Winning a championship is a struggle, the greatest in all of sports. Every player and coach dreams of it, of the honor of holding a trophy over their heads and taking their place among the immortals of the sport. But there is a second facet of this struggle: Once you win a championship, the expectations and pressures of gaining another are set on you. Surely, if you climbed the mountain once, you can do it again, right? Yet far, far too many guys are unable to achieve that same success and it can be amazing how badly they falter.
Some teams are able to keep it up for years. The dynasties of the Yankees, Bulls, Celtics and more litter the landscape and showcase the greatness of sports teams. But nothing lasts forever and that includes such powerhouses. Sooner or later, they will falter and have bad periods although in some cases, it ends up much faster. Some teams can have a slow decline after a championship season, trying their best but failing before going into losing years. And then some just fall apart in no time flat, going from the heights of glory to the depths of defeat so fast that it’s astounding. It can be the loss of key players or coach or bad timing but other times, it’s still the same guys who just can’t achieve greatness once more. Here are 15 teams who went from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the heap and shows how fast fortunes can turn.
15 1967 Los Angeles Dodgers
When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to L.A., their first year in 1958 was rough. However, they would more than rise above that as for the next seven years, they would win three World Series and remain one of the stronger teams in baseball. They did have a falter, going from World Series champions in 1963 to seventh place the next year but rebounded to win the Series again in ’65.
14 1982 San Francisco 49ers
While they’d come close in the 1970s, the 49ers could never quite crack the championship code. That changed in 1981 as Joe Montana led the team to a 13-3 record, winning the NFC Championship with the play that’s become simply known as “The Catch.” This set up a great Super Bowl victory and thus San Francisco was confident entering the next year.
13 2007-08 Miami Heat
After years of subpar play, the Miami Heat finally turned it around in 2005 with Pat Riley leading Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton , Dwyane Wade and Antoine Walker into a terrific unit. The Heat were top-notch, ending the season 52-30, a wild run in the playoffs and finally bringing the NBA Championship to Miami. However, with Payton retiring soon afterward and key injuries abounding, the team’s fortunes faltered.
12 1997 Dallas Cowboys
After ending the 1980s as a complete joke, the Cowboys were rebuilding for a new decade with Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones working to get the team back on track. Thanks to a key trade of Herschel Walker that nabbed picks that turned into Emmitt Smith and others, the Cowboys were soon riding high and won back to back Super Bowls. The animosity between Jones and Johnson got to be too much and Johnson left, replaced by Barry Switzer who lost the NFC Championship in his first year but got the Cowboys back on top the following season.
11 1982 Cincinnati Reds
From 1970 to 1976, Cincinnati was the Big Red Machine, winning five division titles, three National League championships and back-to-back World Series. With Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Ken Griffey Sr. and more, the Reds seemed ready to dominate the rest of the decade. But after a pair of second place finishes, owner Dick Wagner shocked fans by firing Sparky Anderson, the manager who built the team up.
10 1958 Detroit Lions
Believe it or not, once upon a time the Lions were actually a serious team. True, they had a bad year in 1955 but they were otherwise quite strong in that decade, making it to the NFL Championship game four times with three of them victories. However, in 1958, Detroit decided to trade star Bobby Layne to the Steelers, a move that no one was happy about, including Layne.
9 1974-75 Milwaukee Bucks
In one of the fastest rises in NBA history, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship in 1971 in only their third season of existence. The key was the star of the team, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and his terrific play under coach Larry Costello leading the Bucks to a then-record 66-16 standing and sweeping Washington in the Finals. The Bucks would keep in the running but never achieved another championship with Kareem suffering some injuries.
8 1977 Oakland Athletics
Arguably the most underrated dynasty in baseball history, the A’s were riding high in the early 1970s as owner Charles Finlay brought in major talent such as Reggie Jackson and Jim Hunter and allowed a wild style of play and personalities that broke the conservative mold of baseball at the time. It paid off with the A’s winning the AL West from 1971-75 and three straight World Championships.
7 1970 New York Jets
In Super Bowl III, the Jets pulled off one of the biggest upsets in history taking down the far stronger Indianapolis Colts. It was thanks to the skill of the flashy Joe Namath and the victory proved the AFL deserved to be on the same level as their NFL counterparts and most believed the Jets would be the powerhouse for some time. However, it didn’t work out that way as Namath had issues off the field that led to a brief “retirement” and several other players leaving for better signings.
6 1920 Boston Red Sox
This is the year no Boston fan will never forget, no matter how bad they want to. For seven years, the Red Sox had won four World Series, a powerhouse behind star Babe Ruth and ready for more domination. But then, in the move that made him the most hated man in Boston, owner Harold Frazee decided to sell Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000.
5 1915 Philadelphia Athletics
Under manager/owner Connie Mack, the A’s were always an interesting team as they were either riding high on top or in the cellar with very little in between. The first example came as Mack forged the team into one of the first major dynasties of baseball, winning the pennants in 1910-1913 and the World Series in three of those four years, thanks to Mack being the first owner to lay out major cash for top talent.
In 1914, the A’s seemed ready for another World Championship only to be shockingly swept in the Series by the upstart Boston Braves.
4 1994-95 New York Rangers
3 1966 New York Yankees
When the Yankees lost the 1964 World Series; they were disappointed but not bitter. They were the Yankees, after all, the team that had been to 15 of the last 20 World Series with 10 of those being victories. They took a return to the Series for granted. But to the shock of everyone, the dynasty that had dominated baseball for decades would end 1965 under .500 for the first time in 40 years.
2 1998-99 Chicago Bulls
1 1998 Florida Marlins
The good book “If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame” details how, just four years after their debut, the Marlins reached the top of baseball thanks to owner Wayne Huizenga opening his wallet up big time. Moises Alou, Kevin Brown and Cliff Floyd were the highlights of a team that stormed through the season, finishing 92-70 and winning a Wild Card slot. They then got through the Giants and the Braves, two supposedly much stronger teams before defeating the Indians in a thrilling seven game series, winning at home in front of a sold-out crowd. It looked like they would continue their run for a long time.
However, rather than do the logical thing and see how a championship team could fire up a fanbase and lead to constant sellouts, Huizenga basically sold every one of those key players in one of the biggest fire sales in sports history. The result: The 1998 Marlins went 54-108, an epic collapse that killed off all the great fan interest and it took them years to rebuild that faith. Still amazing to see how the same owner who built a great team could be the same guy to kill it.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!