If you follow basketball even a little, you probably know the Philadelphia 76ers are on a horrendous bender right now. Almost as bad of a streak as Adam Sandler on Rotten Tomatoes. But, are they the worst NBA team ever? Are they the worst team ever across ALL sports?! Let’s find out exactly how terrible the 76ers are…
RECENT NBA HISTORY
Over the last three seasons, the 76ers have an embarrassing 19.1% winning percentage. They’ve amassed a staggering 199 losses against only 47 wins. This season, they got within 1 game of tying their own record of 73 losses. The record, held by the 1972-73 76ers, has stood up for over 40 years. Also, in 2013, they tied a record streak for consecutive loses with 26. They’re basically putting on a clinic for how to tank!
The only recent NBA teams to come close to that, each suffered from a superstar leaving town. After LeBron took his talents to South Beach, the 2010-2013 Cavaliers had an abysmal 26.0% winning percentage, including a 26 loss streak (to be tied later by Philadelphia). Similarly, the Orlando Magic won a mere 27.6% of their games during the three seasons after Dwight Howard packed his bags. Minnesota was bad too, after Kevin Garnett went to Boston. But, their sucking wasn’t as prolonged as Philly’s.
If you go back further, the Heat, Hornets and Magic were each pretty horrendous after becoming expansion teams. Despite the handicap of an expansion roster, they still managed to win more games than the 2013-16 76ers.
There are a few other terrible teams that deserve to be mentioned, but none of them stunk more than Philadelphia. The Denver Nuggets won 21.5% of their games in the late 90’s, led by Eric Williams, LaPhonso Ellis, Nick Van Exel and Antonio McDyess. Also, the Nets were pretty bad before moving from New Jersey to Brooklyn. I’m sure you all know that Golden State used to be rotten. In the early 2000s (when Steph was learning to dribble a ball), they only won 23.1% of their games with Larry Hughes, Mookie Blaylock and Antawn Jamison.
Finally I found a team with a comparable level of futility! The 1997-2000 Clippers (Brent Barry, Maurice Taylor and a promising young Lamar Odom) had a record of 41-173, just a few tiny decimals better than the 76ers. But, one of those three seasons was shortened by the player’s lockout. Plus, Lamar has had a rough go of it lately, so let’s not kick him while he’s down.
Worst NBA Team Ever? Yes.
BASEBALL, FOOTBALL AND HOCKEY
To put the 76ers losing culture in perspective, a NFL team would have to average 3 wins per season (or less) to surpass the 76ers. Yup. 9 total wins in 3 seasons. The Browns – and their revolving door at QB – have been the source of many jokes since rejoining the NFL in 1999, but even they can’t boast a winning percentage worse than 20% sustained for three long years. (25% is squarely in their wheelhouse though.) The Bengals and Colts have been bad at times, but again, not for three consecutive seasons.
The 1994-96 Jets, led by Boomer Esiason, came really close with a 10-38 record over three seasons (20%). One more loss would have put them over the top. (Over the bottom?) Sleep easy Boomer, your terrible Jets were slightly better than the 76ers.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been awful recently. Combine Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert with an aging Maurice Jones-Drew and a bad defense. What do you get? From 2012-2014 they went 9-39. 18.7%! Finally a team worse than the 76ers!
If we go all the way back to the 1980s, we have an even worse team! The 1984-86 Bills had an 8-40 record! 16.7%! With a vast assortment of different players and coaches, the Bills were wandering lost in the frozen New York tundra until the late 80s. Finally Jim Kelly came in and replaced that pain with a whole new type of anguish. 4 straight Super Bowl losses!
Next we’ve got the Lions. In 2008 & 2009, Detroit had a pair of seasons as bad as we’ll probably ever see; 0 wins followed by 2 wins. Then they had to screw it up with 6 more wins in 2010 to tie the Bills’ mark of 8-40 (16.7%).
Compared to basketball and football, baseball doesn’t have such extreme losing (or winning) records. They hover more between 35-65% win percentages. Even the 2003 Detroit Tigers, one of the worst teams in the last 20 years, still won a quarter of their games. To sustain that type of losing for 3 straight seasons is unheard of in baseball.
A couple of NHL teams had singular terrible seasons in recent history (Ottawa and San Jose), but neither of them was able to continue that losing momentum for multiple seasons.
Finally, this brings me to the Saint Louis Rams. Most people associate the Rams with the “Greatest Show on Turf” and the corresponding Super Bowl victory. But, a few years after that success, the Rams taught everyone a lesson in futility. From 2007-2009 they won a measly 6 games while losing 42. That’s right, 6 wins in 3 seasons. 12.5%! Poor Steven Jackson. Things improved briefly for the Rams in 2010, but then went right back in the gutter the following year. Los Angeles, you’re getting one heck of a franchise!
Worst Team From Any Sport? No.
So, there you have it. The 76ers should be ashamed of themselves, but they’re off the hook for “worst team ever.” The Rams receive that majestic crown. To make matters worse, the Rams are putting all their eggs into one basket with the #1 rookie pick next week. (Their last #1 overall pick in 2010 was Sam Bradford.) Whichever quarterback they draft will be under a lot of pressure to save this putrid franchise and perform well for a new LA fan base. Good luck with that draft strategy!