Sports history articles covering the modern age of American sports

Past Champions In A Sentence

It’s been said that every American president will be remembered in history with a single sentence. George Washington was the father of his country. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and saved the Union. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. William Henry Harrison died in thirty days. As it is with presidents, so too I’ve made it with the sports champions of the modern era.

The winners of the six major championships—major league baseball, college football, the NFL, college hoops, the NBA and NHL are listed below with their one-sentence legacy. Admittedly, the use of commas stretched each one out a bit, but it’s still the concise summation of a championship year.

Why is 1976 the starting point? Check the About page for the explanation of why this is the best general marking point of the sports’ modern era.


MLB: Cincinnati Reds—The Big Red Machine’s undefeated run through October remains the gold standard for postseason dominance.
College Football: Pitt Panthers—
Tony Dorsett leads the way as Pitt, rather than archrival Penn State, becomes the first modern national champion out of the East.
NFL: Oakland Raiders—
After years of playoff frustration John Madden finally gets a ring.

Final Four: Indiana Hoosiers—What else is there to say but that they never lost?
NBA Finals: Boston Celtics—
It was the last championship of the pre-Bird Celtic Dynasty.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens—
It was the first championship of a new dynasty for hockey’s signature franchise.


MLB: New York Yankees—Three home runs on three swings from Reggie Jackson put the Yankees on top for the first time since 1963.
College Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish—
With a blowout of Texas in the Cotton Bowl, the Irish make a historic rise from #5 to #1 on New Year’s Day.
NFL: Dallas Cowboys—
A great defense combined with Roger Staubach made this team far and away the NFL’s best.

Final Four: Marquette Warriors—Al McGuire coached better teams, but his last one would be the team to send him to retirement in teary-eyed glory.
NBA Finals: Portland Trailblazers
—A Finals win over the 76ers showed what Portland’s Bill Walton could have done if his feet had stayed healthy.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens
—The most dominant team of a four-year dynastic run in Montreal.


MLB: New York Yankees—Bucky Dent’s home run in Fenway capped a dramatic pennant race comeback and the Yanks then rolled to a repeat title in October.
College Football: USC Trojans/Alabama Crimson Tide
—USC beat Alabama head-to-head, but for reasons hard to grasp, voters made the Trojans share the title.
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers
—A Steelers-Cowboys Super Bowl was the battle to be the first to three rings and Pittsburgh won 35-31.

Final Four: Kentucky Wildcats—Jack Givens put on an electrifying show, dropping 41 on Duke to win the first post-Adolph Rupp title in Lexington.
NBA Finals: Washington Bullets
—The last road team to win a Game 7 in the NBA Finals came when the Bullets won in Seattle.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens—
With Guy Lafleur lighting the lamp and Ken Dryden in goal, the Canadiens were still comfortably ahead of all challengers.


MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates—Willie Stargell keys the “We Are Family” Pirates, the last team to win two straight road games to clinch the World Series.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide
—The Tide were clearly the best team from start to finish and capped it off with a resounding win over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers—
A Terry Bradshaw-to-John Stallworth fourth quarter bomb helps the Steelers survive an upset by by the feisty Los Angeles Rams.

Final Four: Michigan State Spartans—The mainstream legacy is about the Magic-Bird battle in the championship game, but the real legacy is that the Spartans were far and away the nation’s best.
NBA Finals: Seattle SuperSonics—
In a Finals rematch the Sonics take revenge on the Bullets behind an MVP performance from Dennis Johnson.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens—
A miracle Game 7 win over Boston in the semifinals kept the Montreal Dynasty alive for one more year.


MLB: Philadelphia Phillies—They won a thrilling pennant race with Montreal, the greatest LCS ever against Houston and finally their first title in 65 years over Kansas City.
College Football: Georgia Bulldogs
—The Legend Of Herschel Walker begins and a stunning 93-yard touchdown pass to Florida highlighted Georgia’s championship year.
NFL: Oakland Raiders—
The Raiders became the first team to win four games in the playoffs behind a revived quarterback in left-for-dead Jim Plunkett.

Final Four: Louisville Cardinals—They were the Doctors of Dunk and led by Player of the Year Darrell Griffith, winning Denny Crum’s first crown.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—Magic’s electric Game 6 performance overshadows how dominant Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was throughout the season and in the Finals themselves.
Stanley Cup Finals: New York Islanders
—One dynasty ended and a new one begins as Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy pushing a rising franchise over the top.


MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers—In a year ravaged by a strike, manager Tom Lasorda wins his first title with postseason comebacks over the Astros, Expos and Yankees.
College Football: Clemson Tigers
—The whole season was marked by populist rebels challenging the bluebloods so Clemson’s win over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl was a fitting conclusion.
NFL: San Francisco 49ers
—A legendary Joe Montana-to-Dwight Clark pass knocked off Dallas in the NFC Championship Game and ushered in a new era.

Final Four: Indiana Hoosiers—Isiah Thomas keyed the Hoosiers, who peaked in March and won their five NCAA Tournament games by a combined 114 points.
NBA Finals: Boston Celtics—
Larry Bird won his first championship by surviving an incredible seven-game series with the 76ers and then closing out the Rockets in the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: New York Islanders—
Like the Montreal Dynasty that preceded them, the second Cup was the most dominant in the Islanders’ four-year run.


MLB: St. Louis Cardinals—The most memorable moments of the regular season and LCS were in Milwaukee, but it was the Cardinals beating the Brewers in a seven-game Series.
College Football: Penn State Nittany Lions—
After being denied thrice with unbeaten teams, Joe Paterno gets his first national title at 11-1 with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
NFL: Washington Redskins
—In a season were almost half the games were lost to a strike, Joe Gibbs rides big John Riggins to this great franchise’s first Super Bowl win.

Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels—Dean Smith won his first national title on his seventh Final Four trip behind James Worthy, Sam Perkins and an unknown freshman named Michael Jordan.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers—
Early season dissension led to a coaching change and Pat Riley brought the Magic back in Los Angeles.
Stanley Cup Finals: New York Islanders
—It took a harrowing escape against Pittsburgh in the first round, but once that was over, the Islanders rolled to Cup #3.


MLB: Baltimore Orioles—After frustrating postseason and pennant race losses in 1979, 1980 and 1982, Baltimore rides Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken to a championship.
College Football: Miami Hurricanes
—Their stunning upset of top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl forever changed the landscape of college football.
NFL: Los Angeles Raiders
—The Silver-N-Black peaked at the right time, winning their three postseason games by a combined 71 points, including a surprise Super Bowl rout of the Redskins.

Final Four: N.C. State Wolfpack—They became the first Cinderella national champion on a dunk that’s become a staple of March Madness video montages.
NBA Finals: Philadelphia 76ers—
The acquisition of Moses Malone gave the 76ers and Julius Erving the center they needed to finally win the title.
Stanley Cup Finals: New York Islanders—
No longer a dominant team, the Islanders still had veteran moxie and they took over the Finals, slapping down the rising Edmonton Oilers and Wayne Gretzky.


MLB: Detroit Tigers—A 35-5 start set the tone for a runaway division title and then an easy run through the postseason.
College Football: BYU Cougars—
The quality of their schedule was poor, their bowl win over mediocre Michigan unimpressive, but BYU was the only team to finish the year undefeated.
NFL: San Francisco 49ers—
An underappreciated team in the annals of greatness, a league-best defense, Joe Montana on offense and only one loss.

Final Four: Georgetown Hoyas—Great depth and terrific defense led Georgetown to a title, capped by a Patrick Ewing-Akeem Olaujown battle of centers in the final against Houston.
NBA Finals: Boston Celtics
—It was the first Bird-Magic battle in the NBA Finals and this time Larry Legend got the best of it, playing great in Games 5 thru 7 while Magic came undone.
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers
—There was a changing of the guard moment at the Finals, as Gretzky’s Oilers dethroned the Islanders and yet another new dynasty had begun in the NHL.


MLB: Kansas City Royals—They came from behind to catch the Angels in the AL West, then made history in rallying from 3-1 series deficits in both the ALCS and World Series.
College Football: Oklahoma Sooners—
Troy Aikman’s broken leg proved to be best for all concerned, as OU returned to its wishbone roots and won it all behind Jamelle Holieway and a great defense.
NFL: Chicago Bears
—Speaking of great defenses…Buddy Ryan’s unit in Chicago remains at the top of the discussion of the most dominanting Ds to ever play the game.

Final Four: Villanova Wildcats—A Big East Feast at the Final Four with three conference teams ends with a stunning upset, as Villanova shoots 78 percent from the floor to deny Georgetown’s repeat bid.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers—
Magic and Kareem redeem themselves for 1984 by not only beating Boston but clinching on the parquet floor.
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers—
Gretzky won his seventh MVP award in as many years in the league and offensive firepower carried the Oilers to another Cup.


MLB: New York Mets—Their memorable win over the Red Sox in the World Series shouldn’t obscure another thrilling win over the Astros in the NLCS or the 108-win regular season excellence.
College Football: Penn State Nittany Lions—
The upset of Miami in the Fiesta Bowl was one of college football’s signature games, but regrettably brought defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky into the national spotlight.
NFL: New York Giants—
Lawrence Taylor became the last defensive player to win league MVP and the Giants crushed all comers in the playoffs.

Final Four: Louisville Cardinals—Two ships crossed in the night, as Denny Crum won his second and last national title over Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski who made his first Final Four appearance.
NBA Finals: Boston Celtics
—This team leads the discussion of the greatest NBA teams of all time, with their playoff run being a coronation rather than a confrontation.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens
—The Edmonton Dynasty was temporarily interrupted by a Montreal Restoration, keyed by 20-year-old goaltender Patrick Roy.


MLB: Minnesota Twins—They only won 87 games in the regular season, but the postseason rotation gave the Twins Dome-Field advantage and they made it count in upsetting the Tigers and Cardinals.
College Football: Miami Hurricanes—
After crushing bowl losses in 1985 and 1986, Miami got back on top, this time under head coach Jimmy Johnson, with a New Year’s Night win over Oklahoma.
NFL: Washington Redskins
—Quarterback controversy followed the Redskins all year and by season’s end Doug Williams got the job and ended up as the first African-American QB to win the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Indiana Hoosiers—Keith Smart’s last-second shot in New Orleans gave Bob Knight his third ring in the first year of the three-point shot in NCAA Tournament play.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers—
Magic Johnson won his first MVP award and the Lakers stood head-and-shoulders above the rest, beating the wounded Celtics for the title.
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers—
Gretzky joined Magic and Knight in returning to the top, but only after surviving an excruciating seven-game Finals against the Flyers and goalie Ron Hextall.


MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers—Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run is the lasting image, but Orel Hershiser’s dominance throughout September and through the postseason was the reason.
College Football: Notre Dame Fighting Irish—
The famed Catholics vs. Convicts win over Miami in October set the stage for Lou Holtz to return Notre Dame to the top.
NFL: San Francisco 49ers
—Already considered a master of the comeback, Joe Montana did it on American sports’ biggest stage, with last-minute touchdown pass to win the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Kansas Jayhawks—Danny Manning delivers an all-time great individual performance in carrying Kansas from a 6-seed to a national title.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—It took a brutal seven-game series with Detroit, but the Lakers got their fifth ring and became the first repeat champion in 19 years.
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers
: The regular season was pedestrian, but Edmonton hit full throttle in the playoffs, going 16-2 and winning their fourth Cup in five years.


MLB: Oakland A’s—Their World Series sweep of San Francisco was overshadowed by a tragic earthquake, but history must remember the A’s as a dominant champion from start to finish.
College Football: Miami Hurricanes
—After a loss to Florida State seemed to doom them, Miami got revenge on Notre Dame and reached the top of the polls again.
NFL: San Francisco 49ers
—Montana cements his legacy in winning the MVP award, leading the 49ers to 14-2 and playoff blowouts of the Vikings, Rams and Broncos.

Final Four: Michigan Wolverines—A sudden coaching resignation put Steve Fischer in charge for the NCAA Tournament and Michigan responded, capped off with an overtime win over Seton Hall.
NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons—
After two years of knocking on the door, the Pistons broke it down, sweeping a wounded Laker team out of the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: Calgary Flames—
The stunning trade of Gretzky to Los Angeles opened the door and Calgary broke through as a non-dynasty team winning a Cup.


MLB: Cincinnati Reds—The World Series was supposed to an Oakland repeat, but the Reds’ sweep was one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Fall Classic.
College Football: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets/Colorado Buffaloes—
Bobby Ross led Georgia Tech to a surprise 11-0-1 year and Colorado needed a debatable penalty call to survive the Orange Bowl.
NFL: New York Giants—Playing with backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler, the Giants won last-second thrillers over the 49ers and Bills, one on a made field goal, the other on a missed kick.

Final Four: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels—Larry Johnson and Greg Anthony gave head coach Jerry Tarkanian a national title when they crushed Duke by thirty points.
NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons
—The self-proclaimed “Bad Boys” held off Michael Jordan and the Bulls for one more year.
Stanley Cup Finals: Edmonton Oilers—
No Gretzky was no problem as Mark Messier took a leadership role and put the finishing touches on Edmonton’s dynasty years.


MLB: Minnesota Twins—The worst-to-first Twins beat the worst-to-first Braves in a great seven-game World Series with Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris the heroes.
College Football: Miami Hurricanes/Washington Huskies
—Miami beat #1 Florida State on the road and Washington met all comers, including Heisman winner Desmond Howard in the Rose Bowl against Michigan.
NFL: Washington Redskins
—An all-time great champion often overlooked by history as Joe Gibbs won his third Super Bowl with his third different quarterback, this time Mark Rypien.

Final Four: Duke Blue Devils—On his fifth Final Four, Coach K finally got the brass ring, marked by a terrific Final Four grudge match with undefeated UNLV.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls
—Michael Jordan joins Coach K in a breakthrough year, taking down Magic and the Lakers in the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins—
Mario Lemieux brings hockey glory to the Steel City with a Finals win over the upstart Minnesota North Stars.


MLB: Toronto Blue Jays—The World Series trophy went north of the border for the first time as the Blue Jays cashed in their fourth postseason trip in the last eight years.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide—
Head coach Gene Stallings was a Bear Bryant protégé and he made the Bear proud with a surprise Sugar Bowl rout of Miami.
NFL: Dallas Cowboys
—Jimmy Johnson’s rapid rebuild bore the ultimate fruit, as Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and a great offensive line blew out Buffalo in the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Duke Blue Devils—Christian Laettner’s shot to beat Kentucky in the regional final is the lasting image of Duke’s successful bid to become the first repeat champion since the UCLA dynasty.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls—
Jordan bagged six treys in Game 1 of the Finals, shrugged his shoulders and led Chicago past Portland with relative ease.
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins—
With Super Mario leading the way, the Penguins closed the postseason on an 11-game winning streak to repeat.


MLB: Toronto Blue Jays—Joe Carter’s walkoff home run in Game 6 made Toronto the first repeat champion in fifteen years.
College Football: Florida State Seminoles—
A head-to-head loss to Notre Dame was ignored by the pollsters as Bobby Bowden’s first national title was given and not earned.
NFL: Dallas Cowboys—
Emmitt held out for two games, came back and won the league MVP behind a great offensive line as Dallas rolled over Buffalo again.

Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels—Chris Webber called a timeout he didn’t have for Michigan and it enabled North Carolina to capture Dean’s second national championship.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls—
It was Jordan against Barkley in the Finals, but the last hero was John Paxson who drilled a three-pointer to win Game 6 and save the Bulls from a seventh game on the road.
Stanley Cup Finals: Montreal Canadiens—
In “sort-of” clash of former dynasties, Montreal got by Gretzky, who got the Kings to the Finals.


MLB: N/A—The strike may have been the last straw for baseball in Montreal, as the Expos had the best record when play ceased in August.
College Football: Nebraska Cornhuskers—
Tom Osborne got his long-sought national title with a great team, but don’t overlook undefeated Penn State who finished #2 in a heated debate.
NFL: San Francisco 49ers—
Steve Young got his own first ring, finally getting past Dallas in the NFC Championship Game on his third try and then crushing San Diego in the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Arkansas Razorbacks—Scotty Thurman’s rainbow trey broke a 70-70 tie and lifted Arkansas past Duke in the title game.
NBA Finals: Houston Rockets—
Akeem took revenge on Ewing for the 1984 Final Four, and the Rockets won a Finals whose highlight was the televised car chase of O.J. Simpson in his White Bronco during Game 5.
Stanley Cup Finals: New York Rangers—
Trailing 3-2 in the conference finals, Messier guaranteed a Ranger win, and he delivered, ultimately lifting New York to their first Cup since 1940.


MLB: Atlanta Braves—They won 14 NL East titles from 1991-2005 and this was the season that spared the Braves from the “never won the big one” tag.
College Football: Nebraska Cornhuskers—
Nebraska was even better than they’d been in 1994 and this time there was no argument after they crushed Florida for the national title.
NFL: Dallas Cowboys—
Acquiring Deion Sanders just before the season was the biggest move the Cowboys made in getting back on top, this time with Barry Switzer inheriting what Johnson had built.

Final Four: UCLA Bruins—Ty Edney’s coast-to-coast drive to beat Missouri in the second round was the impetus that UCLA needed to eventually dethrone Arkansas on Monday Night and win their first title since Wooden.
NBA Finals: Houston Rockets—
A mid-season trade for Clyde Drexler lifted Houston from lethargy and Akeem took over, leading the Rockets from the 6-seed to a sweep of Shaq & Orlando in the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils
—The neutral-zone trap defense and Martin Brodeur in goal announced their arrivals and New Jersey surprised everyone with a Finals sweep of Detroit.


MLB: New York Yankees—Derek Jeter was a rookie and Joe Torre was in his first year and the Bronx, and they upset Atlanta in the World Series.
College Football: Florida Gators—
Steve Spurrier’s Gators redeemed themselves after a series of upsets gave them a second chance at beating Florida State and they took advantage in spades, beating the Seminoles 52-20.
NFL: Green Bay Packers—
Brett Favre had been knocking on the door since 1993 and this was the breakthrough year, as the Packers went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Kentucky Wildcats—There were great expectations on Rick Pitino’s Wildcats and this deep and talented team lived up to them, rarely challenged on the way to the ring.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls—
After a two-year semi-retirement, Jordan came back with a vengenance, won 70 games and blew through the league to another championship.
Stanley Cup Finals: Colorado Avalanche—
Patrick Roy was now in the Rocky Mountains and he led the way to a conference finals upset of powerful Detroit and ultimately the Cup.


MLB: Florida Marlins—The first wild-card team to win the World Series, the Marlins got an extra-inning base hit from Edgar Renteria to break Cleveland’s heart in Game 7.
College Football: Michigan Wolverines/Nebraska Cornhuskers—
It had been a long time coming for Michigan and it was the last hurrah for Osborne, who retired after the season.
NFL: Denver Broncos—
John Elway finally reached the top, and Terrell Davis was the hero, as the powerful running back ran over Green Bay in a Super Bowl upset.

Final Four: Arizona Wildcats—Three wins over #1 seeds, including top-heavy tournament favorite Kansas and defending champ Kentucky got Lute Olson a well-deserved trip to the throne room.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls—
In the pivotal fifth game of the Finals, Jordan scored 38 points in spite of having the flu, which in turn led to Steve Kerr’s game-winning shot to clinch in Game 6.
Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings—
After having been upset as favorites the previous two years, the Red Wings came out of the 3-seed, took revenge on Colorado and then swept Philly in the Finals.


MLB: New York Yankees—Team play transcended superstars for this Yankee outfit and with 114 wins and 11-2 in the postseason, they were the best team of this era. 
College Football: Tennessee Volunteers—
In the year after Peyton Manning graduated, little-known Tee Martin got the reins and the Vols went undefeated and beat Florida State to win it all.
NFL: Denver Broncos
—John Elway went out in a blaze of glory, winning Super Bowl MVP honors against Atlanta and old coach Dan Reeves, then retiring.

Final Four: Kentucky Wildcats—It wasn’t a great team compared to other Kentucky champions, but they rallied from 17 down to beat Duke in the regional final and won it for first-year head coach Tubby Smith.
NBA Finals: Chicago Bulls—
In one of the grandest moments of sports history, Jordan finishes his Bulls’ career with a jumper to beat Utah by a point in Game 6 and win Championship #6.
Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings
: The ’98 run was a carbon copy of ’97, as the Red Wings came from the 3-seed and eventually swept the Finals, this time over Washington.


MLB: New York Yankees—They didn’t dominate like in ’98, but the Yankees met the Braves in what was supposed to be a Showdown Series between great teams, but ended as a New York sweep.
College Football: Florida State Seminoles—An undefeated season was capped off by a fantastic Sugar Bowl performance from wide receiver Peter Warrick, as FSU survived Michael Vick’s Virginia Tech.
NFL: St. Louis Rams—
Kurt Warner came from nowhere, the Rams did the same and they held off the Tennessee Titans in the Super Bowl by a single yard.

Final Four: UConn Huskies—UConn and Duke eyed each other up all season long from the 1-2 spots in the polls and the Huskies won a taut national title game over the Blue Devils.
NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs
—Jordan’s retirement opened the door for someone else and a young Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich walked through.
Stanley Cup Finals: Dallas Stars—
A controversial goal by Brett Hull in triple overtime of Game 6 gave the city of Dallas another championship win over the city of Buffalo.


MLB: New York Yankees—A Subway Series came as the Yankees faced the Mets and for the first time since the early 1970s, baseball had a three-peat champion.
College Football: Oklahoma Sooners—
Bob Stoops brought Oklahoma back to the top after thirteen years without so much as a major bowl appearance, thanks to a stingy defense.
NFL: Baltimore Ravens
—The Lewis’, Marvin at coordinator and Ray at linebacker led a devastating defense that peaked in the postseason and rolled through four straight playoff wins.

Final Four: Michigan State Spartans—Tom Izzo brought the national title back to East Lansing, as he, Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson won a bracket gutted by upsets.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers—
Shaq & Kobe were dead to rights, down 15 in the fourth quarter of Game 7 against Portland before a rally won that series and carried over into a Finals win against Indiana.
Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils—
The Devils survived a seven-game conference finals against the Flyers thanks to Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur, the ended Dallas’ repeat bid in the Finals.


MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks—The D-Backs and Yankees played an all-time great World Series in the aftermath of 9/11 and Arizona survived on the arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
College Football: Miami Hurricanes
—With a roster dotted with future NFL mainstays, this was the most dominant of all the Hurricane national champions.
NFL: New England Patriots
—Tom Brady stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots went on a magic ride with a controversial playoff win in a blizzard and a Super Bowl upset of the explosive Rams.

Final Four: Duke Blue Devils—Coach K got a unique place in history with ring #3, thanks to a big rally against Maryland in the Final Four and a title game win over Arizona.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—Shaq & Kobe won three titles together, but there were never more dominant in the playoffs than in this run.
Stanley Cup Finals: Colorado Avalanche
—The Avs and Devils played a memorable seven-game series and Colorado got the great defenseman Ray Borque his first chance to hoist the Cup.


MLB: Anaheim Angels—This franchise’s first World Series title came in epic fashion, coming from 5-0 down in the eighth inning of Game 6 and then winning Game 7 over the San Francisco Giants.
College Football: Ohio State Buckeyes—
Miami seemed a lock to repeat when they came to the Fiesta Bowl, but in shades of 1986, the Hurricanes lost a thriller in Tempe.
NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
—It was another year for a truly great defensive team, led by Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks & Co., as Tampa routed Oakland in the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Maryland Terrapins—Veteran head coach Gary Williams got a well-deserved national title as a senior-laden group beat out Duke in the ACC and then won it all in Atlanta.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—In the biggest officiating travesty in this entire era of sports, the Sacramento Kings were robbed of a deserved title, with Shaq & Kobe getting a freebie.
Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings—
A team with championship-tested veterans added more experienced talent in Brett Hull and elite goaltender Dominic Hasek to win another Cup.


MLB: Florida Marlins—In just their second playoff appearance in franchise history, the Marlins won another title, this time rallying to beat the Cubs in the NLCS and the Yankees in the World Series.
College Football: LSU Tigers/USC Trojans
—An ending that satisfied no one after these two teams were prevented from playing head-to-head for the title.
NFL: New England Patriots
—After winning the first big Brady-Peyton playoff showdown in the AFC title game, the Patriots won another Super Bowl on a last-play field goal.

Final Four: Syracuse Orangemen—A veteran head coach in Jim Boeheim and a dynamic one-and-done freshman named Carmelo Anthony gave this program it’s first NCAA title.
NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs
—Tim Duncan was solid and steady all the way through the playoffs as they ended the Laker run and then dispatched Jason Kidd’s New Jersey Nets.
Stanley Cup Finals: New Jersey Devils—
It took grueling Game 7s in each of the final two rounds, but the Devils won their third Cup in six years behind the goaltending of Martin Brodeur.


MLB: Boston Red Sox—A historic ALCS comeback against the Yankees marked a historic World Series title, ending an 86-year drought.
College Football: USC Trojans—
Pete Carroll led the way with Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush as USC absolutely massacred Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to leave no doubt about who the best team was.
NFL: New England Patriots
—The best of the three Patriot champions in four years, they beat Peyton’s Colts, the 15-1 Steelers and Donovan McNabb’s Eagles to claim another Super Bowl.

Final Four: UConn Huskies—Another great UConn-Duke battle, this one in the Final Four, sent the Huskes to Monday night for an anti-climactic win over Georgia Tech.
NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons—
Winning an NBA title usually requires a superstar, but this Detroit Piston team was a rare breed, with the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
Stanley Cup Finals: Tampa Bay Lightning
—Another year were the champ needed to close the last two series with a seventh game, as Martin St. Louis led the way for the Lightning.


MLB: Chicago White Sox—Another Sox team ends an 86-year World Series drought as Chicago wins the ALCS with four complete games and then sweeps Houston in the series.
College Football: Texas Longhorns
—Longhorn quarterback Vince Young engineered a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback over USC  to win one of college football’s greates games.
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers
—Bill Cowher’s first Super Bowl champ became the first team do it out of the 6-seed in the AFC playoffs, including a stunning upset of Indianapolis in the divisional round.

Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels—UNC and Illinois was a heavyweight championship battle and big Sean May was the difference for the Heels.
NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs
—The Spurs were up against it at home in the third quarter of Game 7 against the Pistons before Duncan took over and won his third ring.
Stanley Cup Finals—
The entire season was cancelled, the greatest legacy of commissioner Gary Bettman, the most infamous in sports.


MLB: St. Louis Cardinals—After 100-plus win seasons didn’t do it in 2004 and 2005, the 83-win Cardinals of 2006 peaked at the right time and won their first World Series in 24 years.
College Football: Florida Gators
—An era of SEC dominance began on a January night in Tempe as the underdog Gators dismantled top-ranked Ohio State 41-14.
NFL: Indianapolis Colts—
Peyton Manning finally got his New England nemesis with the biggest comeback in conference championship game history and then got his first Super Bowl ring.

Final Four: Florida Gators—For the only time in this era the same school sweeps the college football and basketball titles in the same year, this under Billy Donovan and led by Joakim Noah and Al Horford.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat
—It was a return to greatness for Pat Riley and Shaq, and the start of greatness for Finals MVP Dwayne Wade.
Stanley Cup Finals: Carolina Hurricanes—
The goaltending of Cam Ward led Carolina past Buffalo and Edmonton in seven-game series and turned Tobacco Road into hockey country for one glorious spring.


MLB: Boston Red Sox—After waiting 86 years for one title it only took three years for another one to come to Fenway, as the Red Sox proved they weren’t a one-hit wonder.
College Football: LSU Tigers—
The first two-loss champion—the second loss on Black Friday no less—rose to the top after a crazy college football season.
NFL: New York Giants
—An incredible January ride saw the Giants upset top-seeded Dallas, end Brett Favre’s Packer career and the coup de grace was a 17-14 stunner over the undefeated Patriots.

Final Four: Florida Gators—After a calendar year sweep, Florida followed it up with an academic year sweep of the football & basketball titles, with Donovan, Noah and Horford repeating.
NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs
—If it’s an odd-numbered year that must mean it’s time for the Spurs, who swept out a young LeBron James and Cleveland in the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: Anaheim Mighty Ducks
—With veteran Teemu Selanne and 21-year-olds Ryan Getzlaff and Corey Perry, the Ducks brought the Cup to SoCal for the first time.


MLB: Philadelphia Phillies—Cole Hamels won MVP of both the NLCS and World Series, leading the Phillies to their hometown’s first pro sports championship in a quarter-century.
College Football: Florida Gators
—Tim Tebow made himself a college football legend, vowing publicly to be a leader and then delivering a national title.   
NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers
—Ben Roethlisberger led a late drive to beat the Arizona Cardinals and the Steelers set a new record with their sixth Super Bowl title.

Final Four: Kansas Jayhawks—Trailing Memphis by nine with two minutes left, the Jayhawks rally was capped by a big three from Mario Challmes and they won it in overtime.
NBA Finals: Boston Celtics
—A big trade for Kevin Garnett and the acquisition of Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce created an instant turnaround and a new Big Three era in Beantown.
Stanley Cup Finals: Detroit Red Wings
—In a sport defined by parity and playoff madness, the Detroit Red Wings became that rare team to validate regular season dominance with a Stanley Cup.


MLB: New York Yankees—After five years of postseason failure, Alex Rodriguez finally came through in October, delivering numerous clutch hits to carry the Yankees back to the top.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide
—Behind Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram, the Tide muscled to an undefeated season capped off by beating Florida and Texas.
NFL: New Orleans Saints
—In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Drew Brees and the Saints lifted the spirits of an entire region with victories over Brett Favre’s Vikings and Peyton Manning’s Colts to seal a crown.

Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels—They flirted with greatness in the regular season and consummated it in the NCAA Tournament, blasting their way through the field and crushing Michigan State on Monday Night.
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—Kobe got his first ring without Shaq, enjoying an MVP season and leading the Lakers to 65 wins and a decisive championship.
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins
—The Penguins got a rematch with the Red Wings in the Finals and after losing the first two games, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin came blazing back to win four straight.


MLB: San Francisco Giants—The Phillies and the Yankees were getting all the media attention in October, but it was Tim Lincecum and the Giants who were the ones that ran the gauntlet.
College Football: Auburn Tigers
—Cam Newton had a dominant year, won a Heisman Trophy and ultimately led Auburn to a last-second field goal to beat Oregon for the title.
NFL: Green Bay Packers
—Another team came out of the 6-seed, with Aaron Rodgers having a big night to beat the Steelers and win a Super Bowl.

Final Four: Duke Blue Devils—Duke spoiled the Cinderella run of Butler with an exciting two-point win capped off by a last-gasp desperation Butler shot that “almost went in.”
NBA Finals: Los Angeles Lakers
—The Lakers and Celtics renewed their rivalry in a new era, it went seven games and in spite of a poor shooting night from Kobe, Los Angeles repeated.
Stanley Cup Finals: Chicago Blackhawks
—It was the start of a great run in Chicago that would get to three Stanley Cups in six years, with center Jonathan Toews leading the way.


MLB: St. Louis Cardinals—It was one of the great comeback stories of all time, from ten games back in August, to down to one strike in the World Series two different times and still coming out on top.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide—
A regular season loss to LSU should have been a death knell, but given an undeserved rematch, the Tide got a split with the Tigers and that was good enough. 
NFL: New York Giants
—Another Giants-Patriots Super Bowl was another thriller and another win for Tom Coughlin, as New York got hot at the right time after a 9-7 season.

Final Four: UConn Huskies—Kemba Walker put on a tremendous March run, carrying UConn to five straight wins in the Big East Tournament and then six more in the NCAA. 
NBA Finals: Dallas Mavericks
—Dirk Nowitzki stepped up to lead Dallas out of the 3-seed in the West to a playoff run that ended with a six-game dismantling of the heralded Miami Heat of LeBron James.
Stanley Cup Finals: Boston Bruins
—The postseason was all about Tim Thomas, as the goaltender led Boston to three Game 7 victories, including a shutout in the Finals at Vancovuer.


MLB: San Francisco Giants—San Francisco beat Cincinnati and St. Louis with a combined six wins in elimination spots and then made it easy on themselves with a World Series sweep of Detroit.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide
—Alabama held off Georgia in a thrilling SEC Championship Game, the real championship battle that preceded a de facto throttling of Notre Dame to lock it up.
NFL: Baltimore Ravens
—Head coach John Harbaugh beat brother Jim of San Francisco in a sibling rivalry Super Bowl, but the football story was the defensive veterans of the Ravens overcoming several years of playoff heartbreak.

Final Four: Kentucky Wildcats—Anthony Davis led a group of freshman who played with teamwork and maturity beyond their years in an easy championship run.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat
—LeBron finally had his ring, with a monster performance at Boston saving the season and then taking over the NBA Finals against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Stanley Cup Finals: Los Angeles Kings
—For the first time in history an 8-seed won the Stanley Cup, as goalie Jonathan Quck dominated the postseason.


MLB: Boston Red Sox—In the aftermath of the Marathon bombing attack, the Red Sox were Boston Strong, with a postseason highlighted by a David Ortiz grand slam that turned around the ALCS.
College Football: Florida State Seminoles
—FSU and Auburn traded a series of rapid-fire blows over the course of a frenzied final five minutes and Jameis Winston’s touchdown pass finally won it for Florida State.
NFL: Seattle Seahawks
—The Legion of Boom defense became the next defense to enter into NFL lore, with a complete demolition of the great Peyton Manning and Denver in the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Louisville Cardinals—Having already won a title at Kentucky, head coach Rick Pitino now did it at Louisville, beating Michigan behind a surprise shooting barrage from Luke Hancock.
NBA Finals: Miami Heat
—Ray Allen’s shot for the ages saved Miami in Game 6, where they won in overtime and finally survived San Antonio in a thrilling Game 7.
Stanley Cup Finals: Chicago Blackhawks
—Trailing 2-1 in Game 6 of the Finals in Boston, the Blackhawks looked headed for a seventh game until a stunning two-goal rally in the final minute brought home another Cup.


MLB: San Francisco Giants—Madison Bumgarner was mesmerizing in October, never more so than in Game 7 of the World Series when he threw five shutout innings on two days rest to close out Kansas City.
College Football: Ohio State Buckeyes—
A third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones was forced into duty and engineered wins over Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, scoring 143 points in the process.
NFL: New England Patriots—
Tom Brady led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives against the great Seattle defense and unknown defensive back Malcom Butler sealed it with an interception in the end zone.

Final Four: UConn Huskies—Coming out of the 7-seed, Shabazz Napier took over the NCAA Tournament and led the Huskies to upsets of #1-ranked Florida in the Final Four and then Kentucky for the title.
NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs
—Off the heartbreak of 2013, it was redemption for the Spurs, who got another crack at the Heat and blistered them in a five-game Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: Los Angeles Kings
—The Comeback Kings rallied from a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose, won an overtime Game 7 in Chicago and kept coming back from multi-goal deficits to beat the Rangers in the Finals.


MLB: Kansas City Royals–After coming up 90 feet short of tying Game 7 in 2014, the Royals were driven all year to get that last base and that determination led them to eight come-from-behind wins in a postseason that ended with one last rally past the Mets in Game 5 of the World Series.
College Football: Alabama Crimson Tide
–After an early-season loss to Ole Miss, the Tide rebounded with a blowout at Georgia, rolled through the rest of the SEC, crushed Michigan State in the Playoff and finally won a 45-40 shootout with Clemson to wrap it up. 
NFL: Denver Broncos
— Peyton Manning showed his age, but a few clutch throws were all a fabulous defense needed, as the D carried Denver to a 12-4 regular season and then shut down great quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and league MVP Cam Newton in succession to win the Super Bowl.

Final Four: Duke Blue Devils—Coach K tied Adolph Rupp for the second on the all-time list with five national titles, as Duke survived Wisconsin in an exciting national championship game.
NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors
—After a 67-win regular season, Golden State won a difficult Western Conference then outlasted LeBron and injury-riddled Cleveland in the Finals.
Stanley Cup Finals: Chicago Blackhawks
—With a third Stanley Cup, the team of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane made their case for dynasty status.


MLB: Chicago Cubs–A 108-year championship drought came to a merciful end in historic fashion, as the Cubs rallied from a 3-1 World Series deficit to beat the Indians, taking the last two on the road.
College Football: Clemson Tigers–Everything looked on cruise control for Alabama to win a repeat title and again beat Clemson before DeShaun Watson delivered a magnificent second half and pulled out a 35-31 win with a second to play.
NFL: New England Patriots–In a comeback for the ages, Tom Brady rallied the Patriots from a 28-3 deficit against Atlanta in the Super Bowl and sealed his legacy as the Greatest Of All Time.

Final Four: Villanova Wildcats--A buzzer-beater three by Kris Jenkins beats North Carolina 77-74 and caps off an NCAA run that included Villanova ousting the #1 overall seed in Kansas.
NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers–LeBron James made history in leading his team from a 3-1 Finals deficit against Golden State, the first team to ever do so, and in the process brought the city of Cleveland its first pro sports championship since 1964.
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins--After a slow start the Pens finished the season strong and started fresh in the playoffs by knocking off the top-seeded Washington Capitals, winning a seven-game battle with a good Tampa Bay Lightning team and then finishing off the San Jose Sharks in the Finals.


Final Four: North Carolina Tar Heels–It was a redemption run for UNC, who got their own buzzer-beater to beat Kentucky in a regional final and then won close games over Oregon and Gonzaga to secure another national title.
NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors–After the humiliation of ’16, the Warriors signed Kevin Durant and coasted through the regular season, the Western Conference playoffs and LeBron proved to be no match in a Finals three-match that Golden State won easily in five games.
Stanley Cup Finals: Pittsburgh Penguins–Pittsburgh continued to torment Washington, knocking out the top-seeded Caps in the second round again, then winning a thrilling Eastern Conference Finals over Ottawa and finally dispatching Nashville for a repeat Cup.

World Series: In one of the great sports stories of the modern era, the Houston Astros won their first title for a city battered by a hurricane and did it dispatching the three biggest-spending teams in baseball, as the Astros eliminated the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers in succession.

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