I read an article yesterday that was about picking 10 young, up and coming teams to perhaps turn into a dynasty. I really think this was just an article to highlight 10 young, up and coming teams to keep an eye one but nevertheless the word dynasty was attached to their futuristic and premature success. This got my brain to working and thinking about what a real sports dynasty is, or dynasty in itself if you will. There was also another line of thought my brain that wants to throw water on the overuse of dynasty as well as other words in our language we continually water down with constant overuse. Words like dynasty and awesome, the overuse of sarcastically saying “really”. How about instead of predicting who may or may not become the next sports dynasty, we instead define what a true sports dynasty really is. If you were to define dynasty in the truest form of the word it is: a line of hereditary rulers of a country. Now we are not ruling countries so let’s dig a bit further. How about this: a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field. Or you could even try this: the rule of such a sequence. Can we have a dynasty without succession? It would not appear so. In sports the time for a dynasty is not as long as the same family ruling over a country for decades. So we need greatness, succession, and that has to be over a period of time. Defining each one of those should be rather easy. Greatness should equal championships, succession should equal those championships being in a row, and over a period of time should be longer than 2 years. Sorry back-to-back; as impressive as it may be, does not qualify as a dynasty. I have taken something away from New England Patriot, San Antonio Spur, and Chicago Blackhawk fans by mentioning “in a row”. A dynasty is a sustained run of excellence and even though the former two have run roughshod on the AFC and NBA’s Western Conference for a decade and a half, they haven’t won the AFC and NBA’s Western Conference for every year of that decade and a half either have they? The Blackhawks are amazing to watch but they were ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Final. Everybody is not a winner and trophies shouldn’t be handed out just because you showed up. Golden State is trying to become that, tying the Thunder last night gives them the opportunity to win a Game 7 at home and defend their title against the Cavs again. Speaking of the Cavs, they have a certain player who is in the middle of a personal dynasty.
Yes, the LeBron effing James NBA Eastern Conference dynasty is alive and well thank you. 6 in a row is a legit dynasty, even if it is one player doing it. LeBron rules the Eastern Conference with an iron fist. Should we count 3-peats? I will, once you are the champion there is a bull’s-eye on your back and the other teams in the league are trying to take you down. When you are back-to-back the pressure is greater and if you manage to 3-peat you take your place with the greatest teams to suit it up. Before the LeBron James dynasty was happening there have been 6 NBA dynasties. The 2000-2004 Los Angeles Lakers were the last team dynasty, winning 4 straight Western Conference Championships and 3 straight Larry O’Brien trophies. Ah but what would have happened had Shaq stayed? We will never know. The 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls 3-peated twice, in my opinion they might have won 8 straight if Michael Jordan had decided against playing baseball for two years. Some will argue that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry of the 80s makes both teams dynasties, but the Celtics never even went back-back (1981, 1984, & 1986). The Celtics did win the Eastern Conference 4 straight times from 1984-1987 which would qualify. The Lakers only went back-to-back once in that same time frame; they did win the Western Conference 4 straight times from 1982-1985. This next NBA dynasty is the greatest NBA dynasty of them all. The Boston Celtics won 11 NBA Championships in 13 seasons including 8 straight from 1959-1966. We will never see anything like that again. Not to be forgotten, the NBA’s first dynasty was the Minneapolis Lakers (that is right, the Lakers have not always been in LA kids) who won 6 NBL/NBA Championships in 7 seasons including 3-peating twice from 1948-1954 with 1951 being the only season they did not capture the championship.
It is quite a bit harder to identify dynasties on the gridiron of the NFL. By my count only 4 times have the NFL had a franchise rise to the dynasty level. The last one we’ve seen is the Buffalo Bills dynasty over the AFC, they won the Lamar Hunt trophy 4 straight times from 1990-1993. A lot of people count winning 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 6 as a dynasty. I do not, remember this is a sustained run of excellence. Just making the playoffs is not enough, you have to win. As mentioned above, it’s very impressive that the New England Patriots have been the gold standard for a decade and a half. The 90s Dallas Cowboys, the 80s San Francisco 49ers, the 70s Steelers are all fantastic examples of the overuse of the term dynasty. Each of these franchises should be remembered for their greatness, but dynasty is stretching the truth. We may never see something like the Bills pulled off again in the NFL. That is the most impressive thing I’ve seen in the NFL. Before the Bills, the Green Bay Packers 3-peated as NFL Champions from 1965-1967 and that was in the midst of a run of 5 championships in 7 years. They have the magic number of winning 3 in a row and that is what we are after in this piece. The Cleveland Browns won their conference 6 years in a row from 1950-1955, that is why they make the cut even though they only won 3 overall NFL Championships (1950, 1954, & 1955). The only other NFL dynasty was the Green Bay Packers from 1929-1931 who 3-peated as NFL Champions during that time span.
In the NHL, the Hockey Hall of Fame actually recognizes 9 dynasties so we will put each one of them through our qualifications and see if we agree. The first recognized dynasty was the Ottawa Senators who won 4 championships in 8 years from 1920-1927. I would like to propose we change that to the unrecognized dynasty from 1903-1911 when the Senators won the Stanley Cup 7 times in 9 years including a 4-peat (1903-1906) and a 3-peat (1909-1911). The Toronto Maple Leafs recognized dynasty was from 1946-1951, they won the Cup 4 times including a 3-peat from 1947-1949. The Detroit Red Wings recognized dynasty should not be recognized, no 3-peats in their span of winning the Cup 4 times in 6 years (1949-1955). The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup 5 times in a row from 1955-1960, that is a dynasty. The Maple Leafs had another dynasty recognized; they won the Cup 4 times in 6 seasons from 1962-1967 with a 3-peat from 1962-1963. This next one is the one that would cause me the most uncertainty, the Canadiens won the Cup 4 out of 5 years from 1964-1969, however it was two back-to-backs with no championship sandwiched in the middle. That is very impressive, is it really a dynasty? I can see an argument either way on this one. What is not in question is 4 straight Cups won by the Canadiens from 1975-1979, and the 4 straight Cups won by the New York Islanders from 1980-1983. The Edmonton Oilers have a recognized dynasty from 1983-1990 when they won the Cup 5 times (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, & 1990). With not one 3-peat I cannot include this really impressive run of good hockey.
The MLB has had its fair share of dynasties as well, you could start with the Red Sox from 1903-1918, and 5 World Series wins is impressive but they only even went back-to-back once. Cross that off the list. Some people combine the New York Yankees dynasty into a stretch from 1920-1964. Let’s look at it a little more closely. From 1936-1943 the Yanks won the AL 7 times and the Series 6 times, that includes a 4-peat from 1936-1939. Not finished with the Bronx Bombers, from 1947-1964 they won the AL pennant 15 out of 18 times and the series 10 times. They won the World Series 5 times in a row from 1949-1953 (which still stands as the MLB record. Some recognize the St. Louis Cardinals as a dynasty from 1942-1946 when they won 3 World Series and the NL pennant 4 times. They did 3-peat as NL Champs from 1942-1944 so there that is. Some also recognize the Big Red Machine from 1970-1976, however they only went back-to-back as World Series champs one time 1975 & 1976 (and the 1976 Championship was about as exciting as a World Series can be). I do not count this as a dynasty. Mainly because during basically that same time span the Oakland Athletics were busy 3-peating as World Series Champs from 1972-1974. The latest dynasty we have from the MLB would again be the New York Yankees from 1996-2003. Winning the AL 6 times, including 4-peating from 1998-2001 and throwing in 4 World Series Championships for good measure. I do not count the San Francisco Giants even year weirdness that has yielded 3 World Series titles in 5 years and possibly a 4 out of 7 thing this season. Even though this is a really impressive thing based on how the MLB has no salary cap and free agency makes teams change from year to year.
We could not have a dynasty discussion and leave out John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins who won 10 titles in 12 years (1964-1975) including 7 straight from 1967-1973. This included an 88 game winning streak. The women’s basketball program at Tennessee under Pat Summit was the first school to have a 3-peat (1996-1998) while in the midst of winning 6 titles in 12 years overall from 1987-1998. But the gold standard in women’s college basketball now is UCONN under Geno. Since 1999 they have won 11 championships in 17 season including a 3-peat from 2002-2004 and they are in the middle of a historic run by completing a 4-peat from 2013-2016. This included a 90 game winning streak.
College football has so much chaos prior to the BCS and now the Playoff that there really cannot be a dynasty claim. Starting in 1936 both Minnesota and Pittsburgh claimed that title, Oklahoma could have one large dynasty from 1948-1958 but they only claim 3 of those years as titles. The best college football dynasty going is the North Dakota State Bison who have won 5 straight national championships from 2011-2015. Perhaps the most impressive dynasty in college football would be the Mount Union Purple Raiders who won 110 consecutive games between 1994-2005 while 3-peating twice as national champions (1996-1998 & 2000-2002). The Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks appeared in 7 straight national championship games (2005-2011) including 3-peating as national champions from 2009-2011.
Let us keep the word dynasty saved for truly the cream of the crop, appreciate the champions as they come. It is hard enough for a college institution or professional sports franchise to win one championship let alone go back-to-back or even 3-peating. So appreciate the championships your favorite team has won, they do not come around often.