Friday, June 15, 2007

A "dynasty" is crowned.

-noun, plural - ties.

1. a sequence of rulers from the same family, stock, or group: the Ming dynasty.
2. the rule of such a sequence.
3. a series of members of a family who are distinguished for their success, wealth, etc.

When thinking of the term "dynasty" relative to the sports world, there are really shades of gray; it's open to interpretation.

In the old sense, no "dynasty" compares to those of the Boston Celtics and UCLA Bruins. In the 30-year period from 1956 to 1986, the Celtics won 16 NBA Championships, including 8 straight from 1959-1966, 20 division titles and 18 conference titles. UCLA won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years from 1964-1975, including an 88 game winning streak from 1971-1974.

Since those days, factors have popped up in the world of sports that have made such eras of dominance impossible. The expansion of the leagues, and more importantly the era of free agency has ensured that no team can assemble enough talent and keep it together long enough to match the Celtics and Bruins of yesteryear.

Hence, the term "dynasty" is now watered down, to a point.

For example: I often hear people loosely throw around the word "dynasty" for the Detroit Red Wings. Since 1992, the Wings have won 11 division titles, 5 President's Trophies, 4 conference titles, and 3 Stanley Cups. An impressive run, no doubt, and only New Jersey has won as many Stanley Cups. But a dynasty?

It seems like the requirements for the modern dynasty is being a perenial contender, and winning at least 3 championships (or being very close). Another example is USC Trojans football. I like USC; I enjoy watching them play because they are ridiculously talented year in and year out. Since the 2002 season, they are 59-6. They've won their conference in each season. They shared the National Championship in 2003, won it outright in 2004, and lost in the Title Game in 2005. They show no signs of slowing down, and are the odds on favorite to win the National Title headed into this season. And yet I already hear people throwing around the word "dynasty" in regards to them. Please.

The New York Islanders won 4 straight Stanley Cups from 1979-1983. The Edmonton Oilers won 5 in 7 years during the 80s (including beating the 4-time champion Islanders in 1984). The Pittsburgh Steelers won 4 Super Bowls in 6 years in the 1970s. The San Francisco 49ers won 4 Super Bowls in 9 years in the 80s. The Dallas Cowboys won 3 in 4 years during the 90s, and the New England Patriots repeated that feat in this decade. The Chicago Bulls were (and still are) the landmark dynasty of this generation, winning 6 titles during an 8 year span during the 1990s. The Los Angeles Lakers won 3 straight NBA titles from 2000-2002, and lost the 2004 NBA Finals to the Pistons.

In the midst of that though, there were the San Antonio Spurs. Led by Tim Duncan, they beat the Knicks in the 1999 Finals. The Lakers then went on their 3-year reign, before the Spurs dethroned them and then beat New Jersey in 2003. The Pistons won in 2004, and the Spurs dethroned them in 2005.

After losing in Game 7 on their homecourt to Dallas last year, the Spurs were back again this year, coasting through the entire playoffs. They disposed of Denver in 5 games, beat Phoenix in a controversial 6, and mowed down Utah in 5. The Finals were the most lopsided, as the Spurs "crowned their dynasty" in a 4 game sweep, finishing the job tonight in Cleveland against the Cavaliers.

I am not at all trying to undercut the achievements of these teams. Hell, I'm jealous of the Spurs. My Pistons have one ring, while the Spurs have four now.

I often wonder what Bill Russell - the centerpiece of the Celtics of the 1960s - and Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - the stars of the UCLA teams in the late 1960s and early 1970s - think, when they hear the same word used to describe today's teams that is used to describe their legendary achievements from decades earlier.

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