February 29, 2024

The Detroit Pistons will knock on the door of historical ineptitude on Tuesday night. Losers of 26 straight games, the Pistons are one loss away from being etched in the record books as the sole owners of the longest single-season losing streak in NBA history.

Detroit will take its final swing to avoid embarrassment as it is the host Brooklyn Nets at Little Caesars Arena, just miles from where the franchise hoisted Larry O’Brien trophies in three straight decades. While those tough teams have earned the right to be circled on opponents’ calendars, the 2023-24 Pistons’ calendar has looked very different — the team hasn’t won a game since Oct. 28.

But Detroit was not an innovator of incredible incompetence. With tonight’s loss, they would join a pantheon of legendary losers from around the world. Here are the longest losing streaks in sports history. Take comfort, Pistons faithful, bigger losers have been here before.

NFL: Chicago Cardinals, 29 games

If 27 basketball games in an 82-game schedule sounds bad, how about 29 football games in an era of 10-game schedules? Before the AFL-NFL merger, the Chicago Cardinals started the 1942 season 3-2 when they fell to the Cleveland Rams in Week 6.


Philadelphia Eagles legend Steve Van Buren scores against the Chicago Cardinals in the 1948 championship game. (Photo via Getty)

Chicago wouldn’t get another win until week 4 of the 1945 season. The Cardinals (who later became the St. Louis Cardinals, who later became the Phoenix Cardinals, who later became the Arizona Cardinals) then finished 1945 on a seven-game losing streak, going 1-9 and missing the playoffs did not reach the 20th. straight season.

In more recent history, the Jacksonville Jaguars snapped a 20-game losing streak from 2020 to 2021. A 15-game losing streak to end the 2020 campaign positioned the Jags to draft franchise QB Trevor Lawrence, but right into the rotten Urban Meyer era.

Yes, the Pistons will receive the brunt of the losing streak notoriety if they fall to set the single-season record tonight, but they will have to lose again on Thursday against the Boston Celtics if they want to match the 76ers’ all-time mark. Philadelphia’s streak spanned two seasons, as the Sixers closed the 2014-15 campaign on a 10-game skid and then opened the following season 0-18 before picking up their first win in December.

Those 2015-16 Sixers would go on to win just 10 games, the second-fewest of any team in an 82-game season. The record for fewest wins was set by the 9-73 76ers in 1972-73, a team that set the then-NBA record with a 20-game losing streak.

In terms of the current single-season record, the Pistons are currently tied with the 2013-14 76ers and the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers on 26 losses.


A fan brings a sign with the fan slogan “Trust the process” to a 76ers game in 2015. (Photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

WNBA: Tulsa Shock and Indiana Fever, 20 games

The Indiana Fever finished 2022 with 18 straight losses amid a 5-31 season, but got a chance to bounce back by winning the WNBA lottery and selecting South Carolina legend Aliyah Boston, who just completed one of the greatest NCAA women’s basketball runs in history. .

But even with Boston — who was named an All-Star and won rookie of the year — the Fever’s losing streak continued, dropping their first two games of 2023 to match the Tulsa Shock’s 2011 losing streak record. While Boston’s presence led to an eight-win improvement, the Fever failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

Back in 2011, the Shock finished 3-31 for an all-time WNBA worst winning percentage of .088. With an inconsistent roster with 40-year-old legend Sheryl Swoopes returning from retirement and a rookie 19-year-old future All-Star in Liz Cambage, Tulsa’s losing streak stretched from June 21st to August 25th.


Coming out of retirement, Sheryl Swoopes responds to a call amid Tulsa’s record-breaking losing streak. (Photo: Shane Bevel / NBAE via Getty Images)

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, 18 games

A COVID-shortened 2021 NHL season wasn’t short enough to prevent the Sabers from matching the 2003-04 Penguins’ mark. While the Pens went 0-17-1, Buffalo went 0-15-3, with its 18th loss coming in particularly painful fashion.

Taking a 3-0 lead into the third period, the Sabers allowed three goals in the final frame before Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov scored 42 seconds into overtime to extend the skid.

“It’s embarrassing,” Sabers defenseman Brandon Montour said after that loss. “This whole piece is embarrassing. Any team in the NHL, that’s a win.”

MLB: Louisville Colonels, 26 games

In the days of the Benjamin Harrison presidential administration, the 1889 Louisville Colonels finished with an impressively abysmal record of 27-111, at one point losing 26 straight games.

The season began with team owner Mordecai Davidson replacing himself as manager with Dude Esterbrook, but Esterbrook was fired after just 10 games. Outfielder Jimmy “Chicken” Wolf stepped into the role of player manager, but Davidson later hired local slugger Buck McKinney as team manager amid the losing streak due to concerns about player behavior.

In later years, the Colonels employed eventual Hall of Famers such as Rube Waddell and Honus Wagner, but the franchise folded in 1899. In modern history, the record has been challenged by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 straight, and the 1988 Baltimore Orioles, who lost 21 straight.

Norwich’s yo-yo between the Premier League and the second tier EFL spanned five seasons from 2018 to 2022, with two EFL Championships and two Premier League relegations thanks to last place.

In the Premier League, Norwich closed their 2019-20 basement campaign with 10 straight defeats. After being transferred to the EFL and then promoted to the top flight in 2021-22, Norwich opened that season with another six league losses in a row to set the dreadful mark. The streak was finally broken with a 0-0 draw in the team’s seventh game, but Norwich’s first win did not come until its 11th contest amid yet another final season.

NCAA football: Northwest, 34 games

A winless season of football is cruel. But what about three in four years? The 1970s and ’80s were not kind to Northwestern football, which had four winless seasons from 1976 to 1989 and three one-win seasons in that span. From their third game of 1979 to their fourth game of the 1982 season, the Wildcats failed to record a single victory for 34 games.


Northwestern’s Ricky Edwards scores one of four touchdowns to lift the Wildcats to their first win in 35 games. (Photo via Getty)

When the Wildcats lost their 29th straight game to break the losing streak record, Northwestern fans sarcastically stormed the field and chanted, “We’re the worst!” When the losing streak was snapped in 1982, fans once again stormed the field, ripping out the team’s goal posts and throwing them into Lake Michigan.

That losing streak cost coach Rick Venturi his job, as he finished his tenure with a 1-31-1 record in three seasons. Venturi’s replacement, Dennis Green, had a winless first year of his own before turning the Wildcats around in 1982. Green’s work in getting three wins out of that Northwestern team was so impressive that he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, despite the team’s eight. losses.

Below the FBS level, FCS Prairie View A&M holds an even more depressing record, losing an astounding 80 straight games dating back to 1989. The 1998 Panthers broke that streak with just 15 scholarship players.

NCAA basketball: Chicago State Lady Cougars, 59 games

Chicago State women’s basketball saw as steep a decline in the 2010s as any program could imagine. After posting three winning seasons in four years, with a program-best 24-win season in 2010-11, the Lady Cougars would win just 25 games for the rest of the decade. The pinnacle came in 2018, when the winless Cougars lost their 59th straight game.

The losing streak began in 2015-16 with a seven-game streak to end the season, and was then extended with a winless 2016-17 season before the streak ended in the team’s 25th game of the 2017-18 season, the Lady Cougars are broken. only win of the season.

On the men’s side, Towson owns the longest Division I losing streak with a 41 game stretch spanning 2011-12 to 2012-13. But since the streak broke, the team has had eight winning seasons in the past decade and was crowned CAA co-champions in 2021-22.

Exhibition basketball: Washington Generals, 2,495 games

The Washington Generals exist to lose. They play the roles of punching bag and straight man for the Harlem Globetrotters’ high-flying basketball comedy. Throughout their history and many different aliases, the Generals have employed competitive basketball players, but nearly every one of their more than 200 annual games ends in defeat.


Globetrotters Turbo Pearson dunks on the Washington Generals (Photo: Erick W. Rasco / Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

That was until January 5, 1971. The Generals – playing that night under the name and jerseys of the New Jersey Reds – and the Globetrotters played an unusual game that night, with Harlem pulling fewer stunts and fewer comedic gags than usually. Globetrotters captain and team legend Curly Neal put on the exhibition, and it became more of a classic basketball game than most Globetrotter events.

Washington raced to a lead, which was not unusual. What was unusual was that the Globetrotters lost their lead and did not complete their usual dramatic comeback. Generals owner and founder Red Klotz booked himself into the game in the final seconds and hit the go-ahead layup to put Washington back up 100-99.

Even after the timekeeper inexplicably stopped the clock to give Harlem one last shot, the Globetrotters were unable to continue their winning streak as the crowd sat there dumbfounded. Some children reportedly cried on the stands.

“They look at us like we killed Santa,” Klotz later said.

The 1971 victory may have been one of many for the Generals, but the exhibitionists are not known for their record-keeping skills. While some argue that they won as many as six games, the 1971 streak snapper is by far the most famous. At other times it is estimated that the generals lost more than 19,000.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

In their heyday, the Harlem Globetrotters were also made for TV

(Top photo: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)


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