Special Report

10 Teams With the Longest Championship Droughts

The Chicago Cubs are currently playing the New York Mets for a chance to compete in the World Series. If the team wins this year, as was improbably predicted in the 1989 film “Back to the Future: Part II,” it would bring to an end the longest active championship drought faced by a major U.S. sports franchise. The last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series was 1908.

While the Cubs’ drought is the longest, several other franchises have been disappointing their fans for decades. In fact, in the four major U.S. sports leagues — baseball, football, hockey, and basketball — 10 teams that have captured a title have gone at least 40 years since they last won it all. These are the professional sports teams with the longest championship droughts.

Click here to see the teams with the longest championship droughts. 

This list only reviews teams that have won a championship title at least once before their long drought. There are, however, other decades-old franchises that have never managed to achieve victory at the highest level. There is no question that fans of teams such as the Buffalo Bills — a franchise that made it to the Super Bowl in four consecutive years from 1990 through 1993, losing all four — have waited for a championship win just as long as some of the teams on this list.

Fans of the teams with the longest droughts, however, arguably go through an even worse experience than those teams that have never won a title. The Toronto Maple Leafs won more than a dozen times during the first 50 years of the Stanley Cup playoffs, including multiple back-to-back cups. The New York Knicks were once a force to be reckoned with, dominating the court and becoming NBA champions in 1970 and 1973. As of late, the Knicks and the Leafs have both been among the most underperforming teams in professional sports, and their fanbases, who have come to expect winning at the highest level, are left bitter and frustrated.

Among teams with the longest championship droughts, some seen to be perpetually on the cusp of reclaiming a title. The Philadelphia Flyers, for example, have made it to the playoffs nearly every year since their last win in 1975, but they have been unable to repeat the feat. In other cases, the possibility of ending the the drought seems much less likely. The Miami Dolphins, for example, a team that won three Super Bowl rings, have only been to the playoffs once since 2001.

To identify the teams with the longest playoff droughts, 24/7 Wall St. considered NHL hockey, NBA basketball, MLB baseball, and NFL football teams that have won at least one major championship. Of that group, the 10 teams for which the most time has elapsed since winning again are experiencing the longest championship droughts. To be considered, a franchise needed to have won a championship under the current team name in the current city. Franchise win-loss records, championship wins, and historical player information were obtained from team and league websites, as well as ESPN.com. The total number of listed championship wins for a team are considered only from, and not prior to, the modern era of each league.

These are the 10 teams with the longest championship droughts.

10. Philadelphia Flyers
> Sport:
Hockey
> Last year won: 1975
> Total championships: 2

Through much of the 1970s, the Philadelphia Flyers iced a team nicknamed the Broad Street Bullies. Under the leadership of team captain Bobby Clarke and head coach Fred Shero, the Flyers physically dominated other teams while winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975. Since the days of the Broad Street Bullies, Philadelphia has made it back to the playoffs many times, including six appearances in the Stanley Cup finals. With the exception of one bad stretch during the early 1990s, the Flyers have never missed the postseason in consecutive years. The current team — lead by players such as Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, and Wayne Simmonds, will be challenged to keep that record intact as the flyers missed the postseason last year.

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9. Miami Dolphins
> Sport:
Football
> Last year won: 1973
> Total championships: 2

From 1970 through 1973, the Miami Dolphins advanced to the Super Bowl in three straight years and won the second and third years behind the arm of Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Griese. The Dolphins seemed on their way to another championship ring in 1982 when they made it all the way to the Super Bowl but ended up losing to the Redskins. The following year, the team started quarterback Dan Marino. Under his leadership, the team took a 12-4 record in 1984 to Super Bowl XIX, which the team also lost. Marino remained the team’s quarterback for the next decade and a half, but he never played in another Super Bowl. If the team’s recent history is any indication, Miami will not end its championship drought any time soon. The team has only made it to the playoffs once since 2001, losing badly to the Ravens in a wildcard playoff game. The team has started the year with a 2-3 record.

8. New York Knicks
> Sport:
Basketball
> Last year won: 1973
> Total championships: 2

The last time the New York Knicks won the finals, Richard Nixon was in the White House. The team’s 1973 victory over the L.A. Lakers came just one year after the West Coast team beat the Knicks, four games to one, in the finals. In the decades since, the Knicks have had their ups and downs. Though they never won another final, the team made it to the playoffs 14 years in a row between 1988 and 2001. In the nearly decade and a half since, the Knicks have gone to the playoffs only four times, losing in the first round every time except for one.

Currently led by Carmelo Anthony, the team has seen better days. Last season, the Knicks lost 65 games and won only 17. While they are currently 4-0 in the preseason, what this year holds for the Knicks is uncertain. Their first game comes later this month in Milwaukee.

7. Milwaukee Bucks
> Sport:
Basketball
> Last year won: 1971
> Total championships: 1

The first time the Milwaukee Bucks made it to the NBA Finals, they swept the series against the Baltimore Bullets. The team’s best player at the time was basketball hall-of-famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That was over 40 years ago, however, and since then, the team has made it to the finals only once. Last year, the team lost to the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs after a season of 41 wins and 41 losses. In the year before that, the team only won 15 games and lost 67.

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6. Kansas City Chiefs
> Sport:
Football
> Last year won: 1969
> Total championships: 1

The Kansas City Chiefs played in the first Super Bowl ever in 1966 against the Green Bay Packers, losing by a wide margin, 35-10. The team went on to make it back to the Super Bowl three years later, this time defeating the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. However, the team has not returned to the Super Bowl once in the 45 years since its 1969 victory.

The Chiefs had their best season in recent memory in 2013. Under the leadership of quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid, the Chiefs went undefeated for nine straight games, the only team in the NFL to do so that season. That year, they lost to the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round by one point. With the same head coach and the same quarterback, the Chiefs are 1-5 this season.

5. New York Jets
> Sport:
Football
> Last year won: 1968
> Total championships: 1

The New York Jets became the second NFL team to win a Super Bowl in 1968, after the Vince Lombardi-led Green Bay Packers won the first two. In Super Bowl III, quarterback Joe Namath famously guaranteed a victory. His confidence was not unfounded, as the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts 16-7. In the following 45 seasons, however, the Jets would never play in another Super Bowl and would miss the playoffs 33 times.

The Jets showed some promise in 2009 and 2010, when the team made it to back-to-back conference championships, but was eliminated in each case. After missing the playoffs for four straight years from 2011 through 2014, the team fired controversial coach Rex Ryan. Some Jets fans are daring to think 2015 might be the year, as the Jets have started the season 4-1, and Darrelle Revis and the rest of the team’s impressive-looking defense have allowed a league-low 13.8 points per game.

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4. Toronto Maple Leafs
> Sport:
Hockey
> Last year won: 1967
> Total championships: 13

The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the NHL’s most storied franchises. And for a time, they were one of the winningest. In fact, the Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups in their history, second only to the Montreal Canadiens. The Maple Leafs were dominant for several stretches, winning six cups during a 10-year stretch beginning in 1942, and another four between 1961 and 1967. Since that most recent cup win in 1967, the Maple Leafs have made the NHL playoffs far more often than not. However, that changed in the mid-2000s.

Following the lockout during the 2004-2005 NHL season, Toronto has only made the postseason once. After another disappointing year, the Maple Leafs were busy this offseason, and have entered a rebuild phase. The team hired renowned Detroit head coach Mike Babcock and traded away Phil Kessel, arguably the team’s best player. In ESPN’s ranking of franchises, which considers return on investment, prices, and the success of the team, the Maple Leafs rank dead last out of the 122 sports teams considered.

3. Cleveland Indians
> Sport:
Baseball
> Last year won: 1948
> Total championships: 2

In September, Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor was named the American League Rookie of the Month. Lindor was the first recipient of the honor on the Indians team since 2008. Finishing with an 81-80 record, the Indians had a winning season in 2015 by the narrowest of margins.

Though they have won the World Series twice, the most recent championship victory for the Cleveland Indians happened well over half a century ago in 1948. Since then, the team has made it to the Series three times, most recently in 1997, when it lost in game seven to the Marlins. Only two other teams in professional sports have gone longer since their last championship victory.

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2. Ottawa Senators
> Sport:
Hockey
> Last year won: 1927
> Total championships: 4

The Ottawa Senators were one of the most successful teams in the early days of the Stanley Cup playoffs, winning the Cup in 1920, 1921, 1923, and 1927. Despite its early success, the team became financially insolvent, and hockey fans in the Canadian capital were forced to part with the team. The team moved to St. Louis in 1934 and became the Eagles, but it ceased operations after one season.

Ottawa did not have an NHL hockey team for nearly six decades. In 1992, hockey returned to the city in the form of the New Ottawa Senators. Whether this version of the team will bring the Cup back to Ottawa remains to be seen. The Senators have made the playoffs in 15 of the past 18 seasons, including one Stanley Cup appearance in 2007, in which they lost to the Anaheim Ducks.

1. Chicago Cubs
> Sport:
Baseball
> Last year won: 1908
> Total championships: 2

No team in professional sports has gone longer since a championship victory than the Chicago Cubs. The last time the Cubs won the World Series was over a century ago in 1908. Chicago’s other Major League Baseball team, the White Sox, won its third World Series in 2005.

Many Cubs fans and commentators offer a supernatural explanation for the team’s championship drought. The commonly held belief is that the team was cursed after a man and his pet goat were forced to leave Wrigley Field during a 1945 World Series game. The Cubs lost that series and have not made another World Series appearance since. Cursed or not, things may be finally turning around for the franchise. Coming off an NLDS playoff victory against the Cardinals, the Cubs are currently in the midst of a series against the New York Mets that will determine who goes to the World Series.

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