Dominant sports teams
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AT THE RISK of causing a colossal jinx, it certainly looks like the Boston Celtics are about to complete one of the most dominant seasons and postseason runs in recent NBA history. With a 3-0 lead in the NBA finals, the Celtics are one win away from a record-breaking 18th championship, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise.

All season long, the Celtics have topped power rankings, been outliers on performance metrics and generally looked a tier above the rest of the league. So, seeing the Celtics this close to winning the finals can hardly be called a shock. What is shocking, however, is how easily the Celtics have breezed through the playoffs. Boston has dropped only two games in the postseason so far and will be going for their eleventh consecutive win in game four of the finals.

An air of inevitability has surrounded the Celtics all season – and perhaps, for the last few seasons – leading many NBA fans to be unenthused by a finals result many saw coming. But assuming they close out this series, this will be the Celtics’ first championship since 2008, and only their second since 1986. They can hardly lay a claim to being one of the most dominant teams of all time because, by our definition, qualifying for that title requires a period of protracted dominance, not a lone successful season.

If the current Celtics roster manages to win a few more trophies, maybe then we can consider them to be amongst the most dominant sports teams of all time. In the meantime, let’s look back at the teams who won so often that stat keepers were already chalking up wins before games had even started.

Bayer Leverkusen, 2023-24

The most recent addition to this list, German football club Bayer Leverkusen have just completed a season in which they only lost a single game across all competitions. Leverkusen went undefeated in Germany’s Bundesliga, becoming the first team not named Bayern Munich to win the competition since 2012. Leverkusen also won the DFB-Pokal (Germany’s domestic cup competition) and their only loss since October of 2023 came in the Europa League final. All this is made even more impressive by the fact that Leverkusen finished a mediocre sixth in the Bundesliga just a year ago.

Penrith Panthers, 2021-present

It says a lot about the recent dominance of the Penrith Panthers that superstar halfback Nathan Cleary is already in rugby league’s GOAT conversation at just 26 years of age. The Panthers have made four-straight grand finals and won three straight premierships. A threepeat is unprecedented in the modern NRL (having last occurred in 1983, and 1966 before that), but the Panthers have done it despite losing key players to rival teams with every passing year.

Chicago Bulls, 1990s

Few teams on this list were as dominant for as long as Michael Jordan’s Bulls, which is why we’re dedicating an entire decade to their reign. The Bulls won six championships from 1991-1998, with two threepeats. During this period, Michael Jordan himself took home four MVP awards, while the 95-96 Bulls (who are still frequently considered the best NBA team of all time) achieved the best ever regular season record of 72-10 – a mark that was eventually surpassed by another team on this list.

Australian men’s national cricket team, 1999-2007

Picking one specific era of dominance for Australia’s vaunted national cricket team is actually a difficult task, as the Baggy Green has been associated with success throughout the history of cricket. Ultimately, we landed in 1999-2007, a period in which Australia won all three ODI world cups and held the Ashes for every year except 2005 – due to a forgettable series that resulted in two draws.

Manchester City, 2017-present

English football fans have spent the last two decades or so labelling the other top European competitions as ‘farmer’s leagues’ as Bayern Munich, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated their respective leagues, while the English Premier League has remained relatively competitive. Well, we’re sorry to tell them, but that’s simply no longer the case. Manchester City have won sixth of the last seven EPL titles and their first Champions League all since 2017.

New Zealand All Blacks, 2011-2015

The All Blacks have always been a tough team to beat, but they were borderline unbeatable in the early 2010s. New Zealand won back to back Rugby World Cups in 2011 and 2015, and the Wallabies never had the slightest hope of capturing the Bledisloe Cup during this period, amassing a woeful 2-9 record.

Hawthorn, 2013-15

It’s difficult to pin down a single AFL team to label as the most dominant of all time. If we’re talking single season dominance, the honour has to go to Essendon in 2000. For protracted dominance though, it’s between the two most recent threepeat-ers, Brisbane from 2001-03, and Hawthorn from 2013-15. In the end, we’ve given the edge to Hawthorn, who in the space of three years won three premierships, only lost 14 games, had a Coleman medallist, eight All-Australian selections, and boasted the talents of Jarryd Roughead, Cyril Rioli, Sam Mitchell and Buddy Franklin.

Golden State Warriors, 2015-19

If there was ever a team that made a sport seem un-fun because of how predictable the final outcome was, it was the Golden State Warriors of the late 2010s. Steph Curry and co. won their first championship in 2015 and followed it up with the best regular season output of all time in 2016, with a 73-9 record. Of course, the Warriors would be defeated in the finals that year, but adding generational superstar Kevin Durant to the roster and winning the next two championships likely eased the pain for fans. The Warriors went back to the finals in 2019, but fell short, which is where we see their period of dominance ending due to the lacklustre seasons that followed – although they did win yet another championship in 2022.

Kansas City Chiefs, 2020-present

It might be premature, but Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are already looking like the NFL’s most dominant dynasty of all time. Yes, the New England Patriots did win six Super Bowls under Tom Brady’s guidance, but they were spread out over 18 years with a ten year gap between championships three and four – hardly a continuous period of domination. So we’re giving the nod to the Chiefs, who have played in four of the last five Superbowls, won three of them, and have plenty of time to catch the Patriots’ output.

Boston Celtics, 1957-69

It seems fitting to end with the same team currently dominating the NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics. Most of the Celtics 17 championships – we likely won’t be saying 17 for much longer – came when legendary big man Bill Russell was at the helm. The Celtics won 11 championships during from 1957-69, including eight consecutively. It is unlikely – correction: unfathomable – that we will ever see a period of such complete and utter dominance in the NBA ever again.


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