The New York Yankees, are of course, the most successful sports franchise in North America (if not the world) by number of titles: 27. And it’s entirely possible that they could have gotten another one in 1994 had the strike not intervened (of course the same could be said for the Montreal Expos and several other teams). But here’s something that’s always bugged me: The Yankees and most other baseball teams have a big headstart against everyone else. So with the NHL and NBA now done with their postseasons, it’s time to take a look at what team has the best “Championship Percentage”. In other words, what teams have the most championships per year in existence where a championship was possible. Read on for more:
First, some guidelines:
- Only “Big 4″ teams are counted in this. That means foreign teams (Japanese baseball, European soccer, etc.) and minor league teams aren’t counted, nor are teams from the MLS, WNBA, NLL, Arena Football League, etc.
- Championships will only count in years where the championship as we know it existed. That means that only modern-day World Series count for MLB, only Super Bowls count for NFL, only the Finals count for the NBA and only Stanley Cups from 1927 onward (when it became an NHL-only affair) count for the NHL. Years in which a championship was cancelled don’t count.
- Years in a league that didn’t have a game in the championship (Pre-Super Bowl AFL, the ABA, the WHA…) don’t count.
- This is for franchises, not teams. So, for example, the Lakers have the titles from their time in Minneapolis. The only exceptions to this are in those cases where the league has said specifically that they are separate franchises. For example, the Baltimore Ravens are treated by the NFL as if they were a expansion franchise, and the Cleveland Browns are treated as if they never left Cleveland and that they just sort of took a break for a few years in the nineties. Of course, you will not be seeing the Browns at all from this point on, anyway.
- Teams that haven’t won at all won’t be counted.
More after the jump:
So let’s start with Major League Baseball. There have been 107 World Series (1904 and 1994 were cancelled). So, let’s look at the New York Yankees and other candidates and find out who the best teams are when adjusted for time in existence.
Formed in: 1901 (Baltimore)
First season in which they were championship-eligible: 1903 (first World Series)
Number of chances to win championship: 107
Number of championships: 27
Championship percentage: 25.23% (0.252)
Any other team that was existence at the start of the modern era is automatically disqualified here (since obviously they couldn’t have a higher championship percentage if they had the same start date as the overall leader in number of titles), although for completion sake, here are the championship percentages for every other franchise with five or more World Series titles:
St. Louis Cardinals- 10.28% (.103)
Athletics- 8.41% (.084)
Red Sox- 6.54% (.065)
Giants and Dodgers- 5.61% (.056)
Reds and Pirates- 4.67% (.047)
Now, what about teams that haven’t been in existence as long? The most World Series titles by an expansion franchise is two: the Mets, the Blue Jays and the Marlins. Since the Marlins have been in existence the shortest, we’ll only count them:
Number of chances for championship so far: 19 (1994 was cancelled)
Number of championships: 2
Championship percentage: 10.53% (.105)
So, yes, the Yankees are the best team in baseball history. But, uh, the Marlins are surprisingly the second best, when adjusted for length of existence. Who’d have thought.
Now, time for the National Football League. The NFL’s modern era goes back to the 1966-67 season- the year of the first Super Bowl- and so there have been 46 total seasons where the championship has been at stake.
The Steelers have won six Super Bowls, and have been in existence for all 46 seasons where the championship was at stake. That means they’ve won 13.04% of Super Bowls, a 0.130 championship percentage.
In the NBA, the Finals as we know them date back to 1950, although there had been finals in the BAA and NBL before that. Therefore, there have been 62 Finals chances.
The leader all-time in NBA titles is the Boston Celtics, with 17. They’ve been around since the very beginning, meaning that they’ve had all 62 seasons with finals. That means they’ve won 27.42% of all NBA titles, a 0.274 championship percentage.
The Lakers, with 15 titles (not counting their 1949 BAA title) have a 24.19%/0.242 championship percentage.
However, some of the Expansion Teams have been very successful in the NBA. What are their championship percentages?
The Bulls, for example, have had 45 championship chances, and won 6 times. That gives them a .133 championship percentage, having won 13.33% of the titles they competed for.
The Spurs, who arrived in the NBA from the ABA during the 1976-77 season, have had 4 titles in 36 chances. 11.11/0.111 championship percentage.
The now-champion Miami Heat arrived in the 1988-89 season and have won twice, a 8.70%/0.087 championship percentage.
Finally, the NHL. The Stanley Cup as we know it (being the championship at the end of the NHL season) actually “only” goes back to 1927, with one cancelled season, meaning there have been 84 chances for a NHL team to win it. The all-time leader is the Montreal Canadiens, who have won it 22 times since 1927 (24 times overall). This means they’ve won 26.19% of all modern Stanley Cup finals, a 0.262 championship percentage.
The team outside of the Original Six with the most Cup titles are the Edmonton Oilers, who’ve won 5 times. They arrived in the NHL from the WHA in the 1979-80 season, meaning they have had 31 chances to win it, so their championship percentage is 16.32%/0.161.
So, with all of this tabulated, what are the greatest of the great teams in North American sports? What franchise’s reign over their league is most impressive? Well, using the best championship percentage:
1.Boston Celtics, NBA, 0.274
2.Montreal Canadiens, NHL, 0.262
3. New York Yankees, MLB, 0.252
4. Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL, 0.130
There you have it, the Celtics are the most successful team in North American sports. No doubt this will be used by Bostonians in arguments with New Yorkers for years to come.