When the Chicago Bulls beat the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, the hopes and dreams of ESPN died a little. How can they compare them to the 1995-1995 Bulls anymore? Why were they doing it in the first place is the bigger question. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, and Steve Kerr led the team to a ridiculous 72-10 record and an NBA title. They had a winning streak of 13 games and another of 18 games that season, which falls well short of the 27 straight wins that the Heat racked up behind LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh, but the 1995-1996 Bulls have already shown that they were better. The Heat have lost 15 games this season and the Bulls lost three games in the playoffs (one to the Knicks in the semifinals and two to the Supersonics in the NBA Finals), finishing with a 87-13 record if you count the playoffs.
There is no need for this discussion. Certainly, the physique and game-play in today’s NBA and today’s athlete can leave one to wonder if LeBron could beat MJ in their prime, but I’ll take MJ’s six titles and be happy, while doubters of his greatness wait on James.
While thinking about this streak and the so-called greatness that went with it, it made me wonder which streak is the most impressive in sports. So, I’ve created my own list:
Joe DiMaggio‘s 56-game hitting streak: Ted Williams once said “I think without question the hardest single thing to do in sport is to hit a baseball “, but DiMaggio made it look easy. After this streak was snapped, he started another 16-game hitting streak. There just aren’t many who could live up to the media hype and pressure today, as the expectations and stress that go along with this type of greatness are unattainable in the pressure-cooker of today’s sports media. If the last person to hit .400 in a season can say that it’s the hardest thing to do in sports, and DiMaggio did it for as long as he did, how great is the player who does match or beat that number going to be?
Cal Ripken, Jr.’s 2,632 straight games played: With so many factors, like getting hit by a pitch or being taken out as a shortstop turning a double play, the fact that Ripken didn’t miss a game for nearly 16 years is absolutely crazy, especially when players today are getting “mental days” off when they are struggling, or they take a day game off after a night game on get-away days. The “Iron Man” doesn’t get enough credit for this record, nor the way that he paved the way for slugging shortstops like Barry Larkin, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez with his excellent career in the batter’s box.
Orel Hershiser‘s 59 consecutive scoreless innings in 1988: Nearly seven straight games games worth of innings without allowing a run led Hershiser to a 23-8 record and a 2.26 ERA in 1988, as he won the Cy Young Award and helped the Los Angeles Dodgers win the World Series that year. While it is arguable that this would be simple to match by having a pitcher go five or six scoreless each start before bringing in relief pitchers, that starter would have to go six scoreless for 10 straight starts to beat this record. Even in today’s coddled pitching era, this record doesn’t look likely to fall.
1972 Miami Dolphins/2007 New England Patriots/2010-2011 Green Bay Packers: Going 14-0 like the ’72 Dolphins is fantastic in the NFL, where parity, injuries, and weather play a role in the weekly battles. While the Dolphins are the only team to have a perfect season, they, too, won 18 games in a row, counting three playoff games (Browns, Steelers, and Redskins) and one game in 1973 (49ers), before their streak came to an end. The Patriots lost in the Super Bowl in 2007 to the New York Giants, but, shockingly, it’s the 2010-2011 Green Bay Packers, who won five straight, including the Super Bowl, in 2010, before winning 14 straight in 2011, who hold the record for the longest winning streak in NFL history. Perfect seasons seem to be overrated.
1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers, 33-game winning streak: If ESPN wants to compare the Miami Heat to anyone, why not the team with the longest winning streak in NBA history? Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and Elgin Baylor led the club to 33 straight wins before winning the NBA title, finishing 69-13 that season…better than the 2012-2013 Heat, even with a declining Baylor.
Johnny Vander Meer‘s two straight no-hitters: When someone throws a no-hitter, they tend to have coverage by sports networks for each pitch, right until someone gets a hit in the top of the 1st inning, and then it is all over and forgotten. Vander Meer’s feat of pitching two straight no-no’s is nearly unbreakable, especially in an era where pitcher’s arms are babied by bullpens and pitch counts. Look at what happened to Johan Santana after his 132-pitch no-hitter on June 1, 2012 – just three quality starts over his next eight starts, while his ERA ballooned from 2.38 to 4.85 – and you’ll see why theories in today’s game management would prevent a pitcher from tossing two straight no-hitters.
Boston Celtics, 8 straight NBA titles, 1959-1966: Free agency, salary caps, and fan boredom in this type of dynasty would prevent this from happening in the NBA today, but that didn’t stop Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, and Bill Russell from kicking butt and taking names for over a decade, winning 11 titles in 13 years, including eight straight. This is the group that the Miami Heat wanted to become when they threw their championship party after signing James and Bosh to play alongside Wade a few years ago. They aren’t there yet.
UCLA, 7 straight NCAA Men’s Basketball Titles, 1967-1973: John Wooden could recruit and coach like no man in the history of his sport. Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sidney Wicks, and Jamaal Wilkes were a part of this era and legacy in UCLA basketball, but Wooden’s fingerprints still last today, where successful UCLA coaches can’t stick around long if they aren’t winning titles, as they just fired their 8th coach since he left the program after the 1974-1975 season.
There are many more, like: Wayne Gretzky’s 51-game points streak, A.C Green’s NBA 1,192 straight games played, Brett Favre‘s 297 straight games played, and Lance Armstrong’s sev- oh, he doped and that got taken away. Nevermind.