The list-making business is a low-tech enterprise, with no practical barrier to startups. Anybody, it turns out, can make a list. A sizable staff and a major investment in office supplies does not guarantee the last word, and expertise is almost entirely irrelevant. Which is to say that, for any topic we choose, your list might be defensibly different from ours.
This is discouraging, especially for those of us who splurged on office supplies. What if your list makes more sense? Appeals to more people? Where then is the advantage of our office supplies, our expertise?
The only explanation is that appreciation of sports is, above all, idiosyncratic. As we prepare for the millennium with our various lists of favorites from the 20th century—which will run throughout the year, accompanied by a story on one of those favorites—we're reminded that these players, these teams matter to us in ways that achievement alone cannot account for. Take dynasties: What ought to be our most authoritative list (who won the most for the longest—how hard is that?) doubtless seems riddled with capriciousness. We've got Lombardi's Packers but not Walsh's 49ers? Harry Hopman's tennis teams but not Stanford's?
Our position is simple: This list is personal and, therefore, irrefutable. We're prepared to admit that you might reasonably pick Soviet hockey over Gretzky's Oilers, or the Cuban Olympic boxing teams over the Iowa wrestling teams. All we can say is that there are no reliable criteria for our list of favorite dynasties, or any other similar list, beyond our own welter of experience and affection. We might also point out that we've been in the opinion industry a long time and know our way around a top 20. Which is another way of saying what we've been saying all along: It may be personal, but we're right.
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' II championships in 13 years.
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 Lu-jack, in 1947, and Leon Hart, in '49).
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.
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.
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.
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.