Solanus de la SernaIn a business that’s all about the Ws, streaks of them can garner attention, respect, and a higher seed. The Los Angeles Clippers’ recent win streak, a franchise-record 17 games, had everybody talking. Along with arguably the deepest and most productive bench in the league, loads of athleticism, and one of the NBA’s premiere point guards, the streak has helped the Clippers to build their reputation as a legitimate championship contender and a force to be reckoned with. It’s amazing what a win streak can do for a team, but sometimes, the streak is the most amazing part. Here are your Top 10 Sports Win Streaks. (Note: These are all straight-up win streaks, not special ones, i.e. home court/field streaks, consecutive wins on clay, etc.)
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (17 Games)
Started: March 9, 1993. Ended: April 14, 1993.
The Penguins, after winning Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992, looked poised to win yet another one in 1993. Although their star, Mario Lemieux, missed a significant amount of time during the season, he returned to lead the Penguins to a 17-game win streak (a mark that still stands as an NHL record) and the league’s best record that season. The Penguins carried tremendous momentum into the playoffs but they would not three-peat, losing in game 7 of the Divisional Finals to the New York Islanders on a David Volek goal with 5:16 to go in overtime.
9. San Antonio Spurs (20 Games)
Started: April 12, 2012. Ended: May 31, 2012.
In the 2011-2012 NBA season, the Spurs had simply hovered around the top of the standings before going on a 20-game tear and becoming the clear title favorite. Spanning the last 10 regular season games and the first 10 playoff games, it is the longest NBA win streak that begins in the regular season and carries over to the postseason. The Spurs were balanced, deep, young, experienced, and well-coached. They were catching fire at the right time and some media members even entertained the idea of 4 straight sweeps for an NBA title. After completing 2 convincing sweeps and successfully defending homecourt for 2 games, the Spurs ended their season on a 4-game losing streak to the Oklahoma City Thunder led by its Big Three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook.
8. Guillermo Vilas (46 Matches)
Started: July 11, 1977. Ended: October 1, 1977.
Vilas, a left-handed Argentinian, holds the longest tennis winning streak in the Open Era at 46 matches, a mark unsurpassed even by legendary players like McEnroe, Federer, and Borg. 1977 was a monster year for the southpaw as he won the French Open and the US Open in addition to his win streak. The streak ended vs. Ilie Năstase in controversial fashion. After dropping the first two sets, Vilas retired in protest of his opponent’s spaghetti-strung racquet. Shortly afterwards, the double-stringing technique was banned from tennis but a variation has since been reinstated as a legal option for players.
7. Byron Nelson (11 Tournaments)
Started: March 11, 1945. Ended: August 19, 1945.
Nelson competed in the same era as Ben Hogan and Sam Snead and more than held his own, winning 5 Major Championships throughout his career. However, he is best known for his record-breaking 1945, a year in which he won 11 PGA Tournaments in a row and 18 total. Both of his records still stand today and are especially impressive considering the 2nd best streaks (7 consecutively by Woods and 13 in a year by Hogan) are still quite far behind.
6. New England Patriots (18 Games)
Started: September 9, 2007. Ended: February 3, 2008.
This should probably be ranked higher but is placed here due only to the fact that the remaining win streaks on this list all include a championship at some point. Improved by the offseason acquisitions of Wes Welker and Randy Moss, Tom Brady and the Patriots would ride their lethal passing attack to the only 16-0 regular season record in league history. Brady quickly developed incredible chemistry with his new weapons and passed for an NFL single-season record of 50 TDs. 23 of those went to Randy Moss, which is also an NFL record. The Pats would go on to win 2 more games in the playoffs before losing to the Giants in one of the best Super Bowl games of all time.
5. Connecticut Huskies (90 Games)
Started: November 16, 2008. Ended: December 30, 2010.
Ousted by Stanford in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament in the previous year, the UConn Women’s Basketball Team entered 2008 unranked. Maya Moore and Tina Charles led the Huskies to an undefeated record that year and got revenge on Stanford in the Final Four on their way to the program’s sixth National Championship. The next year was just more of the same for the Huskies as they ran the table, beating their rival Stanford again, but this time in the National Championship game. Spanning over 2 years, their magical run came to an end at a count of 90 games against — who else — Stanford.
4. USC Trojans (34 Games)
Started: October 4, 2003. Ended: January 4, 2006.
This streak and the next are so similar they may as well be tied, but my gut goes with Miami and *technically* a large portion of this streak does not actually count. The ’03 season started well with new starting QB Matt Leinart, but the Trojans lost their third game in a triple-overtime thriller to California. They would win the rest of their games, but the loss to Cal kept them from the National Championship Game. The Trojans would not lose in the next season, making sure that a computer could not keep them out of the Championship. With a 55-19 dismantling of Oklahoma in the ’04 Championship Game, the Trojans entered the ’04-’05 season as #1 and exited in the same manner. The final season of the win streak would culminate in the Trojans’ 38-41 loss to Texas in the ’05 National Championship Game. It was a star-studded event as Vince Young led his Longhorns to a dramatic upset victory over Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and the Trojans who had once seemed destined to repeat.
3. Miami Hurricanes (34 Games)
Started: September 23, 2000. Ended: January 3, 2003.
The Miami Hurricanes’ win streak started under head coach Butch Davis and would last all the way until the end of Larry Coker’s second season. The Hurricanes were nothing short of dominant over this lengthy period of time. In 2000, after an early season loss to Washington (their last one for awhile), the ‘Canes won out the rest of their schedule and were snubbed out of the National Championship Game. However, they won the Sugar Bowl that year and carried the momentum into the next. Regarded as one of the best college football teams ever, they tore through every opponent that season and clobbered Nebraska in the ’01 National Championship Game with a score of 37-14. The streak would come to an end against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the ’02 National Championship, an incredibly exciting and somewhat controversial game which was effectively decided by the (in)famous pass interference call. To give some idea of just how talented both of these teams were: 37 of the starters went on to be drafted, 18 were first-rounders.
2. UCLA Bruins (88 Games)
Started: January 23, 1971. Ended: January 19, 1974.
Simply put, John Wooden is a basketball legend. During this 88-game win streak alone, his team won three National Championships. Led by Bill Walton on the second and third title runs, the UCLA Bruins continued their almost literal decade of dominance, winning 10 titles in 12 years. In 1974, the Bruins lost their first game in nearly 3 years and would fail to win the National Championship for the first time in 6 years…I really wish I could write more but nothing more need be said. John Wooden and his teams were some of the greatest winners in all of sports.
1. Miami Dolphins (17 Games)
Started: September 17, 1972. Ended: January 14, 1973.
I guess ’72 was a good year for undefeated teams. While many may view this as the most overrated streak on the list, and everyone’s list will differ, it should at least be in the conversation for best streak ever. “Any given Sunday” is more than a saying: it’s a fact. With more parity in the NFL than ever before, the prospect of a truly perfect season seems to move farther away with each passing year. The era of dominant squads is fading, but that’s not to say it was any easier to be dominant back in 1972. Some people might attribute the Dolphins’ perfect season to a soft schedule, but remember that on any given Sunday a team always has a shot. When some people think of the ’72 Dolphins, their second thought is a flashback to the miraculous David Tyree Catch that denied the then-perfect Patriots from a fairy tale season. That play is the best example of the week-in, week-out difficulty of the NFL. On any given Sunday an opposing team’s prayers might just get answered, and the ’72 Dolphins are the only group ever to make sure God didn’t listen for an entire season.
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