Ranking the Greatest U.S. Sports Dynasties Since 2000
The Golden State Warriors have won two NBA titles in the past three years and might be the best team to ever play the game, but where do they rank against the likes of the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Blackhawks and Alabama Crimson Tide on the list of sports dynasties since 2000?
Two quick criteria notes before we dive in.
First, we're considering only the following seven leagues: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, FBS football and NCAA men's and women's Division I college basketball. Apologies to Manchester United, the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Montreal Alouettes and any other team from a sport you think should be included. We had to draw the line somewhere.
Second, to make our rankings, teams at least had to have won multiple championships in a span of five years or fewer—though, as we'll note shortly, it was tempting to include Kentucky men's basketball with just one title. Simply put, dynasties win championships.
Aside from that, rankings on the following slides are based on a combination of both regular-season and postseason success, how dominant the team was and how long that dominance lasted.
2010-15 Kentucky Wildcats (CBB)
No men's college basketball teams made the cut, but Kentucky came the closest. The Wildcats went to four Final Fours in five years with one national championship. The Anthony Davis- and Karl-Anthony Towns-led teams were arguably the two most dominant groups since the early 1990s. However, missing the 2013 NCAA tournament and losing to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT doesn't scream "Dynasty!"
2001-09 Detroit Red Wings
These guys owned the NHL regular season for the better part of a decade, earning either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the Western Conference eight straight times. But winning the Presidents' Trophy four times didn't do them much good in the playoffs. They only won the Stanley Cup twice, with six calendar years in between them.
2002-08 USC Trojans (CFB)
USC won at least 11 games in seven consecutive seasons, including two national championships. Or at least that's what most of us remember. The NCAA, on the other hand, retroactively stripped the Trojans of one of those championships, as well as every win in the 2005 season, because of violations involving Reggie Bush. And since we can't credit them with those achievements, the Trojans weren't officially a college football dynasty.
2006-09 Florida Gators (CFB)
In Tim Tebow's four seasons in the Swamp, Florida went 48-7, won two BCS championships and a Heisman. Had they beaten Alabama in the 2009 SEC Championship to reach a third title game in four years, they would have ranked top 10.
2005-07 Florida Gators (CBB)
Or, if we could combine Florida's football and basketball accomplishments in the late 2000s, it would be a no-brainer dynasty. The Gators are the only team in more than 25 years to win back-to-back hoops championships. But two years isn't much of a dynasty, and they only won two other NCAA tournament games from 2002-10.
2008-10 Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant's solo campaign as the best player in the world led to two championships and a third appearance in the NBA finals. But there are four other NBA dynasties in our top 10, including the Lakers from a few years earlier.
2000-2003 New Jersey Devils
Thanks to 20 years of netminding service from Martin Brodeur, the Devils were a strong contender in the Eastern Conference for a bunch of years. The apex of that dominance came in the form of two Stanley Cup wins and one Stanley Cup loss in four years at the beginning of the century. It was a close call to leave them out, but we opted for teams that either won more titles or won them in quicker succession.
2004-09 North Carolina Tar Heels (CBB)
In the span of five years, UNC earned four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, played in three Final Fours and won two national championships. Going from Raymond Felton and Sean May to Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough was one heck of a luxury for fans in Chapel Hill. But two titles in five years isn't much of a dynasty, considering none of the players overlapped.
2015-Present Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins didn't win their division in either of the past two seasons, but that didn't stop them from winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. One more title or deep run in the next year or two would give them a great case as the top NHL dynasty since 2000.
2004-08 Pittsburgh Steelers
The better dynastic option from Western Pennsylvania, the Steelers won two Super Bowls in four years and went 15-1 the year before the first of those titles. But they failed to defend either crown and didn't have much postseason success aside from the titles in that span.
10. San Francisco Giants (2010-14)
Details of Dynasty: Won 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series
Key Contributors: In 2010, it was all about the pitching. Matt Cain hurled 21.1 scoreless postseason innings, while Brian Wilson and his beard terrorized opponents. Two years later, Pablo Sandoval was the star, belting six home runs and batting .364. But two years after that, it was back to pitching and Madison Bumgarner. The lefty had one of the most dominant playoff runs in decades, logging six consecutive quality starts while somehow still having enough left in the tank for a five-inning save in the decisive Game 7.
Why They're Here: Playoff baseball is about as random as sports get. One batter gets in the zone for a week or one pitcher can't find his slider for one start, and suddenly a team that wins 100 regular-season games looks incompetent next to one that barely sneaks into the playoffs. It's why there hasn't been a repeat World Series champion since 2000 and why we rarely see a team even make it to the Fall Classic two years in a row.
So the Giants wised up and started only chasing pennants every other year. Or so it appears. The so-called even-year magic led them to championships in 2010, '12 and '14, even though they played combined .500 baseball in '11 and '13.
The Boston Red Sox are the only other team with three titles since 2000, but they spaced theirs out over an entire decade. By getting the job done in half that time, we had to make room for the Giants in the top 10. But because they played in eight elimination games during that run and because they struggled to even remain competitive in the in-between years, No. 10 is as high as we could rank them.
9. San Antonio Spurs (2002-07)
Details of Dynasty: 2003, 2005 and 2007 NBA champions
Key Contributors: For more than a decade, there were four staples for the San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and head coach Gregg Popovich. There was nothing flashy about that combination, but it was fundamental and effective. The Spurs had a lot of talent, and they were able to consistently beat even more talented teams by playing with discipline and poise.
Why They're Here: The Spurs have won at least 50 games in 18 consecutive seasons—even the strike-shortened 66-game season in 2011-12. As far as prolonged regular-season dominance goes, no professional team has been better during our period of interest.
However, there was no multiyear point during which they were clearly the best in the Western Conference, let alone the league. The season before each of their three titles, they were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals. In 22 series during that six-year span, they swept fewer opponents (two) than they lost to (three)—though, sweeping Cleveland in the 2007 Finals was a nice touch.
As a result, we're willing and able to recognize the Spurs as a dynasty, but we can't even crown them as one of the three best NBA dynasties since 2000.
8. Chicago Blackhawks (2009-15)
Details of Dynasty: 2010, 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup champions
Key Contributors: A remarkable feat in the era of free agency in professional sports, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa led the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring during the 2009-10 season and each ranked top six on the team in scoring again in 2014-15. They did change goalies after the 2010 Finals, but Corey Crawford has been their primary netminder in seven straight seasons since the switch. When you can keep a championship nucleus together, sometimes big things happen.
Why They're Here: Back in the olden days, NHL teams won Stanley Cups in quick succession. The New York Islanders won four in a row in the early 1980s, followed immediately by five out of seven by the Edmonton Oilers. Go back another 15 years, and you'll find nothing but Maple Leafs, Red Wings and Canadiens as far as the eye can see.
In the past quarter-century, though, NHL dynasties have been few and far between. Three titles in six years may not seem as impressive as some of the teams ranked behind the Blackhawks, but it's a lot better than any other NHL team has fared in the playoffs since 2000. (Though, that would change if the Pittsburgh Penguins win again in the next three years.)
However, the strike-shortened, 48-game season in 2013 was the only time during this run the Blackhawks earned the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Heck, they only finished top-two in their division in two of the six years. And to be a top-five dynasty, a team needs to be great in both the regular season and the postseason.
7. Miami Heat (2010-14)
Details of Dynasty: 2012 and 2013 NBA champions; 2011 and 2014 Eastern Conference champions
Key Contributors: The Miami Heat were good for a bunch of years with Dwyane Wade running the show, but they became the NBA team to beat when LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to join forces with him. That Big Three combined to score at least 52 percent of Miami's points in each of their four seasons together.
Why They're Here: As was more or less expected from the day James took his talents to South Beach, Miami was the only team to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals for as long as he donned a Heat jersey. The Mavericks, Thunder and Spurs took turns coming out of the Western Conference, but half of that annual June matchup was penciled in long before it was set in stone.
But as mentioned on the previous slide, a team needs to be dominant in both the regular season and postseason in order to earn a spot in our top five—and the Heat barely qualified as dominant in either one.
At any rate, they weren't nearly as dominant as most thought they would be. Save for going 66-16 in 2012-13, the Heat just kind of kept their vehicle on cruise control slightly above the speed limit for months on end. They only earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference once in four years. They also lost exactly seven games in each postseason, only sweeping two of their 16 playoff opponents.
6. New England Patriots (2010-Present)
Details of Dynasty: Super Bowl XLIX and LI Champions; Super Bowl XLVI runners-up; seven consecutive AFC East titles
Key Contributors: There are five significant pieces that have not changed for the New England Patriots in the past seven years. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the obvious ones. They have also had Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich during this entire reign over their three poor foes in the AFC East. In the two Super Bowl wins, Brady averaged 397 yards and three touchdowns.
Why They're Here: The Patriots are both the only NFL team on the list and the only team to make multiple appearances on it.
In spite of Spygate, Deflategate and all other gates that have been thrown their way, they just seem to get better with age. The Patriots have won at least 12 games in seven consecutive seasons, earning either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the AFC each year. They have advanced at least as far as conference championship week in each of the last six years, playing in three Super Bowls and winning two of the last three.
If they were to keep that trend going and win it all again this coming season, they would have a strong case for best NFL dynasty ever, if not the best North American professional sports dynasty ever. But for now, despite winning two Super Bowls in three years, there's just something about losing to Peyton Manning in the playoffs twice in three years that keeps this team from feeling like an all-time great.
Dynasties aren't supposed to have Achilles' heels.
5. Golden State Warriors (2014-Present)
Details of Dynasty: 2015 and 2017 NBA champions; 2016 Western Conference champions; most wins in NBA regular season (73)
Key Contributors: Both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have averaged better than 21 points per game in each of the past three seasons. The Golden State Warriors eventually found bigger roles for Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes before upgrading from Barnes to Kevin Durant, thus creating perhaps the best four All-Star conglomerate the sport has ever known. But this whole thing got started with the Splash Brothers making it rain from three.
Why They're Here: Including the playoffs, the Warriors have won more games in the past three years (254) than 12 NBA franchises have even played.
Let that nugget sink in for a second.
Prior to this club, only three teams in NBA history had ever won at least 69 games in a regular season—the 1971-72 Lakers, the 1995-96 Bulls and the 1996-97 Bulls. But 69 has been Golden State's average win total in the process of clinching the league's best record by at least a six-game margin in three straight years. They could have forfeited every game for the final two months of each season and still would have made the playoffs.
Despite blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 Finals, Golden State has been so dominant lately that credible people are beyond ready to argue that this is the best team of all time—in a league that had one team win six titles in eight years (Chicago) and another win 11 titles in 13 years (Boston).
Let's tap the brakes and give it at least one more year before we start throwing around phrases like "best dynasty in sports history," but let's also agree the Warriors are on a nice trajectory.
4. Alabama Crimson Tide (2009-13)
Details of Dynasty: 2010, 2012 and 2013 BCS National Champions; overall record of 49-5
Key Contributors: A total of 29 Alabama players were drafted from 2010-13, including 13 first-rounders. You could make the case that guys like Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, Mark Barron and Rolando McClain were the most important assets for the Crimson Tide, but this was just 22-man dominance over the course of four years. Nick Saban gets most of the credit for recruiting all these studs and helping them reach their full potential.
Why They're Here: For four straight years, Alabama held its opposition to 13.5 points per game or fewer. In 2011, the Crimson Tide did not allow a single FBS opponent to score more than 14 points in a game against them. Over the course of these 54 contests, they averaged nearly two shutouts (nine) for every loss (five).
In other words, this was a defensive dynasty at least on par with the Iron Curtain or the Purple People Eaters of NFL lore.
In three of the four seasons, Alabama did not spend a single week outside the AP Top Five. And in each of those years, they won their BCS championship game by a margin of at least 16 points. The funny part is that in two of those three seasons, the BCS formula said Alabama was the inferior team. It's no wonder college football eradicated that ranking system in less than a decade.
3. Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2002)
Details of Dynasty: 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA champions; won NBA-best 67 games in 1999-2000
Key Contributors: There were some quality sidekicks along the way—Glen Rice, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Robert Horry, in particular—but these Los Angeles Lakers were built around Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. In 58 playoff games, O'Neal averaged an absurd 29.9 points and 14.5 rebounds, which almost made Bryant's 25.3 points per game look pedestrian.
Why They're Here: Of all the teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB, the Lakers are the most recent franchise to win three consecutive championships.
And you know that perfect playoff record the Warriors were shooting for this year? The Lakers almost pulled it off in 2001. They went 15-1 with an overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in which Allen Iverson exploded for 48 points to negate Shaq's 44 and 20 double-double. Overall, the Lakers went 45-13 in the playoffs over the three-year span.
Sacramento Kings fans will argue the Lakers don't deserve this spot after the Tim Donaghy officiating scandal in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, but the fact remains that Los Angeles won three straight titles and is alone in making that claim in this millennium.
2. New England Patriots (2001-05)
Details of Dynasty: Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX champions
Key Contributors: It all started when longtime quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down for the count and the New England Patriots were forced to turn to a sixth-round draft pick from Michigan. From the ashes of that 0-2 start to the season rose the greatest coach-QB combo in NFL history.
Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won three consecutive one-possession games in the 2001 playoffs—including the tuck rule/snow game—to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Brady led the Patriots on five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter in his first nine postseason contests—all wins.
Why They're Here: Only two teams in NFL history have won three Super Bowls in a four-year span, and the 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys weren't a candidate for this list. Heck, the Patriots won more Super Bowls in four years than any franchise has won in the past 18 years.
Simply put, New England's dominance in the early 2000s packs an extra punch because no other NFL team has come close to matching it. There have been slightly better four-year stretches during the regular season than the 48-16 record the Patriots compiled during this time, but no one has the postseason pedigree to go with it.
Had that been a brief oasis in a desert of mediocre seasons, maybe it wouldn't rank quite this high. But with every year that New England continues to dominate, the beginning of its nearly two-decade journey gets more romanticized.
1. Connecticut Huskies (2007-17)
Details of Dynasty: 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 women's college basketball national champions; 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2017 Final Four participants.
Key Contributors: From Tina Charles to Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart, the Huskies have produced a dozen first-round WNBA draft picks in the past 10 years. But amid all the moving parts, the one constant has been head coach Geno Auriemma. The eight-time Naismith Coach of the Year, 11-time national champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist has been one of the most unstoppable forces in coaching history.
Why They're Here: Connecticut has consistently been one of the top women's basketball programs in the country since 1994, but the Huskies have been particularly untouchable over the past decade. They have been to 10 consecutive Final Fours, resulting in six national championships—four of which put a nice bow on an undefeated season.
During that run, the Huskies have an overall record of 370-15. That's a 96.1 winning percentage, which means the likelihood of Connecticut losing a basketball game has been roughly equal to your chances of betting one number in roulette and winning. The Huskies hold the all-time record for consecutive wins with 111 straight victories.
Still not impressed? How about this tidbit: The Golden State Warriors lost more games in the last eight months than Connecticut has lost since the series premiere of The Big Bang Theory.
We take for granted what the Huskies have done because they make it look so easy, but that doesn't change the fact that this dynasty has been ruling with an iron fist for a significant percentage of our lives.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.