Over the course of the past two months, we were spoiled by one of the greatest runs of dominance by any team in NBA history. As I’m sure all of you know, the Miami Heat’s streak of 27 consecutive wins ended on Wednesday night, as they fell to a shorthanded Bulls squad. Just six wins shy of matching the NBA record, LeBron and company still put together the second-longest streak in league history. While I’m sure the South Beach crew is a bit relieved they have one less thing to worry about (because, let’s be honest, they only care about the hardware), it was one of the most exciting storylines in recent memory.
While we here at Dime know you’re here for hoops, we like to provide readers with a wide array of sports knowledge. How does this streak stack up against other runs in sports history? Was this really up there as one of the greatest? Is this something we’ll still be talking about years down the road? We provide the evidence and you decide.
*** *** ***
1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers
Streak: 33 consecutive wins
One year prior, a gaudy Milwaukee Bucks team became the first NBA team to win 20 straight games in a single regular season. Led by Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), they beat the Lakers en route to an NBA championship. Los Angeles returned the following season with a chip on their shoulder. After Elgin Baylor retired just nine games into the season, the Lakers rattled off 33 straight victories behind Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.
When all was said and done, they had not only the longest streak in NBA history, but in any American professional sport. It still stands as the only 30-game win streak, and only the Heat have gotten within striking distance. Oh, and they put a ring on at season’s end, so if Miami wants to stay in the conversation, they should do the same.
1971-1974 UCLA Men’s Basketball
Streak: 88 consecutive wins
For three seasons, the Bruins made a mockery of the rest of the country. With the legendary John Wooden at the helm, UCLA ravaged through their schedule year after year, outlasting the pro team that played across town. Bill Walton hadn’t lost a game since his junior year of high school until the streak was cut short by Notre Dame, coincidentally the team who had last defeated the Bruins in 1971. This collegiate record stood until the UConn women’s basketball team dominated the sport for a three-year span and picked up 90 straight wins.
Obviously, we’ll never see streaks like these in the NBA, as there’s just too much parity for it to happen. There’ve been five different 50-game win streaks in Division 1 basketball, so it’s way more common for dynasties to go on a tear without an end in sight.
2003-2004 New England Patriots
Streak: 21 consecutive wins
Spread over two seasons with a Lombardi Trophy squished snuggly in between, the Patriots strung together a 21-game win streak. After starting off 2-2 in 2003, Tom Brady led New England to a flawless Super Bowl run. They followed up their championship campaign with six straight victories to start off the season before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were untouchable for 13 months, and ended both seasons with a title.
Football is arguably the most physically tolling sport we’ll examine here. With substantial contact taking place on every play, it demands the utmost energy and strength out of a player. But fortunately for football players, they only take the field once a week. The Heat needed to take the court three, four, sometimes five times in a seven-day span. Between traveling and being in the spotlight 24/7, the mental aspect plays a much bigger role.
1953-1957 Oklahoma Sooners
Streak: 47 consecutive wins
This streak has stood the test of time, and may never fall. No college football team has gotten more than 35 straight wins since (Toledo, 1969-71). Hall of Fame coach Bud Wilkinson solidified his legacy with this seemingly unbreakable record and won two national titles in the process.
Like the UCLA streak, what’s really impressive about this one is that the team had a complete turnover throughout the four years. Players graduated, got drafted, got jobs, but the wins just kept on coming. Another interesting fact: Notre Dame had been the last team to beat the Sooners before the streak, and ended it as well, just like the UCLA run.
1916 New York Giants
Streak: 26 consecutive wins
The New York Giants straight up dominated in the month of September, winning 26 straight (with one tie) in a span of just 24 days. The next longest such streak in baseball history is just 21 games. They had to battle double-headers and long bus rides to maintain such a crazy roll. Unfortunately, they couldn’t turn that success into a title.
The 2002 Oakland Athletics are the only team since 1935 to win at least 20 games in a row. What’s really impressive to me about this streak is that the Athletics worked with an extremely modest payroll and turned out an amazing run. To see a tremendously dramatic reenactment of this streak, you can watch the movie Moneyball.
1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins
Streak: 17 consecutive wins
While 17 may not standout on paper, take into account that this came with just 18 games remaining on the schedule. The Penguins closed out a long, arduous season with a ridiculous tear, winning each game by a margin of nearly three goals. It was a crazy stretch, but they couldn’t translate it into postseason success, falling to the Islanders in the playoffs.
Interestingly enough, while the Heat were off capturing the curiosity of sports enthusiasts across the country, the Pittsburgh Penguins are currently threatening their own streak. They’ve won 14 in a row and look poised to keep it up, so it should be exciting to see where this one goes.
Which streak was the most impressive?
Follow Brent on Twitter at @brent_sanchez.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.