The difference between the greatest teams of all-time and the rest of the competition comes down to three things; continuity, determination, and preparation. Every team in collegiate or pro sports are going to have talent on their roster. Some will possess more talent than others, but that won’t be the difference between being a great team or a mediocre team. The best teams will beat you at your game plan, they’ll play as one, and they won’t let the moment or stage become too big. To truly become one of the greatest teams of all-time, the team must come first, always. Championships can define a great team, but you can be great and not win the title. We’ve seen that with the 2007 New England Patriots, one of the most dominant teams in the history of all sports. While most teams in our list have won the championship, it’s not a requirement. While comprising our list, we tried to take into account great teams from a variety of different sports, so that we don’t discredit any of the greatest teams across the sports world. Here’s our list of the greatest sports franchises of the 21st century.
2015-2016 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Your eyes are not misleading you. The Golden State Warriors took a team that went 73-9, blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to LeBron and company, and added Kevin Durant. Now if you aren’t sold yet, look at their numbers the following season. The Warriors went 16-1 in the playoffs and won their second title in 3 years. The Warriors outscored their opponents by a margin of 11.6 points per game on the season, by far the largest margin of any team in the NBA over the last 20 years. The Warriors were dominant on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they have the best effective field goal percentage in the NBA at 56.3%. Defensively, they held opponents to 48.6% shooting, the lowest in the league. This team was for real. They could dominate you with an elite offense, and if they ever had an off night shooting the ball, they could lock you down defensively and still win the game. The Warriors led the NBA in blocks, assists, steals, and forced turnovers. True domination any way you look at it. They’re not done either. The Golden State Warriors are in the midst of one of the most dominant runs you’re ever going to see across all sports.
2007-2008 DETROIT RED WINGS
The 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings secured the fourth and final championship for the Motown. Their run from the mid-90s into the mid-2000s was absolute domination. Their approach to hockey completely changed the way the game played. The Red Wings were the first organization in the sport to implement and embrace the revolution of maximizing puck possession. They were going to control the game, and if you were to beat them, it’d have to be on their terms. They had the best defense in the NHL, led by goalies Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood. Defenders Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom were among the best in the league. Then on offense, they trade goals with opponents as well as anyone. Center Pavel Datsyuk was in the midst of meteoric rise to becoming the best center in the world, and wingers Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom were capable of taking over any given game. This 2007-2008 Detroit Red Wings team outshot their opponents in 70 of the 82 games played — and they outscored opponents by 73 goals on the year. In the Playoffs, they outscored their opponents by 31 goals on their way to the Stanley Cup, the best scoring margin of any team since the 1995 New Jersey Devils.
2000-2001 DUKE BLUE DEVILS (MEN’S BASKETBALL)
Anytime you have a collegiate basketball program where your five best players are all future NBA players, you’re going to be extremely hard to beat. The 2000-2001 Duke Blue Devils had exactly that, and we’d argue them to beat any Duke team ever assembled. Led by senior forward Shane Battier, these Blue Devils were a problem. The craziest part is, Battier wasn’t even the best player on the team. Sophomore point guard Jay Williams was regarded by everyone as the best point guard in the nation. Williams also led the team in scoring at 21.6ppg and assists with 6.1apg. He would wind up winning the National Player of the Year award the following season. This roster also included NBA players Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy. On the season the Blue Devils finished with a record of 35-4. But, what really set this team apart was their tournament run. This Duke squad won all six of their NCAA Tournament games by at least 10-points on their way to winning the National Championship. Something that hasn’t been accomplished again since.
2008 FLORIDA GATORS (FOOTBALL)
Led by Heisman-Trophy winning quarterback Tim Tebow, this Florida Gators roster may be the most talented college football teams ever. The Gators beat nine bowl teams by an average of 31 points per game, including #1 Alabama to win the SEC Championship, and also #2 Oklahoma to win the National Title. Twenty-four members from this team went on to the NFL, many names most of you would know — Joe Haden, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Percy Harvin, the Pouncey twins, Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap, Riley Cooper, Brandon Spikes, Janoris Jenkins, and Major Wright to name a few. The Gators were led by head coach Urban Meyer, who just recently retired with the 3rd best winning percentage in college football history. We may very well one day see a documentary television series on this team, as they have some of the most polarizing athletes and personalities in recent sports memories all on one team. TE Aaron Hernandez could have an entire documentary on the events that took place in his life alone, then you throw in Tebow, Harvin, Newton, and the rest of the team and you have some pretty compelling stories.
2007 BOSTON RED SOX
The 2007 Boston Red Sox may very well be the best team assembled in the storied franchise’ history. After finishing the regular season 96-66, the Sox went on to set the largest scoring differential in MLB Postseason history, outscoring opponents 99-46. This Boston team was the first to make a statement and rival the Yankees as a Northeast big market powerhouse. The Sox won the World Series 3 years prior but had yet to establish themselves among baseball’s elite. In 2007, the Sox led their division for 172 consecutive days and never once fell below a .500 record. In the World Series, the Sox made the Colorado Rockies look like a Pacific Coast League team as they routed them 4-0 in dramatic fashion. The Sox had one of the most prolific batting lineups in recent memory. They consist of a prime David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, and Coco Crisp. They had young guys such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Daisuke Matsuzaka who contributed in major ways. Their bullpen consisted of stars Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Curt Schilling, and Jonathan Papelbon. Arguably the greatest starting pitcher rotation of this Century.
2006-2007 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
If you look at the composition of the team and franchise, you can take any of the Spurs championship teams. All five of them were made up of the same nucleus of powers, starting with head coach Gregg Popovich and then came the super trio of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan. But, the difference of the Championships San Antonio brought back to Texas was the dominant fashion in which they did so. The 2006-2007 Spurs were the Spurs team we chose to select to represent this list because of the way in which they dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. The Spurs swept the Cavaliers 4-0 and allowed an NBA Finals record low 322 points over the four matchups. During their championship run the Spurs didn’t face a single seven-game series, defeating every team they matched up against in six games or less. Tony Parker went on to become Finals MVP, making him the first European born player in NBA history to accomplish the feat. Tim Duncan led the team in both scoring and rebounding during the regular season at 20ppg and 10.6rpg. Manu won the NBA 6th Man of the Year award. Duncan went on to also make All-NBA 1st team and All-NBA Defensive 1st team.
2013-2014 CONNECTICUT HUSKIES (WOMEN’S BASKETBALL)
The greatest team in women’s NCAA basketball history coached by the greatest coach the sport has ever seen, Geno Auriemma. The 2013-2014 UCONN Huskies ended the season a perfect 40-0, winning every game by double digits. Let that sink in. Perfection! Or at a minimum, as close as you can get to perfection. On the season the Huskies had a 34 points per game average margin of victory and eight different times they won by more than 50. Sophomore Breanna Stewart was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. She won the NCAA National Championship every single year of her UCONN career.
2007-2008 KANSAS JAYHAWKS (MEN’S BASKETBALL)
Kansas Jayhawks head basketball coach, Bill Self, has often been ridiculed by the press for coming up short of the expectations expected for the Kansas Jayhawks. However, the press can’t critique a single thing about the 2007-2008 version of the Jayhawks. Those Jayhawks were the best in school history. The 2007-2008 Jayhawks finished the season 37-3 and won the National Championship in emphatic fashion. Up against the Derrick Rose led Memphis Tigers coached by John Calipari the Jayhawks needed a miracle to pull off the victory. Down two late in the game, the Jayhawks were forced to foul with 10 seconds left to extend the game. Derrick Rose went to the free throw line and missed the first before making the second, giving the Jayhawks a chance. Kansas point guard Sherron Collins struggled controlling possession of the ball as he dribbled up the court. He somehow got the ball in the hands of Mario Chalmers who cemented himself as a campus legend with a game-tying 3-pointer. Kansas would go to win the championship in overtime. The Jayhawks were led by first-team all-conference players Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur. Brandon Rush was also named to the first team All-American team. The Jayhawks outscored their opponents by 35.2 points per 100 possessions after adjusting for strength of schedule, the second largest margin of the past 20 years (behind that of Kentucky in 2015). They also won the title in the only NCAA Tournament in which all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four.
2007-2008 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Perhaps the greatest professional football team ever, and they weren’t even Super Bowl Champions. The 2007-2008 New England Patriots are the most polarizing football team of the 21st Century, and it’s not even a debate. After losing their first two preseason games, the Patriots then went on to win the final two, all sixteen regular season games, and their first two playoff games before falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. While the Patriots fell short of perfection, they did raise the ceiling on what we believe a professional offensive attack could accomplish. The Pats offense was an absolute juggernaut. Over the first eight games, they outscored opponents by 204 points. Over their first ten games, they posted the best point differential in NFL history by a whopping 59 points. The Patriots brought a collegiate style spread offense to the NFL and completely dismantled NFL defenses. The Pats lined up in shotgun formation 53.1% of the time. The Jets and the Packers were the only other teams in the entire league lining up in shotgun over 40% of the team. The league average for shotgun formation was only 26%. The NFL as a whole still utilized the Fullback position, or two running back sets 40% of the time. The Patriots instead went with a one running back set and added a 3rd wide receiver to their formations. In doing so, this put first-year Pats wideout Wes Welker in the slot. Welker was often matched up with safeties, nickel backs, or linebackers, all of which he would torch time and time again. Welker dominated the slot, grabbing 112 receptions in his first year in the offense. 2007 was also the first year that Randy Moss was a part of the New England dynasty. He absolutely thrashed the entire league on his way to what is still the record for most touchdown receptions in a single season, 23. What happens to your quarterback when you give him receivers who possess the talent of Randy Moss and Wes Welker? He produces the best statistical season of his career. Brady threw for 4,806 yards and 50 touchdowns. Both of which are career highs. This team was absolute dynamite. Their offensive schemes will forever have changed the way offense is played in the NFL.
2013-2014 REAL MADRID (UEFA)
For those of you who are unfamiliar, UEFA stands for Union of European Football Association. Annually, every year, the best Futbol clubs in the world compete for one of the most prestigious honor the sport has to offer; to hoist the Champions League trophy. The UEFA Champions League is designed much like the World Cup. It’s the best clubs in the world divided into different groups. Throughout the year, all members of each group compete against one another. The two teams from each group of accumulate the most points advance to the knockout stages. In the knockout stages, they play to win, as the losers of each round see their tournament come to an end. The last team remaining is crowned as champions. The 2013-2014 Real Madrid club was the most dominant team in UEFA history. Madrid outscored their opponents 21-5 in the knockout stage alone. Over the course of the entire tournament, they outscored their opponents 41-10 and pitched five shutouts. Cristiano Ronaldo scored an absurd 17 goals in 13 games. Madrid has won the tournament 13 times in their history, but none by the margins of the 2013-2014 team. Ronaldo is still must-see-tv, but he’s not the player he once was. If you don’t remember just how good he was, just YouTube some highlights from this tournament. It was absolute magic!