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SI's Top 20 Dynasties of the 20th Century

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Posted: Thursday June 03, 1999 02:52 PM

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1 1957-1969 Boston Celtics
Your grandpop will tell you how fundamentally sound these guys were, but they were also a runnin', gunnin' bunch led by Mr. Defense (Bill Russell), Mr. Offense (Bob Cousy) and Mr. Offensive (Red Auerbach), whose victory cigars lent a distinctive air to the Shamrocks' 11 championships in 13 years.
2 1946-1949 Notre Dame Football
Only one team could match up with Notre Dame in the years after World War II: the Irish second string. In four seasons under coach Frank Leahy, Notre Dame went 36-0-2, won three national titles and had two Heisman Trophy winners (Johnny Lujack, in 1947, and Leon Hart, in '49).
3 1964-1975 UCLA Basketball
The Bruins won so effortlessly--their average margin in 10 championship games over 12 seasons was 13.4 points--that many forget coach John Wooden started at UCLA in 1948 and made only one Final Four appearance before his remarkable run began in '64.
4 1947-1962 New York Yankees
The Yankees won 10 championships in the sweetest 16-season run the game has ever known--and lost Game 7 in '55, '57 and '60. In this era Joe DiMaggio passed the crown to Mickey Mantle, his teammate in '51, and Yogi Berra became as much a World Series fixture as the decorative bunting.
5 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls
In six trips to the NBA Finals, these Monsters of the Midway faced five different opponents--the Lakers, Trail Blazers, Suns, SuperSonics and the Jazz (twice)--and each time series MVP Michael Jordan led them to the championship. Rarely can the essence of dominance be stated so simply: If Michael Jordan played a full season, Chicago won it all.
6 1916-1992 U.S. Men's Olympic 4 x 100M Team
In the 1912 Olympic Games, the U.S. Men's 4 x 100 team was disqualified for passing the baton outside the exchange zone. The U.S. won 14 of the next 17 gold medals awarded in the event. Only two DQ's (in '60 and '88) and the U.S. boycott in '80 spoiled an 80-year gold medal run during which U.S. squads set or equaled the world record 14 times.
7 1984-1990 Edmonton Oilers
Led by Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers during the 1980s produced the five highest goal totals in NHL history. But they didn't start winning Cups until they learned to play defense. Fierce leadership by Mark Messier forged the swift and talented Oilers into a team that won five Stanley Cups in seven seasons.
8 1950-1967 Australian Davis Cup Team
Every good thing you associate with Australian tennis--modesty, discipline, camaraderie, beer--came from Harry Hopman. O.K., maybe not the beer. His players called him Captain Bligh (though never to his face). But every macho mate from Frank Sedgman to Lew Hoad to Rod Laver did what he was told. "Relax and hit for the lines," Hopman commanded. So they did--from '50 through '67, Hopman's teams won 15 Cups.
9 1979-1999 North Carolina Women's Soccer
Since starting the Tar Heels' program in 1979, coach Anson Dorrance has reeled off a 442-17-11 record and won 15 national championships. And you thought North Carolina was basketball heaven? "This is a women's soccer school," Dean Smith once said. "We're just trying to keep up with them."
10 1953-1957 Oklahoma Football
Sooners coach Bud Wilkinson liked to quote to his players bits of philosophy such as this nugget: "Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add but when there is no longer anything to take away." Must have made sense to them--over five seasons Oklahoma won a record 47 straight games and back-to-back national titles. Since 1918 there have been three winning streaks longer than 30 games. Wilkinson had two between '48 and '57.
11 1968-1999 Kenyan Runners
It started with Naftali Temu, who won the 1968 Olympic 10,000 meters. Since then Kenyan men have won nine Olympic gold medals and 13 world titles and set 24 world records at distances from 3,000 meters to 10,000 meters. They've won 14 straight world cross-country team titles, the past nine Boston Marathons and every Olympic steeplechase they've entered since '68.
12 1974-1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
Men of luck: Joe Paterno turned down the Steelers' coaching job in 1969, forcing Pittsburgh to turn to Chuck Noll. Men of more luck: Chicago called heads in the coin flip for the top draft choice in '70; tails it was, and Pittsburgh took Terry Bradshaw. Men of steel: Pittsburgh shut out five teams in a two-month stretch of '76 and won four Super Bowls in six seasons. "We had an All-Star team," linebacker Andy Russell said. And something else: "We despised losing!" said Bradshaw.
13 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns
Paul Brown's Browns were considered bush leaguers when they joined the NFL in 1950. To open the season, commissioner Bert Bell matched them against the defending champs, the Eagles, and 71,237 fans showed up in Philadelphia for the eagerly anticipated bloodbath. It was a 35-10 rout, but for Brown's Browns. "Cleveland," Bell said, "is the best football team I've ever seen." Led by Otto Graham, the Browns won seven titles in the AAFC and NFL in 10 years.
14 1936-1943 New York Yankees
These were the DiMaggio Years, crammed with 799 wins, seven pennants and six world titles. Starting in '36, the Yankee Clipper's rookie season--a year in which Lou Gehrig hit .354 with 49 homers and 152 RBIs--the Yankees scored the most runs and allowed the fewest in the American League four years in a row and won the World Series each year.
15 1961-1967 Green Bay Packers
Taking over a team that had gone 1-10-1 in 1958, Vince Lombardi began winning titles two years later. A master disciplinarian--"When Coach Lombardi tells me to sit down, I don't even look for a chair," defensive tackle Henry Jordan once said--Lombardi led his Packers to five NFL titles in seven years.
16 1978-1997 Iowa Wrestling
As terrifying as Dan Gable was to opposing wrestlers when he won the Olympic gold medal in 1972, he was just as discomfiting matside as he seemed to will his Hawkeyes to total dominance. Gable's Gang won nine straight NCAA team championships ('78 to '86) and twice won three in a row ('91 to '93 and '95 to '97).
17 1937-1945 Homestead Grays
The Yankees of the Negro leagues were the Pittsburgh-based Homestead Grays, led by Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. Those two, known as the black Ruth and Gehrig, respectively, led the Grays to nine pennants and two World Series titles from 1937 to '45. Gibson may have been the best player in all of baseball: A .354 lifetime hitter, he slammed 75 home runs as a 19-year-old rookie for the Grays in 1931 and finished, by one count, with 823 career homers.
18 1965-1999 Russian Pairs Skaters
In the past 35 years Russian pairs have won 29 world championships and 10 straight Olympic gold medals. No pair better defined the elegance and discipline of the Russian skaters than the beautiful Ekaterina Gordeeva and her late husband Sergei Grinkov. Harmonious, balletic and effortlessly athletic, this Moscow couple won four world titles and two Olympic golds, capturing the hearts of audiences the world over before Grinkov died of a heart attack at the age of 28.
19 1956-1960 Montreal Canadiens
With 24 Stanley Cups since 1916, the Montreal Canadiens have been the dominant team of the century, but the best of the best were the Flying Frenchmen who won five straight Cups starting in 1956. Led by 10 future Hall of Famers--including Maurice and Henri Richard, Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion and Jacques Plante--these Habs boasted two All-Star lines and the NHL's stingiest defense for five years running.
20 1941-1958 Calumet Farm
From 1941 to 1958, Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky., bred and raced two Triple Crown winners--Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948)--and five other Kentucky Derby winners: Pensive (1944), Ponder (1949), Hill Gail (1952), Iron Liege (1957) and Tim Tam (1958). Seven of the farm's horses from this period were eventually voted into racing's hall of fame--most of them offspring of the farm's magnificent stallion, Bull Lea.

Issue date: May 10, 1999

Did we leave your favorite dynasty off the list? Click here to let us know, and come back later to see a selection of your responses.

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SI's Favorite Dynasties
Your Take: Dynasties we left out
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