February 23, 2015 by NowhereButPop
Calling a team a “Dynasty” is the sports equivalent of telling someone that you love them. It’s immediately set in stone as soon as you say it, and you will have to spend more time than is necessary in backing up your claim. Much like the word “Love”, people tend to throw around the term “Dynasty” way too liberally for my personal liking. You can’t love everyone you’ve every dated, nor can every team that wins two championships in 10 years be a dynasty. We’ve got to have some standards, right?
With the Spurs and the Giants winning multiple championships over the past couple of years, the argument is posed as to what exactly constitutes a dynasty. Teams like the Spurs, Giants and Red Sox are being labeled as dynasties when the truth of the matter is that they aren’t. So, what winds up happening is that the criteria, the very sacred meaning of the term “Dynasty” is being lowered so that we can quantify something that is a rarity in sports today as being something special. Because of the expanded playoffs and the ever increasing crapshoot that has become the postseason, the chances of a team even appearing in back-to-back championships is a major feat in itself. When we talk about the Giants winning three championships in five years, let’s not forget that they wouldn’t have even qualified for the playoffs in 2014 under the old format with just one charity spot wild card. Just as the term “Dynasty” is being sullied by misappropriation, so too are the championships themselves losing value, especially if the World Series is being played between a 5 seed and a 4 seed. If this was the NBA, would anyone want to see two 8 seeded teams face off for the Larry O’Brien trophy?
In order to avoid this problem of what exactly constitutes a dynasty, the NHL has actually devised an official list of all the dynasties that they recognize. These eight teams are dynasties and everyone else is not. Problem solved. No room for argument, no need to sully and diminish the value of these accomplishments.
The idea of sanctioning an official list of all recognized dynasties is a great idea for two reasons. The first is that it documents and acknowledges that a team has become a dynasty, that their achievements will be recognized for the accomplishment that it is. The second reason is all the most important- It sets a benchmark, a litmus for what is and is not a dynasty. This is the only time in my life that I will say that the NBA, MLB, and NFL should be more like the NHL.
I will admit that it is incredibly difficult to say exactly what constitutes a dynasty, especially when it differs from sport to sport. Football is probably the easiest to say because the template is essentially the same across the board- Win three Super Bowls in four years. In baseball and basketball the terms and conditions of becoming a dynasty are a little hazier. You definitely have to repeat as championship, with at least one other appearance in that same five year span. Baseball probably has a looser constriction than does basketball because the teams that go back-to-back in the MLB tend to be part of a larger dynasty, whereas in the NBA, teams like the Pistons and Rockets, both who repeated as champions were only a flash in the pan, and didn’t last long enough to be dynasties. Keeping all of these conditions in mind, if the other three leagues began to keep track of all acknowledged dynasties, here’s what it should look like:
- 1966-1968 Green Bay Packers——Winners of the first two Super Bowls and final proof that the NFL was indeed superior to the AFL. Also the fact that the Super Bowl trophy is named after the head coach of these teams should cement the notion that the Packers were the first dynasty in the Super Bowl era.
- 1974-1979 Pittsburgh Steelers——Four Super Bowl titles in six years, and the only NFL team to repeat twice as champions (1974-1975, and 1978-1979). In those six years, the Steelers went 67-20-1, for an average record of 12-4. Add in the fact that half the team is in the Hall of Fame and that they played the toughest defense in an era marked by defensive prowess and you’re looking at what is arguably the most impressive string of postseason success in the NFL.
- 1981-1990 San Francisco 49ers——-In the eight seasons played within these ten years, not shortened by a strike, the 49ers made the playoffs every year and were only one ousted in the first round. They went to the conference championship game six times, and were a perfect 4-0 in the Super Bowl, and if not for Matt Bahr, probably could have been the only team in the entire history of the NFL to three-peat. These 49ers team defeated Dan Marino and John Elway in the Super Bowl along with repeating as champions in 1988-1989. In those four Super Bowls the 49ers held their opponents to a total of 63 points, for an average score of 15.75 points per game.
- 1992-1995 Dallas Cowboys——Four consecutive conference championship games, and the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years, these Cowboys never lost more than 4 games in a season during this time span. In three Super Bowl appearances, they never gave up more than 17 points while averaging 36 points per game, more than double the amount of points they gave up. Then again it’s pretty tough to lose many games when your team boasts one of the greatest offensive lines ever assembled.
- 2001-2004 New England Patriots——–The most controversial dynasty in the history of the NFL, is also the most recent dynasty. Mimicking the 90s Dallas Cowboys, it seems the minimum requirement to be considered a dynasty is to win three Super Bowls in four years. Not as dominating as previous dynasties, as each one of their Super Bowls victories came by last minute field goals, the Patriots more so than any other team owe more to coach Bill Belichick than to any one player during their championship years. However, there will forever be a pall casted over these championships because of spygate, deflategate and the overall unsportsmanlike attitude that these teams exhibited. Football fans will forever wonder if these games were won by talent alone, or by more sinister means, as players such as Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk have suggested.
- 1971-1973 Miami Dolphins—–Three Super Bowls appearances and two Super Bowl victories.
- John Elway’s Broncos———-Back-to-back championships in 1997-1998 is not enough to overturn a 2-3 Super Bowl record. Losers of three Super Bowls in four years by a combined score of 136-40, Elway was way on his way to being a choke artist until Terrell Davis saved his legacy.
- 1948-1954 Minneapolis Lakers——-The NBA’s first dynasty won five championships in six years behind the league’s very first superstar, George Mikan. Although the league was as different as could possibly be imagined, the foundation of the Lakers incredibly dynasty was laid in the 1940s in the land of 10,000 lakes.
- 1956-1987 Boston Celtics———–By themselves the 70s Celtics and Larry Bird’s Celtics of the 1980s are not dynasties, but they can easily be added into Bill Russell’s teams from 1956-1969 to form a larger and more connective dynasty. In those 31 years they won 16 championships, more than half the amount in that timespan. On top of those 16 victories, they went to the NBA Finals three additional times. Easily the most impressive part of this 31 year reign of dominance is the first half from 1956-1969 in which the Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years, including winning eight in a row. Featuring over 10 Hall of Famer players during this dynasty, in the entire sports world, this is the second most impressive stretch of excellence.
- 1979-1991 Los Angeles Lakers——-Showtime! A word that somehow came to encapsulate everything about these Lakers teams from, from their style of play to just their style in general. They made basketball cool and fashionable in a way that the earnest and blue collar Celtics, for all their rings and championships never could. In 12 years, they made it to the Finals nine times, going 5-4, including back-to-back championships in 1987-1988. They made the playoffs every year in this timespan and were only eliminated once in the first round. Given the expanded playoffs and the depth of talent that was inundating the league during the 80s, enough credit can’t be given for being the sole superpower in their conference.
- 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls——-I really don’t think I have to go into too much detail. Michael Jordan. 6-0 in the Finals. Never needed a seventh game to win. 72 win season. Two three-peats. Would have won eight in a row. Can we move on?
- 2000-2004 Los Angeles Lakers————The only reason why these Lakers teams never won five in a row is because they never felt like it. In the three consecutive Finals that they won, they went 12-3 against the Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets, and Allen Iverson. And let’s not forget that impossible 15-1 playoff run during the 2001 postseason. Three-peating in the NBA is an automatic dynasty, but just for good measure, these Lakers went to an additional Finals in 2004 (which they lost). If Shaq wasn’t plagued by that damn ingrown toenail, and if he and Kobe could get along, we’d probably be talking about at least one more championship. As it is, a three-peat is perfectly well and good too.
- 1969-1973 New York Knicks——If they won another championship in either 1971, or 1972, in addition to the two they won in 1970 and 1973, they would have won three in four years, including a repeat. As it is, the only successful chapter in New York basketball falls short of a dynasty.
- The Bad Boys———Advancing to five consecutive conference championships in a row, which yielded three trips to the Finals and two consecutive championships, much like the 70s Knicks they were one championship away from iconic status. Had they beaten the Lakers in 1988 (which they very well could have), they would have been thrust into rare acclaim. As it stands, repeating as champions in the NBA just isn’t as much of an accomplishment as it once was.
- 1993-1995 Houston Rockets——-Again, all they did was repeat as champions, both of which came in Jordan’s sabbatical from basketball. The Rockets never faced off against Jordan in the Finals, nor did they ever make it to another Finals during the Bulls dynasty errors. They were merely an opportunistic team that’s been elevated to a status that they don’t quite deserve because their legacy has been shielded from a devastating loss at the hands of Jordan’s Bulls.
- 2010-2014 Miami Heat————-One championship is all that separates them from that iconic status of being a dynasty. Three in a row is all you need, and had the Heat won in 2011 against the Mavericks (as they should have), that would have been the first championship in four consecutive visits. Going to four straight Finals doesn’t make a team a dynasty, winning the majority of those matchups makes a dynasty. Instead they lost to a worse team before rattling off back-to-back victories against the Thunder (in a strike shortened season no less) and the Spurs. For a team that promised 8 (!) championships, repeating almost seems like a letdown.
- Gregg Popovich’s Spurs—————-Until you’ve repeated as champions, you’ve only won on singular, disparate occasions. And anyone can win one time. The Spurs have just won one time on five separate occasions. The very essence of a dynasty is in its connective strength in a finite amount of time, and the Spurs haven’t had a linking chain between their championships. They’ve gone to six Finals in 16 years, and are 5-1 in them. However, they have only been to consecutive Finals one time. They have never repeated, and in fact, seem quite lethargically following a championship season. Being a dynasty means that you’ve not only reached the mountaintop, but that you’ve been able to stay there and ward off any incursions. While the Spurs have succeeded in getting to the top, they’ve proven that they can’t, or don’t really want to stay there too long.
- 1910-1914 Philadelphia Athletics———-Four World Series appearances in five years, and three championships in four years is enough to mark this as the first and most forgotten of the MLB’s dynasties. In these five seasons, the team won fewer than 90 games, and according to Bill James produced one of the greatest infields of all time.
- 1912-1918 Boston Red Sox———-The only time in team history that the Boston Red Sox ever repeated came in the 1915-1916 seasons. They won four World Series in seven years, and featured Babe Ruth as both stud pitcher and batter. Also keep in mind that Ruth and about four other players who would establish the Yankee dynasty a few years later served as the cornerstone for the Red Sox only dynasty.
- 1921-1924 New York Giants—————Baseball, being a different sport than basketball obviously yields different standards when discussing what constitutes a dynasty. It’s much harder to appear in four straight World Series than it is to go to four straight NBA Finals, and in the entire history of the MLB, only one non-Yankees team has accomplished this feat: The New York Giants. Besides going to the fall classic four consecutive times, they repeated against the Yankees in 1921 and 1922 delaying the rise of the evil empire by two years. Had it not been for Walter Johnson finally coming through in a pressured situation, the Giants would have (and should have) won the 1924 World Series as well. Oh, and they’re only one of three National League teams to repeat as world champions, so that’s almost a guaranteed lock.
- 1923-1962 New York Yankees————–20 World Series victories in 39 years! That will never happen again in any sport. During this span they went 20-5 in the World Series, which means that there were only 14 World Series played in this period of time without the Yankees. To put it another way, the longest they ever went without winning a World Series was three years. The only four-peat and five-peat in baseball history was achieved by the Yankees between these years (1936-1939, 1949-1953). Although the wheels started to fly off by 1960, they still squeaked out two more wins in 1961 and 1962 before losing two World Series in a row in 1963, to the superior Dodgers, and in 1964 to the Cardinals. Without question, this is the greatest dynasty in the history of North American sports, not only for the longevity, but the sheer dominance that they Yankees exerted over the league.
- 1971-1975 Oakland Athletics———–There’s been only one non-Yankees team to ever win more than two World Series in a row, and it was the Oakland A’s from 1972-1974. Not only that, they also went to five straight ALCSs from 1971-1975. They won under two different managers and won 90 games in more in each of these five seasons. Led by Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Rollie Fingers, these A’s beat the best teams their era had to offer: Reds, Orioles, and Dodgers.
- The Big Red Machine————-The most recent NL team to win back-to-back World Series, and arguably the greatest National League dynasty, these Reds teams of the 1970s won it all in 1975 and 1976. They also made it to the World Series in 1970 and 1972, losing both times. Had it not been for those pesky Mets, they would have met the A’s in the 1973 World Series as well. Throughout the decade, the Reds had only one losing season, and won less than 90 games only twice.
- The Bronx Zoo——————After an 11 year period of futility and wife-swapping, the Yankees came out of nowhere to claim the American League pennant in the 1976 season. Although they were manhandled by the Reds, the groundwork for a new dynasty was laid with players such as Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, and finally Reggie Jackson. They returned to the World Series in 1977 and 1978 and won it all in both years. After three straight trips to the World Series, the Yankees returned to the ALCS in 1980, and in 1981 went to the World Series before losing to the Dodgers. In six seasons, the Yankees went to five ALCSs, four World Series, and came home with two championships, the only team to win multiple championships during this time span.
- 1996-2003 New York Yankees————Because 1980s baseball sucked, it would be almost 20 years before another dynasty arose in the MLB. And of course, it was the Yankees. Six World Series appearances in eight seasons, and winning four in five years is practically unheard of with today’s playoff format, yet the Yankees three-peated from 1998-2000. It was also these Yankees that set the record (which still stands) for most consecutive World Series games won, with 14. As of 2015, they are the most recent baseball dynasty.
In baseball, there are more dynasty-pretenders than in any other sport. Because there are so many, and because I don’t feel like discrediting all of them with exactly why they aren’t official dynasties, I’ll only include a list of these fake dynasties.
- 1942-1946 St. Louis Cardinals
- 1959-1966 Los Angeles Dodgers
- 1966-1974 Baltimore Orioles
- 1982-1987 St. Louis Cardinals
- 1988-1992 Oakland Athletics
- 1991-1999 Atlanta Braves
- 2004-Present St. Louis Cardinals
- 2010-Present San Francisco Giants
The key to a dynasty, in any sport is repeating. Comparatively speaking, it’s easier to win a title than to defend it, and the true mark of a champion lies in their ability to defend their throne. A dynasty is sustained dominance over a select period of time, and dominance is absolute and immutable. It should also be continuous insofar as sustainability. The Spurs, and San Francisco Giants haven’t repeated, they’ve just been one-and-done champions on multiple occasions within a limited span of time. Although every dynasty eventually falls, their memory and legacy is immortal and indestructible because of the difficulty in asserting such dominance. Maybe my definition of the word dominance is stricter than everyone else’s?
 But, then again I do tend to take these kinds of things a little too seriously.
 Just another reason why expanded playoffs are horseshit.
 There is no argument in favor of sports parity strong enough to actually defend that position.
 If the Pistons beat the Lakers in 1988 as well as their championships in 1989 and 1990 then they would have been a dynasty. Or if they beat the Celtics in 1987 and Bulls in 1991 to advance to five NBA Finals in a row…but that wasn’t gonna happen.
 Super Bowl Era
 They were the first team in 19 years to repeat as NBA champions. With the guiding hand of the commissioner firmly in play, this will never happen again.
 Although, in 1964 the Yankees were without ace Whitey Ford and still pushed Bob Gibson and Co. to seven games. Whitey Ford vs. Bob Gibson in a deciding seventh game of the World Series would have probably been the greatest World Series matchup…like ever!
 It would have been four in a row had not everyone in the Diamondback organization sold their souls to win in 2001. There can be no other explanation as to how else the Yankees could have lost this one.