The word dynasty is used and abused too often in pro sports today. Where it once identified a team that had a dominant run, namely winning multiple titles in a few years, its frequent application has rendered it meaningless. Today, the mere addition of a star player to a talented team unleashes speculation about a prospective dynasty. The hype surrounding the “Dream Team” Eagles of late is a case in point.
But the fascination with sole team hegemony or oligarchy is not entirely misplaced, since dynasties are a real phenomenon in pro sports. One could associate teams with decades; the 2000s New England Patriots, 1990s Chicago Bulls, 1980s New York Islanders, and 1970s Oakland Athletics among others. And neither structural reform, such as league expansion or free agency, nor rule changes have extinguished dynasties.
But answering the questions of why and how dynasties emerge is not the focus here. Instead, the concern is with the criteria. One must know the qualifications for such lofty status before any discussion of the how or why can begin.
The first and most obvious condition is winning championships. The 1990s Buffalo Bills do not make the grade because of their Super Bowl failures. The timespan of a team’s ascendance, with an emphasis on compression, is important. Few can match the Baltimore Orioles’ run from 1969-1983, five AL pennants and two rings. But those achievements are overshadowed by the early 1970s A’s, who had a three-peat from 1972-1974, while the Orioles’ titles came 13 years apart in 1970 and 1983.