If you want something, you’ve got to earn it. Nowhere in life is that more true than on the field, court, or rink. Sure, it’s awesome to win a championship and even better to win back to back. But how many people can say they have been a part of a dynasty?
Dynasties aren’t born overnight either. Through hard work, personnel management, and a little bit of luck, some of the greatest teams in sports have been able to win on a consistent basis. Here are some of the most impressive, flashy, and dominant dynasties that changed the world of sports.
10. Dallas Cowboys 1992-95
Led by gun-slinger Troy Aikman and the “Playmaker” Michael Irvin, the two scorched defenses as they became “America’s Team” once again. In 1992, Dallas set a team record for regular season wins with 13 en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Buffalo Bills 52-17. Led by Aikman, Johnson, and Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys were back to their winning ways just three seasons after finishing 1-15. The following season, the Cowboys rounded up 11 Pro Bowl selections as they beat the Bills once again on “Super Sunday”. When it was all said and done, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four seasons before injuries, salary cap negotiations, and friction between players and management dismantled the team.
9. New York Islanders 1979-83
Rather than building a team that dominated during the regular season and faltered down the stretch, the Islanders fell below the 100-point mark for the first season in five years in 1979, despite winning their first Stanley Cup. With Hall of Famers Brayn Trottier, Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy, the Islanders dominated the league in the playoffs, reeling off eight consecutive victories in the 1980-81 playoffs leading to a goal differential of +10. The post-season dominance the Islanders displayed has gone unmatched in the 30 years since the team won its first Stanley Cup. All told, the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups and 19 straight playoff series, an NHL record.
8. Pittsburgh Steelers 1974-79
After bowing out to the Miami Dolphins in the 1973 AFC Championship game, the Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed the 1974 season hungrier than ever before. Mainly through the rise of their “Steel Curtain” defense, the Steelers won their first Super Bowl in franchise history after beating the Minnesota Vikings 16-6. The following season the Steelers did even better; never giving up more than 20 points in a game all season. But let’s not forget about the offense that helped lead the Steelers to the promise land; Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, and Lynn Swan all put up impressive numbers as the Steelers won their second consecutive Super Bowl in 1975. The following two seasons saw an early exit for the Steelers, but in 1978 and 1979 they returned to greatness. With a potent offense and stingy defense, the Steelers dominated the 1970s and set the bar high for the organization.
7. Nebraska Cornhuskers 1993-97
Arguably, the mid-1990s Nebraska Cornhusker football team was one of the most dominant programs in NCAA history. Adding speed to their roster for the 1993 season, the Cornhuskers went undefeated in the regular season and lost by a missed last-second field goal to the 17 point favorite Florida State Seminoles in the NCAA Championship game. The heartbreak proved to be the fire under the Big Red’s pads as Tommie Frazier led his team once again to the Orange Bowl and the team’s first national championship in twenty years. The dominance exuded by the Cornhuskers during its 1995 campaign was impressive; outscoring opponents 638-174, trailing just three times all season, and with 6,748 total yards of offense. The size and physicality of the Huskers’ corn-fed lineman was also paramount to the team’s success, as Nebraska’s five years of dominance featured 60 wins, four National Championship appearances, and three titles.
6. Los Angeles Lakers 1979-89
With a new owner and first round draft pick, the 1979-80 season was the beginning of one of the longest-running dynasties in NBA history. Rookie Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led the team to 60 regular season wins and a postseason berth before they finally knocked off Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA championship. Pat Riley eventually assumed the head coaching position and selected future Hall of Fame player James Worthy in the first round of the NBA draft, effectively naming the team “Showtime”. The flashy no-look passes, alley oops, and fast break offense created some of the most dominating performances in NBA history as they set the record for team field goal percentage (.545) and assists (2,575) in 1983. Not only did two of the top five greatest NBA players of all time play together, but they also helped to change the game and give the fans of Los Angeles their money’s worth.
5. Montreal Canadiens 1976-79
During the 1970s, the Montreal Canadiens were the face of the NHL, beginning in 1976. During the 1976-77 season, the Canadiens tallied an incredible 60-8-12 record, an NHL record for wins in a season. Led by head coach Scottie Bowman and Hall of Famers Ken Dryden, Jacques Lemaire, and Serge Savard, the team set numerous team records, including most team points in a season. Known as one of the greatest teams to take the ice, the champion Canadiens laid the bricks of a foundation that saw the organization win Lord Stanley in four consecutive seasons until their defeat in the 1980 finals at the hands of the Minnesota North Stars.
4. Chicago Bulls 1991-98
The 1990s was a decade in which the NBA was painted with black and red, as the Chicago Bulls went from underdogs to champions in 1991. After knocking out the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bulls came in as underdogs against Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan, along with Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and John Paxson led the way for the Bulls to edge out the Lakers, the first of the group’s six championships in eight seasons. During their reign atop the NBA, the Bulls also experienced one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, compiling a 72-10 record in the regular season and losing just three games the entire postseason. After Jordan retired, Pippen was traded, and Dennis Rodman was not resigned, the Bulls dynasty finally ended during the 1998-99 season that was shortened by the NBA lockout.
3. New York Yankees 1949-62
Not only is the New York Yankees dynasty of the 1950s one of the most dominant in the sport’s history, but it also happens to be one of the only dynasties to emerge from the postwar gloom that baseball had felt until 1945. Coming from behind in the standings to catch a potent 1949 Boston Red Sox team, the Yankees kick started what became today’s modern day Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, but also the start of their five consecutive World Series titles. With the winding down of Yankee great Joe DiMaggio’s career, baseball simultaneously welcomed the “Oklahoma Kid” Mickey Mantle to the big stage where he became a star. Led by Hall of Fame players such as Mantle, Whitey Ford, and Yogi Berra, the Yankees won 10 pennants and seven World Series crowns under the watchful eye of skipper Casey Stengel. In 1961, Mantle and teammate Roger Maris wowed the country as they raced toward history in pursuit of Babe Ruth’s single season home run record. Ultimately, Maris would hit 61 long balls and break the record, as the Yankees won yet another World Series.
2. Boston Celtics 1959-1966
As impressive as the UCLA Bruins were in the 1960s and 1970s, they weren’t quite as impressive as the Boston Celtics throughout the 1960s. The organization’s success at the end of the 1950s led right into the new decade, as the Celtics won 571 regular season games, 87 playoff games, and went nine for nine in NBA Finals series. Hall of famer Bill Russell led the team in almost every statistical category at the dawn of the decade, but it was rebounds in particular that allowed the Celtics to win their second straight NBA title in 1960. Led by head coach Red Auerbach, Russel Bob Cousy, and John Havlicek cemented their way into NBA and sports history by winning eight straight titles, the most out of the four major American sports. Dismantling the likes of Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers and Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors, the Celtics set the tone of the decade early on and never looked back at what is still one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
1. UCLA Basketball 1964-1975
There really isn’t anything you can say to argue against the UCLA Bruins being one of the greatest, if not the greatest, sports dynasties of all time. Led by head coaching legend John Wooden, the Bruins won seven straight NCAA titles. During that streak, Wooden coached the likes of Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to an 88 game winning streak that spanned four years. With a combination of smaller players and a zone press defense, the Bruins didn’t just beat teams; they destroyed them. Throughout the Bruins’ 88 game win streak their average margin of victory was 23.5 points with the 1970-71 season’s margin of victory being an incredible 30.3. Even after winning the 1972 national championship by just five points, Walton famously told reporters “I felt like we lost,” showing how bad they wanted to dominate opposing teams.