There are few things in American culture that can attain a more mythical status than a truly legendary sports team. When a group of players and a coach make everything work at the same time, it leads to some timeless memories and endless speculation about who, from history, could beat them.
Comparing teams across various sports is obviously difficult to do, but we’ve done it here, taking a look back at the most fearsome teams ever put together across professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey. You won’t find All-Star teams or Olympic squads like the “Dream Team” on this list. We’ve ranked teams ranging from the 1920s through 2018, so there’s a lot to take in.
Did your all-time favorite team make the cut?
25. 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings
Notable Stars: Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey, Nicklas Lidstrom
While their season ultimately ended in disappointment, the 1995-96 Red Wings could probably still beat just about any hockey team from history that you could put against them on the ice.
Led by Hall of Famers Sergei Fedorov, Steve Yzerman, Paul Coffey and Nicklas Lidstrom, this squad set the NHL’s all-time record for wins in the regular season, posting a 62-13-7 record, and came within one point of tying the all-time record for points in a season, racking up 131. This team was lethal in all aspects of the game, scoring a goal in every game of the season and having goaltenders Chris Osgood and Mike Vernon win the Jennings Trophy.
They eventually ran out of gas and got upset in six games in the Western Conference Finals.
24. 2012-13 Miami Heat
Notable Stars: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen
Probably the best team LeBron James will ever play with, the 2012-13 Miami Heat was designed to dominate, and that’s exactly what they did.
This team improved on the 2011-12 Heat team that won an NBA title, winning 66 games and improving in win percentage. The addition of Hall of Famer Ray Allen before the season started made the already brutal combination of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh even more intimidating. This team went on a 27-game winning streak at one point and lost only three games from the months of February through April in the regular season. In the playoffs, this team won a record 12 games by double digits en route to a second consecutive championship.
23. 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers
Notable Stars: Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Costello, Hal Greer, Chet Walker
Boasting four Hall-of-Fame players, this 76ers team was virtually unstoppable during the 1966-67 NBA season. No other team in history has ever matched their start of 46-4 through the first 50 games of a season.
In an era when NBA teams didn’t score nearly as many points, this squad averaged 125.22 points per game, still the third-highest mark ever. Wilt Chamberlain was named league MVP, averaging 24 points and 24 rebounds for the season. He was joined in the lineup by fellow legends Larry Costello, Hal Greer and Chet Walker.
22. 1995 Dallas Cowboys
Notable Stars: Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders
The end of the 1990s Cowboys dynasty was the best team of the bunch. Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin were back having incredible seasons — Smith rushed for a career-high 1,773 yards — and the team picked up the legendary Deion Sanders on defense.
This squad went 12-4 in the regular season but turned it on in the playoffs, wrecking its three opponents by a combined victory margin of +40. The 1995 Cowboys had 10 Pro Bowlers and six All-Pros that combined for a balanced attack and something that’s rare among elite teams: personality.
21. 1962 Green Bay Packers
Notable Stars: Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Ray Nitschke, Willie Wood
Certainly the most legendary team of the pre-Super Bowl era, the 1962 Green Bay Packers, led by head coach/general manager Vince Lombardi, went 13-1 on the way to a second consecutive NFL championship.
Perhaps the fact most remembered about this team is that it had 10 Hall-of-Fame players on its roster, which is almost unimaginable. The ’62 Packers had the NFL’s top-ranked offense and defense that season, outscoring opponents by an average of 30-11 and posting a season-long point differential of +267. That’s domination.
20. 1999 St. Louis Rams
Notable Stars: Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Orlando Pace
“The Greatest Show on Turf” proved to be ahead of its time in racking up points at an unbelievable rate.
The 1999 Rams were a blast to watch, scoring at least 30 points in 12 different games that season, a mark only three other NFL teams have matched. The Rams also had a great defense, which itself scored seven touchdowns on interception returns, the third most by any defense in league history, and led the NFL in rushing defense and sacks. Quarterback Kurt Warner led the NFL in passer rating (109.2) and passing touchdowns (41), and the team led the league in total yards and scoring.
19. 1970 Baltimore Orioles
Notable Stars: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer
Legendary players abound in the 1970 Orioles, and they proved unstoppable, no matter what team was put in their way. This squad went 108-54 in the regular season, winning their division by 15 games, before only losing one playoff game en route to a World Series title.
The Robinsons — Hall of Famers Frank and Brooks — were the stars of the show, but Boog Powell was actually named American League MVP, batting .297 and knocking in 114 RBI on the year. Fellow Cooperstown inductee Jim Palmer posted a 2.71 ERA with 199 strikeouts and was one of three Orioles starting pitchers to contribute at least 20 wins.
18. 2007 New England Patriots
Notable Stars: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel
The closest any NFL team has come to perfection since 1972 was the 2007 Patriots, who seemed destined to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. This team was the only in league history to go 16-0 in the regular season, eventually going 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl by a field goal.
But even with that brutal loss, this Patriots team was truly special, posting the NFL’s best season-long point differential ever, at +315, and outscoring its opponents by a record 19.7 points per game. During this historic season, Tom Brady and Randy Moss both set records, with Brady throwing for 50 touchdowns and Moss catching 23 touchdowns.
17. 1984 San Francisco 49ers
Notable Stars: Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Clark, Roger Craig
A record-setting team in its day, the 1984 49ers were a juggernaut that boasted 10 Pro Bowlers, led by league MVP Joe Montana.
This team was the first in NFL history to win 18 games in a season, when you combine the regular season and playoffs. Like the 2007 Patriots, this team’s only loss was by a field goal, but unlike that team, this squad won the Super Bowl. This team’s offense and defense were on fire, beating opponents by an average of 15.5 points per game.
The 49ers eventually dominated their three playoff opponents by a combined score of 82-26, including a 23-0 shutout of the vaunted 1984 Chicago Bears in the NFL Championship Game.
16. 1972 Miami Dolphins
Notable Stars: Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Paul Warfield
As fabled as any single team in NFL history, the ’72 Dolphins remain the only team in league history to be undefeated through the regular season and playoffs. With a shorter, 14-game season being played back then, this doesn’t give them the most wins ever, but their 17-0 final mark is the envy of all other great teams.
This squad had seven eventual Hall of Famers and nine Pro Bowlers on its roster. Perhaps most impressive, though, is that this team prevailed despite starting quarterback Bob Griese suffering a season-ending injury five games into the season. But, for as impressive as the undefeated Dolphins were, the fact that they played a cupcake schedule, with all opponents having a combined win percentage of .400, lowers their standing a bit.
15. 1985-86 Boston Celtics
Notable Stars: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Bill Walton
This team is arguably the most talented team the Boston Celtics ever put together, which is seriously saying something. This squad included five Hall of Fame players, including all three members of its incredible frontcourt: Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Celtics icon Bill Walton was also a big part of the team, still dominating at the end of his career.
Five players averaged double figures in scoring, helping the team go 67-15 in the regular season and crushing everyone in the playoffs, going 15-3, including a sweep of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the first round.
14. 1939 New York Yankees
Notable Stars: Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing, Bill Dickey, George Selkirk
The Yankees have arguably had more incredible teams than any other franchise in North American sports, as we’ll continue to see on this list. This club was truly special because of the special circumstances surrounding its season.
Yankees legend Lou Gehrig only appeared in a few games and eventually gave his iconic “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” speech, announcing his retirement during a July 4, 1939 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. His teammates eventually finished the year 106-45 and won the World Series with a sweep. Joe DiMaggio batted a ridiculous .381 and was one of four players to contribute at least 100 RBI. FiveThirtyEight called them the best MLB team in history.
13. 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers
Notable Stars: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Michael Cooper
Across NBA history, there might not be a more fun team to have rooted for than the 1986-87 Lakers. “Showtime” was at full force, with seven different players averaging double figures in scoring, including four averaging at least 17 points. But this team didn’t just dominate on offense, thanks to Hall of Famers like Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They also boasted the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year in Michael Cooper.
After a 65-17 regular season, the team went 15-3 in the playoffs, including a Finals win over the arch-rival Boston Celtics.
12. 2018 Boston Red Sox
Notable Stars: Mookie Betts, David Price, J.D. Martinez, Ryan Brasier
When the 2018 Boston Red Sox hoisted the World Series trophy, it put the cap on a truly historic season that included 108 regular-season wins, the most of any MLB team in nearly 20 years.
This Red Sox team was the best in baseball for the entire season, bolstered by the play of AL MVP Mookie Betts, who batted .346. After the team went 11-3 in the playoffs, even MLB.com estimated it might have been the best team in baseball history. We’ll hold off on giving them that distinction, but this team was certainly a brilliant one to watch.
11. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
Notable Stars: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, Joe Greene
There were several Steelers teams from the “Steel Curtain” era that could’ve landed on this list, but we gave the honor to the 1978 club, which won a then-franchise record 14 games in the regular season. After that 14-2 mark, the ’78 Steelers capped it off with yet another Super Bowl victory.
This team had nine Hall of Famers on its roster, 10 Pro Bowlers and four first-team All-Pro selections, meaning they were judged to be the best at their position in the entire league. Every beloved Steeler from the team’s best era were part of this team, including Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, “Mean” Joe Greene and Jack Lambert, to name a few.
10. 1975 Cincinnati Reds
Notable Stars: Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Pérez
The “Big Red Machine” was the best baseball team of the 1970s and, arguably, the best team in National League history.
This squad would win back-to-back World Series titles — the most recent NL team to do so — starting with this 1975 lineup. Boasting future Hall of Famers in Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Pérez, plus a would-be Hall of Famer in Pete Rose, the 1975 Reds went 108-54 in the regular season before losing only three games in the playoffs to take the crown in what was probably the best World Series ever played. This Reds squad was perfection on both sides of the field, posting a +254 run differential and going 64-17 at home, which is second best in baseball history.
9. 2016-17 Golden State Warriors
Notable Stars: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green
The best NBA team of this century, ESPN has even argued that this was the greatest team in league history. A squad that was already the league’s best added Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, before the 2016-17 season, making them virtually unbeatable. The result was a 67-15 regular season and an incredible 16-1 run through the playoffs, which represents the best playoff winning percentage in NBA history. There were at least four surefire Hall of Famers on this Warriors team and they played like it all year.
8. 1989 San Francisco 49ers
Notable Stars: Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young
In all of NFL history, no team has dominated the postseason like the 1989 49ers. This juggernaut outscored its playoff opponents by a combined score of 126-26, the best mark ever, en route to winning another Super Bowl.
In addition to having the league’s top-ranked offense in terms of scoring and yardage that season, the 49ers also ranked third in points allowed and fourth in total defense, showing how balanced their attack was. Joe Montana posted a then-record 112.4 season-long passer rating before going on to have a mind-blowing 146.4 passer rating in the playoffs.
This team lost just two games that season by a combined total of five points. Even backup quarterback Steve Young threw for more than 1,000 yards during this incredible season.
7. 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers
Notable Stars: Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, Paul Coffey
Arguably the most star-studded lineup in hockey history, the 1983-84 Edmonton Oilers went 57-18-5 on the way to a 15-4 playoff run and the franchise’s first of five Stanley Cup wins in the next seven years. No team in NHL history has been able to match this team’s 446 goals scored during the regular season. To further prove their offensive prowess, this team also scored a record 36 shorthanded goals. The team’s roster included six Hall of Famers, led by Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, who combined for 331 points.
6. 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers
Notable Stars: Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Gail Goodrich
When the dust had settled on the 1972 NBA season, there had never been a better team than that year’s Lakers in the history of the league.
The 1971-72 Lakers — led by future Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Gail Goodrich — won 69 regular season games, a record that would stand for 24 years, and 81 total games, a record that would stand for 14 seasons. Nearly 50 years after they played, this team still holds a few all-time records, including a +12.3 average point differential and a winning streak that spanned 33 games.
This team’s dominance was proven once and for all when it beat a New York Knicks team loaded with Hall of Famers in just five games in the NBA Finals.
5. 1985 Chicago Bears
Notable Stars: Walter Payton, Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, William Perry
For our money, this is the best NFL team to ever take the field.
Can you imagine the reaction today to a team that recorded a song (and amazing music video) called “The Super Bowl Shuffle” weeks before the playoffs even started? This team had personality to spare and backed it up on the field with one of the most balanced attacks in history. The ’85 Bears defense allowed less than 13 points per game on average, leading to a combined margin of victory of +258 in the regular season. Led by legendary coaches Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, this team also boasted 11 All-Pros and nine Pro Bowlers.
The Bears ended the season at a combined 18-1, including a brutal playoff run where they allowed only 10 total points in three games, while scoring 91 themselves.
4. 1927 New York Yankees
Notable Stars: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt
Probably the most mythical team in American sports history, the “Murderers’ Row” Yankees won an incredible 110 games in the regular season, led by Babe Ruth’s astounding campaign that included a then-record 60 home runs, 164 RBI and a .356 batting average. This hitting lineup was understandably feared, as it hit 102 more home runs on the season than the next closest American League team.
Even with Ruth’s numbers, Lou Gehrig was named AL MVP, contributing 47 home runs, 175 RBI and a .373 batting average. In total, this lineup boasted six Hall-of-Fame players and inspired generations of future players.
3. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens
Notable Stars: Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Ken Dryden, Jacques Lemaire
Simply put, there’s never been a better hockey team to skate on NHL ice than the 1976-77 Canadiens.
That season, the Habs racked up 132 points, the most in NHL history, going 60-8-12, which also set the all-time record for fewest losses. But its how this team won its games that makes them the best. The 1976-77 Canadiens had a +216 goal differential for the season, the best ever, and won each game by an average of 2.7 goals, showing that nobody else was even close to their level. Of the team’s eight 20-goal scorers, Guy LaFleur and Steve Shutt led the way, combining for 116 goals and 241 points.
They eventually went 12-2 in the playoffs, including a sweep in the Stanley Cup Finals.
2. 1995-96 Chicago Bulls
Notable Stars: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc
Our pick for the best team in NBA history saw arguably the best combination of offense and defense in basketball history, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen joining forces with Dennis Rodman.
The 1995-96 Bulls started the season at 41-3, still the best ever through 44 games, and their eventual 87-13 record, including the playoffs, is also the best in NBA history. The Bulls posted an average point differential of +12.2 points per game and became one of only a handful of teams to ever have three players on the NBA All-Defensive first team.
There have been higher-scoring teams, but with peak Jordan leading the way, this has to be the toughest team to ever lace up some sneakers.
1. 1998 New York Yankees
Notable Stars: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Paul O’Neil, Bernie Williams
As you’ve seen, the Yankees have put together several of the best teams in sports history, but the 1998 Bronx Bombers are our pick for the greatest squad ever put together.
This squad won the AL East division by 22 games, posting a regular-season record of 114-48, which represents the most wins by any team that would go on to win the World Series. Including a dominant playoff run, the team went 125-50 overall, which is the best mark in MLB history. This squad boasted four .300 hitters and four 20-home run hitters in its regular starting lineup. The pitching rotation was equally dangerous, including David Cone, David Wells and Andy Pettitte, who each won at least 16 games and posted more than 140 strikeouts. Bring in Mariano Rivera to close things out and you’ve got the most unbeatable team to ever play baseball.