The word “overrated” gets thrown around a lot when talking about sports these days. For instance, critics of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors will argue that the reigning MVP and reigning NBA Champions are both overrated. At this point that, of course, seems preposterous. Curry has been setting records with his three pointers while averaging 30 points per game and he’s likely to take home his second consecutive MVP trophy while the Warriors have a legitimate shot at breaking the Chicago Bulls’ 20-year-old record of 72 wins in a single season.
Having said that, as great as the Warriors accomplishments this season might seem, they will undoubtedly feel less special if the team fails to win another NBA Championship. After all, the San Antonio Spurs are no slouches either. They won their first 39 home games of the season and they handed the Warriors their seventh loss of the year. The Oklahoma City Thunder are always a threat as well and if the Warriors get back to the NBA Finals, you can bet that whichever team comes out of the Eastern Conference will at least put up a good fight. If the Warriors get knocked off in the playoffs and end the year without another Championship, maybe we can look back and say that the word “overrated” was applicable to this year’s version of the team. For now, though, it’s difficult not to marvel at what they’ve done.
Luckily, for the decades worth of sports seasons that have already been completed, we have the benefit of hindsight to look back and see that many teams that we thought were truly special in a single season, ended up not being worth their high praise. Here are the top 20 most overrated sports teams of all time.
20. 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs
It seems hard to imagine a team that made their first playoff appearance in nine years and got knocked out in the first round being overrated, but such was the case of the 2012-13 Toronto Maple Leafs. A team that might not have reached the postseason in a normal 82 game season, finished the lockout-shortened 48 game schedule fifth in the Eastern Conference, largely due to the goaltending of James Reimer. They then took the Boston Bruins to a seventh game and jumped out to a 4-1 third period lead before imploding against the eventual Eastern Conference Champions.
The fact that the Maple Leafs came closer to beating the Bruins than any other Eastern team had, convinced fans, some members of media, and the team’s management that they were only a few pieces away from being contenders. Rather than continue to build, management set out to add “grit” and “leadership” and, for some inexplicable reason, trade for another goaltender. Over the next couple of seasons, the team would prove that getting outshot by a wide margin every game wasn’t a winning strategy and eventually new team President Brendan Shanahan began cleaning house.
19. 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche
Much like the Maple Leafs the year prior, the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche’s success came largely due to their goaltending. While the team was outplayed on a regular basis and finished near the bottom of the league in nearly every advanced stat, Semyon Varlamov posted a 41-14-6 record between the pipes with a .927 SV% and 2.41 GAA to finish second in voting for the Vezina Trophy and fourth in voting for the Hart. The Avalanche’s 52-22-8 record was third best in the NHL and tops in the Central Division and despite a first round loss to the Minnesota Wild, the team, its fans, and some members of the media were convinced the Avalanche were a team on the rise.
The past two seasons have proven that that isn’t quite the case as the team as the team has missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. As long as head coach Patrick Roy refuses to embrace a puck possession game, the Avalanche aren’t likely to go anywhere in the near future.
18. 2011-12 Duke Blue Devils
Heading into the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division 1 Championship tournament the Duke Blue Devils were 12-0 in tournament games at Greensboro Coliseum and 32-4 in their home state of North Carolina. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad had also won 25 of their 27 first round match-ups during his tenure as head coach and had never lost in 28 games against teams seeded 12th or lower. So the Blue Devils, the 2nd ranked team in the South Region, were expected to easily handle the 15th seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks, so much so that 98.8 percent of Yahoo! brackets had the Blue Devils advancing. Instead, the Mountain Hawks pulled off a 75-70 upset, showing that the Blue Devils weren’t quite as good as advertised.
17. 2000-01 New York Rangers
You could make an argument for any New York Rangers team of the early 2000s being on this list, but there many years of disappointment despite a massive payroll began with the 2000-01 season. Before the season the Rangers hired Glen Sather as general manager and brought back Mark Messier after a disastrous three seasons in Vancouver who immediately guaranteed that the team would make the playoffs. Instead, the Rangers went on to miss the postseason for the fourth year in a row, finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference with 72 points. Over the next few years they would continue to spend money to bring in big name players like Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, Bobby Holik, Alex Kovalev, and Jaromir Jagr, but still missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons.
16. 2007 L.A. Galaxy
In 2007 the L.A. Galaxy made international headlines when they signed Real Madrid soccer sensation David Beckham to a five year contract that was initially reported as a $250 million deal – the potential amount he could earn from all sources, not just on the field – but was actually worth $50 million. The move brought it in record crowds for the Galaxy and drove a large amount of media attention towards the team and Major League Soccer in general. Many expected the world renowned star to have a huge impact on the team, but after joining the Galaxy in midseason, Beckham battled ankle and knee injuries and played in just five league games. The Galaxy finished the season with a record of just 9-14-7 and failed to reach the playoffs.
15. 2007 New York Mets
After Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph were named as the team’s general manager and manager respectively in 2004, the free spending New York Mets began to turn things around. In 2006 they finished atop the NL East and came within one win of a World Series appearance. Heading into the 2007 season, they were once again expected to contend for the division crown and looked to be well on their way there when they held a seven game lead with 17 games to play.
The Mets then crumbled down the stretch going 5-12, including a 1-6 record during a seven game home stand against sub-.500 teams to end the season out of the playoff picture. Despite more high priced additions in the years that followed such as Johan Santana and Jason Bay, the Mets failed to get back to the postseason until 2015.
14. 2015-16 Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans headed into the 2016 March Madness tournament as the second seed in the East Region and the favourites by many to win the National Championship. In fact, 27.3 percent of Yahoo! brackets had Tom Izzo’s squad winning the entire thing – only Kansas was picked by more people to win at 31.3 percent. When the Spartans lost their opening round match-up to 15th ranked Middle Tennessee State by a score of 90-81, not only did it show that the team was more highly thought of than it should’ve been, it also shattered any remaining perfect Yahoo! brackets.
13. 2012 Miami Marlins
Not typically a team to spend a lot of money, the Marlins went out after the 2011 MLB season and signed prized free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell in addition to hiring Ozzie Guillén as their manager. They also rebranded from the Florida Marlins to the Miami Marlins and hoped that all of the changes would bring them a winning team and drive fans to their new ballpark. “With the team we are putting together, we expect there to be very few empty seats at this ballpark ever,” said Marlins president David Samson “We have always told ourselves build it small and sell it out, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
However, the season ended up being a disaster. The Marlins were pretty much out of playoff contention by the All-Star break and finished the season with a 69-93 record. They finished 18th in the Majors in attendance which represented an increase from previous seasons in the old ballpark, but fell well short of expectations and was the lowest first year attendance of any new ballpark to open since 2001. After the season, the Marlins fired Guillén and dealt away all of their high priced acquisitions from the previous winter.
12. 2012 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
In December of 2011, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim shocked all of the baseball world when they wound up as the winners in the bidding for both high profiles free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The Angels spent $331 million on the pair and instantly became one of baseball’s top teams on paper, but the 2012 season didn’t go quite as planned. Pujols got off to a slow start and the Oakland Athletics jumped out to a huge lead in the AL West. It took the promotion of Mike Trout from the minors for the Angels to begin turning things around, but it they turned it on too late and went on to finish four games back of a Wild Card spot.
11. 2013 Toronto Blue Jays
When the Marlins decided to dismantle their roster after a disastrous 2012 season, they shipped Reyes, Buehrle, fellow starter Josh Johnson and others to the Toronto Blue Jays in a blockbuster deal. The Blue Jays then went out and signed free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera and traded for National League Cy Young Award winning knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Heading into the 2013 season, the Blue Jays were the odds on favorites to win the World Series.
However, Dickey and Johnson both struggled on the mound in 2013 while Cabrera and Reyes battled through injuries and the team ended up with a record of just 74-88 and finished dead last in the AL East.
10. 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings
While the Chicago Bulls were busy winning an NBA record 72 games in 1995-96, the Detroit Red Wings were setting an NHL record with 62 wins. The Red Wings’ 131 regular season points were the second most in league history trailing only the 132 points posted by the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens. However, come playoff time the Red Wings were a disappointment when they took six games to beat the Winnipeg Jets and seven to knock off the St. Louis Blues – two teams who had finished more than 50 points behind them in the standings – before losing the Western Conference Final in six games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
The Red Wings success that season may have been overrated, but they proved to be a superior team in the long run, winning the Stanley Cup in each of the two years that followed.
9. 2011 Philadelphia Eagles
In 2011 the Philadelphia Eagles brought in a number of high profile players including Jason Babin, Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Ronald Brown, Steve Smith (no, not THE Steve Smith) and Vince Young, who then dubbed them the “Dream Team”. The acquisitions were expected to help the Eagles get over the hump and back to the Super Bowl, but that never happened. They lost eight of their first 12games of the NFL season and although they won their final four, their 8-8 record left them out of the playoff picture for the first time since 2007. Four years later, none of the Eagles big name free agent signings from 2011 were remaining with the team.
8. 2003-04 Los Anegeles Lakers
After seeing their bid for a four-peat come to an end in 2003, the Los Angeles Lakers went out and signed future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton and were once again, easily the NBA Championship favorites. A rash of injuries and the growing feud between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal followed the team all season long, but they still won 56 games to finish as the no.2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers then knocked off the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Minnesota Timberwolves in the postseason before heading to the NBA Finals where they were expected to easily handle the offensively inferior Detroit Pistons. However, the Lakers proved to be no match for the Pistons defensive force, losing the Championship in five games.
7. 2006 Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team
After ending a 50 year gold medal drought in at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, the Canadian men’s hockey team headed into the 2006 Olympics in Turino, Italy as the favorites with the bulk of the ’02 team still intact. Team architect, Wayne Gretzky’s decision to opt for an aging squad while leaving off a young Sidney Crosby and making Eric Staal and Jason Spezza alternates proved to be costly. Not only did Canada not win the gold medal, they finished seventh after suffering a stunning 2-0 upset loss to team Switzerland in the round-robin and a quarterfinal loss to team Russia by the same score.
6. 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
In an era when the MLB postseason simply consisted of the top regular season team from the American and National Leagues meeting in the World Series, the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies dominated the NL for much of the season and looked to be well on their way to an appearance in the Fall Classic. Leading the Senior Circuit by 6.5 games with 12 games to play, the Phillies faced off against the Cincinnati Reds. Reds infielder Chico Ruiz was on third base in the sixth inning of a scoreless game with two outs, two strikes, right handed batter Frank Robinson at the plate and right handed pitcher Art Mahaffey on the mound, when he decided to do the unthinkable. Ruiz stole home. The move caught Mahaffey off guard, resulting in a pitch that was out of the reach of the catcher and allowed Ruiz to score the only run of the game.
The loss would begin a 10 game slide for the Phillies, a collapse that would become known as the “Phold”, which cost them an NL pennant and their first appearance in the World Series since 1950. They wouldn’t reach the postseason again until 1976.
5. 1968 Baltimore Colts
Despite losing Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas to injury for much of the season, the 1968 Baltimore Colts posted a 13-1 record with back-up Earl Morrall leading the charge as league MVP. The Colts then beat the Minnesota Vikings in the Conference Championship and the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship to set up a Super Bowl match-up with the AFL Champion New York Jets. The Colts were 18-point favorites heading into Super Bowl III and were being touted as “the greatest football team in history”.
This didn’t stop Jets quarterback Joe Namath from guaranteeing his team’s victory and they went on to pull off the upset, defeating the Colts 16-7.
4. 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers
In the summer of 2012 the Los Angeles Lakers signed two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and traded for Dwight Howard, adding the pair to a team that already featured three All-Stars in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Metta World Peace. The Lakers headed into the 2012-13 season looking like serious contenders to win their 17th Championship and there were suggestions that they might win 70 games.
The season ended up being a massive disappointment. The Lakers went through multiple coaching changes, battled injuries, and struggled on the defensive end. They squeaked into the playoffs with a 45-37 record before getting knocked out in the first round for the first time since 2007.
3. 2003-04 Colorado Avalanche
In the summer of 2003, the Colorado Avalanche signed star free agents Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya, both of whom took large pay cuts to join the core of a team that had won the 2001 Stanley Cup with future Hall of Famers Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and Rob Blake. The Avalanche instantly became everyone’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup, but things didn’t go the way they had hoped. Selanne and Kariya went on to have the worst seasons of their careers and the Avalanche failed to dominate the Western Conference, instead finishing the regular season in fourth before getting ousted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round.
2. 2007 New England Patriots
After adding wide receivers Wes Welker, Randy Moss, and Donte Stallworth among other big names, the New England Patriots went into the 2007 season looking to win their fourth championship and dominated the regular season, winning all 16 games. The Patriots then went on to win their Divisional and Conference Championship games to send them to the Super Bowl where they looked like they were going to go down as one of the greatest teams of all time as the heavy favorites over the New York Giants.. Instead, the Patriots were upset 17-14 by the New York Giants, thanks to a last minute, highlight reel catch from Giants receiver David Tyree.
1. 2011 Boston Red Sox
After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Boston Red Sox went out and signed star outfielder Carl Crawford and traded for star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Heading into the 2011 season the Red Sox were considered World Series favorites, and even drew comparisons to the 1927 New York Yankees team that won 110 games and swept the Fall Classic – arguably the greatest team in Major League history. The Red Sox didn’t get off to a great start – they lost the first six games of the season – but they looked to be well on their way to a postseason appearance when they held a nine game lead in the AL Wild Card race over the Tampa Bay Rays on September 3rd.
They then collapsed losing 18 of their finals 24 games, which culminated in a wacky final night of the season that saw the Red Sox suffer a walk-off loss to the Baltimore Orioles followed by Evan Longoria hitting a walk-off home run to lift the Rays over the Yankees, sending his team to the playoffs while leaving the Red Sox on the outside looking in.
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