The Best and Worst Teams in the History of Sports

Winter sports are upon us, and the Olympics are all over the news. It makes sense we would be thinking about sports here at Article Cats too. You hear about the greatest sports teams of all the time. What about the losers who never see the spotlight? We decided to give the worst teams their glory moment, even if the trophy won’t be emblazoned with a giant #1. Don’t worry, we won’t leave out the best. You’ll know about some of these teams and individuals, but others will surprise you.

Let’s keep things somewhat modern in each sport. Of course, “modern” in baseball goes back further than “modern” in football, since fewer changes have occurred in the sport (and the league) of baseball across the last century. Football took longer to find its fundamental shape and besides, no one wants to read about how the 1920 Akron Pros outscored opponents 151-7.

Best Basketball: 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10)

The most statistically dominant team in modern basketball history, the ’95-96 season marked the full return of Michael Jordan after his brief stint playing minor league baseball. The Bulls outscored opponents 105.2 to 92.9, meaning the average game was four desperation three-pointers out of their opponents’ reach.

The season also marked the first year the Bulls employed premier rebounder Dennis Rodman, making Jordan’s and Scottie Pippen’s jobs much easier.

Worst Basketball: 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73)

Philadelphia…Philadelphia never changes. How does a team fail to win 10 games in an 82 game season? After posting three winning seasons in his first four years as coach, the 76ers rewarded coach Jack Ramsay by firing him. Being a professional Philadelphia team, the 76ers searched for a new coach by running an ad in the local papers. This resulted in Roy Rubin, who started 4-47 before getting canned.

The 76ers turned to 32-year-old guard Kevin Loughery, who would best Rubin’s coaching record by finishing the season 5-26.

Best Baseball: 1998 New York Yankees (114-48)

Baseball has more games-per-season than any other American sport, and that means the statistics are more reliable. When you play a team once, the worse team has a decent chance of winning. When you play a team 19 times in a season, the better team will almost always win more games. Freak variables and unpredictable bounces make less of a difference over the course of a long baseball season.

The 1998 New York Yankees won more games than any team in baseball since the 1906 Chicago Cubs. The 2001 Seattle Mariners would win 116 games, but they would lose before even reaching the World Series. By comparison, the ’98 Yankees only dropped two games in their entire playoff run, winning 11 and sweeping the San Diego Padres.

Worst Baseball: 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36-117)

Philadelphia…Philadelphia never changes, again. The featured photo is from the world champion 1913 Athletics, because you won’t find anyone willing to show their face from the 1916 team. Finishing a dreadful 36-117, with the worst win percentage in the modern era (since 1900), the Athletics finished 54 1/2 games behind. Their offense was respectable, but their pitching staff had three members who lost more than 20 games and only two pitchers who won more than two games.

How did they go from world beaters in 1913 to worst in baseball in just three years? After a 1914 World Series appearance, owner Connie Mack began selling his best players. Other owners enjoyed success in other businesses, but Mack only earned money through baseball. From 1915-1921, the Athletics finished last in the league every season.

Best Hockey: 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens (60-8-12)

It’s hockey, so of course there are 12 ties. The argument for Montreal is simple. They boast the best record in NHL history. They outscored their opponents by an incredible average of 2.7 goals per game. They lost just two games in the playoffs and swept the Boston Bruins by a combined score of 16-6 to win the Stanley Cup. 10 players on the Canadiens topped 50 points (derived from goals and assists). Eleven players made the Hall of Fame.

Worst Hockey: 1974-75 Washington Capitals (8-67-5)

Expansion teams in their first year get a break on this list, but even with that in mind, the Capitals were historically dreadful. Not only do they retain the worst winning percentage in history, they lost four games by 10 or more goals. They allowed a record 446 goals.

The biggest problem was the World Hockey Association, which diluted the professional talent pool. It meant the poorest and newest NHL teams were destined to field semi-pro players who otherwise wouldn’t have played in the league.

Best Football: 1962 Green Bay Packers (13-1)

Wait, shouldn’t this be the ’72 Dolphins or ’07 Patriots? Both teams went undefeated during the regular season, and the Dolphins won the Super Bowl. Well, the ’07 Patriots lost the Super Bowl and on their route to the playoffs, the ’72 Dolphins faced only two teams that finished above .500 (compared to nine teams that finished under).

The ’62 Packers may have dropped a game to the Lions, but they outscored their opponents by an average of 30-11. Their point differential of 267 remains tops in Packer history, despite high-scoring teams in higher-scoring eras that have boasted Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. The team was led by a young Bart Starr, but relied upon the running of Jim Taylor, who enjoyed back-to-back four touchdown games. They enjoyed the number one offense and defense, and they won the league championship (a few years before the first Super Bowl).

Worst Football: 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)

The ’76 Buccaneers went 0-14, but blaming a first-year-franchise for losing in the 70s when they had to play teams like that decade’s Raiders and Steelers isn’t very fair. Instead, consider a team that can manage to lose every game in the era of parity. The ’08 Lions lost by double-digits 10 times. They failed to field a 2,000 yard passer or a 1,000 yard rusher. The only ray of hope was the play of WR Calvin Johnson.

Best Golf: 2000, Tiger Woods

Switching gears, tennis and golf aren’t leagues. Since the roster of players changes over the course of a season, dropping away the worst of the year, the worst seasons of all-time are held by forgotten players who lose quickly in one tournament and are bumped from the circuit. There’s no history kept on these players, and so no way to determine the worst of them. We can still celebrate the best seasons, however.

At the age of 24, Tiger Woods won his first U.S. Open, his first Open Championship, and his second PGA Championship. He would miss out on the Grand Slam (winning all four championships in the same calendar year), a feat only achieved by Bobby Jones in 1930. Instead, Woods would win the Masters Tournament a year later, in 2001, creating the “Tiger Slam,” an unofficial title that would prove unfortunately easy to use when his marital indiscretions became public in 2009.

Best Tennis: 1983, Martina Navratilova

An unheard of 86-1 record remains the best in the Open Era. She won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open without losing a single set, and she lost just nine sets all year (winning 172). Her only loss was the one that kept her from a Grand Slam, an exit in the Round of 16 at the French Open. Despite such an inexplicable loss, her utter dominance of the rest of the field has no equal in tennis history.

Steffi Graf’s 1988, in which she completed a Grand Slam and won an Olympic gold medal, is a tremendously close second, but her 73-3 record and her record of sets won and lost doesn’t quite meet Navratilova’s season.


Do you think a team was left off? Which choices do you like, and which make your blood boil?




Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel Valdez
Gabriel is a movie critic who's been a campaign manager in Oregon, an investigative reporter in Texas, and a film producer in Massachusetts. His writing was named best North American criticism of 2014 by the Local Media Association. He's assembled a band of writers who focus on social issues in film. They have a home base.