What Makes a Dynasty in Sports?

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

People are always looking for the next big powerhouse in sports.  The Kobe & Shaq Lakers.  The everlasting Brady & Belichick Patriots.  The late-90s Yankees that saw the Evil Empire win four World Series in five years.  It’s already happening with the Kansas City Chiefs.  25-year old Patrick Mahomes, with an MVP & Super Bowl already under his belt, is at the center of critics pondering if Mahomes can replicate what Tom Brady did with the Patriots for so many years.

With most dynasties, it seems that at some point they wear the title given to them by the fans.  I remember distinctly after the Chicago Blackhawks won their second Stanley Cup in four years early last decade, that hockey fans were already asking the question that the Kane & Toews Hawks were in the midst of a dynasty run.  And then they won another cup just two years later to make it three in six years.  After the third one, it seemed fans etched those Chicago championships in history forever as a dynasty.  

But, what actually makes a franchise a dynasty?  It seems we always make it just about championships and really don’t ever give it true criteria.  Here are my elements of a dynasty:


It is common sense in every professional sport that a team needs a good core of players (& coach) in order to set themselves up to at least contend.  Now, imagine trying to win and be a contender for years to come.  The San Antonio Spurs perfected this with the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili, and Tony Parker.  You might even be able to throw Bruce Bowen in there given how important he was defensively to those San Antonio teams.  But Duncan, Ginóbili, and Parker’s run started in ‘02 and didn’t end until Duncan decided to retire at the end of the 2016 season where they finished with 67 wins and another playoff berth.  That 14-year run exemplifies why having a strong nucleus is vital to winning.


I could probably put the Spurs right into this next category as much as I did the last.  There’s so many examples I could give for this one.  With that being said, a team can’t just expect to have a good core and win a championship or two and be stamped a dynasty.  So, the team that best shows that doing it over the long haul matters did it for THIRTY-SEVEN YEARS.  Now, 37 years isn’t the precedent, but The 1927-1964 Yankees are easily the best example of why length is so important to a dynasty.  It started with arguably the best team of all-time, the ‘27 Yankees team that included names like Ruth, Gehrig & Lazerri.  The ‘30s & ‘40s saw an absurd 10 Yankees World Series Championships that featured names like Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing, Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto and Charlie Keller.  From 1950 to 1964, the Yankees appeared in 13 World Series and won eight times.  During this time period the Yankees had more legends like Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and Manager Casey Stengel.  Losing much of the strong nucleus was the reason why the Yankee dynasty was put to a halt in 1965.  They went with a new manager in Johnny Keane and superstars Mickey Mantle & Whitey Ford were at the tail-ends of their careers.  But, the Bronx Bombers finished with 19 World Series through these decades and are the pinnacle of not only how to create dynasties, but to create one ginormous empire.


The last two elements I have given clear cut examples of franchises that possessed those specifically.  For consistency, I thought mentioning a team that didn’t have this attribute might spice things up a bit:  The early 2010’s San Francisco Giants.  3 World Series Championships in 5 years.  You might think as a dynasty right? Wrong.  Yes, they won multiple championships but they missed the playoffs in between those rings.  Dynasties don’t include teams that miss the playoffs!  At least, not twice in five years.  The Giants had great teams during that five-year stretch, but not a dynasty.


A team can’t just be thrown together on its own (unless it’s today’s NBA).  Almost every great team that makes consistent runs over long stretches is constructed by a great general manager.  For instance, take a team like the Boston Celtics.  17 Championships to their name.  And Boston GM/Coaching legend Red Auerbach was responsible for 16 of those titles.  He was indeed both a coach and general manager, but I want to focus on what he did in Boston’s front office and a specific stretch of time.  Auerbach was GM of the Celtics from 1950 to 1984.  But, between 1950 & 1956 he drafted five eventual Hall of Famers (Russell, Cousy, Heinsohn, Jones, Ramsey)  that led to nine championships in a row between 1958 and 1967, and 11 titles in 13 years.  A team doesn’t need this many titles to be considered a dynasty, but I wanted to make the point that they don’t just happen overnight.  Drafting, developing and constructing a team are just as important, if not more than talent.  It takes work from top to bottom.


The first four elements are important to what makes a dynasty, but none of them are as important as winning. The Karl Malone & John Stockton Jazz teams of the late 90’s were great, but they ran into some tough Sonics & Rockets teams, not to mention the Jordan & Pippen Bulls.  The Jazz had consistently good to great teams led by some legends, but they never won even one title. On the other hand, those 90’s Bulls were one of the best dynasties in NBA history & maybe could have had more than 6 championships during that decade, had Michael Jordan not decided to take a break and play baseball for a year and a half.  


Becoming a dynasty in professional sports is tough.  So many different things have to happen.  Timing and the era a team plays in can be big factors.  Those 50’s & 60’s Boston Celtics I mentioned did win 11 titles in 13 years, but they did it at a time when there were only 8-10 teams in the entire league.  And it goes hand-in-hand with timing.  This doesn’t take anything away from winning that many titles, but a little bit of luck is involved.  Maybe the Jazz win 3 titles if the Rockets and Bulls weren’t winning in the 90’s, but that’s why the Bulls became a dynasty, because they consistently won championships in that era.  

Take these six components, stir them up in a pot, and you’ve got yourself a dynasty.

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