The Most Influential Sports Teams of the 2000s (So Far)

Nick Dimengo@@itsnickdimengoFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2015

The Most Influential Sports Teams of the 2000s (So Far)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    While every year leaves us with a new champion in each sport, that doesn't mean the ones up on the podium holding the title trophies of their respective sports are the ones that captivated sports fans and made us remember why they were so great.

    Sure, finishing with a championship is great and all, but when a team goes above and beyond by doing it in grand fashion, that's when they become historic and all-timers.

    Over the past 15 years, there have been some teams and franchises that have changed their sports by doing things that other organizations could only dream of—and these are the ones every fan has to have mad respect for.

Seattle Seahawks' 'Legion of Boom'

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    What the Seattle Seahawks have been able to achieve in the past few years has been pretty amazing.

    While the team has had three straight playoff appearances and back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl, it's the defense that has been the trademark of this squad, boasting All-Pros such as Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor to help set the tone on defense.

    What's even more remarkable about the unit is that it's achieved its status with three different defensive coordinators in each of the past three years, proving that the players—who were unheralded entering the league—have ridiculous talent.

    Putting together a plan five years ago to help rebuild this team, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have seen their late-round gambles pay off, as they've put together a consistent winner ever since. The Seahawks have watched other NFL teams try to copycat the bigger-defensive-back strategy to duplicate similar success—even as the league tries to limit the amount of contact players can use.

The Golden State Warriors

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    While we don't know what the future entails for this year's version of the Golden State Warriors, it's safe to say that they've already left their mark on the NBA thus far.

    Getting out to a historic start to the season, the Dubs have been rewriting the record books at a pace that's never been seen before and has some wondering if they can challenge the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls team that won a record 72 regular-season games and the NBA title.

    With a championship already under this core's belt coming in the 2015-16 season, it's not far-fetched to think that five or 10 years from now, fans will look back on this team as having one of the best runs ever.

2005-06 George Mason Patriots

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    Sure, other Cinderellas have crashed the big-boy party in the NCAA tournament before and since, but what the George Mason Patriots did during their 2006 run to the Final Four should be recognized as one of the most amazing in hoops history.

    Entering as a No. 11 seed, the Patriots shocked the college basketball world and busted everyone's bracket by becoming the darlings of the tourney, defeating prestigious programs such as North Carolina, Michigan State and UConn to be one of the last four squads standing.

    The Patriots may have lost there against the eventual champion Florida Gators, but that doesn't mean they weren't the team everyone was talking about.

    Every small school that has made a similar run instantly gets compared to the George Mason Patriots, because they were the original OGs—even if you can't name a single player from the team that year.

Showtime II (Los Angeles Lakers)

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    David Sherman/Getty Images

    While the Los Angeles Lakers teams led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal didn't set regular-season win records or anything like that, they did enjoy a three-year stretch (2000-2002) where they won 181 total games and three straight NBA titles, so they have to be included on this list.

    More than just the three-peat, though, the second coming of the Showtime Lakers included a Hollywood drama that was almost too good to be true, pitting Kobe and Shaq against one another in a feud that ultimately broke up this marriage.

    Add in the famous book that then head coach Phil Jackson wrote (The Last Season) in which he mentioned the constant friction between him and Bryant, and this team was like the freaking Kardashians. For that reason, this team will always be remembered.

The St. Louis Rams' 'Greatest Show on Turf'

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    JAMES A. FINLEY/Associated Press

    Just sneaking into this piece after winning the Super Bowl during the 1999 NFL season, the St. Louis Rams enjoyed the greatest three-year stretch in franchise history from '99-01, as they won that one Lombardi Trophy and made it to one other Super Bowl.

    What really defined this team was its ridiculous offense, though, as that side of the ball had a number of Pro Bowlers, future Hall of Famers and two league MVPs—Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk—which helped gain the nickname as being the "Greatest Show on Turf."

    During those years, the Rams finished tops in the league in nearly every major offensive category and had defensive coordinators losing sleep prior to facing them, so it was a great time to be a Rams fan.

    The NFL is a pass-heavy league now, and you can bet the Rams teams from the early 2000s played an integral role in guiding the league in that direction with their funky formations and utilization of a guy like Faulk from the running back position.

UConn Women's Hoops

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    The definitive women's hoops program on the planet, the UConn Huskies ladies basketball team is about as close to a well-oiled machine as we have in all of sports.

    Under the guidance of head coach Geno Auriemma, the team has won a ridiculous 10 national titles since 1995, which includes the previous three, as they've gone a combined 113-5 during the regular season from 2012-15.

    With just one losing season—his very first in Storrs, which saw him go 12-15—Auriemma has proved to be the face of women's basketball, as he's built a powerhouse that's dominated college hoops.

    Since 2000, the UConn women's team has captured nine national championships, enjoyed an NCAA record 90-game winning streak and has had four players taken No. 1 overall in the WNBA draft. So, yeah, this is a team that has influenced women's basketball in a big way.

USC Trojans Football

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    KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/Associated Press

    While the USC Trojans football team may have had the rug pulled out from beneath them due to NCAA sanctions during their run under former head coach Pete Carroll, for those who saw this team play, you know it was as dominant as any in college football history.

    From 2001-10 under Carroll, the Trojans won two national championships (seven seasons ending with a Top 5 ranking), had three Heisman Trophy winners (although Reggie Bush vacated his), won five Rose Bowls, had an .836 winning percentage and had 56 players drafted into the NFL.

    If that doesn't sound like a powerhouse, I don't know what does—which is why ESPN.com named SC its team of the decade during that time.

    Again, the record books would have you believe that some of that didn't happen, but the eye test would tell us otherwise, because the Men of Troy were the biggest men on any college campus with Carroll as their coach.

The Miami Heat's 'Big Three'

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    There had been Big Three combinations in the past, but never before had the NBA actually seen three superstars scheme a plot to join forces together during the prime of their careers to try and win championships. That is, until the summer of 2010.

    For years, teams were jockeying for position and stashing cash aside in the hopes of luring LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade to their franchise, knowing that just one of them could change the fortunes of a team.

    Well, the Miami Heat knocked it out of the ballpark when all three committed to South Beach, which set off a spark of emotions and saw the Heat go to four straight NBA Finals, winning two of them.

    The "Heatles" were the biggest show in town each and every night, and the way the three future Hall of Famers got the league to rethink the best way for such an occurrence to almost never happen again is a sign this team had a major influence on the future of the NBA.

2011-12 Los Angeles Kings

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    While there have been great teams that went on to boast Hall of Famers and all-time greats, the 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings have to go down as one of the best ever because of the run they went on during the postseason, defying the odds to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.

    Entering the playoffs as the final No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, the Kings surprised the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round, then went on to defeat the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds to reach the Stanley Cup Final, which they won by beating the New Jersey Devils in six games.

    Becoming the first No. 8 seed in North American pro sports to win a championship, the Kings should be remembered for their perseverance and resolve as underdogs to come out on top.

The San Antonio Spurs

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    It might not be flashy, but the San Antonio Spurs' way of doing things has been pretty damn effective, so there's no point in questioning their blueprint.

    Winning five NBA titles since 1999, the Spurs have put together an organization that has somehow been able to be successful in both the regular season by winning 50-plus games in all but one year in the past 18 seasons and the playoffs.

    Led by the future Hall of Fame trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with the architect of those personalities, head coach Gregg Popovich, San Antonio has built the most ideal franchise in hoops.

    Influential in the way that they operate, every team would love to have the long-term success the Spurs have had, but it's just not sustainable, as the players have been selfless to keep the unbelievable run going.

The New England Patriots

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It all started back in 2002 when then starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe went down with a serious injury, opening the door for some former sixth-rounder named Tom Brady to take his place under center.

    All Brady did that year was lead his New England Patriots to an upset victory in the Super Bowl against the 14-point favorite St. Louis Rams, according to Odds Shark, and has led the franchise to five other Super Bowls since, winning three additional Lombardi Trophies.

    The Pats may be public enemy No. 1 on every fan's list outside of the Boston area, but there's no denying they've had a run that's been one of the most impressive dynasties in sports history and have changed the way things are done in the NFL.

    Both the league and the other 31 teams are trying to figure out the Pats' recipe for success, but no one's come close to getting the right ingredients.

'The Idiots' (2004 Boston Red Sox)

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The story of the 2004 Boston Red Sox is one that will never be forgotten for as long as sports is a thing. That's how remarkable their run to a World Series victory to end an 86-year title drought was.

    After enduring the Bill Buckner error in 1986 and Aaron "Bleepin'" Boone in 2003, the 2004 version of the BoSox appeared to be one of the biggest disappointments in sports history, going from a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series a year prior to getting humiliated by the rival New York Yankees the next season when they found themselves down 3-0.

    In a stunning turn of events, though, Boston kept chipping away at the Yanks' 3-0 series lead and, in the process, gave fans some of the most awesome postseason moments ever.

    From ballsy stolen bases, walk-offs against the usually unhittable Mariano Rivera and Curt Schilling's bloody sock, the Red Sox seemed to see fate finally fall with them as they went on to win the World Series.

    Naming themselves a "Group of Idiots," the team didn't just come back from a historic deficit in the ALCS against the Yanks but proved that nothing's over till it's over.

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