Longest Winning Streaks In Sporting History
Regardless of the sport, irrespective of the player or team, everyone loses eventually. Some losses happen so frequently that it could be a story in and of itself, whilst others take an age to come around. It’s the latter category that we’re interested in here, looking specifically at teams or players that have lasted the longest time before losing, whatever the sport that they play.
The important thing from a footballing point of view is that we’re looking specifically at winning streaks. As a result, the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ side won’t be included here because they remained unbeaten thanks to a wealth of draws. Instead we’re looking at players and teams that have kept on winning, either across a period of time or else in one specific competition.
What Makes A Winning Streak?
Technically as few as two wins in a row could be classified as a winning streak, though not many would be quick to boast about it. Instead, a winning streak is noticeable when the players or team involved has won more games in a row than would be classed as an average for the sport that they play. There is no hard and fast rule in place in any sport, though.
In order to win The Championships at Wimbledon, for example, male and female players will need to win six matches including the final. That doesn’t count as a winning streak, for obvious reasons. Were a player to win three finals in a row then that would be eighteen matches and that would be far more likely to qualify as a winning streak in most people’s eyes.
The simple fact is that each sport, and even each individual competition, will have its own criteria for making a winning streak. A tennis player that wins eighteen matches in a row, for example, might be more impressive than a basketball team that does the same thing. We’re really looking or the most impressive streaks in each sport, as we’ll explain as we explore them.
Famous Winning Streaks
Here is a look at impressive winning streaks across a number of sports, explaining how they were achieved and why it was so impressive in each individual case.
The Los Angeles Lakers
Technically, the longest winning streak in basketball history belongs to the Harlem Globetrotters, with the exhibition side racking up a remarkable 2,495 wins over the Washington Generals. They weren’t competitive games, however, so they miss out on our list because of the Los Angeles Lakers and the 33 games that they won during the 1971-1972 season.
It was a streak that may well never be topped, with the closest a team has come since then belonging to the 27 consecutive wins notched up by the Miami Heat in 2012-2013. That run was brought to an end by the Chicago Bulls, whilst the Lakers’ eventually succumbed to the power of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Ask most modern tennis fans about the best players of all time and they’d point to the likes of Serena Williams and Roger Federer. It’s not that they’d be wrong in doing so, of course, with both of those players being absolutely phenomenal. Yet the name of Martina Navratilova is one that will forever be etched in the history books of tennis thanks to her 74 match winning streak.
It was achieved in 1984 when the Czechoslovakia-born American player won thirteen singles tournaments in a row. That run included three Majors and the fact that the next longest run was eight matches fewer speaks volumes. She also had other streaks of 58 and 54 matches, proving that she was one of the greatest ever to play the game.
Whilst Martina Navratilova’s streak of 74 consecutive match wins is impressive, it is nothing when compared to the 470 matches in a row that wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer managed. She retired from the sport at the age of 31, ending one of the most prolific careers that anyone has enjoyed in any sport that has ever been played.
Dutchwoman Vergeer won her first Gold medal at the Paralympics in Sydney in 2000, also notching up 21 Grand Slam singles titles, 23 Grand Slam doubles and three Paralympic Gold medals. She won 148 singles titles and 136 titles as a doubles player, only ever facing one match point in her career. She won 95 matches in a row by a score of 6-0, 6-0.
The only person that Esther Vergeer couldn’t beat in terms of most consecutive wins of all time is Jahangir Khan, the man whose name became synonymous with squash. Khan is acknowledged by many as the world’s greatest ever sportsman of any discipline, becoming the World Amateur Champion at the age of 15 and the youngest British Open and World Champion at 17.
During his career he won 555 matches in a row, which is the longest such streak in any sport. He set the record for consecutive British Open wins with 10, being named the World Champion six times. During his career he became the first ever player to win the World Open Championship without dropping a single game, with his 555 game run being in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Julio Cesar Chavez
Just as Martina Navratilova’s name might not be the first one that springs to mind when thinking of great tennis players, so too is Julio Cesar Chavez unlikely to be the name that everyone thinks of when it comes to the best ever boxers. Even so, El César del Boxeo has his name in the record books thanks to the 87 bouts in a row that he won between 1980 and 1993.
El César del Boxeo was the world champion six times across three weight divisions during that time and would actually have won 90 matches were it not for a draw in his 88th fight. Frankie Randall eventually put paid to the Mexican’s winning streak, though couldn’t stop him from notching up the world record for the most successful world title defences.
Manchester City & Liverpool
When Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side became the first in the Premier League era to break the 100 point barrier during the 2017-2018 campaign, they did so by sending records tumbling all over the place. They notched up the most ever wins in a season by managing 32 victories (repeating that again the year after), scored the most goals when they found the net 106 times and also got the highest ever goal difference.
Yet the record that many thought would stand the test of time was the one that saw them win 18 top-flight games in a row, including a 5-0 win over Liverpool, a 6-0 thrashing of Watford and a 7-2 victory against Stoke City. Even when the run finally came to an end it was only because of a draw with Crystal Palace rather than a loss.
Just as buses tend to come in twos so do win records it seems as Liverpool went on to also record 18 consecutive victories in their title winning season two years later. They notched up 18 wins in a row between 27th October 2019 and 24th February 2020 in their title winning season, that also saw them match Manchester City's record of 32 wins in a season.
New England Patriots
There is very little similarity between American football and the game that people from the United States of America would call soccer, so it is a curious twist of fate that the longest winning run in the same season in both sports is 18 games. When it comes to American football, that win was notched up by the New England Patriots, who achieved it in the 2007-2008 campaign.
It was a run that saw them overtake the Miami Dolphins, who had managed to win 17 times in succession during the 1972-1973 season. Unlike Manchester City, however, the Pats didn’t end up as the champions because they lost 17-14 to the Giants in the Super Bowl. Whether that’s a flaw in the American system is something that we couldn’t possibly comment on, but it is.
Edwin Moses might not be a name that many people recognise, but he is the most successful athlete in running in track and field history. He won every single race that he entered between 1977 and 1987, which included 107 finals and 15 prelims. The 400-metre hurdler won Gold at the Summer Olympics in both 1976 and 1984, plus a bronze in 1988.
Even when he eventually lost it was to someone ten years younger than him, proving that time will eventually catch up with everyone. The 1976 summer Olympics was his first international meeting and he won the Gold medal by setting a world record time for hurdling. His was not a flash-in-the-pan, cementing his place in the record books as one of the best hurdlers ever.
Johnny Vander Meer
Given the huge numbers involved in streaks on this page, the number ‘two’ isn’t really that impressive. Yet when you consider that Johnny Vander Meer is the only player in baseball history to manage two consecutive no hitters you can start to appreciate just what an impressive feat it is. Since 1876 only 305 no hitters have been thrown and he has two of them.
A no hitter is where a team fails to notch up a single hit during all nine innings of a game, with pitchers considering it a success if they’re able to stop the opposition from connecting bat with ball. That Vander Meer managed his no hitters at the start of his career makes it even more impressive, helping the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-0 win over the Dodgers.
If we’re going to highlight a no hit streak then it’s only fair that we also flag up the player that has managed the Major League Baseball record for most consecutive games witch hit. The hitting streak belongs to Joe DiMaggio, notching up 56 games in a row with a hit between May and July in 1941, during baseball’s most romantic period.
He achieved it whilst playing for the New York Yankees, having already notched up the record hitting streak in the Minor League whilst playing for the San Francisco Seals. During his streak he a managed a batting average of .408 and 15 home runs, as well as 55 runs that were batted in. That the next closest player is Willie Keeler with 44 games tells its own story.
What Makes People Capable Of Winning Streaks?
It is obviously virtually impossible to outline why one person or team would be capable of notching up a streak of wins whilst someone else might not. There’s no question that a degree of luck is involved, given the fact that virtually no record can be set nor trophy won in sport without exactly that. That’s not to diminish the sheer amount of skill needed to achieve it either.
More than anything else, though, a huge dollop of mental strength is involved, which is perhaps what makes the personal records more impressive than the team ones. When you work as a team there is obviously the ability to turn to others for mental support and encouragement, which solo sportspeople are unable to do in any meaningful sense.
Yes, solo sports people are able to turn to coaches or family and friends for support, but ultimately they have to achieve what they’re trying to achieve on their own. If a sportsperson is having a bad day when in a team then their teammates can cover for them or lift them up. In the likes of football, the coach can even substitute them out.
The same situation does not exist for solo players, who need to get their own game in order if they wish to set records or find a place in the history books. Even so, the mentality is needed by all the athletes who find themselves on our list, whether as part of a team or because of something that they’ve been able to achieve on their own.
Fortune, skill and mentality are the three key ingredients to being able to win and not stop winning, irrespective of the sport that you play. It’s why so many of the records on our list are unlikely to ever be broken, because the combination of those three things is something that is impossible to achieve through hard work alone.