If you read last week’s column, you’ll know that I began a two-part series on the greatest sports dynasties of all-time.
And, as I expected, I generated some feelings of disagreement with my opinion that I could not consider the Atlanta Braves of the 90s, in spite of their 14 division crowns, a dynasty because the real way to measure a dynasty is through championships and the Braves have only one World Series victory to show for those 14 years. Some of you, in fact, were quite vociferous with your thoughts but, no problem, I’ve been called worse names.
I listed some of the best dynasties but left you hanging with the three that I consider the greatest sports dynasties ever. So, I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Here’s my top three and, interestingly, they all come from the game of basketball- two pro dynasties and one college.
This dynasty was made possible by one man- Michael Jordan. The Bulls were founded in 1966 and prior to Jordan’s arrival, they had only one division title to show for their efforts. But then things changed.
The Bulls will always have to be grateful to the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trailblazers; those were the teams with the first two picks in the 1984 draft. Houston chose Hakeem Olajuwon and it is hard to argue with that selection on two counts. The Rockets needed a center and he was easily the best coming out of college and he was considered a “hometown” boy having played college ball at Houston making him a great drawing card for attendance purposes.
But Portland’s selection of Kentucky forward Sam Bowie with the second pick will always draw speculation.
None of us were in the room that day but the decision-makers for the Trailblazers had to be asleep at the wheel. It took Jerry Krause, the General Manager of the Bulls, about two seconds to fill out the draft card with Jordan’s name on it.
The pieces then started falling into place. John Paxson was added the next year followed soon thereafter by Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, and Scottie Pippen in 1987. That year, the Bulls began making some waves in the NBA by winning 50 games and challenging the eventual champions, the Detroit Pistons, in the Eastern Conference finals. But there were still no championships to show for their efforts.
The final piece came in the form of a coach, not a player. In the 1989-1990 season, Doug Collins was replaced by one of his assistants as head coach. That assistant’s name was Phil Jackson and with his coaching skills on the sidelines, the Bulls started making history.
The first of two three-peats began in 1991. There was a two-year lapse in ’94 and ’95 when Jordan was suspended and playing minor league baseball, but they picked it right back up upon his return in 1996 with three more trophies. That’s six championships in eight years but I believe, without a question of doubt, that had Jordan played in those two years, the Bulls would have won eight straight titles. That’s a dynasty.
While the Bulls were essentially built around one man, the Celtics of the 50s and 60s were the epitome of a team. Yes, they had Bill Russell in the middle but they were much more than just a one-man team. The list of stars that played on those teams is a virtual Hall of Fame honor roll. Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, KC Jones, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, and many others under the coaching leadership of the legendary Red Auerbach made this the greatest professional dynasty of all time.
From 1957-1969, the Celtics won 11 NBA championships with 8 of those coming in succession. Today we get excited if a team repeats as champion, but the men in green did it eight years in a row. Then, when you add the Larry Bird — years and his three championships; well, if that doesn’t fit the definition of a dynasty, I don’t know what would.
I realize that the professional game has changed considerably since this era. I’m not talking about the style or quality of play; I’m talking about the business-aspect. There was no such thing as free agency then so players stayed with one team for their entire careers but no matter who was on the court for the Celtics, they won. Said it before, I’ll say it again — the greatest professional franchise dynasty ever. I stress professional franchise because the greatest dynasty of all time belongs to…..
For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you are well aware that I am a great admirer of Coach John Wooden — both as a basketball coach but more so as a human being. I believe that there is no finer coach, in any sport, who has ever led a team. Their dynasty can be proven by just a few short sentences.
From 1964-1975, the UCLA Bruins won 10 NCAA Men’s Basketball titles including seven in a row. During those years they compiled an overall record of 335-23, a 94% winning percentage. They once won 88 regular season games in a row. There’s a lot more than those stats I could throw at you to prove my case, but I think those are sufficient.
The reason I think this is the greatest dynasty of all time is simple- the players on these teams were constantly changing.
Contrary to the pro game where there is more constancy, even today with players, graduation causes college teams to retool every three or four years at the latest.
But with Wooden at the helm, it didn’t matter if it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Bill Walton in the middle.
It didn’t matter if it was Gail Goodrich or Henry Bibby (Mike Bibby of the Hawks dad) at point guard. And it was of no concern if it was Keith Wilkes or Sidney Wicks shooting the jumpers, UCLA won championships. And that is the ultimate defining element in making a sports dynasty.
If you’ve got any other dynasties that I failed to mention, I’d be interested in hearing from you. Just email me at the address shown below.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at email@example.com.