Streaks are one of the biggest attention grabbers in sports. Whether good or bad, team or individual, a record breaking streak is a great way to be immortalized in sports history.
It may be great, but it's certainly not easy. Some streaks in sports are so inexplicably great that topping them, or even getting within striking distance, seems all but impossible.
And remember, "great" doesn't necessarily mean the streak is an achievement you'd like to have your name associated with. Losing 100 games in a row isn't a good thing, but it's a pretty great streak.
Let's take a look at 50 of the greatest streaks in sports history.
Personally, I think cyclist Lance Armstrong's seven straight Tour De France victories belong in the top 10 of any list. But with his doping allegations still making headlines, it's difficult to assess exactly where his achievement belongs.
The aged San Antonio Spurs have been one of the most under-the-radar dynasties in the history of sports. Between 1999 and 2007, the Spurs won four NBA championships.
Rings aside, the Spurs have appeared in a record 15 consecutive postseasons and counting. As of 2012, the Spurs have been to the playoffs an NBA record 15 straight seasons.
Most of the comparable streaks are "active," but the Dallas Mavericks with 12 are the closest—then it's the Denver Nuggets with nine.
There have been questions about quarterback Peyton Manning's performance in the playoffs, but there is no question that he knows how to win games during the regular season. A lot of games.
From 2008-09, the Manning led Indianapolis Colts to 23 straight regular season victories.
The 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets set the NHL's low mark with 30 straight winless games. Sure they weren't all losses, but I think a stretch of 23 losses and seven ties is worse than losing 17 straight—which is the NHL's longest losing streak.
Free throws in basketball are bestowed upon a player as reparations after an opposing player delivers a elbow to his dome or engages in some other foulable offense. The point is to reward the victim and punish the offender.
That system sounds good in theory, but it only works if you can actually sink a free throw. In 1990, retired center Chris Dudley missed 17 of 18 free throws in a single game—13 straight at one point. Apparently one of his attempts was a complete air ball.
Between 1952 and 1956, boxer Rocky Marciano was the World Heavyweight Champion and never once did he lose a fight. Marciano won 49 straight over those four years—44 knockouts and five by decision.
Retired NHL ironman Doug Jarvis holds the league record for the most consecutive games started by a player. Between 1975 and 1985 Jarvis started every single game—964 in total.
Jarvis beat the previous record held by Gary Unger by 50 games.
Between 1977 and 1987, Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses never lost a single race. Moses won 122 straight before finally being bested after stumbling on the final hurdle of a race.
The 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings won 23 straight home games, setting a new NHL record in the process.
The previous record of 20 straight was set by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and later matched by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1976.
The king of NASCAR Richard Petty's 18 consecutive seasons with at least one win in a year is unmatched in the sport. Petty's streak lasted from 1960 until 1977.
As of 2012, there are two active drivers with the potential to challenge this record though—Tony Stewart at 14 and Jimmie Johnson at 11.
Kelly Slater has been the biggest name in surfing for almost 20 years and has been crowned world champion 10 times over two decades.
Slater's 10 championships are a record on their own, but his five consecutive championships from 1994-98 make it all the more impressive.
The Cleveland Cavaliers hold the top three spots on the list of the NBA's longest losing streaks. The 2010-11 Cavs team lost 26 in a row, two more than the Cavs teams of 1981-82 and 1982-83 who lost 24 in a row.
Sorry Cleveland! :(
At 47 years, San Diego actually has one year up on Cleveland's 46 year championship drought. But Cleveland's 46 years is more than any other city with at least three major sports franchises.
Cleveland's last championship came in 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship in the pre-Super Bowl era.
Rafael Nadal's dominance on the clay court is unquestioned, he could very well be the best player on the clay ever. Between 2005 and 2007, Nadal won 81 straight matches on his favorite surface.
Rafa shattered the previous record of 53, which had long been held by Guillermo Vilas.
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser won the Cy Young award in 1988. That season Hershier pitched 59.1 consecutive scoreless innings during the regular season and led the Dodgers to a World Series victory in the post season.
The Montreal Canadiens may have fallen upon hard times as of late, but they have plenty of good times to carry them through the bad. Between 1955 and 1960, the Habs won five consecutive Stanley Cup championships.
The Habs and the New York Islanders tied for second place with four straight—they were the only two teams between 1975 and 1983 to bring the cup home.
In 1945, golfer Byron Nelson won a total of 18 tournaments—a record that remains unbeaten to this day. Also unbeaten is his record of 11 straight tournament victories in the same year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the NFL record for the longest losing streak and it's not even close. Between 1976 and 1977, the expansion Bucs lost 26 consecutive games—seven more losses than the 2008-09 Detroit Lions.
During the 1979-80 NHL season, the Philadelphia Flyers played for just under three straight months without losing a single game. The Broad Street Bullies unbeaten streak ended at 35.
The Ottawa Senators came into the NHL as an expansion franchise for the 1992-93 season and they were bad. Very, very bad.
The Sens racked up 38 straight road losses in their first season. They went 1-41-0 on the road that year, one shy of completely winless. Ouch.
Roger Federer's reign at the top of tennis may be gone, but it won't ever be forgotten. Among Federer's countless achievements is his record for the longest streak of consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances.
Federer smashed the previous record of 10 with his 23 straight appearances.
A few years ago the Pittsburgh Pirates tied the record set by the Philadelphia Phillies for consecutive losing seasons way back in 1948. That horrifying low mark was 16 straight.
In 2011, the Pirates continued to make their own baseball history by clinching their 19th straight losing season. Let's see if they can make it an even 20 in 2012.
A.C. Green holds the NBA record for most consecutive games played with 1,192 straight. Despite a number of injuries, Green missed just three games between 1986 and 2001.
Green's closest competition is Randy Smith with 906 consecutive starts.
The New England Patriots hold the NFL record for the longest winning streak, but just barely. The 2003-04 Pats racked up an impressive 21 straight victories, but the 2010-11 Green Bay Packers were just two games shy of that mark with 19 straight.
Retired pitcher Eric Gagne hold MLB's record for most consecutive saves converted with 84. Gagne amassed his 84 saves between 2002 and 2004 while playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Gagne's streak dwarfed the previous record of former Red Sox pitcher Tom Gordon, who set the previous record of 54 between 1998 and 1999.
The 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins won the President's Trophy as the team with the NHL's best record and were heavy favorites to capture their third straight Stanley Cup. A surprise playoff upset cost them the cup, but their 17 game winning streak still stands today.
The previous record of 15 had been set by the 1982 New York Islanders, who had one-upped the steak of 14 straight by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins.
In 1984, tennis legend Martina Navratilova won 13 straight tournaments, which amounted to 74 straight matches.Navratilova's wining streak started in February of that year and went straight through December before she was finally beaten at the Australian Open.
Over this period of time, Navratilova one six straight Grand Slam titles.
NHL legend Wayne Gretzky's 13 consecutive seasons of scoring 100+ points is one of the more unbreakable streaks out there. There are a number of legends tied for the second spot with just six consecutive seasons.
Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman are among the players sitting behind Gretzky's record. Way behind it.
The NBA's longest streak for most consecutive playoff appearances belongs to the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. Between 1955 and 1967, the team managed 22 consecutive playoff appearances.
The Portland Trail Blazers made a run at the record between 1983 and 2003, but came up just one season shy. No active team comes even close to the Nations/Sixers streak.
New York Yankees legend Babe Ruth has MLB's record for most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs. Ruth is in sole possession of the record—but just barely. Ruth hit 40 or more home runs out of the park an impressive seven consecutive seasons between 1926 and 1932.
**In the steroid era, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa both managed six consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs.
Boston Bruins great Bobby Orr's list of NHL achievements is long, but his eight consecutive Norris Trophies could be his greatest.
Winning the trophy for the league's top defenseman two years in a row isn't uncommon, even three in a row isn't unheard of—but eight is unfathomable today.
Division I-AA Prairie View was once a powerhouse who won five national black college titles between 1953 and 1964. By 1989 all that had changed and the school began a losing streak that would last nearly a decade.
Prairie View lost 80 straight games from 1989-98, which doubled the division's previous longest losing streak. Some years were worse than others, but 1991 was the low point—the team scored just 48 points all season and gave up an average of 56 points per game.
From 1953-57, the Oklahoma Sooners were on a complete tear. Bud Wilkinson's boys won 47 straight games and two national championships along the way as well.
There are no teams with a winning streak that even comes close to OU's. The closest we've seen in recent decades was USC and Miami's 34 game winning streaks in the early 2000's.
The legendary Ty Cobb batted .300 or better for 23 consecutive seasons with the Detroit Tigers between 1906 and 1928. Cobb's personal shortcomings often overshadow his professional achievements, but some achievements cannot be denied.
Second to Cobb is retired right fielder Tony Gwynn, who went 19 straight seasons with the San Diego Padres batting .300 or better.
The Boston Bruins hold the NHL record for the most consecutive playoff appearances. The Bruins made the post-season every year from 1968 until 1996—29 straight seasons.
The Chicago Blackhawks come in a close second with 28 straight and then it's the St. Louis Blues with 25.
The Red Sox legendary Ted Williams holds the record for the most consecutive games to reach a base. In 1949 Williams played 84 games without failing to get on base.
NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain could have made this list 10 different times with all the different records and streaks he holds.
Of the many streaks of Chamberlain's career, his 126 consecutive game streak of scoring 20+ points is one of the more impressive. Others include:
- Most consecutive 50-point games at seven games
- Most consecutive 40-point games at 14 games
- Most consecutive 30-point games at 65 games
In 2010, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team topped the UCLA men's record of consecutive victories by winning 90 straight games in a row.
The lady Huskies streak was eventually beaten by Stanford in a decisive 71-59 defeat.
In the 1970's he UCLA Men's basketball team won 88 straight games under head coach John Wooden—including consecutive 30-0 seasons.
In total, the Bruins lost just two games at home while Wooden was coach.
The legendary Johnny Unitas holds the NFL record for the most consecutive games with at least one touch down pass. Unitas' 46 straight games is an unlikely record to be broken, but definitely not impossible.
So far, retired quarterback Brett Favre has come the closet with 36 straight games.
The long suffering status of Cubs fans is well known and when their World Series drought hit 100 years in 2008, they didn't even have Red Sox fans to commiserate with them anymore.
The Cubs won back-to-back World Series titles way back in 1907 and 1908 and it was all down hill from there. Their championship drought isn't just the longest in American professional sports—the drought itself is older than the NFL, NBA and NHL.
Among the many titles boxer Julio Cesar Chavez has held over the years is the longest winning streak in the history of the sport. Chavez won 87 straight before a fight with Pernell Whitaker in 1993 ended in a draw.
It probably comes as no surprise that the Los Angeles lakers hold the top spot on the list of the NBA's longest winning streaks.
The 1971-72 Lakers won 33 straight, which is 11 more than the Houston Rockets who are at No. 2 on the list.
New York Yankees legendary slugger Joe DiMaggio has held MLB's record for consecutive games with at least one base hit since 1941. DiMaggio's streak of 56 games shattered the previous record of 45 games, set by Willie Keeler in 1897.
The closest anyone has come in the modern era was Pete Rose's 44 game streak in 1978.
Richard Petty is the winningest NASCAR driver of all time and he racked up a pretty good portion of his 200 wins in 1967.
Petty won 27 races that year and 10 of them consecutively.
The epic Wayne Gretzky holds countless NHL records, but The Great One's 51-game point streak during the 1983-84 season is among the most impressive—if not the most impressive.
To put that in perspective, Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby grabbed headlines in 2010 for the longest scoring streak in 18 years. Sid's streak was stopped at 25—just a few games short of 30.
Had Crosby carried on five more games to reach 30, he would have tied the second longest streak in NHL history, which is held by...Wayne Gretzky.
Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. retired in 1998, ending his consecutive starts streak at 2,632 games. Next on that list is Lou Gehrig, who is over 500 games behind Ripken.
The Boston Celtics so-called "Bill Russell Era" is the most successful stretch of time in the history of American professional sports. Russell retired in 1969, having been a contributing factor in 11 NBA championship titles.
The actual streak of eight consecutive championships started in 1959 and ended in 1966, but their domination of the NBA was even longer.
Retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre's consecutive starts streak came to an end in December, 2010.
Between 1992 and 2010, Favre started 297 straight games in the league—89 more than Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is second on the list.
Even with the NFL's recent emphasis on player safety, particularly quarterbacks, it's hard to imagine anyone even getting within striking distance of Favre's record, let alone breaking it.
Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall's record of 502 consecutive complete games in goal might be the most unbreakable record in all of sports. And that's just over the regular season! Include the post season and that number inflates to 551.
I tried to find stats to put that in perspective, but they don't exist. In their profile of Hall, SI cited the last goalie to play every minute of every game of just one regular season, Boston Bruin Eddie Johnston in the 1963-64 season.
It's not even comparable in any way, but I couldn't do any better. As far as I can tell, Hall is at least 400 games ahead of his closest competitor.