Menu +

Defining a Dynasty



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.


4 comments on Defining a Dynasty

  1. You criteria seems dead on target, because everyone of those teams you mentioned is, in most people’s opinions, a dynasty. But the Spurs, as good as they are, in most people’s minds (including mine) aren’t.

    There are several other factors – the Spurs have obviously been competitively good throughout the Duncan Era. Has he ever been on a team that hasn’t won at least 50 games? But the ’99 championship was on the David Robinson team; the ’03 and ’05 championships were with this core group, the Ginobili and Parker and Horry and Bowen team. So three in six years isn’t that impressive, especially when there hasn’t been another championship appearance in there. Maybe if the Spurs had made it to the Finals last year and lost to the Heat, I would argue they would be a dynasty. But I don’t see the Spurs has a legit dynasty right now, even if the win the title this season….

  2. Good post.

    Obviously the answer to your question depends on how you define the term. Using the wikipedia definition, the Tim Duncan-era San Antonio Spurs should legitimately be considered a “dynasty” for winning “many” championships in a “given time.”

    Same goes for the second definition, assuming the Spurs win their fourth title this year (4 in 9 years). Besides, no other sports team has had a better winning percentage, and had a real shot at the title every single year, as the Spurs have the last 10 years.

    And according to your definition, the Spurs will be a dynasty if they win the title this year, having won three championships in five years: ’03, ’05 and ’07.

  3. I dynasty is a powerful term that is used way to loosely.

    Well, obviously the Spurs won their 4th championship this year. According to everyone here “they are a dynasty.” However, I say this as a Spurs fan… I think that the word dynasty has been intended to be a very powerful term. Those ruling dynasties of the royal families in England, China, Spain, Rome, and elswhere allowed for that term to come into being. Therefore, I say that we here in America really overuse that term. Just because we want to witness greatness, we tend to look for the most powerful words for any little excitement that takes place in sports. I dynasty is a term for the truly elite. Not, for a team that is competitive enough to pull together a handfull of championships in a short time. But, for those Celtics that DOMINATED the crown for so long. The Bulls that did something close to it. The Bruins domination. I think the Spurs, for example, lose the shot at dynasty because they did not DOMINATE consistently in the playoffs year in and year out. They won championships in spurts due in part to their inability to dominate when the Lakers were on a three straight run (2000, 2001, 2002). The Spurs won in 2003 after that DOMINATING Laker team busted up. This year, other Spurs fans were hoping that the Mavericks would be upset in the first round for fear of meeting on the road to the Finals. That is not how dynasty team fans think. So, I say, let’s leave that powerful term for the exceptional. Not the teams that are fluctuate from above average to great and back to above average.

Comments are closed.