Special Report

The Year Every Team Won Their First Championship

Detailed findings & methodology:

24/7 Wall St. reviewed past champions in the four major sports leagues, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, on the Sports Reference family of sites to determine the year every team won its first championship.

Some of these teams won in different leagues. Many franchises we know today started in competitor leagues like the WHA, ABA, or AFL. We considered titles won in those leagues as championships, and they counted toward the year of first title. Some teams, like the Los Angeles Chargers and Indiana Pacers, have only won titles in those competitor league, but not since joining the NFL and NBA, respectively. These titles are considered these teams’ first. NFL and AFL titles were only counted as championship if they took place before the Super Bowl era.

Some teams, like the Ottawa Senators or Winnipeg Jets, took their names from long-defunct franchises of the same name. Since the franchises are completely different and distinct from their predecessors, the championships won by those earlier teams were not considered. The one exception is the Cleveland Browns, which restarted after owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore for the 1996 season. Though the team disappeared for a few seasons, it came back and claimed the history and championships won by Browns teams in the past.

Though the Major Leagues have been around since 1876, the 1903 World Series is generally recognized as the first sanctioned championship event between two different leagues. Teams from different leagues played each other in a series called the “World Series” before that, but those games are considered exhibitions.

For much of the Super Bowl era, the big game has been played in a different year than the regular season preceding it. For instance, the Baltimore Ravens won their first Super Bowl on January 28, 2001, but that championship team is known as the 2000 Ravens, as that was the year in which almost all of the season took place.

Few fan bases have been as tortured as those in Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota overall. The Minnesota Twins do have three World Series titles — two if you only count the titles won while the franchise was located in the Twin Cities — but their other teams have not had such luck. The NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves have only made it out of the first round of the playoffs once. The Minnesota North Stars were showing promise in the 1990s, but the team relocated to Dallas and won a Stanley Cup just a few years later. The replacement team, the Minnesota Wild, has yet to make it to the Finals. The most tragic of all may be the Minnesota Vikings, a franchise that has gone 0-4 in the Super Bowl. The team did win the NFL title in 1969, but that was during the Super Bowl era, and Minnesota lost the big game to the Kansas City Chiefs, so that cannot be considered a true championship.

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