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NBA Finals

Bucks on verge of ending 50-year drought

The Milwaukee Bucks are hosting the Phoenix Suns tonight, with a chance to win their first NBA title in 50 years. That’s a long dry spell – for any sport.

Looking over the four major U.S. sports – football, baseball, basketball, hockey – I see only one team that’s stuck in a market and gone more than 50 years between championships. The Boston Red Sox won a World Series in 1918, and then not again until 2004.

In the NFL, Kansas City recently won its first Super Bowl in 50 years. Only two other franchises have gone over 20 years between winning championships while playing every season in that market. The Packers had a 29-year spell, and the Steelers had a 26-year run.

Baltimore went 30 years between Super Bowls, but that was with different teams (the Colts winning in 1971 and the Ravens winning in 2001).

There are different ways to look at this sort of thing. Washington and Chicago went 95 and 88 years between World Series titles, but both of those situations involved different teams (and Washington didn’t even have a team for a bunch of those seasons). The only other city with a 50-year streak between World Series titles also involved multiple teams (Philadelphia Athletics and Philadelphia Phillies).

On the chart below, I’m factoring in the market. When the Rams win in Los Angeles in 1951 and then in St. Louis in 1999, that’s something different than a city having long-suffering fans. And Los Angeles got a Super Bowl out of the Raiders in the ‘80s, so it’s not as if that city was shut out.

Also note that the chart below doesn’t show longest dry spells. It shows the longest time between championships. The Vikings, Chargers, Browns and many other sports teams have gone a long time without winning a title, so they’re not shown below. For this one, there needs to be bookend titles on each end of the streak.

The Bucks won their only other NBA title in the 1970-71. That was just the third year of that franchise. They were helped along mightily when they won a coin-toss (ironically against these same Suns) to earn the No. 1 overall pick in 1969. That allowed them to select Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who helped them reach the finals again three years later (losing in 7 to Boston) before being traded to the Lakers in 1975.

SportTitleNextTeam (or teams)Years
MLB19242019• Washington Senators / Nationals95
MLB19172005• Chicago White Sox / Cubs88
MLB19182004Boston Red Sox86
MLB19301980• Philadelphia Athletics / Phillies50
NBA1971?Milwaukee Bucks50
NFL19702020Kansas City Chiefs50
NHL19612010Chicago Blackhawks49
NHL19551997Detroit Red Wings42
NHL19722011Boston Bruins39
MLB19401975Cincinnati Reds35
MLB19251960Pittsburgh Pirates35
MLB19882020Los Angeles Dodgers32
NFL19712001• Baltimore Colts / Ravens30
MLB19852015Kansas City Royals30
NFL19681997Green Bay Packers29
MLB19802008Philadelphia Phillies28
MLB19201948Cleveland Indians28
NFL19802006Pittsburgh Steelers26
MLB19822006St. Louis Cardinals24
MLB19451968Detroit Tigers23
NBA19862008Boston Celtics22
MLB19191940Cincinnati Reds21

—Ian Allan

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