American sports leagues are designed to promote parity. The worst teams get the top draft picks to give them the best chance at selecting a superstar player who can perhaps help turn the franchise around. Meanwhile the top teams have to wait and draft whoever is left.
Despite the drafting system aiming to help level team positions, some teams manage to stay on top of the league for decades at a time. Whether it is because of good coaching, a high payroll, or a superstar player leading them, some franchises throughout sports history have managed to string together 15 or more consecutive years of winning seasons — often winning many championships in the process as well.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed team histories of NHL, NBA, MLB, and NFL franchises on the Sports Reference family of sites to determine the franchises with the most consecutive winning seasons of all time.
Many of the longest winning season streaks in American sports history began many decades ago. Earlier incarnations of pro sports leagues had far fewer teams, making it easier for one or two teams to remain dominant. Some of these streaks also predate financial restrictions like salary caps or the luxury tax, which are now standard in U.S. sports leagues. These rules were put in place to even the playing field and give smaller, less affluent teams a chance to compete with larger clubs worth billions of dollars. These are the most valuable sports teams in the world.
In spite of these restrictions, a handful of impressive runs of seasons above .500 either just ended or these runs were still ongoing as of July 2021. Both the San Antonio Spurs and New England Patriots posted in 2020 their first losing season in about two decades. These disappointing seasons came after unprecedented streaks of success for both franchises, with the Patriots winning six Super Bowls and the Spurs winning five NBA titles in their respective streaks — despite often having among the lower payrolls in their league. These are the teams that won championships on a shoestring budget.