Longest losing streak in sports history: What group of incompetence can the Pistons join?

The Detroit Pistons will be knocking on the door of a historic deficit on Tuesday night. After losing 26 straight games, the Pistons are one loss away from being etched into the record books as the sole owners of the longest losing streak in NBA history.

Detroit will take its final steps in preventing infamy as it hosts the Brooklyn Nets at Little Caesars Arena, just miles from where the franchise has hoisted Larry O'Brien Trophies in three straight decades. While those powerhouse teams have earned the right to be circled on contenders' calendars, the Pistons' 2023-24 calendar looked very different — the team hadn't won a game since Oct. 28.

But Detroit was no innovator of stunning inefficiency. With a loss tonight, they will join a group of legendary losers from around the world. Here is the longest losing streak in sports history. Take solace, Pistons loyalists, the biggest losers have been here before.

NFL: Chicago Cardinals, 29 games

If 27 basketball games in an 82-game schedule sounds bad, what about 29 football games in the era of a 10-game schedule? 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 championship game in 1948. (Photo via Getty)

Chicago would not get another win until the fourth week 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) finished 1945 on a seven-game losing streak, going 1- 9 and failed to make the qualifiers on the twentieth day. consecutive season.

In recent history, the Jacksonville Jaguars went on a 20-game losing streak from 2020 to 2021. A 15-game losing streak to close out the 2020 campaign put the Jags in the draft for franchise QB Trevor Lawrence but fed directly into the corrupt Urban Meyer era . .

Yes, the Pistons will take the bulk of their losing streak if they fall tonight to tie the single-season record, but they will need to lose again Thursday to the Boston Celtics if they want to match the 76ers' mark at all. Philadelphia's stretch spanned two seasons as the Sixers finished the 2014-15 season after 10 games and then opened the following season 0-18 before getting their first win in December.

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

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

A fan carries a sign bearing the fan base slogan “Trust the Process” to a 76ers game in 2015. (Photo: Mitchell Leaf/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 reset themselves by winning the WNBA lottery and selecting South Carolina legend Aliyah Boston, who had just completed one of the greatest NCAA women's basketball runs in the date. .

But even with Boston — who was named an All-Star and won Rookie of the Year honors — the Fever's losing streak continued, losing their first two games of 2023 to match the Tulsa Shock's losing streak since 2011. While Boston's presence has led to an eight-improvement With the win, the Fever failed to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season.

Back in 2011, the Shock finished 3-31 for the WNBA's worst ever winning percentage of .088. With a mismatched roster that included 40-year-old legend Cheryl Swoopes coming out of retirement and a 19-year-old rookie All-Star in Liz Cambage, Tulsa's losing streak extended from June 21 to August 25.

Coming out of retirement, Cheryl Swoopes reacts to a phone call in the midst of Tulsa's long losing streak. (Photo: Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images)

National Hockey League: Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres, 18 games

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

With a 3-0 lead going 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 stretch is embarrassing. Any team in the NHL is a win.”

American League: Louisville Colonels, 26 games

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

The season began with team owner Mordecai Davidson replacing himself as manager with Dude Esterbrook, but Esterbrook was fired after only 10 games. Defender Jimmy “Chicken” Wolfe assumed the role of player-manager, but Davidson later appointed homegrown goaltender Buck McKinney as team manager amid the losing streak due to concern over player behaviour.

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In later years, the Colts would eventually use Hall of Famers such as Rob Waddell and Honus Wagner, but the franchise folded in 1899. In more recent history, the record has been challenged by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 23 straight games, and the 1988 Baltimore Phillies. The Orioles, who have lost 21 in a row.

Norwich's yo-yo between the Premier League and the EFL Championship spanned five seasons from 2018 to 2022, and included two Premier League championships and two Premier League relegations thanks to a last-place finish.

In the English Premier League, Norwich ended its 2019-20 season with ten consecutive defeats. After being returned to the Premier League and then promoted back to the top flight in the 2021-22 season, Norwich opened this season with another six straight league losses to achieve the dreadful mark. The streak was finally snapped with a 0-0 draw in the team's seventh match, but Norwich's first win did not come until the eleventh contest amid another last-place season.

NCAA: Northwestern, 34 games

A winless football season is brutal. But what about three in four years? The 1970s and 1980s were not good for Northwestern football, which had four winless seasons from 1976 to 1989 and three one-win seasons in that span. From their third game in 1979 to their fourth game of the 1982 season, the Wildcats failed to record a single win in 34 games.

Northwestern's Ricky Edwards scored one of four touchdowns to lift the Wildcats to their first win in 35 games. (Image via Getty)

When the Wildcats lost their 29th straight game to break a record for most losing streaks, Northwestern fans stormed the field jeering and chanting “We're the worst!” When the losing streak snapped in 1982, fans stormed the field again, tore down the team's goal posts and threw them into Lake Michigan.

The losing streak cost coach Rick Venturi his job, as he finished with a 1-31-1 record in three seasons. Venturi's replacement, Dennis Green, had a winless first year before turning the Wildcats around in 1982. Green's work in holding Northwestern to three wins was so impressive that he was named coach of the year, despite the team's eight wins . losses.

Below the FBS level, FCS Prairie View A&M holds an even more disappointing record, losing 80 straight games starting in 1989. The 1998 Panthers snapped that streak with just 15 scholarship players.

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NCAA Basketball: Chicago State Lady Cougars, 59 games

Chicago State women's basketball experienced as steep a decline in the 2000s as any program could imagine. After three winning seasons in four years, capped by a program-best 24-win season in 2010-11, the Lady Cougars won just 25 games for the rest of the decade. The nadir came in 2018, when the winless Cougars lost their 59th straight game.

The 2015-16 losing streak began with a seven-game skid to close the season, then snowballed into a winless 2016-17 season before the streak was snapped in the team's 25th game of the 2017-18 season, for the Lady Cougars. The only win of the season.

On the men's side, Towson has the longest losing streak in Division I at 41 games, spanning from 2011-12 to 2012-13. But since that streak was snapped, the team has had eight winning seasons in the past decade and was crowned CAA co-champion in 2021-22.

Basketball Exhibition: Washington Generals, 2,495 games

Washington's generals are there to lose. They play the roles of punching bag and straight man in the Harlem Globetrotters' high-flying basketball comedy. Throughout their history and many different nicknames, the Generals have employed competitive basketball players, but almost every one of their 200-plus annual games ends in defeat.

Globetrotters Turbo Pearson dunks for Washington Generals (Photo: Eric W. Rascoe/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

That was until January 5, 1971. The Generals — who were playing under the name and jerseys of the New Jersey Reds that night — and the Globetrotters played an unusual game that night, with Harlem doing fewer stunts and fewer comedic gags than usual. Globetrotters captain and team legend Curly Neal attended the exhibition, and it turned out to be a more classic basketball game than most Globetrotter events.

Washington raced to the lead, which was not unusual. What was unusual was that the Globetrotters lost track of the score and failed to complete their usual dramatic comeback. Generals owner and founder Red Klutz checked himself into the game in the final seconds and hit the go-ahead basket to put Washington back up 100-99.

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

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

The 1971 victory may have been one of many for the Generals, but the showrunners are not known for their record-keeping skills. While some argue they won as many as six games, the 1971 linebacker snapper is the most famous of all. It is estimated that the generals lost more than 19,000 more.

Go deeper

In their heyday, the Harlem Globetrotters were also created for television

(Top Image: Mitchell Liff/Getty Images)

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