The Detroit Pistons will knock on the door of historic ineptitude Tuesday night. Losers of 26 straight games, the Pistons are one loss away from having their name etched in the record books as the sole owners of the longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.
Detroit will make its final attempt to avoid infamy when it hosts the Brooklyn Nets at Little Caesars Arena, just miles from where the franchise hoisted Larry O'Brien trophies in three consecutive decades. While those tough teams have earned the right to be circled on opponents' schedules, the Pistons' 2023-24 schedule has looked much different: The team hasn't won a game since Oct. 28.
But Detroit has not been an innovator of incredible incompetence. With tonight's loss, they would join a pantheon of legendary losers from around the world. Here are the longest losing streaks in sports history. Take solace, Pistons faithful, big losers have been here before.
NFL: Chicago Cardinals, 29 games
If 27 basketball games in an 82-game schedule sounds bad, how about 29 football games in an era of 10-game schedules? Prior to the AFL-NFL merger, the Chicago Cardinals started the 1942 season 3-2 when they fell to the Cleveland Rams in Week 6.
Chicago would not achieve another victory until Week 4 of the 1945 season. The Cardinals (who later became the St. Louis Cardinals, who later became the Phoenix Cardinals, who later became the Arizona Cardinals) They finished 1945 on a seven-game losing streak, going 1-9 and failing to make the playoffs for the 20th consecutive season.
In most recent history, the Jacksonville Jaguars went on a 20-game losing streak from 2020 to 2021. A 15-game losing streak to close out the 2020 campaign positioned the Jags to select franchise QB Trevor Lawrence, but it directly fed the putrid era of Urban Meyer. .
Yes, the Pistons will receive most of the infamy for their losing streak if they fall tonight to set the single-season record, but they would need to lose again on Thursday to the Boston Celtics if they want to tie the team's all-time mark. 76ers. Philadelphia's streak spanned two seasons as the Sixers closed the 2014-15 campaign with a 10-game skid and then opened the following season 0-18 before securing their first win in December.
Those 2015-16 Sixers would win just 10 games, the second fewest of any team in an 82-game season. The record for fewest wins was set by the 76ers (9-73) in 1972-73, a team that set the then-NBA record with a 20-game losing streak.
As for the current single-season record, the Pistons are currently tied with the 2013-14 76ers and the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers with 26 losses.
WNBA: Tulsa Shock and Indiana Fever, 20 games
The Indiana Fever finished 2022 with 18 straight losses amid a 5-31 season, but had a chance to reset by winning the WNBA Lottery and selecting South Carolina legend Aliyah Boston, who had just finished one of the best NCAA women's basketball careers in history. .
But even with Boston being named an All-Star and winning Rookie of the Year, the Fever's losing streak continued, losing their first two games of 2023 to tie the Tulsa Shock's losing streak record from 2011. While Boston's presence led to an eight-game losing streak. After an improvement in wins, the Fever failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
In 2011, the Shock went 3-31 for a .088 winning percentage, the WNBA's worst all-time. With a mismatched roster that included 40-year-old legend Sheryl Swoopes returning from retirement and a 19-year-old future All-Star rookie in Liz Cambage, Tulsa's losing streak extended from June 21 to August 25 .
NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, 18 games
A COVID-shortened 2021 NHL season wasn't short enough to prevent the Sabers from matching the 2003-04 Penguins' mark. While the Pens went 0-17-1, Buffalo went 0-15-3, and their 18th loss was particularly painful.
Leading 3-0 entering the third period, the Sabers allowed three goals in the fourth quarter before Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov scored 42 seconds into overtime to extend the streak.
“It's embarrassing,” Sabers defenseman Brandon Montour said after that loss. “This entire stretch is shameful. “Any NHL team is a win.”
The streak is broken!
The Buffalo Sabers finally get back into the win column with a 6-1 win over the Flyers 🏒
Prior to this win, Buffalo was on an 18-game losing streak (one game away from breaking an NHL record). pic.twitter.com/UplXeiajzL
– The Atlético (@TheAthletic) April 1, 2021
MLB: Louisville Colonels, 26 games
In the days of Benjamin Harrison's presidential administration, the 1889 Louisville Colonels finished with an impressively horrible record of 27-111, losing 26 consecutive games at one point.
The season began with team owner Mordecai Davidson being replaced as coach by Dude Esterbrook, but Esterbrook was fired after just 10 games. Outfielder Jimmy “Chicken” Wolf assumed the role of player-manager, but Davidson later hired local goaltender Buck McKinney as team manager amid the losing streak out of concern about player behavior.
In later years, the Colonels employed eventual Hall of Famers such as Rube Waddell and Honus Wagner, but the franchise folded in 1899. In modern history, the record has been challenged by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 in a row, and the 1988 Baltimore Phillies. Orioles, who lost 21 in a row.
Norwich's yo-yoing between the Premier League and the second-tier EFL spanned five seasons from 2018 to 2022, with two EFL championships and two relegations from the Premier League thanks to finishing in last place.
In the Premier League, Norwich closed its 2019-20 campaign in the basement with 10 consecutive defeats. After being expelled to the EFL and then promoted back to the top-tier league in 2021-22, Norwich opened that season with six more consecutive league defeats to set the terrible record. The streak was finally broken with a 0–0 draw in the team's seventh game, but Norwich's first victory did not come until their 11th game amid another last-place season.
NCAA Football: Northwestern, 34 games
A football season without victories is brutal. But how about three in four years? The 1970s and 1980s were not kind to Northwestern football, which had four winless seasons between 1976 and 1989 and three one-win seasons in that span. From their third game of 1979 to their fourth game of the 1982 season, the Wildcats failed to record a single victory in 34 games.
When the Wildcats lost their 29th consecutive game to break their losing streak record, Northwestern fans sarcastically stormed the field and chanted “We're the worst!” When the losing streak was broken in 1982, fans invaded the field again, tore down the team's goalposts and threw them into Lake Michigan.
That losing streak cost coach Rick Venturi his job, as he finished his tenure with a 1-31-1 record in three seasons. Venturi's replacement, Dennis Green, had a winless first year before turning the Wildcats around in 1982. Green's work in getting three wins out of that Northwestern team was so impressive that he was named All-Ten Coach of the Year. Great, despite the team's eight victories. losses.
Below the FBS level, FCS Prairie View A&M has an even more dismal record, losing a staggering 80 consecutive games beginning in 1989. The 1998 Panthers broke that streak with just 15 scholarship players.
NCAA Basketball: Chicago State Lady Cougars, 59 games
Chicago State women's basketball experienced as steep a decline in the 2010s as any program could imagine. After posting three winning seasons in four years, capped by a program-best 24-win season in 2010-11, the Lady Cougars would only win 25 games over the remainder of the decade. The bottom came in 2018, when the winless Cougars lost their 59th straight game.
The losing streak began in 2015-16 with a seven-game streak to close the season, then was magnified with a winless 2016-17 season before the streak was broken in the team's 25th game of the 2017-season. 18, the Lady Cougars. only victory of the season.
On the men's side, Towson owns the longest losing streak in Division I with a 41-game stretch that spanned from 2011-12 to 2012-13. But since breaking that streak, the team has had eight winning seasons over the past decade and was crowned CAA co-champions in 2021-22.
Exhibition basketball: Washington Generals, 2,495 games
The Washington Generals exist to lose. They play the roles of punching bag and straight man in the Harlem Globetrotters' high-flying basketball comedy. Throughout their history and many different aliases, the Generals have employed competitive basketball players, but nearly every one of their 200-plus annual games ends in defeat.
That was until January 5, 1971. The Generals, who were playing under the name and jerseys of the New Jersey Reds that night, and the Globetrotters played an unusual game that night, with Harlem doing fewer stunts and fewer comedic pranks. the usual. Globetrotters captain and team legend Curly Neal did not participate in the exhibition and it became a more classic basketball game than most Globetrotters events.
Washington took the lead, which was not unusual. What was unusual was that the Globetrotters lost track of the score and failed to complete their usual dramatic comeback. Generals owner and founder Red Klotz entered the game in the final seconds and scored the go-ahead basket to put Washington back up 100-99.
Even after the timekeeper inexplicably stopped the clock to give Harlem one last chance, the Globetrotters were unable to continue their winning streak as the crowd stood stunned. Some children reportedly cried in the stands.
“They look at us like we killed Santa Claus,” Klotz said later.
The 1971 victory may have been one of the Generals' many victories, but the exhibitionists are not known for their record-keeping skills. While some argue that they have won as many as six games, the one that broke the 1971 streak is by far the most famous. It is estimated that the generals have lost more than 19,000 times more.
In their heyday, the Harlem Globetrotters were also made for television.
(Top photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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