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In the North American major pro sports, you’re either the winner or a loser of varying magnitude. Also in North American pro sports, some teams have been losers for a really long time. These are the longest-active championship droughts among North America’s four major professional leagues.
If you’re a fan of a team on this list, I’m sorry. It’s painful to never see your team come out on top at the end of the season. Just know that you’re not alone – there are many other teams on this list and plenty more waiting impatiently for that breakthrough.
If you’re a fan of more than one of the teams on this list or from Cleveland, maybe you should stop watching sports.
Longest Active Championship Droughts in Sports
T-9: Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Falcons, Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers
Last Title: None (joined NFL in 1966, 57-year drought)
I’ve combined all four of these NFL failures into one. They all entered the league in the same year, and they’ve all shared in the same 57-year futility. Why not shove them and their championship droughts together?
Each of these franchises has played in the Super Bowl before. The Bills have the most of the group, accomplishing the incredible feat of losing four-straight Super Bowls from 1990 through 1993. The Falcons are next with two (1997, 2016), including one of the most notable collapses in North American sports history. The Chargers and Titans have appeared in the Super Bowl once each, in 1994 and 1999, respectively.
Back when the Titans were the Houston Oilers and played in the AFL, they did win back-to-back titles in 1960 and 1961. The Bills also won two-straight AFL championships in 1964 and 1965, and the Chargers climbed the AFL mountaintop in 1963 while still in San Diego. But those weren’t NFL crowns, so they don’t move the needle here.
8: Cleveland Browns
Last Title: 1964 (58-year drought)
The Browns were an institution back in the day. They won four AAFC titles in a row from 1946 through 1949, then claimed another championship in their first NFL season in 1950. They added two more in 1954 and 1955, then rode quarterback Frank Ryan and running back Jim Brown to another one in 1964. It’s been pain and suffering ever since.
Infamous playoff chokes, laughably bad seasons, quarterback carousels, and even losing the team for a portion of time in the 1990s have all marked the misery the Browns have imparted on their fans for nearly six decades. If you ever encounter someone willing to associate themselves with this franchise, you may want to consider marriage – that person won’t leave no matter what happens.
T-6: Minnesota Vikings
Last Title: None (joined NFL in 1961, 62-year drought)
Since joining the NFL in 1961, the Vikings have played in four Super Bowls and won none. Their last trip to the ultimate contest was in 1976, a testament to the level of despair their fans have endured throughout the franchise’s existence.
The Vikings have had many successful regular seasons. They’ve topped their division 21 times and won at least eight games in all but nine seasons since 1986. That includes a remarkable 15-1 campaign in 1998, but of course, that ended in heartbreak in the NFC Championship Game. The Vikings have fallen in conference championship contests six times.
T-6: Texas Rangers
Last Title: None (joined MLB in 1961, 62-year drought)
This franchise started as the Washington Senators in 1961, then moved west to become the Texas Rangers in 1972. Neither location has experienced a World Series win.
The Rangers didn’t even make their first playoff appearance until 1996 and have only made the postseason eight times in their history. They did play in back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011 and even had a 3-2 series lead in 2011. They then proceeded to lose Game 6 and Game 7, and the St. Louis Cardinals were the ones celebrating instead. It’s now been seven campaigns since the Rangers escaped the regular season.
5: Atlanta Hawks
Last Title: 1958 (64-year drought)
Since debuting in 1949, the Hawks have had four homes but won just one title.
That was in 1958 when the franchise was stationed in St. Louis. Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Ed Macauley, and Slater Martin were the backbone of that team, with head coach Alex Hannum leading them to a revenge victory over the Boston Celtics, who beat the Hawks in the NBA Finals a year before.
Since, it has been a lot of playoff losses – 44, to be exact. The Hawks played in back-to-back NBA Finals in 1960 and 1961, succumbing to the Celtics both times. This franchise has never reached beyond the Conference Finals since moving to Atlanta in 1968.
4: Detroit Lions
Last Title: 1957 (65-year drought)
It seems impossible to comprehend today, but the Lions were kings at one point.
They earned their first ring in 1935, then got their second 17 years later in 1952, setting the tone for a very successful 50s. That decade, the Lions played in four championship games and thrice proved themselves supreme. Detroit’s well is in a 65-year drought.
It’s not been since the days of George Wilson patrolling the sideline and John Henry Johnson controlling everything in between that the Lions tasted royalty. This team has never played in a Super Bowl and has only won one playoff game in the Super Bowl era – a 38-6 victory over the Cowboys on Jan. 5, 1992. For more than 60 years, that one contest has been the pinnacle of Lions fandom. They lost their next game, 41-10.
It’s incredibly difficult to be this bad for this long in a salary-capped league that awards high draft picks to bad teams. It’s an unbelievable accomplishment in the worst way.
3: Sacramento Kings
Last Title: 1951 (71-year drought)
Before they were the Sacramento Kings, they were the Rochester Royals and won an NBA championship in their third season. This franchise has since played in four cities and has not won a thing.
First, the Royals went to Cincinnati and didn’t win a championship when they had Oscar Robertson. Then, they became the Kings and split time between Kansas City and Omaha because of scheduling conflicts. That arrangement lasted a few years before they moved to KC full-time, but by 1985, the Kings were living in Sacramento. Nowhere produced as Rochester did.
The Kings haven’t just failed to win an NBA title in 71 go-arounds; this franchise hasn’t returned to the Finals since 1951, either. Only twice have they seen the Conference Finals, bowing out both times in 1981 and 2002.
2: Cleveland Guardians
Last Title: 1948 (74-year drought)
The Guardians have been the kings of the MLB twice in their 122 seasons of play. The first time was in 1920 behind the guise and bat of player/manager Tris Speaker. The second came in 1948 with manager Lou Boudreau calling the shots and Bob Lemon and Bob Feller manning the mound.
We’re now nearly three-quarters of a century on, and this franchise is still without a third championship. The Guardians have won four AL pennants in the years since their last World Series victory but failed to jump the final hurdle in each leap. In 1997 and 2016, Cleveland lost Game 7 of the World Series by one run in extra innings, plus squandered a 3-1 series lead in its last appearance in the title series.
If you ever require proof of life’s unfairness, Cleveland sports should solve that quandary.
1: Arizona Cardinals
Last Title: 1947 (75-year drought)
The Cardinals last won an NFL championship 13 presidents ago.
Harry Truman’s presidency went pretty well for the Cardinals, who were in Chicago at the time. They won the 1947 NFL title – the second in their history (1925) – and made it back to the championship in 1948. This franchise hasn’t added another crown to its collection.
In Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Arizona, this franchise has not found title footing. It’s spent most seasons missing postseasons. In 2008, the Cardinals were 35 seconds away from snapping this drought in their only Super Bowl appearance, but Santonio Holmes had to go and ruin that. They otherwise reached the NFC Conference Championship in 2015. That’s about it.
When the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and ended their 107-year run without a championship, the full burden of this blight shifted to the Cardinals. Until they get over the hump, it will remain their stain.