Sports Teams That Got Old Quickly

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2014

Sports Teams That Got Old Quickly

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    In sports, nothing lasts forever, so remember to enjoy the good times while they last, because soon they'll all be gone.

    While it's not the most optimistic way to look at things, it's extremely realistic, as players and coaches age, underperform or just break up.

    As any fan knows, one day you're on top of the mountain celebrating with your favorite team, and then the next day it's all gone.

    And since nothing truly lasts forever, here are a few teams who went from great to sending in their AARP cards after aging fast.

1989 Chicago Bears

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    With arguably the most recognizable coaches in its history leading them from 1982-1992, the Chicago Bears and Mike Ditka enjoyed plenty of good times together, culminating with an '85 season that finished with a Super Bowl win.

    And while "Da Bears" made the playoffs five of eight seasons during the '80s, the ride ended abruptly in 1989, with the team going just 6-10 thanks to a new core of players who couldn't continue the success of past greats like Mike Singletary, Walter Payton and Jim McMahon.

    Chicago was able to make the playoffs a few more times with Ditka at the helm, but didn't have near the success as earlier in the decade.

'80s Boston Celtics

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    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    From 1980-1986, the Boston Celtics went to five NBA Finals, captured three rings and enjoyed one of the most dominating decades in NBA history.

    But, like all good things, it came to an end.

    As the tread on the kicks of stars like Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale's became more bare, so too did the C's chances of competing for titles.

    As Jimmy Rodgers took over for longtime head coach K.C. Jones prior to the 1988-89 season, Boston finished a pedestrian 42-40, grabbed the No, 8 seed and got bounced by the eventual NBA champion Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs, all but ending their reign as the class of the Eastern Conference.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Good Lord, whatever happened to the Philadelphia Phillies?

    Following a long run of success over the past decade that included five straight playoff trips, back-to-back World Series trips—winning it all in 2008—and a roster full of former All-Stars, the entire team just lost their mojo.

    From committing to aging stars like pitchers Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, to holding on to fan favorites like Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins for too long, Philly has stayed loyal to the players who helped them win several years ago, but that loyalty has halted the team's progress and kept them in neutral.

1991 Detroit Pistons

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    After five straight seasons of at least making the conference finals, the 1991 Detroit Pistons showed to be both physically and mentally exhausted.

    Being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals that year by the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls, replacing Detroit as the cream of the crop in the East, Detroit had had enough.

    That's when the entire team left the bench of the decisive fourth game before the buzzer even sounded, walking passed the Bulls on their way to the locker room without the customary handshake and respect.

    Of course, the team's star, Isiah Thomas, regrets it now, but at the time, it showed the old guys didn't appreciate the young guns.

2009 Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Maybe we all just expected too much from the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Following a Super Bowl win the previous season, it wasn't as if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger just forgot how to throw the football, or that the defense suddenly had lost a step.

    Still, the Steelers went from 12 wins to nine, seeing players' stats—particularly on the defensive side of the ball—dip.

    Proving they weren't as old as some had thought, Pittsburgh bounced back in 2010 to reach another Super Bowl, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers.

2014 Miami Heat

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Boasting a Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh—all future Hall of Famers—this wasn't how the team's fourth straight NBA Finals trip was supposed to happen.

    Especially not against a San Antonio Spurs team who the Heat defeated in last year's title round and had stars even more out of their primes than Miami.

    Yet, we all know what happened—the Spurs throttled the Heat in five games.

    Now, instead of planning another championship parade, plenty of questions surround Miami about the cranky knees of Wade, the playing status of the aging Ray Allen and the futures of both James and Bosh in South Beach.

    All of these problems seemed inconceivable just seven days ago.

1994 Buffalo Bills

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    After a run that saw them reach the Super Bowl in four straight seasons, the Buffalo Bills came back down to earth during the 1994 season that saw them go just 7-9.

    With quarterback Jim Kelly in his mid-30s, running back Thurman Thomas barely surpassing 1,000 yards on the season and a defense whose core began to show some age, the Bills suddenly fell off the top of the mountain in the NFL.

    The team returned to the playoffs in 1995 following a 10-win season, but were bounced in the divisional round by the Pittsburgh Steelers—who went on to reach the Super Bowl—proving that there was a changing of the guard in the AFC.

1999 Atlanta Braves

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    MORRY GASH/Associated Press

    Don't get me wrong—since 1991, there might not be a more steady franchise in baseball than the Atlanta Braves.

    Making the postseason 17 of 24 years, reaching the World Series five times and winning the whole thing once, the Braves had a lethal combination of pitchers in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine blended with All-Stars in the field like Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones.

    Their swan song came in the 1999 World Series though, as Atlanta got humbled quickly by the New York Yankees, who swept them in the Fall Classic—even though the Braves won 103 games in the regular season.

1992 Portland Trail Blazers

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    Losing the NBA Finals in two of three seasons from 1990-92, the Portland Trail Blazers had one of the deepest and most balanced rosters in the league.

    Led by future Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler and head coach Rick Adelman, the Blazers showed that they had the skill to contend with anyone for Larry O'Brien Trophies.

    Well, until they didn't anymore.

    After losing to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1992, Portland saw their success fade thanks to a few gray hairs, losing in the Western Conference first round six straight years until the 1998-99 season when they had a new core.

    For some, the postseason is good. But for a Trail Blazers team used to challenging for titles, it was always a disappointing end to the season.

1990 Cincinnati Reds

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Following their sweep of the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series, the Cincinnati Reds appeared to have all the parts to at least tease baseball fans into thinking they could repeat.

    But after seeing their pitching dip big time in 1991, the Reds found themselves trying to keep up with other NL teams, ultimately finishing with just 74 wins on the season.

    Cincy did prove that the '91 season was an aberration, however, shaking off any talk of the them being over the hill as they bounced back and won 90 games in 1992—even though they missed the playoffs.

2003 Arizona Diamondbacks

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    MATT YORK/Associated Press

    Winning the 2001 World Series in dramatic fashion over the New York Yankees, the Arizona Diamondbacks followed up their championship season with 98 wins and a first-place finish in the NL West in 2002.

    But that's where the good times stopped.

    With two pitchers—Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling—39 and 36 years old, respectively, and the core of their lineup all in their mid-to-late 30s, Arizona didn't sink to oblivion in 2003, winning 84 games, but the contributions from their aging stars definitely dipped.

2004 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Featuring four future Hall of Famers—Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant—as well as having the best coach in NBA history on its sidelines, many believed the 2004 version of the L.A. Lakers to be a lock to be crowned champs that year.

    But after being shocked by the Detroit Pistons in five games in the NBA Finals, the Lakers—who won 56 games during that regular season—suddenly went through a transformation, trading away Shaq, hiring a new coach and watching Payton leave and Malone retire because the experiment had failed.

    The team went from a veteran squad with championship experience to one that suddenly had an identity crisis the following year, winning just 34 games.