Since the dawn of the ESPN era, the term “dynasty” has been used quite often in sports. The Yankee Dynasty. The Celtic Dynasty. The Oiler Dynasty. The Cowboy Dynasty. With the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons again only one step away from advancing to another NBA Finals, are either worthy of entering the pantheon of greatest teams of all-time? Would one more championship make either worthy of being called a dynasty?
Before we can call any team a dynasty, let us first attempt to define the term in a sports context. Obviously, sports dynasties are not intended to last as long as ancient Asian feudal dynasties, such as the Shang Dynasty, which lasted over 740 years. How long then does a team have to be of championship caliber to be a dynasty? According to Wikipedia, sports dynasties are often recognized “only after a team has won many championships in a given time (3 in 4 years, 5 in 8 years, 7 in 12 years, etc.).” Others say it is “a team dominating and/or challenging for titles for at least a decade, having won it all at least four times.”
Whereas I don’t entirely disagree with either of the aforementioned definitions, I define a dynasty as any team that wins at least three championships in five years or wins championships in at least half of the years more than five. For example, winning two championships in a row does not not make a team a dynasty. Winning one more in the next three years does, however (3 in 5 years). Winning championships every other year for eight years would also make a dynasty (4 in 8 years) as would winning six in up to 12 years, 10 in up to 20 years, etc., etc.
Using this standard, the following teams reached the level of dynasty in “the big four sports” since 1990:
Chicago Bulls (1990-1998, NBA champions in ’91, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98)
Los Angeles Lakers (1999-2004, NBA champions in ’00, ’01, ’02)
Dallas Cowboys (1992-1996, Super Bowl champions in ’92, ’93, ’95)
New England Patriots (2001-2005, Super Bowl champions in ’01, ’02, ’04)
New York Yankees (1996-2000, World Series champions in ’96, ’98, ’99, ’00)
So could either the Pistons or the Spurs become a dynasty at the end of this NBA season? Using my criteria, the answer is no. For the Pistons, it will only be their second title in recent years, and for the Spurs, it will be their fourth in nine years. Close, and a worthy achievement, but not quite a dynasty.