Longest championship droughts in NFL, NBA and top major sports

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What is the longest championship drought ever? While there are great dynasties throughout sports history, plenty of NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB teams have gone decades without being on top of the world. Whether curses are to blame or just bad management and worse luck, fans put up with a lot.

For many of these teams, these streaks of decades without a championship extend beyond one generation. Fans growing up as children hoping desperately to see their favorite club they were raised to support one day lift the banner declaring the champions. Time flies by and those same fans are capturing their children and even grandchildren in that same feeling.

Of course, some have it worse than others. While championship droughts are the focus, some fan bases have gone more than a decade without even seeing their team in the playoffs. It’s one thing to never hoist the championship trophy and witness a parade, but not even experiencing the brief second of joy from a playoff game makes rooting for teams even more painful.

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Here are the longest championship droughts in the four major American professional sports.

Longest championship drought in NFL

Syndication: Arizona Republic
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The Arizona Cardinals have the longest championship drought in the NFL, with their last title coming in 1947 as the Chicago Cardinals. While the Cardinals appeared in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, their lone Super Bowl appearance, this organization has never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.

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Some believe a curse is a reason for this title drought. Back in 1925, the Cardinals faced the Pottsville Maroons in the 1925 NFL Championship game. Pottsville won the game 21-7, a win that should have secured the championship. However, they were stripped of the title and the Maroons were suspended by the NFL for playing an exhibition game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The NFL then gave the title to the Cardinals.

Of course, the Cardinals aren’t the only franchise with a championship drought beyond 50 years. The Detroit Lions, are one of seven teams without a Super Bowl win. The last time the Lions won a championship came in 1957, when they defeated the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game.

NFL teams that have never won a Super Bowl

Longest playoff droughts in NFL

Here are the longest active playoff droughts in the NFL entering the 2022 season.

  • New York Jets – 11 seasons
  • Denver Broncos – 6 seasons
  • Miami Dolphins – 5 seasons
  • New York Giants – 5 seasons
  • Detroit Lions – 5 seasons

NBA teams with the longest championship droughts

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Sacramento Kings have the longest championship drought in the NBA and one of the longest playoff droughts in American sports. It’s par for the course from a team that has battled to even reach mediocrity during its best seasons in the last two decades.

Basketball fans must go all the way back to the 1051 NBA to find the last Kings’ championship. Keep in mind, that happened when this franchise played in Rochester, New York as the Rochester Royals. The Royals beat the New York Knicks in seven games to win the 1951 NBA Finals.

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The Kings also have one of the longest playoff droughts in American professional sports. Following the 2021-’22 NBA season, Sacramento has missed the playoff in 16 consecutive seasons. It is the longest playoff drought in NBA history, surpassing the Los Angeles Clippers (15, 1977-19992) and Minnesota Timberwolves (13, 2005-’18).

Longest championship droughts in NBA

  • Sacramento Kings – 71 years
  • Atlanta Hawks – 63 years
  • Phoenix Suns – 53 years
  • Los Angeles Clippers – 52 years
  • New York Knicks – 49 years

The Phoenix Suns have the longest championship drought by a team without a single title. They are one of 11 teams without an NBA championship.

Longest World Series drought in MLB

MLB: World Series-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians
Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians have the longest active championship drought in MLB, with their last World Series title coming in 1948. Cleveland reached the World Series multiple times (1954, ’95, ’97 and 2016). Ironically, the 2016 World Series loss to the Chicago Cubs snapped the longest championship drought ever, with the Cubs going 107 years without a title.

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Longest championship droughts in MLB

  • Cleveland Guardians – 73 years
  • Texas Rangers – 61 years
  • Milwaukee Brewers – 53 years
  • San Diego Padres – 53 years
  • Seattle Mariners – 45 years
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – 42 years

While the Seattle Mariners are far behind some others in the length of their title drought, they are in MLB history for another unfortunate reason. The Mariners have gone 20 years without reaching the MLB playoffs, it is the longest active postseason drought in the top four American men’s sports.

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MLB teams with longest postseason drought

  • Seattle Mariners – 20 years
  • Philadelphia Phillies – 10 years
  • Los Angeles Angels – 7 years
  • Detroit Tigers – 7 years
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – 6 years
  • Kansas City Royals – 6 years

Longest Stanley Cup title drought in NHL

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have the longest championship drought in the NHL, a massive fall for a dynasty. From 1917-’67, Toronto won the Stanley Cup finals 13 times, they still have the second-most Stanley Cup wins in NHL history.

Unfortunately, the wheels have fallen off in recent decades. The Maple Leafs have now gone 55 years without being crowned NHL champions. To make matters worse, this team isn’t even coming close to the Stanley Cup finals. In fact, the last time Toronto hosted an Eastern Conference finals game came in 2002.

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At least the Maple Leafs aren’t totally alone. The Buffalo Sabers and Vancouver Canucks are the other NHL teams to go 50-plus years without winning the Stanley Cup. Sadly for hockey fans in Philly, the Philadelphia Flyers aren’t far behind. Buffalo’s future is bright, but it is currently riding the longest playoff drought in NHL history with 11 consecutive seasons without an appearance in the NHL playoffs.

Longest championship droughts in NHL

  • Toronto Maple Leafs – 55 years
  • Buffalo Sabers – 51 years
  • Vancouver Canucks – 51 years
  • Philadelphia Flyers – 47 years

While the 2022 Stanley Cup finals won’t wipe out one of the longest championship droughts, there is a chance for a long streak to come to an end. The Colorado Avalanche last won the Stanley Cup in 2001 and the New York Rangers last won an NHL championship in 1994.

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