What Teams Are Most Desperate To Win Their First Championships?
You never forget your first love and you can bet you never forget your first title.
The Dallas Mavericks, in business since 1980, have claimed their first NBA title in franchise history by knocking off the vaunted Miami Heat. The Vancouver Canucks, who've been in the NHL since 1970, came oh-so-close to hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time this season, but couldn't skate by the Boston Bruins in the finals. Vancouver reacted with the pent-up frustration of a city aching to claim a championship by rioting. That got us thinking about which professional teams that are the most desperate when it comes to winning their first championship and getting the monkey off their backs.
Sure, every team strives for championship glory, but some really have to get in the winner’s circle more than others, whether for civic pride or for making them relevant or for feeling like they’re not cursed. We’ve included franchises that have never won a title, so teams like the Buffalo Bills don’t make it because they won a championship while in the AFL. Ditto for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, who won in the pre-Super Bowl era.
Outside of Dallas, the loudest cheer for the Mavericks beating the Heat to win the championship could be heard in Cleveland, where LeBron James broke a few thousand hearts and made a few thousand more enemies after his high-profile decision to sign with the Heat. The Cavaliers have been in the NBA since 1970 and have one finals appearance to show for it. In a city known for its professional sports ineptitude – the Browns and Indians haven’t won a title in a combined 110 years - when and if the day comes the Cavs win it all will be sweet redemption for Cleveland fans and owner Dan Gilbert, who’s made no secret of his animosity toward King James.
The Canucks couldn't nail down the Stanley Cup this season after going up 3-2 on the Bruins in the finals. Even with game seven at home, the team watched as the Bruins essentially put the game away after two periods, putting a bitter end to a storybook season for the Canucks. The Canucks have come close before, losing a tough seven-game series to the Rangers in 1994 and getting swept by the Islanders in 1982. The riots that followed this defeat were a throwback to the one that followed the loss to the Rangers and proved how badly the city is clamoring for a winner.
The Sabres came into the NHL in 1970, the same year as the Canucks. With apologies to the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, who have longer droughts of never winning a Stanley Cup, the Sabres have had plenty of heartache. In a city where the Bills are known for coming agonizingly close to winning the Super Bowl, the Sabres have also had their fair share of moments where fans thought they would win the whole thing. The team lost in the Stanley Cup finals in 1975 and, controversially, in 1999. They made it to the conference finals in 2006 and 2007, so they’ve been on the precipice, but just can’t seem to get over the hump.
Los Angeles Clippers
When you live in the shadow of the Lakers and their slew of banners which line the Staples Center, it’s hard to carve your own identity. It’s even harder when you’re thought of as a laughingstock. The team has a building block in the form of dunkalicious Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, so that’s a start, but history dictates something will go wrong for them.
They’ve made two trips to the Super Bowl, but sandwiched around those years have been mostly seasons of mediocrity, at best, and downright abominations, at worst. When your quarterback threatens to retire rather than continue playing for you, you know things are rough. If Chad-whatever-his-last-name-is-now wasn’t in town, would anyone have a remote interest in this team?
Four trips to the Super Bowl. Four losses. Four other appearances in NFC Championship games that ended in defeat. The Vikings have traditionally been a competitive squad on the doorstep of greatness, but no one has been home to present them with the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The phrase “close, but no cigar” certainly applies to this franchise. The Brett Favre experiment is over and the Christian Ponder era is about to begin, so when and if the Vikings finally win, it will have been well-deserved.
Wait – the Cubs have won a World Series? Well, that was last in 1908 when Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House. Seriously, no team in professional sports is in more dire need of winning a championship than the Cubbies and their hopelessly devoted fans. Whether it's black cats or Steve Bartman, when you have a drought that’s lasted more than a century, it feels as if you haven’t ever really won a title, so we’ll include the North Siders here.