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Division Title Droughts in Professional Sports

Posted by Andrew McKillop on September 24, 2011

Post Highlights

  • The Los Angeles Clippers have the longest (41 years) current division title drought in major professional sports.
  • The city of Houston hasn’t had a pro team win a division title in the last ten years (since 2001).  It’s currently the longest division title drought by any city with two or more professional sports teams.  They were previously tied with the city of Milwaukee.
  • In the last few years the sports world has seen some of the longest division title droughts get snapped (i.e. Milwaukee Brewers 2011, 29 years).  In 2008, the Arizona Cardinals snapped a 33-year division title drought.  In 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers also snapped a 33-year division title drought.

 

This has been the season for breaking division title droughts in baseball.  A week ago the Detroit Tigers won their first division title in 24 years, and last night the Milwaukee Brewers won their first division title in 29 years.   Before this season the Brewers and Tigers both had two of the ten longest division title droughts in the four major professional sports leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL).

Longest Current Division Title Droughts in Professional Sports

Important Note: What is a division? For the purpose of this article, a division was defined by a sub-group within a conference.  Meaning that even though it was called the Eastern Division in the AFL from 1960-1969, I didn’t count it as a division, since it wasn’t a sub-group within a conference.

First year of divisions (sub-groups within conferences): MLB: 1969, NBA: 1970-71, NFL: 1967/1970 (AFC), NHL: 1974-75

Only regular season division championships were counted for the NHL.

Years Last Team League
41 Los Angeles Clippers NBA
35 1975-76 Golden State Warriors NBA
32 1978-79 Washington Wizards NBA
32 Phoenix Coyotes NHL
30 1981 ¹ Washington Nationals MLB
26 1985 Kansas City Royals MLB
24 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers NHL
23 1987-88 New York Islanders NHL
21 1989 Cleveland Browns NFL
20 1990-91 Los Angeles Kings NHL
19 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates MLB
18 Colorado Rockies MLB
18 Florida Marlins MLB
18 1993 Toronto Blue Jays MLB
17 1993-94 Atlanta Hawks NBA
17 1993-94 Houston Rockets NBA
17 1993-94 New York Knicks NBA
17 1993 Detroit Lions NFL
17 1993-94 New York Rangers NHL
15 Memphis Grizzlies NBA

¹ In 1981 MLB played a split-season.  The then Montreal Expos won their division in the second half of the split-season.

The Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have the longest (30 years) current division title drought in MLB.

Longest Current Division Title Droughts in MLB

Years Last Team 
30 1981 Washington Nationals
26 1985 Kansas City Royals
19 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates
18 Colorado Rockies
18 Florida Marlins
18 1993 Toronto Blue Jays
14 1997 Baltimore Orioles
10 2001 Houston Astros
10 2001 Seattle Mariners
6 2005 Atlanta Braves


The Los Angeles Clippers have the longest (41 years) current division title drought in the NBA.

Longest Current Division Title Droughts in the NBA

Years Last Team 
41 Los Angeles Clippers
35 1975-76 Golden State Warriors
32 1978-79 Washington Wizards
17 1993-94 Atlanta Hawks
17 1993-94 Houston Rockets
17 1993-94 New York Knicks
15 Memphis Grizzlies
12 1998-99 Portland Trail Blazers
10 2000-01 Milwaukee Bucks
10 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers


The Cleveland Browns have the longest (21 years) current division title drought in the NFL.

Longest Current Division Title Droughts in the NFL

Years Last Team 
21 1989 Cleveland Browns ¹
17 1993 Detroit Lions
15 1995 Buffalo Bills
11 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars
11 1999 Washington Redskins
8 2002 Houston Texans
8 2002 New York Jets
8 2002 Oakland Raiders
8 2002 San Francisco 49ers
7 2003 St. Louis Rams

¹ The Cleveland Browns suspended operations from 1996-99.

The Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets (I) have the longest (21 years) current division title drought in the NHL.

Longest Current Division Title Droughts in the NHL

Note: Only regular season division championships were counted for the NHL.

Years Last Team 
32 Phoenix Coyotes
24 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers
23 1987-88 New York Islanders
20 1990-91 Los Angeles Kings
17 1993-94 New York Rangers
12 1998-99 Nashville Predators
11 1999-2000 St. Louis Blues
11 1999-2000 Toronto Maple Leafs
10 2000-01 Columbus Blue Jackets
8 2002-03 Colorado Avalanche


Additional Facts

The city of Houston hasn’t had a pro team win a division title in the last ten years (since 2001).  It’s currently the longest division title drought by any city with two or more professional sports teams.  They were previously tied with the city of Milwaukee.

In the last few years the sports world has seen some of the longest division title droughts get snapped.  In 2008, the Arizona Cardinals snapped a 33-year division title drought.  In 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers also snapped a 33-year division title drought.


Reference: Sports-Reference.com


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