Consecutive championships won:

Two

Three

Four

NHL

11 repeats

1976

2017

Which teams have repeated

Montreal Canadiens

New York Islanders

Edmonton Oilers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Detroit Red Wings

NBA

11 repeats

1976

2017

Which teams have repeated

Los Angeles Lakers

Chicago Bulls

Houston Rockets

Detroit Pistons

Miami Heat

NFL

5 repeats

1976

2016

Which teams have repeated

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

New England Patriots

MLB

4 repeats

1976

2016

Which teams have repeated

New York Yankees

Toronto Blue Jays

Consecutive championships won:

Two

Three

Four

NHL

NBA

11 repeats

11 repeats

1976

2017

1976

2017

Which teams have repeated

Montreal Canadiens

Los Angeles Lakers

New York Islanders

Chicago Bulls

Edmonton Oilers

Houston Rockets

Pittsburgh Penguins

Detroit Pistons

Detroit Red Wings

Miami Heat

NFL

MLB

5 repeats

4 repeats

1976

2016

1976

2016

Which teams have repeated

Pittsburgh Steelers

New York Yankees

San Francisco 49ers

Toronto Blue Jays

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

New England Patriots

Consecutive championships won:

Two

Three

Four

NHL

NBA

NFL

MLB

11 repeats

11 repeats

5 repeats

4 repeats

1976

2017

1976

2017

1976

2016

1976

2016

Which teams have repeated

Montreal Canadiens

Los Angeles Lakers

Pittsburgh Steelers

New York Yankees

New York Islanders

Chicago Bulls

San Francisco 49ers

Toronto Blue Jays

Edmonton Oilers

Houston Rockets

Dallas Cowboys

Pittsburgh Penguins

Detroit Pistons

Denver Broncos

Detroit Red Wings

Miami Heat

New England Patriots

When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup in early June, they joined an exclusive list of franchises that have won back-to-back championships. The Golden State Warriors came close last year but couldn’t do the same.

It’s an impressive feat, no doubt. But hockey and basketball teams win back-to-back championships more often than you might think. Since the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, the reigning champ won the title again in roughly three out of 10 seasons.

[These days in baseball, every batter is trying to find an angle]

There’s clearly a disparity among sports, and while no one can say exactly what’s behind it, sports enthusiasts have theories:

An NBA superstar can improve a team far more than an elite starting pitcher

Superstars matter more in the NBA than in other sports for a simple reason: They play more.

[The Top 40 players since the ABA/NBA merger]

In this year’s NBA Finals, LeBron James played an average of 42 minutes per game. Of the four hours of basketball in five games, James spent just 28 minutes on the bench. He was on the court — playing both offense and defense — for close to 90 percent of the series. And since NBA teams play just five men at a time, James represented a fifth of the Cavaliers team during the 212 minutes he played.

How much the stars played in

the finals

Hockey goaltenders and basketball point

guards play more of the finals than football

quarterbacks and baseball pitchers.

Each of the players listed below played the

most for his position in the recent finals.

Matt Murray

Goaltender, NHL

358:49 time on ice

0.3%

of finals

not played

Played 99.7%

of finals

1:11 time on bench

LeBron James

Small forward, NBA

212 minutes played

88%

12%

28 minutes on bench

Tom Brady

Quarterback, NFL

99 snaps played

55%

45%

81 snaps not played

Corey Kluber

Starting pitcher, MLB

16 innings played

25%

75%

48 innings not played

How much the stars played in the finals

Hockey goaltenders and basketball point guards play more of the finals

than football quarterbacks and baseball pitchers. Each of the players listed below

played the most for his position in the recent finals.

358:49 time on ice

1:11 time on bench

Matt Murray

Goaltender, NHL

0.3% of finals

not played

Played 99.7% of finals

212 minutes played

28 minutes on bench

LeBron James

Small forward, NBA

88%

12%

99 snaps played

81 snaps not played

Tom Brady

Quarterback, NFL

55%

45%

Corey Kluber

16 innings played

48 innings not played

Starting pitcher, MLB

25%

75%

Football and baseball players, by contrast, are one of a crowd when on the field — and they’re on the field far less frequently.

Pitchers are an extreme example. Indians ace Corey Kluber threw 16 innings in the World Series, starting one game more than usual for a starting pitcher. That works out to just a quarter of the series.

The best hockey players, too, spend a significant portion of their games on the bench. But there’s one important exception: the goaltender. And nearly all back-to-back champion hockey teams had an elite goalie, said NHL writer Gare Joyce.

“Goaltending is like if your ace played every game in major league baseball,” he said.

Joyce said two factors were at play in the NHL having more frequent repeat champions. There was no NHL salary cap until 2005, so wealthier teams could spend far more money on talent than their competitors could. And there were fewer teams in the early years to compete for players and the championship title.

Winning teams stay together in the NBA and NHL

In all four leagues, keeping a team together is crucial: Championship winners tend to have lower roster turnover than the league average. But that gap is especially striking in the NBA and NHL.

Average roster turnover after

each season, since 1976

Championship

teams

All other

teams

NHL

30%

38%

NFL

34%

38%

NBA

39%

47%

MLB

40%

45%

Average roster turnover after each season, since 1976

Championship teams

All other teams

30%

38%

NHL

NFL

34%

38%

NBA

39%

47%

MLB

40%

45%

When the Islanders won four straight championships from 1980 to 1983, just 16 percent of their team changed from year to year, on average.

[Does your team botch the NFL draft? Find out here]

Early NHL teams were stacked

The Canadiens, Islanders and Oilers of the late ’70s and ’80s each had a monopoly on the best players. When the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1976, they had nine future Hall of Famers on their roster. Their opponent in the finals, the Philadelphia Flyers, had three. The Canadiens went on to win three more titles in a row.

Hall of Famers on the

1976 Montreal Canadiens

Yvan Cournoyer

Ken Dryden

Bob Gainey

Jacques Lemaire

Guy Lafleur

Guy Lapointe

Larry Robinson

Serge Savard

Steve Shutt

Hall of Famers on the 1976 Montreal Canadiens

Yvan Cournoyer

Ken Dryden

Bob Gainey

Guy Lafleur

Guy Lapointe

Jacques Lemaire

Larry Robinson

Serge Savard

Steve Shutt

Hall of Famers on the 1976 Montreal Canadiens

Yvan Cournoyer

Ken Dryden

Bob Gainey

Guy Lafleur

Guy Lapointe

Jacques Lemaire

Larry Robinson

Serge Savard

Steve Shutt

Baseball and football require more luck

Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell said that no team wins the World Series without a lot of luck.

The gap between great and okay MLB teams is smaller than in other sports. The best MLB teams win roughly 60 percent of their games, Boswell said. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors won 82 percent of their games, for comparison.

[How many ballparks have you visited?]

The best baseball teams rise to the top of the standings through a 162-game season. But a playoff series lasts a maximum of seven games, so luck plays a bigger role. Boswell put the chances of a defending champion winning any given playoff series at less than 55 percent, and since teams must win three consecutive series to win the championship, it’s no wonder the “best” teams don’t always win out. And good luck winning out two years in a row.

Chance of a World Series champion

winning it again the following year

Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell said a championship team has at most

a 90 percent chance of making the playoffs the following year. If we then assume the team has a roughly 50-50 chance at winning each series, here’s how often we might expect repeat champions in baseball.

Chance of making the playoffs

the following season

=

90%

Winning one playoff series

×

=

90%

50%

45%

Winning the pennant

(two playoff series)

×

×

=

90%

50%

50%

23%

Winning the championship

(three playoff series)

×

×

×

=

90%

50%

50%

50%

11%

Chance of a World Series champion winning it again the following year

Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell said a championship team has at most

a 90 percent chance of making the playoffs the following year. If we then assume the team has a roughly 50-50 chance at winning each series, here’s how often we might expect repeat champions in baseball.

Chance of making the playoffs

the following season

=

90%

90%

×

50%

=

45%

Winning one playoff series

Winning the pennant

(two playoff series)

90%

×

50%

×

50%

=

23%

Winning the championship

(three playoff series)

90%

×

50%

×

50%

×

50%

=

11%

Since 1970, the team with the best record has gone on to win the title just 11 times. Compare that to 21 times in the NBA.

[These MLB teams are poised to run away with their divisions]

Football takes length of season to the other extreme. Just 16 games determine who make the playoffs and who doesn’t. A team that makes it to the postseason can win the Super Bowl just three games later. Conversely, one playoff loss is season-ending.

Boswell said the football statistic that best correlates to winning is turnovers. And some turnovers are just plain lucky. Try predicting how a fumbled football will bounce.

That inherent randomness, combined with the do-or-die nature of the playoffs, makes it difficult for a football team to string together back-to-back championships.

Explore championship streaks for yourself

Made playoffs

Lost in the finals

Two in a row

Won championship

Four in a row

Three in a row

Made playoffs

Lost in the finals

Won championship

Two in a row

Three in a row

Four in a row

Made playoffs

Lost in the finals

Won championship

Two in a row

Three in a row

Four in a row

NBA

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

Led by Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships in eight years, including two “three-peats.”

1980

1990

2000

2010

The most recent back-to-back champions in the NBA were the Heat with the “Big Three” — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

In 1987, Lakers Coach Pat Riley promised a repeat championship — and the team pulled it off in 1988.

1980

1990

2000

2010

The Spurs with Tim Duncan won three championships from 2003 to 2007, but never back-to-back.

NBA

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

Atlantic

Boston Celtics

Brooklyn Nets

New York Knicks

Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptors

Led by Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships in eight years, including two “three-peats.”

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers

Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks

1980

1990

2000

2010

Southeast

Atlanta Hawks

Charlotte Hornets

Miami Heat

Orlando Magic

Washington Wizards

The most recent back-to-back champions in the NBA were the Heat with the “Big Three” — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

Northwest

Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

Utah Jazz

In 1987, Lakers Coach Pat Riley promised a repeat championship — and the team pulled it off in 1988.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Pacific

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers

Phoenix Suns

Sacramento Kings

1980

1990

2000

2010

Southwest

Dallas Mavericks

Houston Rockets

Memphis Grizzlies

New Orleans Pelicans

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs with Tim Duncan won three championships from 2003 to 2007, but never back-to-back.

NBA

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

Atlantic

Boston Celtics

Brooklyn Nets

New York Knicks

Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptors

Led by Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships in eight years, including two “three-peats.”

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers

Detroit Pistons

Indiana Pacers

Milwaukee Bucks

The most recent back-to-back champions in the NBA were the Heat with the “Big Three” — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Southeast

Atlanta Hawks

Charlotte Hornets

Miami Heat

Orlando Magic

Washington Wizards

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

Northwest

Denver Nuggets

Minnesota Timberwolves

Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers

Utah Jazz

In 1987, Lakers Coach Pat Riley promised a repeat championship — and the team pulled it off in 1988.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Pacific

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers

Phoenix Suns

Sacramento Kings

1980

1990

2000

2010

Southwest

Dallas Mavericks

Houston Rockets

Memphis Grizzlies

New Orleans Pelicans

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs with Tim Duncan won three championships from 2003 to 2007, but never back-to-back.

NHL

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

In 1979, the Canadiens all-star team pulled off the first “four-peat” in modern NHL history.

1980

1990

2000

2010

With Mike Bossy, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier, the Islanders swept four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983.

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

The Oilers with superstar Wayne Gretzky won two sets of back-to-back championships.

NHL

In 1979, the Canadiens all-star team pulled off the first “four-peat” in modern NHL history.

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

Atlantic

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

With Mike Bossy, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier, the Islanders swept four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Metropolitan

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

The Penguins recently won back-to-back titles.

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

The Oilers with superstar Wayne Gretzky won two sets of back-to-back championships.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Arizona Coyotes

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

The 2005 Stanley Cup was canceled due to a labor dispute

NHL

Eastern

1980

1990

2000

2010

Atlantic

Boston Bruins

Buffalo Sabres

Detroit Red Wings

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

In 1979, the Canadiens all-star team pulled off the first “four-peat” in modern NHL history.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Metropolitan

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

With Mike Bossy, Billy Smith and Bryan Trottier, the Islanders swept four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983.

The Penguins recently won back-to-back titles.

Western

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche

Dallas Stars

Minnesota Wild

Nashville Predators

St. Louis Blues

Winnipeg Jets

The Oilers with superstar Wayne Gretzky won two sets of back-to-back championships.

1980

1990

2000

2010

Pacific

Anaheim Ducks

Arizona Coyotes

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Los Angeles Kings

San Jose Sharks

Vancouver Canucks

The 2005 Stanley Cup was canceled due to a labor dispute

MLB

AL

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

Led by the “Core Four” — Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera — the Yankees won four World Series in five years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

With Dennis Eckersley and Manager Tony La Russa, the A’s made three World Series appearances in a row, but won only once.

NL

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

With Manager Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, the Giants won three World Series in five years, but never back-to-back.

MLB

AL

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Led by the “Core Four” — Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera — the Yankees won four World Series in five years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays repeated in 1993 with Roberto Alomar and General Manager Pat Gillick.

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Angels

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

With Dennis Eckersley and Manager Tony La Russa, the A’s made three World Series appearances in a row, but won only once.

NL

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Atlanta Braves

Miami Marlins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

With Manager Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, the Giants won three World Series in five years, but never back-to-back.

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

The 1994 World Series was canceled due to a strike

MLB

AL

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago White Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Led by the “Core Four” — Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera — the Yankees won four World Series in five years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

New York Yankees

Tampa Bay Rays

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays repeated in 1993 with Roberto Alomar and General Manager Pat Gillick.

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Angels

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

With Dennis Eckersley and Manager Tony La Russa, the A’s made three World Series appearances in a row, but won only once.

NL

1980

1990

2000

2010

Central

Chicago Cubs

Cincinnati Reds

Milwaukee Brewers

Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Atlanta Braves

Miami Marlins

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Washington Nationals

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

The 1994 World Series was canceled due to a strike

With Manager Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, the Giants won three World Series in five years, but never back-to-back.

NFL

AFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

The Patriots with Tom Brady won three championships in four years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

With nine players who have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Steelers won back-to-back championships in 1978 and 1979.

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

The Broncos with Terrell Davis, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe won in 1997 and 1998.

NFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

With “Triplets” Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

1980

1990

2000

2010

Boasting Joe Montana and four other future Hall of Fame players, the 49ers won Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989.

NFL

The Bills made it to the Super Bowl four years in a row, but never won.

AFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

The Patriots with Tom Brady won three championships in four years.

1980

1990

2000

2010

North

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

With nine players who have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Steelers won back-to-back championships in 1978 and 1979.

1980

1990

2000

2010

South

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

The Broncos with Terrell Davis, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe won in 1997 and 1998.

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

With “Triplets” Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years.

NFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

1980

1990

2000

2010

North

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

1980

1990

2000

2010

South

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Boasting Joe Montana and four other future Hall of Fame players, the 49ers won Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989.

NFL

The Patriots with Tom Brady won three championships in four years.

The Bills made it to the Super Bowl four years in a row, but never won.

AFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Buffalo Bills

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

1980

1990

2000

2010

North

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

With nine players who have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, the Steelers won back-to-back championships in 1978 and 1979.

1980

1990

2000

2010

South

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

The Broncos with Terrell Davis, John Elway and Shannon Sharpe won in 1997 and 1998.

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

With “Triplets” Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith, the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in four years.

NFC

1980

1990

2000

2010

East

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

1980

1990

2000

2010

North

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

1980

1990

2000

2010

South

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1980

1990

2000

2010

West

Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Boasting Joe Montana and four other future Hall of Fame players, the 49ers won Super Bowls in 1988 and 1989.

Mike Hume contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Indiana Pacers won back-to-back championships. Rather, it was the Detroit Pistons. A previous version of this story was missing data for the St. Louis Cardinals.

About this story

Note: Franchises that changed location or team name are presented with their current name.

Sources: Sports Reference, NHL Hall of Fame.

Photos from the Associated Press, Mark Humphrey/AP, Jason Miller/Getty Images, Al Bello/Getty Images, David Richard/USA Today Sports, Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP, Dylan Buell/Getty Images.

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