The 33 best streaks in sports history
March, 28, 2013
By Doug Williams | ESPN.com
After seeing the Los Angeles Lakers’ winning streak come to an end at 33 games in 1972, forward Jim McMillian said NBA fans had seen something special.
“We just finished a streak that I don’t believe any other team is going to break,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
Now more than 40 years later, McMillian’s prediction looks solid after the Miami Heat’s bid to catch the Lakers was stopped by Chicago on Wednesday night after 27 straight wins.
Many more seemingly unbreakable streaks also remain on the books. In honor of those 1971-72 Lakers, Playbook offers the best and most unbreakable streaks in sports, ranked from No. 33 to No. 1:
33 -- Basketball: Harlem Globetrotters, 2,495 straight wins over Washington Generals
Though the Generals were built to lose -- which they did flawlessly to the ’Trotters from 1962 to 1971 -- they took a 100-99 victory over Harlem while playing as the New Jersey Reds, finally ruining the script. Generals owner Red Klotz said the win “felt like killing Santa Claus.”
32 -- College football: Mount Union (Ohio), 55 consecutive victories
The most dominant program in NCAA Div. III history, Mount Union has 11 national championships and this record winning streak from 2000-2003. The Purple Raiders also won 54 straight from 1996-99.
31 -- College squash: Trinity (Conn.) College men, 252 consecutive wins
The longest winning streak in varsity collegiate sports stretched from 1998-2012, when it was finally snapped by Yale. The run included 13 national championships.
30 -- College soccer: North Carolina women, 103 consecutive wins
Not only did the Tar Heels put this streak together from 1986-1990, but after a loss to Connecticut on Sept. 22, 1990, North Carolina then won 101 straight games -- that's an astounding 204 wins in 205 games.
29 -- Baseball: Eric Gagne, 84 consecutive saves
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesPEDs or no, Eric Gagne locked down games.
The Dodgers’ closer didn’t blow a save chance from August of 2002 until July of 2004, compiling an 0.82 ERA. No. 2 on the consecutive saves list is Tom Gordon (54). Of course, Gagne later admitted to using HGH.
28 -- High school football: Concord De La Salle, 151 straight victories
The Spartans from California’s Bay Area were perfect from 1992-2003, more than doubling the previous national record of 72 straight wins. De La Salle finally lost to Bellevue (Wash.) High in Seattle.
27 -- Squash: Jahangir Khan, 555 consecutive victories
Khan, of Pakistan, won five world championships during this span, from 1981-1986. His streak came to an end at the World Open when he was beaten by Russ Norman of New Zealand in a shocker.
26 -- Soccer: AC Milan, unbeaten in 58 straight games
There are other clubs with longer winning streaks -- such as ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast (108) and Steua Bucharest of Romania (106) -- but no team in a major international league can match Milan’s streak from 1991-93 in Serie A. Juventus and Arsenal are next with 49 straight.
25 -- Hockey: Pittsburgh Penguins, 17 consecutive wins
Pittsburgh set the NHL record by going 17-0 from March 9 to April 10, 1993, before ending the regular season with a 6-6 tie with New Jersey. Mario Lemieux had 27 goals and 23 assists in the streak as Pittsburgh was compiling a league-best 56-21-7 record.
24 -- Tennis: Martina Navratilova, 74 consecutive wins
Her record for consecutive pro singles victories, set in 1984, included 13 straight tournament titles (three of them majors). She also had winning streaks of 58 and 54 matches in her career. Steffi Graf is No. 2 with 66.
23 -- Pro football: Jerry Rice, 274 consecutive games with a catch
The Hall of Fame receiver’s streak lasted nearly two decades. It began in December of 1985 and ended in September of 2004. Art Monk is No. 2 with catches in 183 straight.
22 -- College football: Oklahoma 47 straight wins
The streak, a record for major programs, spanned five seasons (1953-57) for coach Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners and included two national championships (1955, 1956). When Oklahoma’s run came to an end with a 7-0 loss to Notre Dame, it was the first time in 120 games it had been shut out. Oklahoma also has 31- and 28-game winning streaks.
21 -- High school wrestling: Brandon (Fla.) High, 459 consecutive victories
The string of victories in dual matches lasted from 1974 to 2008 and included 66 individual state champions and 18 state team titles. “The Streak,” wrote a RivalsHigh reporter after a 32-28 loss to South Dade (Fla.), “which spanned 12,396 days, six presidents and 34 Super Bowls, was finally put to rest.”
20 -- Boxing: Julio Cesar Chavez, 87 straight victories
Holly Stein/AllsportThis boxer's career got off to a decent start.
Chavez, a six-time world champ in three weight divisions, began his pro career by winning his first 87 bouts, from 1980-1993, a record for all divisions. His unbeaten streak actually extended to 90 (after a draw in fight No. 88), until he lost to Frankie Randall.
19 -- College wrestling: Cael Sanderson, Iowa State, 159 consecutive wins
He went 159-0 in his career, winning four NCAA championships from 1999-2002. When he won his 101st straight match in 2001, he surpassed the record of Dan Gable, whose 100 came in the 1970s.
18 -- Pro football: New England Patriots, 18 consecutive wins in one season
The Pats of 2007-08 weren’t perfect, falling in the Super Bowl to the Giants 17-14. But they set a record for most victories in one season, surpassing the Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 mark of 1972-73.
17 -- Baseball: New York Giants, 26 consecutive wins
Though it’s listed as major-league record 26-game winning streak, the Giants’ run in 1916 actually included a tie after win No. 12 when a 1-1 game was halted after eight innings by rain. It would have been replayed if necessary at the end of the season. The streak went from Sept. 7 through Sept. 30.
16 -- Pro football: Drew Brees, 54 consecutive games with a touchdown pass
In games from 2009-2012, the Saints quarterback shattered the long-held record of Johnny Unitas, who had thrown TD passes in 47 in a row. Brees passed Unitas in game No. 48 with a scoring throw to Devery Henderson.
15 -- College basketball: Connecticut women, 90 consecutive wins
After finally losing for the first time in more than two seasons, UConn coach Geno Auriemma joked, “This losing stuff is getting old, man. I hate it.” Stanford stopped the Huskies in December of 2010, ending a run that began in the fall of 2008 and included two undefeated national championship teams.
14 -- Olympics: U.S. men’s basketball, 63 straight wins
Since basketball had been added to the Olympics in 1936, the U.S. never had lost a game and won seven straight gold medals until it fell in a controversial and disputed 1972 loss to the Soviet Union, 51-50.
13 -- Hockey: Wayne Gretzky, 51 consecutive games with a point
Playing for the Edmonton Oilers in 1983-84, Gretzky set the NHL record in games from early October to late January, averaging nearly three points per game -- 61 goals and 92 assists. The streak actually could be considered 61 games, because he finished the previous season with points in the final 10 games.
12 -- Baseball: Orel Hershiser, 59 consecutive scoreless innings
From Sept. 5 to Sept. 28, 1988, the Dodgers’ Hershiser was almost untouchable. In his first five starts of the streak, he threw complete-game shutouts; in the sixth, he threw a 10-inning shutout and broke Don Drysdale’s major league mark of 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings. Then, in the first game of the NLCS, Hershiser didn’t give up a run until the ninth inning, running his total streak to 67 innings.
11 -- Track and field: Edwin Moses, 122 straight wins
AP PhotoYeah. You couldn't out-hurdle this guy.
The 400-meter hurdles star didn’t lose a race from 1977 until 1987, when he lost to fellow American Danny Harris. Moses had won 107 straight finals and 15 prelims in the streak, which ranks as the longest winning streak among running events in track and field history. Said Moses, 31, after losing to Harris, 21: “I ran a good race, and the guy that beat me is 10 years younger and ran the race of his life.”
10 -- Cycling: Lance Armstrong, seven consecutive wins in the Tour de France
Look up Tour de France champions, and you’ll find “vacated” listed as the winner of the race from 1999 through 2005. Though Armstrong has admitted using performance-enhancing substances and has been stripped of his titles, he was photographed crossing the finish line for seven straight years (while competing in an era of doping). The titles deserved to be taken away ... but the streak was amazing nonetheless.
9 -- College basketball: UCLA men, 88 consecutive wins
Between 1971 and 1974, the Bruins didn’t lose a game, had two 30-0 seasons and won two NCAA titles. The winning streak came to an end when Notre Dame beat UCLA 71-70, despite the Bruins having an 11-point lead late in the game.
8 -- Pro football: Brett Favre, 297 (or 321) consecutive starts
Technically, punter Jeff Feagles holds the record for most consecutive games played in the NFL, with 352 from 1988 to 2009. But Favre reigns supreme among offensive and defensive position players with 297 consecutive regular-season starts and 321 straight starts (adding playoffs). Favre’s streak began in Sept. 1992 and ended in 2010.
7 -- Basketball: Boston Celtics, eight straight NBA titles
It would be hard for an NBA team today to replicate the eight straight championships won by the Celtics from 1958-59 to 1965-66. Before free agency, the Celtics group stayed together and won, led by stars such as Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, established role players and coach Red Auerbach. “Roles were clearly defined, and as long as you stuck with your roles, everything worked,” said defensive standout Tom “Satch” Sanders.
6 -- Golf: Byron Nelson, 11 straight PGA Tour wins
How good was Nelson in 1945? He not only won 11 in a row, but also won 18 of 35 PGA tournaments. One of those 11 was the PGA Championship, a match-play event then and the only major played that year because of World War II. Tiger Woods is second with seven in a row (2006-07).
5 -- College basketball: UCLA men, seven consecutive NCAA titles
In an era now of 68-team tournaments and multiple first- and second-round upsets, it’s hard to imagine a school winning seven consecutive NCAA championships today. But the Bruins did it from 1967 through 1973 -- and won 10 championships in a 12-year span.
4 -- Baseball: Joe DiMaggio, 56-game hitting streak
Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty ImagesEven this pose went for a base hit.
Joe D’s streak in 1941 is likely the most magical on the books, a romantic record tied to a glamorous New York star from baseball’s golden era. No one really has come close to it; Pete Rose gave it his best shot with a 44-game streak in 1978.
3 -- Baseball: Connie Mack, 50 consecutive seasons as a major league manager
Unless a young billionaire buys a baseball team and makes himself manager, no one will ever break Mack’s record. He managed 53 seasons in the big leagues, including 50 straight for the team he owned, the Philadelphia Athletics, from 1901-1951.
2 -- Baseball: Cal Ripken Jr., 2,632 consecutive games played
Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 games played was considered unbreakable until Ripken shattered it by more than 500. Ripken didn’t miss a game from May 30, 1982, until he played No. 2,632 on Sept. 19, 1998.
1 -- Baseball: Johnny Vander Meer, two consecutive no-hitters
The streak number (two), in 1938 for the Cincinnati Reds, is small. But the feat is large. There’s a possibility someone might tie Vander Meer’s record of throwing consecutive no-hitters, but there’s zero chance anyone will ever throw three consecutive no-hitters to top it.