Top Ten Pro Franchises of the Past 25 Years
Recently I took nominations from esteemed Bleacher Report members for the best professional sports franchises of the past 25 years. After examination of the ten most prevalent nominations, I have developed the indisputable (yes, that's a challenge) list of the ten best franchises in the past quarter century.
The focus of my examination centered on championships, conference championships, division titles, and winning percentage. Because it is decidedly easier for a team in the NBA or NHL to make the playoffs, I chose not to use that as a factor in compiling my rankings. I hope you enjoy!
Honorable Mention Franchises
Several franchises were not nominated, but may warrant further consideration. I would consider these to be franchises 11-20 for the purposes of this list.
Detroit Pistons: 3 championships, 5 conference title
New England Patriots: 3 championships, 5 conference titles
New York Giants: 3 championships, 4 conference titles
Dallas Cowboys: 3 championships, 3 conference titles
Denver Broncos: 2 championships, 5 conference titles
Montreal Canadiens: 2 championships, 3 conference titles
Boston Red Sox: 2 championships, 3 league titles
Houston Rockets: 2 championships, 3 conference titles
Pittsburgh Penguins: 2 championships, 3 conference titles
New Jersey Devils: 2 championships, 3 conference titles
10. Boston Celtics
If this list would have been the best teams of the past 30 years, the Celtics surely would have been ranked higher. The Celtics have strong bookends to their past 25 years, but have several mediocre seasons and a couple of downright awful seasons, with the low point being a 15-67 campaign in 1997-98.
The Celtics began strongly, with appearances in the NBA Finals each of the first three seasons. That string resulted in only one championship- the '86 Finals victory over the Twin Towers of the Houston Rockets.
The rise of the Pistons, and subsequent stranglehold of the Bulls slowly pushed the Celtics into oblivion.
The resurgence of last season's title and this season's strong showing were just enough to creep on to this list.
Franchise Stats: Two championships, four conference titles, eight division titles, 15 playoff appearances, and .543 win percentage.
9. Edmonton Oilers
With four Stanley Cup championships in the first six years of this survey, the Edmonton Oilers are truly included due to the past glory of their franchise.
The Oilers have only made the playoffs twice in the past seven years, although one of those appearances was a run to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Carolina in 2006-07. Prior to that Stanley Cup appearance, Edmonton had not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 1998.
In the end, four Stanley Cup championships were too difficult to ignore.
Franchise Stats: Four championships, five conference titles, three division titles, 15 playoff appearances, and .533 win percentage.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers
What the Steelers lack in Super Bowl titles, they make up for in division championships, and winning percentage over the past two and a half decades.
14 playoff appearances in this span is nothing to sneeze at in the parity-driven NFL.
Steelers fans have to be pleased that their team stays out of the cellar, and consistently competes.
Franchise Stats: Two championships, three conference titles, 11 division titles, 14 playoff appearances, and .580 win percentage.
7. Atlanta Braves
The Braves achieved their place on this list, not because of championships, but because of their consistent presence in the postseason. The years 1985-1990 were dark times for the Braves, but beginning in 1991, Atlanta put together the most impressive string of success in Major League Baseball history.
For 14 consecutive seasons, interrupted only by the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Braves won their division. In that span, Atlanta played in five World Series, winning only once.
They may be remembered as the almost dynasty, but 14 division titles is an amazing feat.
Franchise Stats: One championship, five league titles, 14 division titles, 14 playoff appearances, and .537 win percentage.
Many will say that the Bulls should be listed higher on this compilation. After all, they have won more championships in the past 25 years than any other franchise in professional sports. And isn't that what it's all about?
I don't think so. The very best franchises have success and consistency while avoiding abysmal seasons.
The fact is, outside of their impressive six championship seasons, the Bulls have not done enough to show consistent success. Specifically, the post-Jordan era has been one rebuilding process after another.
You'll notice that the Bulls have only won six division championships, and they have the second lowest winning percentage of the teams on this top ten list.
Franchise Stats: Six championships, six conference titles, six division titles, 18 playoff appearances, and .535 win percentage.
5. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs edge out the Bulls for number five mainly because they have had fewer low points. In the rare cases that the Spurs have had down seasons, they have responded by adding world class big men (David Robinson in 1989 and Tim Duncan in 1997).
Similar to the Bulls, the Spurs have won every NBA Finals they have participated in during this span. However, the overall win percentage, division titles, and playoff appearances are what set the Spurs a notch above the Chicago Bulls.
Franchise Stats: Four championships, four conference titles, 12 division titles, 22 playoff appearances, and .609 win percentage.
4. New York Yankees
Similar to the Atlanta Braves, the Yankees have an impressive run of consecutive post season appearances on their resume. The difference is that the Yankees have been able to win four World Series during their 13 consecutive playoff seasons.
The Yankees have also been able to avoid any prolonged stretch of ineptitude, finishing last in their division only once in the 25 year span.
Six appearances in the World Series from 1996-2003 cements the Yankees near the top of this list.
Franchise Stats: Four championships, six league championships, 10 division titles, 13 playoff appearances, and .562 win percentage.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers, like the Bulls and Spurs, stand out as a team that has won 100% of their championship appearances during this 25 year period. For the Niners, that has meant four Super Bowl wins.
While the 49ers have had a couple of miserable years (2-14 in 2004 stands out as the worst single season by any of the teams on this list). However, San Francisco has been able to overcome those few bad seasons by producing excellent years.
From 1984-1998, the 49ers won at least 10 games every single year. Their 16 playoff appearances in the past 25 years is the best in the NFL over that span.
Franchise Stats: Four championships, four conference titles, 12 division titles, 16 playoff appearances, and .616 win percentage.
2. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were originally the team that I thought would come out on top when I sat down to compile this list, but in the end they are second best.
Although second best means they have been awfully good over the past quarter century. The Red Wings haven't really had a bad season since the 1985-86 campaign.
No team has won more division titles during the era examined for this list.
Franchise Stats: Four championships, five conference titles, 15 division titles, 22 playoff appearances, and .618 win percentage.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
It's Showtime! The Lakers are far and away the best franchise in the past 25 years. With more playoff appearances and conference championships than any other team in professional sports, the Lakers have given their fans outstanding seasons year after year.
Now entering their third separate run of dominance, the Lakers could complete the bookend if Kobe and friends can win this year's title.
Franchise Stats: Five championships, nine conference titles, 12 division titles, 23 playoff appearances, and .656 win percentage.