Contrary to popular belief, success in sports isn’t solely about winning championships. Sure, that’s the ultimate goal. The end game. But reaching the postseason and competing on a yearly basis also qualifies as part of the definition.
Sports is an industry full of ups and downs. Look out across the landscape of franchises and you’ll see a revolving door of success. However, only a select group can lay claim to having a consistent winning approach.
The list below hones in on 12 of those active franchises in American professional sports that have been able to sustain a level of winning from the past all the way up to present day.
Detroit Red Wings
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For a quarter century, the Detroit Red Wings represented the NHL’s constant force of playoff good. Twenty-five straight years of postseason action turned Joe Louis Arena into a sanctuary of winning.
But all good things must come to an end. As the Red Wings bid farewell to the Joe this year, they also missed out on the NHL postseason this season. It was sad, but in a way, it was a fitting end to an era of good will, championships and outrageous production.
As they move into new digs, the Red Wings will enter this new chapter with 11 Stanley Cups trophies—the most for any franchise based in the United States. Their winning ways have also produced all-time greats like Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan and Henrik Zetterberg.
New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots don’t do much these days besides find ways to win. They haven’t fielded a losing record since 2000, and in that span, the Pats have only missed the postseason twice.
Seven Super Bowl appearances—including five wins—and not to mention 14 of the last 16 AFC East division titles have turned head coach Bill Belichick’s team into a gleaming example of how to win. You might not agree with their ways or even support them. However, you cannot deny their brilliance.
In your deepest, darkest moment, you know you’d trade your franchise’s wins and losses for that of the Pats.
San Antonio Spurs
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In many ways, the San Antonio Spurs are comparable to the New England Patriots. A tactical head coach, a roster enriched with veterans and a mystifying gift of developing young, off-beat talent has driven San Antonio directly into the NBA playoffs 20 years running.
NBA titles? They’ve come in droves. Five have been registered since 1998. The Spurs embody a franchise that cannot be counted out, regardless of the supporting cast.
It’s a testament to coach Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and countless others. Hard work and skill are tough qualities to match. The Spurs have continued to prove this theory true, even as the veteran players take a backseat to young stars like Kawhi Leonard.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Before you start grilling this choice, hear me out. The Los Angeles Dodgers currently hold the record for most consecutive playoff appearances for any franchise in Major League Baseball.
Four years running, the Dodgers have not only reached the MLB’s big dance, but they’ve also snagged four National League West titles in the process. This recent streak of wins isn’t anything new for the Dodgers. Remember, this club has won the World Series six times and enjoyed 22 pennants.
All that’s left now for this recent iteration of the Dodgers is to finally close the door and capture another World Series crown.
Green Bay Packers
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In the 97 seasons the Green Bay Packers have been in business, the team has compiled 730 wins, 553 losses and 37 ties.
They’re 177 victories above the .500 mark and have generally relied on Hall of Fame-level quarterbacks to guide the way. From Bart Starr to Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay has remained a quiet, homely town concentrated on the aspects of winning.
Icons of the gridiron like Vince Lombardi have roamed the hallways of Lambeau Field, resulting in a lifetime record of 13 championships and four Super Bowl wins. The Packers breed a winning culture, regardless of era—they’ve reached the postseason 13 times since 2000.
When you talk about the business of winning, Green Bay sits on the board of directors. The NFL’s most prestigious trophy is even named after their former head coach.
Golden State Warriors
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Stephen Curry’s evolution from a scrawny Davidson guard to an unstoppable force has launched the Golden State Warriors into the win column dating back to 2012.
Golden State’s magical run over the last five seasons has captivated fans and turned the Bay Area into a championship city. The Warriors have made the NBA Finals two years in a row and are aiming for a third straight this season.
The roster, filled up with Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green is as close as we’ve gotten to a superteam since the Big Three down in Miami. It’s also brought Golden State back to its glory days when they reached the playoffs 10 times from 1963 to 1978.
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Having some of the best players in the world is a good way to ensure a winning culture remains a vibrant part of your locker room. Case in point: the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins have relied on Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis and Sidney Crosby, just to name a few. With megastars on call to glide around the ice, this club has produced four Stanley Cup victories, 193 playoff wins and has reached the NHL’s prestigious postseason tournament 31 times, including a current streak of 11 straight.
Winning is a business most franchises in the NHL aren’t consistent about. The Penguins have proved to be the opposite, becoming the de facto go-to team in the Eastern Conference.
New York Yankees
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Throughout history, baseball’s premier team remains the New York Yankees. Even in off years the Bronx Bombers still are able to compete.
You don’t need me to repeat the Yankees’ accolades. But for good measure, I will. The Yankees have won 27 World Series championships, 40 pennants and have an all-time winning percentage of .569. Since 1995, they have reached the postseason 18 times, winning the World Series on five separate occasions. In that time frame alone, the club has never won less than 79 games.
As times have adjusted and the game has changed, the Yankees always are able to find a way back to the top. That’s what the business of winning is all about.
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Subtracting LeBron James’ four-year hiatus to South Beach, the Cleveland Cavaliers have embodied dominance in the NBA’s Eastern Conference for the last decade.
James is the greatest basketball player on the planet. It’s simple: When he’s on the floor, the Cavs contend for an NBA title. In the 10 years he’s played in Cleveland, the team has touched down in the NBA postseason eight times.
Before James arrived, the Cavs were going through a rough patch. But, from 1987 to 1998, they did wind up in the playoffs on nine separate occasions. Don’t let the city’s reputation fool you; winning has been in Cleveland’s DNA at times.
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Besides the New England Patriots, the AFC’s workhorse franchise remains the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sustaining greatness isn’t for the faint of heart. Ask the Steelers. They’ve given their Terrible Towel-waving fanbase one losing season since 2000, with two Super Bowls and 11 postseason appearances.
Like all great NFL teams, it comes down to coaching and elite quarterback play—not to mention a great defensive effort. Whether it’s the duo of Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll or Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin—as well as Bill Cowher—the Steelers have mastered this formula.
San Francisco Giants
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Creating a dynasty in sports is rare; however, the San Francisco Giants have been fortunate enough to make it into those prestigious ranks.
Starting in 2010, the Giants won three World Series titles on four postseason runs. They aren’t in the thick of the MLB playoffs every year—the team sits at fourth place in the NL West—but the sheer volume of championships makes them worthy of this list.
Great pitching and timely hitting have given this West Coast baseball version of the Giants a right to call themselves part of the winners’ club.
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Nine straight playoff appearances, three Stanley Cup wins and skyrocketing point totals are what the Chicago Blackhawks represent to the NHL.
A consistent approach to fielding championship-caliber teams puts the Blackhawks in the same breath as the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’ve used dynamic talents like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews and a steady hand in head coach Joel Quenneville to achieve this.
If the Penguins represent the cream of the crop in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, the Blackhawks are their counterpart in the West. Few franchises have been able to produce on as high of a level as these Chicago birds.
All stats and information provided by Sports Reference, unless noted otherwise.
H/T Bleacher Report.