There are many, many instances of teams having bad seasons or bad stretches or both. Even the Boston Celtics and L.A. Lakers have rough years. In fact, they’re both going to have one this year. That doesn’t make them bad franchises, even if management has made a few boneheaded moves lately. We’re talking about franchises that, every season, you see perpetual incompetence, mind-numbing stupidity, lackluster play, weak effort, coaching, and personnel decisions. We’re talking about franchises that have a chance to wind up with fewer wins than the New York Football Jets. (Okay, maybe not. No one’s that bad.) Sure some of these franchises have had good players and even a few notable playoff appearances. Yet those were the exceptions that prove the rule.
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10. BROOKLYN NETS
All-Time Winning %: 43.9
Playoff Success: two ABA championships, 2002, 2003 NBA Finals
In the ABA, the then NY Nets played on Long Island and were a powerhouse lead by the iconic Julius “The Doctor” Erving. Moving to the NBA was just about the worst thing that could have happened to them. Season after season, they were utterly pathetic and at times striving to avoid, or perhaps achieve, being the worst team to ever take the court. Some of the seasons they’ve put together make it almost impossible to have this list without putting the Nets on it. Upon settling in New Jersey, the team was an utter irrelevance in a media market that had a team right in the middle of Manhattan that was, for years, a contender. You could have made a solid argument towards contraction just by invoking their name.
However, just as the Knicks fortunes turned, the Nets rose. The addition of Jason Kidd provided two NBA Finals appearances, and the franchises managed, with a few bumps along the way, to achieve a respectable mediocrity. Now, taken over by a party loving Russian billionaire, and happily ensconced in Brooklyn, the Nets have made this a season to “WIN NOW” and have gone all in, acquiring aging veterans to complement some young talent.
However, they’re still the Nets. They’ve managed to hire a coach with no coaching experience, Jason Kidd, to run the good ship Brooklyn. There is some precedent to this. Larry Bird came in with no experience to a veteran team and hired smart assistants and let them do their jobs. Can Kidd hire smart assistants and not feel the need to establish himself as “The Man?” Will Garnett and Pierce listen to someone they played against just a few months ago? It’s head-scratching moves like this that put all of these franchises on this list.
9. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
All-Time Winning %: 46.8
Playoff Success: 2007 NBA Finals
Cleveland is on here because of course Cleveland is on here. Every single sporting memory that you have of Cleveland in general, and of the Cavs in particular, is of crushing failure and heartbreaking loss. Whether it be “The Shot” on Ehlo, Shawn Kemp eating himself out of the NBA, the Andre Miller for Darius Miles trade, all of that horror lurks in the shadow behind the story of LeBron James: The local boy made good, who helped propel this franchise to national relevance.
Yet here is Cleveland at it’s most tragic. The fairy tale story ended with LeBron’s inability to pull his island of misfit toys to victory in the playoffs and ultimately, the King, born in nearby Akron, getting outta dodge to go win rings in sunny South Beach whilst those suffering through those long, cold winters were left to suffer alone. Other than LeBron, Cleveland has had no defining player. It is the fantasy of some that perhaps LeBron will one day return to close out his career as a Cavalier alongside Kyrie Irving in the hunt for another championship. That would be the most anti-Cleveland event of all time.