With championship season for the NHL and NBA upon us, it makes many ponder how great these teams compare to the greatest teams of all time. There are no specific criteria in this system, however, championships, roster strength, individual stats and margin of victory are all considered. I hope everyone disagrees with me. Discussion is the way toward progress:
10. 1985 Chicago Bears – It’s tough putting a team that was so good and got so much publicity (Super Bowl shuffle, ‘Rozelle’ headband) in essentially last place on my list. Walter Payton was amazing, but he was really the only offensive threat to speak of. Quarterback Jim McMahon had a 15:11 TD:INT ratio — certainly not stellar. That being said, the team led the league in points allowed at just over 12 per game. Their only loss was, strangely enough, to the Miami Dolphins and they also won their three playoff games, including the Super Bowl, by a combined score of 91-10.
9. 1998 New York Yankees – This team could easily be considered the best modern baseball team to date. They won 114 games and only lost two games the entire postseason on their way to a World Series sweep of a completely overmatched Padres team. Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neil, Bernie Williams and Scott Brosius made the lineup dangerous from top to bottom. The only reason they are not higher on this list is because of the lack of pitching. Outside of a young Mariano Rivera, their pitching was mediocre. Andy Petite had a 4.24 ERA and no member of the starting staff had below a 3.00 ERA.
8. 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers – Easily the greatest team Wayne Gretzky ever played with. Five players with 100 points or more, including names like Jari Kurri, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. What did Gretzky do you ask? He only had 87 goals and 205 points — they also had Grant Fuhr and Andy Moog between the pipes (10 points to anyone who knew who Andy Moog was before reading this article). They led the league in goals scored and won 57 games on their way to ousting the previous 4-time champion New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup finals.
7. 1985-86 Celtics – It’s tough to pick just one of the many great Celtics teams that have been assembled throughout the years. Everyone knows Larry Bird from these Celtics, but this team also had Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Robert Parish and Bill Walton off the bench. Wow. They only lost three games all post season on their way to an NBA title.
6. 2010-2011 Barcelona – What didn’t this team win? They beat out Real Madrid by 4 points for the La Liga title, Won the Spanish Cup and were runners up in the Copa Del Ray. Oh, did I mention they steamrolled Arsenal, Real Madrid and Manchester United on their way to winning the UEFA Champions League. Their goal differential in the round of 16 was 16:6. They won or tied 55 of their 60 total matches as well. This domination came in spite of Henry, Ibrahimovic, and Toure all leaving the club the previous off-season.
5. 1975 Cincinnati Reds – The Big Red Machine won 108 games in 1975 and beat the Red Sox in seven games in the World Series. I give this team the nod over the ‘98 Yankees because they were even on the offensive side of the ball with Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and George Foster; however, I give them the edge in pitching, too. They had three 15-game winning starters and Don Gullett had a sub-three ERA.
4. 1972 Miami Dolphins – This team has to be included on any “Greatest Teams Ever” list. The only team to finish the entire NFL season undefeated (sorry 2007 Patriots), these Dolphins finished a perfect 17-0 following a Super Bowl victory over the Redskins. Their passing game, led by Earl Morrall (little known fact: Earl Morrall was from my hometown of Muskegon, Mich.), was mediocre to put it gently, but they boasted two 1000 yard running backs. Why not have them higher, you ask? I guess I don’t much care for the remaining members of the team celebrating every time the last unbeaten team loses a game.
3. 2001-02 Detroit Red Wings – I know, I’ll probably catch flak for having this team this high, or even on the list at all, so let me admit that I am slightly biased. Of this team’s 105 total regular season and playoff games, I watched at least 60 to 70. This team was amazing. I remember thinking in the offseason that Ken Holland had assembled a team that was tantamount to the ‘Super Friends’ of the NHL. The team was great, they won 51 regular-season games and the Stanley Cup. However, the truly impressive part of this team was its roster. I am going to list the number of Hall of Famers on this team starting with shoe-ins to the probably-going-to-get-ins. Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Nicklas Lindstrom, Dominik Hasek, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Chelios, Sergei Fedorov, Pavel Datsyuk and Igor Larionov. For those of you counting at home, that’s 10 guys that should be in the Hall when it is all said and done. Oh, and Scotty Bowman was the coach, that’s 11. They were just like the ‘Super Friends’ just more fun to watch.
2. 1927 New York Yankees – To be honest, I can’t speak much to this team’s greatness, there are few that are still alive that can. I can tell you that the team went 110-44 and swept the Pirates in the World Series. I can also tell you that Murderers Row was the most feared hitting lineup. Ever. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and Lou Gehrig hit .373 with 175 RBIs. Wow.
1. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls – Start with 72-10 (87-13 if you count the playoffs). How do we put this in perspective? Well, this year’s Charlotte Bobcats team (also a product of Michael Jordan, ironically) won seven games, total. Side note: did you know that one of the 10 regular season losses the Bulls suffered that year was to the expansion Toronto Raptors (21-61) led by Damon Stoudamire and a young Doug Christie? Remember this fact for a really obscure bar trivia question. I don’t know how much explanation this team needs — the greatest player ever, the greatest coach ever, the greatest No. 2 option ever, and the greatest rebounder of the last 40 years. Michael Jordan averaged 30 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals for the season. They could not and would not be stopped; we’ll never see another team like this for a very, very long time.