As sports fans, we love the excitement of winning streaks, dynasties, and broken records. Of course, that excitement isn’t always shared by the teams playing against those dynasties and record breakers.
To choose the most feared sports teams in history is not an easy task, especially when the list spans multiple continents and multiple sports. Our list includes some college men’s teams, some college women’s teams, football teams, basketball teams, national teams, and even an automotive team. Some of our teams won the championship, some didn’t. But despite their many differences, all of the 30 teams on our list have one things in common: they absolutely dominated their sport for at least one year.
New York Yankees, 1927
The 1927 New York Yankees were such a feared sports team, their lineup was nicknamed “Murderers Row.” Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, the latter of whom hit 60 home runs during this season alone, led their team to a final tally of 110 wins and only 44 losses — a record! They also won their division by a whopping 19 games, and went on to sweep the year’s World Series in only four games.
Boston Celtics, 1959-60
Having won their second NBA Championship just a year earlier, the Boston Celtics were already a dominant team. Still, the 1959-60 team managed to step up their already stellar record. Led by players like Bill Russell and Frank Ramsey, and coached Red Auerbach, the Celtics finished the 1959 season with an impressive record of 59-16. After coming in first in the Eastern division, the Celtics fought for their third NBA Championship against the St. Louis Hawks, ultimately beating their rivals after a full seven games.
UCLA Bruins, 1968-69
The 1968-69 UCLA men’s basketball team finished the regular season with an impressive record of 29-1. Coached by the legendary John Wooden (with Denny Crum as assistant coach), these Bruins ended their season as both Pac-8 Champions and NCAA Champions. The 1968 roster was chock-full of impressive players, including “Money Man” John Vallely and Lew Alcindor. The Bruins’ dominance didn’t end in 1969, as the team would ultimately go on to win three consecutive national championships and five in six years.
Miami Dolphins, 1972
The Miami Dolphins finished the 1972 regular season with a perfect record — a whopping 14 wins! The team then continued their win streak into the post season, winning two playoff games and Super Bowl VII. Though a few other teams have come close, no other team, past or present, has been able to manage such an impressive feat as a 17-0 record.
USSR National Hockey Team, 1980
The Soviet Union’s men’s national hockey team dominated the sport of ice hockey from 1954 to 1991, during which time they won just about every world championship in existence. At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, this team of fearsome veterans took on the United States’s team of collegiate players for the Olympic gold medal. Despite the Soviets’ clear dominance, the United States team pulled off what has come to be known as the “miracle on ice,” defeating the USSR with a score of 4-3.
U.S. Men’s Olympic Basketball Team, 1992
Called the “greatest sports team ever assembled,” the 1992 U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team was the first to be made up of professional NBA players. The so-called Dream Team consisted of players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Charles Barkley, among others. Over the course of the Games, the United States advanced to the gold medal game by beating each opponent by an average of 44 points per game. The Dream Team ultimately won the gold medal against Croatia with a score of 117-85.
Nebraska Cornhuskers, 1995
The 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team has repeatedly been called the “greatest college football team ever” and “the most dominant college team of all time.” The Cornhuskers beat their opponents by an average of 38.6 points per game, and over the course of the 1995 season, scored a total of 638 points (compared to the 174 points they allowed). They finished their season with a perfect 12-0 record before beating Florida in the Fiesta Bowl and becoming the unanimous national champions.
Chicago Bulls, 1995-96
Were the Chicago Bulls of 1995-96 the greatest NBA team to ever step onto a court? There are many who would answer that with an emphatic, ‘YES!’. Thanks to the dominance of players like Dennis Rodman, Scotty Pippen, and the great Michael Jordan, the Bulls finished the season with 72 regular season wins and only 10 losses. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that this particular team is often credited for the massive influx in NBA popularity worldwide.
New York Yankees, 1998
The New York Yankees appear twice on our list of history’s most feared sports teams, with the 1998 team joining the iconic 1927 team. Led by Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, two of the all-time greats, the 1998 Yankees finished their season with an incredible record of 125-50 (regular season and postseason). That’s more wins than any other team in the history of the league. Furthermore, the team outscored their rivals by 300 runs over the course of the season.
Manchester United, 1998-99
Considering names like David Beckham and Peter Schmeichel graced its roster, it should come as no surprise that the 1998-99 Manchester United Team is included on our list of the most feared sports teams in history. Before winning the Premier League title, the Champions League trophy, and the FA Cup, the team lost only five games over the course of the entire season. While the players took home their trophies, Man United’s then-manager, Alex Ferguson, ended the epic season by being knighted.
Connecticut Huskies, 1999-2000
It should come as no surprise that the Connecticut Huskies appears on our list twice. After all, this women’s college basketball team seems to dominate the sport season after season. The 1999-2000 team posted an astounding record of 36-1, losing by only one point (!) in that single loss. UConn led the country in both field goal percentage defense (.339) and field goal percentage shooting (.539), before winning their second national championship with a score of 71-52.
Duke Blue Devils, 2000-01
Led by All-American athletes Shane Battier and Jason “Jay” Williams, the Duke men’s basketball team finished their season with an astonishing record of 35-4, and averaged nearly 91 points per game. Though the team had to rally back from 22 points down in a close call against Maryland in the ACC Tournament semifinals, the Blue Devils managed to win all six tournament games by double digits to take home their third national championships.
Brazilian National Soccer Team, 2002
The most recent World Cups haven’t been so kind to Brazil, but at one time, the Brazilian national soccer team truly was a force to be reckoned with. Though Brazil topped the FIFA rankings a whopping six times from 1998 to 2005, the team was able to display their dominance on the world stage at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea, where they made it to the final having won six straight games and outscoring their opponents 16-4. By the time they beat Germany to win the Cup, that outscoring record would increase to an incredible 18-4.
Ferrari Formula One Racing Team, 2002
Ferrari dominated the Formula One racing scene during the early 2000s, but 2002 is arguably the year in which the team was most feared by their opponents. Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello won 15 of 17 races for Ferrari, matching the record for number of wins in a season that had been held by McLaren since 1988. At the French Grand Prix, Schumacher won his 5th world championship to tie yet another record, this one had been held since the 1950s. At the United States Grand Prix, Barrichello slowed down only slightly at the end of the race in an attempt to finish in a dead heat with Schumacher. Instead, they finished first and second with a margin of only 0.011 seconds between them.
Los Angeles Sparks, 2002
Led by the great Lisa Leslie, the Los Angeles Sparks of 2002 are the only WNBA team to make our list of history’s most feared sports teams. The Sparks finished the regular season with a record of 25-7, then swept each and every playoff series by scores averaging 12 points higher than that of their opponents. When they won the 2002 WNBA Championship, it was for the second straight year in a row, an accomplishment that has not been repeated since. Fun fact: it was while playing for the 2002 Sparks team that Lisa Leslie became the first woman to slam dunk during a professional basketball game.
San Antonio Spurs, 2006-07
Led by the now legendary trio of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili, the 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs led their team to the title of NBA Champions. Over the course of the regular season, the team managed a record of 58-24, with the three aforementioned players scoring an incredible 14.1 points per 100 possessions. In the NBA finals, the Spurs swept LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in only four games.
Boston Red Socks, 2007
In 2007, the Boston Red Socks became World Series champions for the third time since 1918, solidifying themselves as a team with which to be reckoned. Over the course of the 2007 season, the Red Socks never fell below a .500 record, and ultimately ranked first in their division for a whopping 172 days. Throughout the postseason, Boston continued their impressive run by outscoring their opponents 99-46, a record differential for postseason scoring.
Melbourne Storm, 2007
The Melbourne Storm have long dominated Australian Rugby, and this is especially true of the team in 2007. Led by legendary coach Craig Bellamy and a top-notch defense, Storm finished the season with 21 wins and only three losses, having scored 627 points and allowing only 277 points to be scored against them. Though the Melbourne Storm handily won the 2007 National Rugby League grand final, their title was ultimately stripped after it was found the team violated long-term salary caps. Still, this doesn’t take away from the fact that in 2007, the Melbourne Storm was one of history’s most feared and dominant teams.
New England Patriots, 2007
ESPN calls the 2007 New England Patriots a team “far more dominant […] than any team in any sport anywhere in the universe over the past 20 years.” Though the 2007 Patriots ultimately lost their Super Bowl, we’d tend to agree with ESPN’s lofty statement. The team went 16-0 in the regular season, becoming only the fourth team in NFL history to post a perfect regular season record. In doing so, the Patriots broke and set a whole slew of NFL records, including: most games won, regular and post season (18); longest winning streak (18); most points in a season (589); most points on the road (314); highest point differential in a single season (+315); and most touchdowns scored in a season (75), to name but a select few.
Detroit Red Wings, 2007-08
Hockey can be an intimidating game as it is, but the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings took intimidation to the next level. The team had already made it to the NHL championships three consecutive years by the time they returned for a fourth time in 2008. Over the course of the regular season, the Red Wings had mastered the art of puck possession, outscoring their opponents in 70 of 82 games. To win the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings shot their way through the playoffs with a plus-31 goal differential, the best of any team since 1995.
Kansas Jayhawks, 2007-08
No Jayhawks basketball team has ever been better than the 2007-08 men’s team. They finished their regular season with a record of 37-3, a school record for number of wins. And those losses? Those three losses combine to only a 13 point deficit. Additionally, this Jayhawks team outscored their opponents by an incredible 35.2 points per 100 possessions, the second most impressive margin of the last two decades. Finally, the Kansas Jayhawks won the NCAA championship despite all four No. 1 seeds making it to the Final Four.
Florida Gators, 2008
The Florida Gators football team lost only one regular season game in 2008, and that loss was by a measly one point to Ole Miss. Throw that unfortunate defeat out and it’s easy to see why the 2008 Gators are considered one of the most intimidating sports teams in history. The football team beat their tough lineup of opponents by an average of 31 points, then went on to defeat No. 1 Alabama to win the SEC and No. 2 Oklahoma to win the title of national champions. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that a whopping 24 players on the 2008 Florida Gators football team went on to play in the NFL, including Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.
FC Barcelona, 2008-09
At the beginning of the 2008-09 Barca season, it’s unlikely anyone would have predicted the eventual inclusion of the team on a list of the most feared sports teams in history. After all, new manager Pep Guardiola took over and promptly sold off Deco and Ronaldinho, two of the highest profile players in the history of the franchise. Still, FC Barcelona went on to dominate every field on which they played. By the end of the season, this fearsome team won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the UEFA Champions League.
Chicago Blackhawks, 2012-13
Granted, the 2012-13 hockey season was a tad shorter than usual due to the infamous lockout, but that didn’t stop the Chicago Blackhawks from putting their mark on sports history. Not only did the Blackhawks finish the season with a .802 points percentage — the highest average of any pro hockey team in the past 20 seasons — they also scored goals in the first 24 games of the season, the longest streak in the history of the league. Winning the NHL championship was torture for fans (overtime games galore!), but in the end the Blackhawks were able to take home the Stanley Cup.
Seattle Seahawks, 2013
The Seattle Seahawks dominated the 2013 NFL football season, and are an easy addition to our list of the most feared sports teams in history. ESPN declared the 2013 Seahawks to have had the “best defense in the NFL in at least the past 15 years.” Indeed, the team’s defense ranked #1 throughout the entire league for points allowed, takeaways, and yards allowed. No team had managed to do that since the Bears did it in 1985. Such a record allowed the Seahawks to get to the 2013 Super Bowl, which they won by a whopping 35 points.
Connecticut Huskies, 2013-14
Women’s college basketball unfortunately doesn’t get the attention it deserves, but this Connecticut Huskies team is an exception to a grievous rule. The UConn women of 2013-14 finished their season with a perfect 40-0 record. But wait, it gets better! They won every single game by scoring an average of 34 points more than their opponents, including eight games by more than 50 points. During the fight for the National Championship, the Huskies crushed the previously undefeated team from Notre Dame.
Real Madrid, 2013-14
The battle for European dominance may eternally revolve between Real Madrid and their #1 rival, Barcelona, but in the 2013-14 season, there was no question as to which team was king. In the Champions League, an annual continent-wide tournament of club teams, Madrid outscored their opponents 41-10, and even advanced with five shutout games. The team continued to slaughter all who faced them, thanks in part to Cristiano Ronaldo, who managed to score a whopping 17 goals in only 13 games.
New Zealand All Blacks, 2015
To be honest, we could have filled this list with All Blacks rugby teams from the last few decades, but for the sake of brevity, chose the 2015 team as the standout. This is the team that shot to the top of the World Rugby rankings (they’re still #1 today), and became the first team to win the Rugby World Cup twice in a row. Much of the team’s success had to do with the leadership of Beauden Barrett, the legendary player who went on to gain the title of World Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2017.
Chicago Cubs, 2016
Not only did the 2016 Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908, they made breaking the longest World Series drought in the history of major league baseball look easy. The Cubs finished the season with a record of 103-58, winning their division by a whopping 17.5 games. To get there, the team played with grit and determination, outscoring their opponents by 1.57 runs each game.
Golden State Warriors, 2016-17
The Golden State Warriors have dominated basketball in recent years, and the 2016-17 team has been called one of the greatest of all time. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant led a cohesive all-star team of players to a record of 67-15, the second best in the history of the franchise. The outscored their opponents by an average of 11.6 points per game, a difference that hadn’t been seen in professional basketball in at least two decades. During the playoffs, the Warriors secured first place in both the Pacific division and Western conference before going on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers for the championship.