The 10 Greatest American Sports Franchises of All Time

Marcel SmithSenior Analyst IFebruary 4, 2009

The following is a list of the 10 best franchises ever in the MLB, NFL, and NBA. 

10. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent franchises in all of sports and arguably the best over the last dozen years. In their 32-year history in the NBA, they have made the playoffs 28 times, with a 29th appearance pretty much a lock this season. They have won their division title 16 times and won their conference championship four times. They rank third in NBA history with a .579 winning percent and rank fourth in the NBA with four championships. 

Best Spurs Players: Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Alvin Robertson, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Larry Kenon, Artis Gilmore.

Best Spurs Coach: Gregg Poppovich—.677 winning percentage, four titles, playoffs each season.

9. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are one of the most iconic franchises in sports as they had arguably the greatest quarterback ever in Joe Montana and without a doubt the best receiver ever in Jerry Rice for several years together. In their 62-year history in the NFL, they have 23 playoff appearances. They rank seventh all time with a .552 winning percentage. They have made it to the Super Bowl five times, winning all five of them, which is tied for second all time with the Cowboys and behind the Steelers. 

Best 49ers Players: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Jimmy Johnson, Leo Nomelli, Terrell Owens, Dave Wilcox, Billy Wilson, Gene A. Washington.

Best 49ers Coach: Bill Walsh—three Super Bowls, .609 winning percentage, every year playoffs.

8. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have been one of the best and most consistent franchises in the history of baseball. In their 108-year history as the Cardinals, they have 22 playoff appearances and 17 pennants. They rank fourth all-time in the league with a .517 winning percentage. They also rank second in baseball with 10 world championships, only behind the Yankees. 

Best Cardinals Players: Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols, Lou Brock, Rogers Hornsby, Jesse Haines, Jim Bottomley, Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch.

Best Cardinals Manager: Whitey Herzog—.530 winning percentage, three pennants, one World Series.

7. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are one of the most iconic franchises in sports as they are known for being the first baseball team to allow a black player, Jackie Robinson, to play for them. In their 124-year history, they have won 22 pennants, which ranks second in the league. They also rank second in the league with a .524 winning percentage. They have 27 playoff appearances and rank fourth in the league with six championships.

Best Dodgers Players: Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale, Pee Wee Reese, Don Sutton, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershier.

Best Dodgers Manager: Walter Alston—seven pennants/four World Series wins, .558 winning percentage.

6. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are the most popular and iconic team in the history of the NFL, as they are called "America's Team." In their 48-year history, they have 29 playoff appearances and they rank third all time with a .578 winning percentage. They have made it to the Super Bowl a record eight times, winning five of them, including a four-year stretch in the mid 90s when they won three Super Bowls. 

Best Cowboys Players: Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Bob Lilly, Randy White, Larry Allen, Darren Woodson, Chuck Howley, Cliff Harris, Deion Sanders.

Best Cowboys Coach: Tom Landry.607 winning percentage, five Super Bowl appearances/two wins.

5. Green Bay Packers

The Packers are a very historic team in the NFL. In their 87-year history, they have 24 playoff appearances and they rank fifth in the league with a .556 winning percentage. They have 643 wins, which ranks second in league history. They rank number one in the league with 12 championships, including the ones they won before the Super Bowl Era. They have made it to the Super Bowl four times, winning three of them. 

Best Packers Players: Brett Favre, Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg, Reggie White, Willie Wood, James Lofton, Henry Jordan, Jim Ringo, Jerry Kramer, LeRoy Butler.

Best Packers Coach: Vince Lombardi—five championships, .754 winning percentage.

4. Boston Celtics

The Celtics have the most championships in NBA history, but in my opinion aren't the best franchise because they haven't been as consistent as the Lakers. In their 62-year history in the NBA, they have 46 playoff appearances, with a 47th on the way this season. They have won their division titles 26 times and they have won the Eastern Conference championship 20 times, winning the NBA championship an amazing 17 times. Finally, the Celtics rank second in winning percentage at .593.

Best Celtics Players: Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, Bill Sharman, Frank Ramsey, Sam Jones, Tom Heinsohn, Tiny Archibald, Dave Cowens, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Reggie Lewis, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett.

Best Celtics Coach: Red Auerbach—nine titles, .667 winning percentage, playoffs every season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are without a doubt the best NFL franchise, especially after they won a record sixth Super Bowl on Sunday. Over the last 40 years, no team in the NFL has come close to the consistency that the Steelers have had.

They have won seven conference championships since the beginning of the Super Bowl and have had a .516 winning percentage. They have also made it to the playoffs 25 times, which ranks fifth among NFL teams. On top of that, they had arguably the greatest team in the history of the league with the 70s Steelers, who dominated the league and won four Super Bowls.

Finally, they have had one of the best owners in all of sports as they are owned by the Rooney family, who have consistently put forth a championship contending team. 

Best Steelers Players: Joe Greene, Ernie Stautner, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw, Rod Woodson, Jerome Bettis, Troy Polamalu, Lynn Swann, Hines Ward, Ben Roethlisberger, Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Jack Ham, Andy Russell.

Best Steelers Coach: Chuck Noll—four Super Bowl wins; .566 winning percentage in 23 seasons.

2. New York Yankees

The Yankees are without a doubt the best franchise in baseball. They are the most popular and most historic franchise in the league. In their 107-year history, they have won a record 39 pennants and 26 world championships (more than double any other team in the league). They also have record in playoff appearances as they have 47 and a .567 winning percentage. 

Best Yankees Players: Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Johnny Mize, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Rich Gossage, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter, Roger Clemens, Mariano Rivera, Alex Rodriguez.

Best Yankees Manager: Joe McCarthy—eight pennants/seven World Series wins, .627 winning percentage.

1. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are the greatest franchise in sports. Period. Even though they don't have the most championships in the NBA, they are without a doubt better than the Celtics. In their 61-year legendary history, they have won 14 championships, which ranks second in the league. They have the highest winning percentage of any team in the MLB, NBA, and NFL with an amazing .616.

They have also missed the playoffs only five times. That means that after this season they would have made the postseason 56 out of 61 seasons, a 91.8 percent. They have won their division 30 times and they have won the conference championship an unheard of 29 times, just under half of the seasons they have played in. On top of that, they only once had consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs, which occurred in the 1974- 1975 and 1975-1976 seasons. 

Since 1970 (modern sports era), they lead all teams in any league with nine championships and 16 Finals appearances. The team also has had arguably the best owner ever in all of sports in Jerry Buss. Since Buss bought the Lakers in 1979, the winning percentage of the Lakers has been an amazing .660 and he has been the owner of eight titles and 14 Finals appearances. They have made the playoffs in 27 of 29 seasons under Buss. 

The Lakers also arguably have had eight out of the 25 greatest players in the history of the league in Magic, Kareem, Wilt, West, Baylor, Kobe, Shaq, and Mikan. They also had arguably the best team ever in the 86-87 Lakers, who won the championship as it dominated the league in the best era the league has ever seen.

The team has also had two of the best coaches ever in Pat Riley and Phil Jackson. Riley won four rings with the Lakers while Jackson has won three and had five Finals appearances with the team. Finally, the team had as good as any GM in any sport in Jerry West, who orchestrated the signing for Shaq and the trade for Kobe and the logo of the league is West, one of the greatest Lakers ever. 

Overall, the team had been as successful as any other franchise, but they have been more consistent, have had the greatest players in the sport, the best coaches, owner and GM. On top of that, they are one of the two or three most popular sports franchises in the United States and have always been entertaining off and on the court. 

Best Lakers Players: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Shaquille O'Neal, Elgin Baylor, James Worthy, Norm Nixon, Gail Goodrich, Rudy LaRusso, Slater Martin, Vern Mikkelson, Jim Pollard.

Best Lakers Coach: Pat Riley—four titles/seven Finals appearances; .733 winning percentage in nine years.

Tell me you guys' opinions of this list. Who do you think is the best sports franchise ever and why? Also, please comment on whether you think I forgot a team that should be in the top 10 and who it is and whether or not I messed up on the order. I look forward to listening and responding to your comments. 


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