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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).