 2001 and 2011).
Trivia answer: The last time the NBA and NHL final series both went seven games in the same year was in 1994. The Houston Rockets won the NBA title with a Game Seven win over the New York Knicks, and the New York Rangers won the NHL title in 1994 by defeating Vancouver four games to three. That’s the only other time other than 1955 that the NBA and NHL have seen their championship series decided in seven games in the same year.
One more stat: Although the NHL has had the fewest Game Seven final series since 1947, they have had the most since 2000. Since 2000 the NHL has had six finals series go the distance with seven games (it could be seven years if this year’s Chicago-Boston finals goes to a seventh game). Both the NBA and Major League Baseball have seen a seventh game finals series in three years.
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published multiple times weekly focusing on stats that go beyond the numbers.
The National Hockey League playoffs are underway. Two series, Los Angeles-Vancouver and Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, still have the potential of a four-game sweep as the #8 seed Kings hold a 3-0 series over top-seeded Vancouver, and the Flyers are up three games to none over Pittsburgh. In the other six series, there is still the potential of the teams taking the series to a deciding seventh game.
Following is a stats snapshot of NHL playoff series going back to 1987 (the year all playoff series went to seven games) with a focus on four-game sweeps and series that go to a deciding seventh game.
1. Four-game series sweeps: There have been 25 four-game sweeps in the first round of the NHL playoffs since 1987. Teams that win the first round in a four-game sweep won 11 series and lost 14 series in the next round.
2. Seven-game series: There have been 52 seven-game series in the first round of the NHL playoffs since 1987. Teams that win a first-round series in seven games won the next series 23 times and lost the next series 29 times.
3. Four-game sweeps: There have been 18 four-game sweeps in the semifinals since ’87. Teams that won a second-round series by sweeping the opposition went on to win the conference finals 11 times and lost in the conference finals seven times. (The extra rest before the conference finals helped?)
4. Seven-game series: There have been 23 seven-game series in the semifinals since ’87. Teams that won a second-round series in seven games won in the conference finals only six times and lost in the conference finals 17 times. (The fatigue factor of a seven-game series in the semifinals hurt teams in the conference finals?)
5. Four-game sweeps: There have been six four-game sweeps in the conference finals from 1987-2011. Those six teams went on to win the Stanley Cup three times and lost the Cup three times.
6. Seven-game series: There have been 12 seven-game series in the conference finals from 1987-2011. Eight of the 12 teams went on to win the Stanley Cup; four lost the next series.
Did you know? In the 24 Stanley Cup finals since 1987, eight of the series went the full seven games. In six seasons, the Stanley Cup champion won in a four-game sweep.
Note: In all NHL playoff series from 1987-2011, 55 ended after a four-game sweep; 97 went the full seven games.
Note #2: Last year, the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins became the first team in NHL playoff history to win three playoff series by winning a decisive seventh game. Ironically, they won their fourth series (a semifinal series win over the Flyers) with a four-game sweep.