The Golden State Warriors made NBA history by reaching the NBA Finals with a perfect 12-0 postseason record, the first time that's ever happened in pro basketball history. But because of the league's oft-expanding playoff system, it's not the first time a team has made the Finals with an unblemished postseason mark. The Lakers of 1989 and 2001 both went 11-0 going into the Finals, having played one fewer game than Golden State thanks to the old best-of-five format in the first round.
Things quickly changed in the Finals, however. The '89 team lost Game 1 and then Games 2, 3 and 4 to get swept by the Bad Boy Pistons. The '01 Lakers of Kobe and Shaq also dropped Game 1, this time in the classic Allen Iverson/Ty Lue battle. That L.A. team, however, quickly rebounded and won four straight, capping the postseason with a record 15-1 mark and leaving enthusiasts of sideline stepping disappointed.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NBA: Most consecutive playoff wins
Beyond the obvious implications of Game 1 of a playoff series, Golden State will have the opportunity to make more history next Thursday while Cleveland will (most likely) be in position to defend a record of its own. This year, the Cavs won their first 10 games of the postseason before falling to Boston in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Combine that with the three games Cleveland won to cap off last year's NBA Finals (they were down 3-1 to the Warriors - I know, right, what an amazing and historically ignored comeback!) and the Cavs tied an NBA postseason record with their 13 consecutive victories. That tied them for the all-time record with the aforementioned '89 Lakers team that entered that year's playoffs coming off a two-game win streak in the '88 Finals.
Golden State can tie the mark with a win in Game 1 and would break it with a win in Game 2.
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NBA: Most consecutive playoff appearances
Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, it might have taken you a while to come up with this one. The all-time NBA record for most consecutive playoff appearances by one team doesn't belong to the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls or Spurs. Instead, the Portland Trail Blazers of 1984-2003 hold the mark with 21 straight postseasons. (Who says they needed Michael Jordan?)
If you noticed excessive parsing in the above record, good catch: The official mark for most consecutive playoff appearances is held by the Syracuse Nationals and Philadelphia 76ers, who made 22 straight postseasons over two cities. I'm unilaterally declaring that a bogus record - the idea of retaining statistics from two separate teams is ridiculous (says a guy living in D.C. and tired of hearing about Nats players tying Expos records).
NBA: Most consecutive playoff appearances (active)
The San Antonio Spurs could tie Portland's mark next year with another run to the playoffs. So, pretty much, the San Antonio Spurs will tie Portland's mark next year.
NBA: Most consecutive titles
From 1959-66, the NBA crown didn't leave Boston, as the Bill Russell and Red Auerbach Celtics dominated the league like no team ever has before or since in professional sports. Those Celts won eight-straight titles and 11 of 13 from 1957-69. Seven of those championships came at the expense of the Lakers and only once in those 13 years did an NBA Final tip-off without the Celtics on the floor.
NFL: Most consecutive playoff appearances
It's not surprising that the America's Team Cowboys and Peyton Manning Colts share a record for most consecutive NFL playoff appearances. It's a little surprising, however, that the number is only nine and that teams such as the 1970s Steelers, 1980s 49ers/Giants/Redskins, 1990s Cowboys/Bills and 2000s Patriots never got that high. It speaks to the year-to-year volatility of the sport.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
NFL: Most consecutive playoff games won
But Brady's getting there. Right now, the Pats and Packers share the active lead for most consecutive playoff appearances with eight. A berth by either team next year would tie them for the all-time lead.
How have the Brady/Belichick Pats avoided setting a record you'd have figured they'd long ago broken? Since 2001, the team has only missed the playoffs twice - once in 2002, immediately after their first title and again in 2008, when Brady got hurt in Week 1 (and still went 11-5 anyway but missed the playoffs via tiebreaker).
NHL: Most consecutive playoff appearances
The longest playoff streak in the history of North American professional sports belongs to the Boston Bruins. From 1968-1996, the franchise of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Ray Bourque were in the postseason 29 straight years. When the streak finally ended in 1997, it did so in spectacular fashion, with the team finishing in last place. Almost 75% of players on that team weren't born when the streak had begun and some didn't come around until year six or seven.
To put it into perspective, the Spurs would need to make the playoffs through 2027 to break the Bruins' mark. Gregg Popovich will be 78. David Robinson will be 61. Tim Duncan will be 51. Kawhi Leonard will be 35.
Getty ImagesBruce Bennett Studios
NHL: Most consecutive playoff appearances (active)
The Penguins (11) and Blackhawks (9) leading their respective conferences in consecutive postseason bids is a fact that would've been easily guessed by most hockey fans. What's crazy is that only two other teams (Rangers with 7 and Blues with 6) are even halfway to the Pens. This is the sport where "everybody" supposedly makes the playoffs and only three teams have played in every postseason this decade?
Even more remarkable is that only one team has won a playoff series in each of the last three seasons. And most amazingly is that said team is the Washington Capitals.
(The longest streak for most Stanley Cup wins is five by the Montreal Canadians of 1956-60. It's not on this list beause winning five-straight titles in a six-team league is only debatably impressive.)
MLB: Most consecutive playoff appearances
The Braves' run of 14-straight playoff appearances deserve an asterisk, but only like 40% of one. Yes, the majority of that streak came in the wild-card era, when there were three divisions per league instead of two and four teams per league made the playoffs instead of two. But the Braves never had to take advantage of the wild card - they won their division 14 times in a row. You clearly can't say they would have won the NL East 14-straight times back when the divisions were bigger, but the feat is impressive nonetheless.
Also, the wild card has been around for more than 20 years and only one other team (the Yankees, who are just behind Atlanta with 13 straight) has had a playoff streak longer than five years. Those Yanks, by the way, needed the wild card twice. Their longest division win streak was nine years.
MLB: Most consecutive World Series titles/appearances
The Yankees having the longest World Series winning streak is the most obvious stat on this list. The most surprising one involves those same Yankees. The longest streak of World Series played is five, shared by two Yankees teams - the one that won five straight from 1949-53 and a later edition from 1960-64. How is it possible that, in the era of eight-team leagues where the league leader won the pennant and advanced straight to the World Series, the Yankees only had an American League winning streak of five years? These Yankees teams were unbeatable! Through Ruth/Gehrig, Berra/DiMaggio and Mantle/Ford, no team could string together more than five?
Well, they were mostly unbeatable, yes. From 1947-63, the Yanks went to the World Series in 15 of 18 seasons. From 1936-43 they went seven of eight. Combined, the Yankees played in 22 of 28 World Series from 1936-63, a staggering achievement of dominance even if their longest streak is relatively unimpressive.
MLB: Most consecutive playoff wins
This one's also eye-raising. From the start of the divisional era in 1969, there had only been one team (the 1976 Big Red Machine) that had swept its way through the playoffs (even when it took just seven games to win it all). And since the wild-card era, there's only been one team that's swept their way into the World Series. That was the 2014 Kansas City Royals, who went a record 8-0 to start the postseason that year, winning the sudden-death wild card game and then sweeping the ALDS and ALCS en route to a seven-game loss in the World Series.
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NCAAB: Most consecutive NCAA tournament appearances
Kansas hasn't missed the NCAA tournament since 1990, a streak of 28-straight years. Their appearance in March's tournament broke a tie with the Carolina teams of Dean Smith.
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NCAA: Most consecutive NCAA titles
The UCLA teams of Wooden, Alcindor and Walton didn't come close to KU's mark of 28 (it was much harder to make the tournament then) but I don't think they'd mind: Every other major NCAA tournament streak record belongs to the Bruins, who won seven-straight titles since 1967-73 and, at one point, won 38 games in a row in the NCAAs.