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Breaking Down The Worst Teams In Sports History

Paper bags became the top-selling fan gear.

2017 Cleveland Browns fans wear paper bags to conceal their disappointment
Credit-Cleveland.com/LunaPic

The Bad News Bears. The Mighty Ducks. Major League. The Longest Yard.

While Hollywood has been known to bring some glitz and glamour to feel-good redemption stories about sports teams going from worst to first (or thereabouts), real life isn’t always a fairytale ending.

Growing up, you are told that winning isn’t everything. That it’s about having fun and enjoying the game with friends.

That might hold true on some playgrounds, but when it comes to professional sports – an industry in which millions and billions of dollars are poured into contracts, coaching, facilities, team operations, and more, all with the single goal of hoisting a championship banner – winning is the only thing that matters.

Unfortunately in the world of sports, there have to be winners and losers.

Contrary to our usual inspiring stories, today we’re going to explore the teams who have (unfortunately) etched their names as the worst in professional sports history.

Each of the four major North American sports leagues is represented by two of their worst teams in history.

In the case of the NHL, MLB, and NBA, each features one team with a full season record and the other based on percentage or shortened season.

Table of Contents

Worst Teams in NFL History

2008 Detroit Lions

The start of the century was not kind to the Detroit Lions. From 2000 to 2010, the team managed just one winning season. If fans thought that winning two games in 2001 and three games in 2002 and 2006 was tough to sit through, 2008 would be absolutely abysmal.

Of the sixteen games lost that season, only two were within reach, including a 12-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings and a 27-23 loss to the Chicago Bears.

Unfortunately for even the most dedicated Lions fans, they couldn’t even enjoy the “silver lining” games as those two were played on the road.

Fortunately, misery loves company…

2017 Cleveland Browns

They say that things have to get worse before they get better. After finishing 2-13 in 2015, the Browns managed to win just a single game the following season before completely hitting rock bottom in 2017 when they laid a goose egg going 0-16.

Yet things weren’t exactly as bad for the Browns and their faithful fanbase as the team lost five games by at most four points.

After years of questionable coaching decisions, draft picks, and free agent acquisitions the norm for Browns game highlights had little to do with the game on the field, but rather the creativity of the fans as they creatively covered up their disappointment week after week. 

Worst Teams in NBA History

2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats

As bad as the Detroit Pistons were this season, embarking on a 28-game losing streak that made one wonder if they were ever going to win another game, after starting the season 2-1 they somehow managed to be better than the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats.

Even if Michael Jordan stepped away from his role as owner (one of the few things he has failed at in his basketball career) and suited up, it still likely wouldn’t have helped this woeful team.

Fortunately for everyone attached to this team, from players to coaches to fans to hot dog vendors, the 2011-12 season was shortened to 66 games due to the CBA lockout.

With a 7-59 record and a .106 winning percentage, the Bobcats became the worst team in NBA history.

1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers

While mathematically the Bobcats hold down the honors of being the worst team in NBA history, the 1972-73 Sixers aren’t far behind, with a 9-73 record.

Going 0-15 to start the season didn’t give the City of Brotherly Love much hope.

Things were so bad that forward John Trapp, who was suspended for missing practice was found sitting on the bench during a blowout game drinking bourbon and Coke.

Guided by rookie head coach Roy Rubin, who previously coached at Long Island University, the Sixers stumbled through the season. Amid a 20-game losing streak, Rubin was let go with a 4-47 record. 

Worst Teams in NHL History

1974-1975 Washington Capitals

There have been numerous NHL teams that struggled during their first season, but the Washington Capitals took things to a different level of bad during their inaugural year.

If losing wasn’t bad enough, finishing the season 8-67-5, the Capitals also managed to set a record by giving up a historic 446 goals.

Things were so bad for the Caps that when they beat the California Golden Seals 5-3 for their first and only road victory of the season, some players signed a locker room garbage can and paraded it around as if it were the Stanley Cup.

Ironically, the Caps won their final game of the season in convincing fashion over the Pittsburgh Penguins, 8-4.

1999-2000 Atlanta Thrashers

Imagine that by percentage, your team’s most winning month would be based on a 2-6-2 record.

Now also imagine that based on wins, your team’s high for the season in a month is 3.

Sadly this was the case for the NHL’s newest expansion team, the Atlanta Thrashers.

With a 14-57-7 record, the Thrashers finished the season with just 39 points, 46 points back of the eighth and final playoff spot. Sadly for them, nothing went right during their first season.

They were granted the first overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft, selecting Patrik Stefan. While to be fair to the Thrashers, outside of Daniel and Henrik Sedin the draft class was not very memorable, Stefan would play just six seasons with the team totaling 177 points, including just 25 in his rookie year.

Worst Teams in MLB History

1899 Cleveland Spiders

Another Cleveland sports franchise that rode the struggle bus was the 1899 Spiders, who own the worst winning percentage in MLB history.

Finishing the year with a 20-134 record, the Spiders won just 13% of their games during their thirteenth season.

Things got so bad for the Spiders that not only did fans refuse to attend games at League Park, but so did many of the visiting teams as a result of ticket revenue (or lack of it) failing to help cover travel costs, meaning the Spiders played only 42 home games.

To be fair to those who suited up for the Spiders, the team owners, who also owned the St. Louis Perfectos believed that more money would be made in St. Louis, where they sent all of Cleveland’s best players before the season started, leaving the team with a minimal roster.

2003 Detroit Tigers

Infielder Shane Halter may have said it best when he looked out onto the field of Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium, “Man, we may be the worst team to ever play the game.”

While the Cleveland Spiders made the Tigers look like the 1906 Cubs or the 2001 Mariners based on winning percentage, the fact is that of teams who played a 162-game schedule, the 2003 Tigers have been the worst, going 43-119.

With overpaid vets, unproven rookies, and a first-year manager, the Tigers were nothing short of a disaster.

Editor’s Note: Is there a team we missed? Let me know in the comments below.

Written By

Life-long sports fan and avid basketball junkie in every sense of the word. The same passion I have for the Lakers translates to my extreme dislike for the Duke Blue Devils. As much as I cheer for the favorite and the dynasty, I appreciate and applaud the underdog and the grind whether you are a weekend warrior or a professional, both on and off the field.

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