Since the turn of the millennium sports have taken on a whole new look. Rules have changed, superstars have become larger than ever, our favorite players are now owners and fantasy sports are nearly trumping the importance of reality. Although the landscape of professional athletics continues to evolve, one aspect has maintained familiarity; teams still win. Some much more than others.
“Dynasty” is term loosely tossed around to describe successful teams after championship runs. In most modern sports, the talent pool has proven too deep to have a classic, 20th-century, dynasty such as the 50s Yankees, 60s Celtics or 90s Cowboys. Those squads dominated and left little question as to which team was the best in their respective eras. While that same scenario may not exist in all major United States sports, we can garner at least a debate.
In this piece we will dive into the top dynasties since the first season post-2000 started of each major sport between the college and professional levels and decide which recent squad has had dominated its respective sport the most. There are rules that will be followed.
- There will be a qualified team picked out of each individual sport before jumping to a final debate on who is the king of kings.
- One team must be chosen out of each major sport – college football, men’s/women’s basketball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.
- Seasons that are currently in progress (2014-15 college hoops, NBA, NHL) are not included. For example, Kentucky’s current undefeated record in college hoops cannot be applied to their opportunity to be considered college basketball’s top dynasty on the men’s side.
- Dynasty is a term used far too often. Are the Seahawks a dynasty because of how great their defense is in the past two years? No, because Seattle struggled through a lot of down seasons beforehand. In this piece, a dynasty will be defined as “Dominating a respective sport, while simultaneously competing for championships to the tune of being the greatest team in the discussed era.”
- A team must consistently be in championship contention, but in order to be a dynasty in this span – a team must have won at least a single title.
- I cannot compare teams between sports, as that will happen in the follow up article, where I will rank the selections from each league.
Let the games begin.
The NBA has always had a lack of parity. We may no longer be limited to just the Lakers and Celtics, but the situation is still heavily lopsided.
Starting in the 2000-01 season, just three out of 14 Western Conference champions haven’t been named either the Los Angeles Lakers or the San Antonio Spurs. The Dallas Mavericks made two Finals appearances, and the Oklahoma City Thunder briefly showed up before being ousted in five by the LeBron James-led Miami Heat.
The Eastern Conference has been more diverse, but less successful. Seven teams (Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando) have won the conference, but just three (Detroit, Miami, Boston) have managed to end the postseason with a victory.
The Heat have an impressive five title appearances and three championships to make a case for a potential top-NBA dynasty in the last 14 seasons. However, they fall well short of the Western Conference rivals from California and Texas.
The Spurs have a cumulative regular season record of 804-328 (.710), a postseason tally of 129-80 (.617), and four championships in five appearances since 2000. Their worst record in that span is 50-32 in 2009, and yet they still made it to the Western Conference Semifinals. Gregg Popovich has led this team to being easily the most consistent of all NBA squads in this era.
Los Angeles, albeit currently in its lowest moment in franchise history, also has an argument to be the representative for professional hoops. While their 690-442 (.610) overall regular season mark is well below San Antonio’s, their post season record of 108-66 trumps the Spurs. In six Finals appearances, the Lakers have taken home four titles – equal to the Spurs. If the 1999-2000 season and the first third of the Shaq-Kobe three-peat were included, my final decision may not have been…
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, led by a long-time coach and familiar players, have (somehow quietly) been one of the most consistent teams in all of American athletics. Their YMCA-style of play may not captivate casual audiences with oohs and awes, but their record says all that is needed. The Lakers have missed the playoffs as many times (two) as the Spurs have missed the second round. The ability to avoid down years is what makes the difference. San Antonio and Los Angeles have the same highs, but the Spurs have yet to hit a low this century.
Honorable mention: Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat
Baltimore, New England, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants have all won multiple titles since Super Bowl XXXV, thus obviously deserving of recognition in this analysis. Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Green Bay and Seattle will also be included as to compare all Super Bowl victors.
|Super Bowls||Division Titles||Reg. Season W-L||Postseason W-L|
|Baltimore||2||4||144-96 (.600)||15-8 (.652)|
|Green Bay||1||8||151-88-1 (.632)||9-10 (.474)|
|Indianapolis||1||9||160-80 (.667)||12-12 (.500)|
|New England||4||12||175-65 (.729)||21-8 (.724)|
|New Orleans||1||4||132-108 (.550).||7-5 (.583)|
|N.Y. Giants||2||4||129-111 (.538)||10-5 (.667)|
|Pittsburgh||2||7||154-85-1 (.644)||12-6 (.667)|
|Seattle||1||7||132-108 (.550)||11-8 (.579)|
|Tampa Bay||1||3||106-134 (.442)||3-4 (.429)|
Looking based simply off of this, the answer is penciled in. Let’s engrave it in stone with this next chart. I gave every team a point total for each category – the top team receiving nine points and the bottom receiving one – (regular season win percentage, total postseason wins, postseason win percentage, division titles and Super Bowls). The point total depended on where a team finished in each respective section.
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: New England Patriots. New England swept the board in each measurable category. It’s hard to tell if they’re farther ahead of the pack than Tampa Bay is behind. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have created a dynasty and are two absurd catches from having six Super Bowls in this span, including the Brady-Randy Moss 2007 combination that was the best team in NFL history to not win it all.
The NHL has experienced more parity than its professional counterparts this century. Ten teams have won a Stanley Cup in the last 13 occurrences (plus the 2005 lockout season). The Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils and Colorado Avalanche have all taken home one championship, while the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings all have a pair of titles. To avoid confusion in the following chart, the NHL did away with ties during this span and therefore the records will be Win-Loss-Overtime Losses-Ties.
|Stanley Cups||Reg. Season Record||Points||Postseason record||Playoff appearances|
|L.A. Kings||2||479-405-102-46 (.486)||1,106||55-41 (.573)||7|
|Chicago||2||486-391-110-45 (.492)||1,127||58-41 (.586)||7|
|Boston||1||530-347-115-40 (.534)||1,215||63-52 (.548)||10|
|Pittsburgh||1||515-399-87-31 (.514)||1,148||67-54 (.554)||9|
|Detroit||2||611-276-105-40 (.616)||1,367||87-73 (.544)||14|
|Anaheim||1||507-382-105-38 (.510)||1,157||61-42 (.592)||7|
|Carolina||1||466-415-101-50 (.475)||1,083||39-33 (.542)||4|
|Tampa Bay||1||457-432-102-41 (.461)||1,057||35-32 (.522)||5|
|Colorado||1||524-378-86-44 (.530)||1,178||49-44 (.527)||9|
|New Jersey||1||558-341-90-43 (.564)||1,249||63-58 (.521)||10|
We have seven categories (Stanley Cups, playoff appearances, playoff series victories, postseason wins, postseason win percentage and regular season win percentage and points). The best team in each category will receive 10 points and the worst will pick up just one. In order to put a stronger emphasis on advancing in the postseason, playoff series victories will count as a point for each accumulated. This should counteract disciplining teams for advancing on to tougher rounds just to be swept.
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Detroit Red Wings. Outside of postseason win percentage, Detroit swept the board since 2000. Its 17 postseason series victories is even more impressive when factoring in the lockout season and the fact that no other franchise has more than a dozen. Despite parity among Stanley Cup victors, Detroit has easily been the most consistently dominant in all of professional hockey. Not much of an argument can be made for any other squad from this chart, and therefore none are honorable mention worthy.
Men’s college basketball:
After a relatively easy start, we reach what might be the most complicated of all sports we list. College basketball is about as random as they come (see odds of making a perfect bracket). Of course, Kentucky seems like an obvious choice after winning a national title in 2013-14 and going undefeated so far in 2014-15 (void). Don’t let fresh tastes discount distant memories.
Recent impressions can’t influence this decision, but the Wildcats have enough beyond that to make a pretty decisive statement. A 369-124 overall record is tough to argue with. What’s even harder? Twelve NCAA Tournament appearances, eight Sweet Sixteens, three Final Fours and a 1-1 record in the championship. Take away the two seasons Billy Gillispie coached Kentucky to a 40-27 overall record with zero NCAA Tournament victories and an NIT berth, and the Wildcats may blow the competition out of the water.
One team has been so remarkably consistent in its conference that it’s impossible to leave off this list: The Kansas Jayhawks.
After transitioning from a Hall of Fame coach, Kansas found a fate much simpler than Kentucky. Bill Self took over Roy Williams’ squad and didn’t miss a beat.
Williams’ last three seasons resulted in a 42-6 conference record that was overshadowed by a Sweet Sixteen, Final Four and a championship appearance. Since? Self has given the Jayhawks a 325-69 mark with a 151-31 stretch in the Big 12.
Self’s initial tournament resume left much to be desired with two first round exits sandwiched between a pair of Elite Eight showings. That turned around quickly with Kansas’ lone national title during this span in 2008.
Kansas boasts similar marks to Kentucky, with one extra championship loss thrown in, and its down years were first round exits over being completely left out.
So how about ex-Jayhawk coach Williams’ new squad – North Carolina? The Tar Heels have two national titles and another Final Four on their record and they may not even be the best dynasty in their own state.
Recent 1,000 game winner Mike Kryzewski’s Duke Blue Devils are.
Duke has a pair of national titles, has appeared in the tournament in each covered year, and has lost in their opening matchup just three times. Their conference dominance may not be as high as a team such as Kansas, but the competition is relatively stellar each season.
The Blue Devils hold an absurd 412-87 (.826) record in this span. So it has to be them, right?111
Let’s head over to Big Ten country where Tom Izzo is standing by for a quick lecture on postseason play. Michigan State, although missing its 1999-2000 national championship by just one season, has made nine Sweet Sixteens, five Elite Eights, four Final Fours, and has won one title. They haven’t missed the tournament a single time, and have been eliminated before the Round of 32 just four times.
What about UConn’s three title runs? Florida’s star-studded squads? Kentucky’s heated-rival Louisville? We need a way to rank these teams accordingly as to put all bias aside and assign an overall score. Postseason play in college basketball has always taken precedence over any other measurement of success. Here is the scoring chart to decide the top NCAA Tournament team since 2001’s tournament when solely considering those whom have a title to their name in this span:
Round of 64 loss: 0 points
Round of 32 loss: 1 point
Sweet 16 loss: 2 points
Elite Eight loss: 4 points
Final Four Loss: 8 points
Championship loss: 12 points
Championship: 16 points
NCAA Tournament champions results since 2000-01 March Madness: Kansas 68, UConn 67, Duke 59, North Carolina 56, Florida 55, Kentucky 55, Michigan State 51, Louisville 44, Syracuse 37, Maryland 30.
Shockingly, outside of its three titles runs, UConn only scored 19 points on this scale. The Huskies fell just a point shy of claiming this all important statistic in pushing forward to choosing men’s college hoops’ most dominant dynasty of the 21st century. Despite just one title, consistency overcame roller coaster levels of postseason success and your winner is…
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Kansas Jayhawks. Not only has Kansas (almost surprisingly) performed as the top overall team in March Madness, but it also has the most eye-popping accomplishment. I’m going to type this out to make it even more drastic: Kansas has won at least a share of (ahem) back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back to back regular season Big 12 championships. That’s 10. Read that out loud and you’re likely to need to catch your breath. This isn’t Kansas playing in the Summit League or intramural athletics – this is a major conference with a tough road to the top every season. Ten?! In a row? And just for the record, it’s also 12 of 13, but who’s counting? The Huskies have a legitimate argument when it comes to this discussion due to three incredible runs to the championship, but Kansas has been a more consistently feared team. Welcome to a new postseason tournament, Jayhawks. Let’s see who else is joining you.
Honorable mention: Duke, UConn
Women’s College Basketball
I went from one of the more difficult sports to choose to what might be the easiest. UConn women’s hoops is out of this world. Seven championships since the turn of the century. Average margin of victory in those title-winning contests? 15.4 points. That’s 15 points better than the second best team in the country. Talk about a talent gap. I can’t put into words how unbelievably incredible the Huskies’ overall record has been, so I’ll leave two simple numbers on its own.
That’s a .927 winning percentage.
I could play myself in checkers and not win 93 percent of the time.
Connecticut has missed out on the Sweet Sixteen in this span only…well, they haven’t. And just once were they limited to that. On top of the Sweet Sixteen and seven titles, the Huskies have made two Elite Eight appearances along with four Final Fours. Therefore, your clear cut winner without any hesitation is…
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Connecticut Huskies.
If the 70s, 80s and 90s were included, this wouldn’t even be a competition. The Iowa Hawkeyes took home 20 titles from 1975-2000. Despite those all being out of the picture, Iowa is still in contention for the 21st century title post-Dan Gable. The Hawkeyes have three titles to their name, which comes shy of Penn State and Oklahoma State, who put together four each. With the overall team title competition so close, our answer comes from individual championships. The Nittany Lions have nine, Hawkeyes 13 and Cowboys 18.
Oklahoma State’s 2005 season was the best of the era, fielding five individual champions in 10 weight classes, and scoring 153 points – best since the 1997 Hawkeyes scored 170. Therefore the winner is…
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cowboys are tied for the lead in titles, have the best overall team of the era and can claim having the most individual titles. They may be fortunate to wrestle outside the Big Ten, but national titles don’t lie.
Honorable Mention: Iowa Hawkeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions
Four teams have won multiple titles since 2000 – the Red Sox (three), Giants (three), Yankees (two) and Cardinals (two) – to give a clear starting point when trying to declare the top 21st century dynasty of professional baseball.
|World Series Titles||Division Titles||Reg. Season Record||Postseason Record||Playoff Appearances|
|Boston||3||2||1336-1093 (.550)||45-28 (.616)||7|
|N.Y. Yankees||2||10||1421-1005 (.586)||59-47 (.557)||11|
|St. Louis||2||8||1364-1065 (.557)||64-57 (.529)||11|
|San Francisco||3||4||1291-1136 (.532)||45-27 (.625)||6|
It’s clearly visible that this is a dead heat. You know the drill. In order to decide, I assigned a point total to each stat category. The top finisher in each category – World Series victories, division titles, regular season winning percentage, playoff appearances, total playoff wins and postseason playoff winning percentage – receives four points, followed by three for second place and so on. I also gave teams an extra point for each playoff series they won. The final tally came out as followed:
|World Series Titles||2||2||4||4|
|Regular Season Win %||4||3||2||1|
|Postseason win %||2||1||3||4|
|Playoff series victories||12||16||11||11|
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: St. Louis Cardinals. Any fan of one the final four teams can state a statistic on how their team deserved to be the one represented. New York dominated the AL East. Boston and San Francisco won a third World Series and were more efficient in the postseason when they did make it. None of that jumped out the way this did:
The Cardinals took the cake with 16 postseason series victories.
That’s out of this world consistent. The Yankees came close, carried by consistently owning the division crown, whereas the two teams that take advantage of playoff appearances the most, Boston and San Francisco, found themselves looking up.
Honorable Mention: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants
Some of these don’t take much time. Penn State has six championships, including two 38-0 seasons. USC, Stanford, Nebraska, Texas and UCLA have had strong programs, but none have approached the dominance by the Nittany Lions. Let’s just get to the point. Without a hint of doubt, your winner is…
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Penn State Nittany Lions.
Unlike most of the other sports in the discussion, the full 2000 season is included since it began post-millennium. Texas, South Carolina and Oregon State all have a pair of titles, with nobody else claiming more than one. Naturally, only those three are in consideration. However, the Beavers have only made four CWS appearances compared to six for South Carolina and eight for Texas. Typically that would lead one to believe that the answer is obviously the Longhorns.
Take a look at overall winning percentage: Texas is 661-294 (.664) in this millennium, lagging considerably behind the Gamecocks at 713-289 (.712). So what do we value? Winning more regular season games against what is typically stronger competition, or taking overall postseason play? The latter carries more weight. Here is how each team fared in NCAA Tournament play with its overall statistics tallied at the bottom.
|2014||2-2||8-3, CWS Appearance|
|2013||8-2, CWS runner up 4-2, lost in Super Regional||No appearance|
|2012||8-2 CWS runner up||No appearance|
|2011||10-0 CWS champion||5-4, CWS appearance|
|2010||10-1, CWS champion||4-2, lost in Super Regionals|
|2009||2-2||9-3, CWS runner up|
|2007||4-2, lost in Super Regional||2-2|
|2006||4-3, lost in Super Regional||1-2|
|2005||3-2||11-2, CWS champions|
|2004||8-2, CWS appearance||8-2, CWS runner up|
|2003||1-2||7-3, CWS appearance|
|2002||9-4, CWS runner up||9-1, CWS champions|
|2001||5-3, lost in Super Regional||2-2|
|2000||4-2, lost in Super Regional||6-3, CWS appearance|
|Total||Total: 713-289 (.712) regular season record. Three regular season SEC titles, One SEC Tournament championship, five SEC East championships. 76-31 (.710) postseason record, five CWS appearances, two CWS championships, five Super Regional losses, 15 tournament appearances||Total: 661-294 (.664) regular season record. Seven regular season Big 12 titles, four Big 12 tournament championships. 74-31 (.705) postseason record, eight CWS appearances, two CWS championships, one Super Regional loss, 13 NCAA tournament appearances.|
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: Texas Longhorns. In what ended up being the closest contest of any sport so far, Texas prevailed because of one statistic: CWS appearances. South Carolina may hold a relatively significant advantage in regular season record and have a slim lead in postseason record, but they couldn’t get the job done in enough Super Regionals. One could argue that Texas’ lows were below South Carolina’s, but they consistently made the trip to Omaha and that familiarity with getting to the final eight put them over the edge.
Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, and Florida all have multiple FBS championships to their names, while Appalachian State and North Dakota State have dominated the FCS level well enough to be included in the discussion. USC vacated one of its two national championships and will not be considered. As we’ve come to find out, tables can be really useful when measuring statistics of multiple teams. Unfortunately, college football has more variables than most so let’s compare like it is 2000 (and we’re using WordPad).
Alabama: The Crimson Tide are the only team in this span with three FBS national title victories. Their overall record takes a hit because of 21 vacated wins, but stands at 116-57, including a 6-5 bowl mark – which is also hindered by one vacated victory and two seasons in which ‘Bama was ineligible for the postseason. They have garnered three SEC titles and five SEC West crowns – most of which have come under Nick Saban. The pre-Saban era was somewhat dark for Alabama, which had a (now shocking) 3-8 season in 2000. The loss of 21 victories could really come back to bite the team that is likely the first one on everybody’s college football power shortlist.
Florida: Florida boasts two national titles (thanks, Tebow) complemented by a 137-56 overall record. If Alabama had kept its wins, Florida would be one game ahead in the loss column and tied with the Tide for overall victories. In bowl play, Florida has a lackadaisical 7-6 mark. They have picked up three SEC Titles and have headed the SEC East four times.
LSU: Consistency in a more than tough conference is what could separate LSU from the group. Like every team on this list besides Alabama, the Tigers have a pair of national championships. Their overall record of 151-45 is only topped by Ohio State. They’ve won nine bowl games compared to six losses and have not missed out on the postseason. They’ve picked up four conference titles and five SEC West titles along the way to top both Florida and Alabama in those areas.
Ohio State: Surprised to see a Big Ten team here? You shouldn’t be. Despite a negative stigma built around the conference in recent years, Ohio State has been among the most dominant teams lately. The Buckeyes’ 157-36 overall record is hard to argue with. An 8-7 bowl record with a few postseason embarrassments could be improved on. What really couldn’t be is a sensational seven conference titles – which reasonably would be eight if not for a postseason ban on a 12-0 squad in 2012. The Buckeyes may not have the numbers to claim best of this century now, but with Urban Meyer pulling the strings, it might not be too long until they do.
North Dakota State: If we were only talking about the last four years, the Bison would breeze through the competition. Their 63-3 record with four national titles is, well, absurd. Before that? North Dakota State swiftly comes back to Earth with a more reasonable, but still strong, 74-40 mark. Did you already do the math? That’s an overall record of 137-43
…and I should probably mention they have a 20-2 postseason record.
20 wins. Two losses.
The Bison made the move from Division II to FCS in this time period and were ineligible for postseason play in multiple 10-1 seasons, otherwise they very well could have added to that title total. Which, quite frankly, is a little scary. One thing that isn’t as scary is this game. And this one in the same season. Sometimes you find things while researching that you wish you never did. Those qualify.
Appalachian State: While the Bison were fiddling around with moving up from Division II, another squad was busy winning national championships and knocking off the winningest-program in FBS history. That was the Mountaineers of Appalachian State. Their record of 131-52 is a modest amount below North Dakota State’s. It isn’t the regular season that separates these two FCS programs. The Mountaineers postseason mark, despite a three-peat from 2005-2007, is 19-8, considerably worse than the Bison’s…let me say it again…20-2.
Top Dynasty of the 21st century: North Dakota State Bison. I get it. Strength of schedule for the Bison isn’t anywhere near what Ohio State, let alone Alabama, Florida and LSU, face on a week-to-week basis. Their national titles are much less publicized and viewed. They don’t have NFL prospects filling up the first round. They weren’t even in the FCS for part of this era. There are a lot of reasons not to pick them.
Go ahead, write an article on why LSU’s consistency in the SEC makes them the best dynasty of this century, or why Alabama’s three titles set it apart, or how Ohio State’s conference dominance make them the frontrunner. They all have strong cases to disprove my choice.
To me, these issues have to be made relative, not directly compared. Of course North Dakota State doesn’t have to play the LSU defense, the Tim Tebow offense or Nick Saban’s game plan on an annual basis, but they ought to be held to the standards of their competition, not of a league above them. North Dakota State has simply dominated about as much as a modern college football team can in this span. 137-43 in the regular season? Incredible – just as incredible as the others on this list, especially considering transition seasons. That doesn’t set them apart.
A .909 winning percentage in the postseason will. When the Bison play the best competition, they don’t just compete – they absolutely own everyone. Alabama doesn’t. Florida doesn’t. LSU and Ohio State don’t. They’re all tremendous teams, but have not set themselves apart at any part this century the way the Bison have.
The aforementioned follow-up article will now include the St. Louis Cardinals, San Antonio Spurs, New England Patriots, Detroit Red Wings, Kansas Jayhawks men’s hoops, UConn Huskies women’s basketball, Oklahoma State wrestling, Penn State volleyball, Texas baseball and North Dakota State football. Those ten dominant teams will be ranked to determine an ultimate “dynasty of the 21st century.”
Be sure to check out Night Stuff on KRUI at the stroke of midnight Wednesday mornings as we discuss topics such as this, other sporting news and a few outrageous topics mixed in with a phone always ready to hear your takes. Did you like the article or happen to disagree with some of the choices? Tweet @TheMainStevent or @KRUISports to share your opinion.