Most Cursed Sports Teams
The idea of being cursed might seem ridiculous to some people, and that’s understandable. Because if you believe in curses, you might as well believe in aliens and vampires and Bigfoot.
But for fans of unlucky sports franchises, it’s a real thing. Ask them, and they’ll tell you they’re doomed. And that doesn’t always mean a curse. Human error can be just as dangerous to a team’s fortunes.
So while every new season brings hope, it’s a fleeting feeling in some cities. Welcome to the most doomed pro sports franchises club, where you're destined for failure and a lifetime of suffering.
Note: All-time records are for regular seasons only and through Sept. 26, 2019.
30. Atlanta Braves
All-time record: 4,433-4,168 (.515 winning percentage)
Championships: 1 (1995)
Bottom line: Almost nothing in pro sports compares to the Braves' snakebitten run through the 1990s. In that decade alone, the Braves won National League pennants in 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 1999. But they came away with just one World Series title, in 1995, when they defeated the Cleveland Indians.
The irony of winning the NL pennant five times shouldn’t be lost on Braves fans. The team also featured five future Baseball Hall of Famers in that stretch — manager Bobby Cox, shortstop Chipper Jones and pitchers Greg Madduz, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
The Braves might be the biggest "what if" dynasty in baseball history. And since then, even when they're good, they find a way to end on a bad note.
29. Minnesota Vikings
All-time record: 480-398-11 (.539 winning percentage)
Bottom line: Before the Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s, the Vikings were the standard-bearer for championship game futility by losing four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976.
Minnesota's fortunes were supposed to change in 1998, when the Vikings went 15-1 and seemed destined for Super Bowl glory. Then, they became the first 15-1 team not to make the Super Bowl after a stunning NFC championship game loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Minneapolis.
The Vikings have been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL when it comes to making the playoffs (29 appearances since 1968) and losing. They haven’t won an NFC championship since 1976.
All-time record: 1,878-646-606 (.600 winning percentage)
Championships: 2 (1985, 1996 — Champions League)
Bottom line: The second-oldest sporting club in Italian history has won more than almost any soccer club in European history with 67 titles on the national and international stage. Except for when it comes to the Champions League.
That’s where Juventus has experienced failure like no other team in history. In 2017, it became the first team to lose in seven (seven!) Champions League title matches with a 4-1 loss to Real Madrid.
More recently, fans have attributed the losses to the "Drake Curse," in which rapper Drake supports a team and it results in a loss or negative outcome for the team he supports. But that curse might be dead after the Raptors' 2019 NBA title.
27. New York Islanders
All-time record: 1,621-1,547-347 (.461 winning percentage)
Championships: 4 (1980, 1981, 1982, 1983)
Bottom line: The Islanders put together one of the greatest dynasties in all of pro sports history when they won four consecutive Stanley Cup titles between 1980 and 1983. Those teams featured seven future Hall of Famers.
But in the almost four decades since the last title, it’s been all downhill for the Islanders. Money woes and mismanagement and most importantly, terrible play, have kept the franchise without even a division title since 1988.
How bad did things get? Check out the excellent ESPN "30 for 30" episode on the team, "Big Shot," which details the team’s failed purchase in 1996 by Dallas businessman John Spano. A scam of epic proportions.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder
All-time record: 538-348 (.607 winning percentage)
Bottom line: In 2011, Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant tweeted an insult at rapper Lil B, aka The BasedGod, sparking one of the greatest sports-related curses of all time.
In response, the two men traded insults on social media and Lil B ultimately put "The BasedGod Curse" on Durant, declaring he would never win a title. The next year, the Thunder were swept in the NBA Finals.
Lil B took the curse off for a while, but when the beef with Durant resurfaced, the curse was reinstated in 2016 — and the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.
Durant won two rings with the Warriors after leaving town, but the Thunder are still seeking No. 1.
25. Fremantle Football Club
Sport: Australian Rules Football
All-time record: 234-293-1 (.443 winning percentage)
Bottom line: Only three teams in the Australian Football League have yet to win in the Grand Finals. Fremantle is one of them.
With the exception of a runner-up season in 2013, Fremantle has been a punching bag for the rest of the AFL. In 25 seasons of existence, Fremantle has finished 10th or lower 16 times and finished sixth or lower 22 times.
The Dockers show little to no sign of turning things around. In recent years, they’ve become more known for their inability to score and their ability to lose matches by large margins.
And for getting sued by Levi-Strauss over copyright infringement for using the name Dockers.
24. Buffalo Sabres
All-time record: 1,760-1,499-409 (.479 winning percentage)
Bottom line: While it was probably disappointing for Sabres fans when they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1975 Stanley Cup Final, there was also an overwhelming feeling of hope after making it that far in just their fifth year of existence.
It was an empty promise. The Sabres didn't make it back to the Stanley Cup Final until 1999, when they lost to the Dallas Stars on one of the most controversial goals of all time — Brett Hull’s in-the-crease score past legendary goaltender Dominik Hasek to win the championship.
Or what Buffalo fans refer to as the "No Goal Game."
23. Atlanta Dream
All-time record: 183-191 (.489 winning percentage)
Bottom line: The curse of Atlanta sports franchises has not spared the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
The team went to the WNBA Finals in 2010, 2011 and 2013 and got swept each time, the last two at the hands of the Minnesota Lynx.
What’s behind the Dream’s struggles? It’s hard to pin down because each year the Dream made it to the finals were years in which the team did not win their division, including a fourth-place finish in 2010.
Part of the problem has been instability at the top. In just 11 years, the Dream already are on their third ownership group.
22. Charlotte Hornets
Years: 1988-2002, 2004-present
All-time record: 1,027-1,303 (.441 winning percentage)
Bottom line: The sad-sack franchise in the NBA is led by perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time — owner Michael Jordan. And it’s Jordan who gets the Hornets on this list.
Since purchasing a minority ownership share and taking over control of all basketball operations in 2006 (he bought the team outright in 2010), Jordan has run the team into the ground.
Over 14 years of draft picks, he’s selected one All-Star, Kemba Walker, who jumped ship to sign a free-agent deal with the Boston Celtics in 2019.
The Hornets have never advanced to the conference finals and haven’t won a playoff series since 2002.
21. Milwaukee Brewers
All-time record: 3,913-4,214 (.481 winning percentage)
Bottom line: Celebrating 50 years of existence (including one season as the Seattle Pilots), the Brewers have been to exactly one World Series, in 1982, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
And if Brewers fans thought the wait to get to the World Series was long, they had much worse coming down the pipe. Milwaukee did not return to the postseason for 26 years, a stretch that included a move from the American League to the National League in 1998 and ended with a loss to eventual World Series champion Phillies in 2008.
That unhappy ending brought a 10-year postseason drought, which culminated with the 2018 NL Central crown and a seven-game loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
Can the Brew Crew ever win the big one?
20. Indiana Pacers
All-time record: 2,171-2,050 (.514 winning percentage)
Championships: 3 (1969, 1970, 1971 — ABA)
Bottom line: The Pacers had a lot of success in the ABA, where they won more titles than any team in league history.
After making the leap to the NBA in 1976, that luck ran out for the only pro basketball team in the most basketball-crazy state in the U.S.
In 43 years, the Pacers have played in the NBA Finals just once, losing to the Lakers in 2000.
The doom and gloom for the franchise reached its apex in 2011, when the Pacers shipped future two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs for George Hill in a draft-day trade.
19. Arizona Cardinals
All-time record: 553-755-41 (.410 winning percentage)
Championships: 2 (1925, 1947)
Bottom line: The longest title drought in the history of professional sports belongs to the Cardinals, but it also kind of belongs to the citizens of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
In 1925, in one of the most controversial (see: crooked) decisions in sports history, the Pottsville Maroons were stripped of the NFL title and it was awarded to the Chicago Cardinals. Allegedly, Pottsville’s citizens put a curse on the Cardinals until the title was returned, which it never was.
The Cardinals saw two star players on their 1947 title team die during their playing careers (Jeff Burkett and Stan Mauldin) and have the most losses in NFL history.
18. New England Revolution
All-time record: 273-309-144 (.376 winning percentage)
Bottom line: There have been 23 teams in MLS history. Of those 23 teams, 16 have played for the MLS Cup, with 13 walking away with championships.
Only one team has played for the title more than once without winning it all, and that’s the New England Revolution. Owned by Robert Kraft, who also owns the New England Patriots, the Revolution are 0-5 in the MLS Cup. That includes three consecutive losses in 2005, 2006, 2007.
While it’s little consolation for Revolution fans, their rival New York Red Bulls lost the MLS Cup in 2008, their only appearance.
17. Vancouver Canucks
All-time record: 1,590-1,690-391 (.433 winning percentage)
Bottom line: Here’s a head-scratcher: Not only have the Canucks never won a Stanley Cup, but they’ve also never had a No. 1 overall pick.
What they have done is make it to the Stanley Cup Final three times, coming one game away from winning the title twice — losing to the New York Rangers in 1994 and falling against the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Another weird fact is that the Canucks were one of two franchises to join the NHL in 1970, along with the Buffalo Sabres. Both teams still have never won a Stanley Cup, so they're tied for the oldest NHL teams without a title.
16. America de Cali
All-time record: N/A
Bottom line: For its first 21 seasons, America de Cali was a homegrown operation that operated with amateur status.
With growing popularity, the ownership group decided to turn the team pro with the exception of one man, Benjamin Urrea, who declared the team "would never win a championship" if they went pro.
Well, they went pro. And they’ve never won a South American championship, including three straight championship losses in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Things got really bad for the team in the mid-1990s when U.S. president Bill Clinton declared the team a front for the Cali drug cartel and made it illegal for any business with American ties to have financial transactions with them.
15. Orlando Magic
All-time record: 1,158-1,254 (.480 winning percentage)
Bottom line: While some of the teams on this list have supposed "curses" that have dogged their franchise for decades, the Orlando Magic can point to two poorly executed deals as the reasons they’ve never been able to raise a championship banner.
Magic management was hesitant to give center Shaquille O’Neal the $115 million he sought as a free agent in 1996, and by the time they realized they should pay up, he already was committed to the Lakers.
In 2000, the Magic signed superstar Grant Hill to a seven-year, $92 million contract. And he played just 47 games over the next three seasons because of injuries.
14. New York Liberty
All-time record: 356-340 (.511 winning percentage)
Bottom line: One of the eight original franchises in the WNBA, the Liberty have with the most trips to the WNBA Finals with no titles to show for it — four.
The Liberty started off hot, making the finals in three of their first four years of existence, but lost to the Houston Comets in 1997, 1999 and 2000. The Liberty made it back to the finals in 2002, losing to the Los Angeles Sparks.
The franchise hasn’t returned to the finals since 2002 and now enter a new era of ownership under Alibaba Group co-founder Joseph Tsai, who also owns 49 percent of the Brooklyn Nets.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
All-time record: 2,921-2,790-783 (.451 winning percentage)
Championships: 13 (1918, 1922, 1932, 1942, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1967)
Bottom line: The Maple Leafs have a legacy that was once defined by tragedy.
After Bill Barilko scored the game-winning goal in the 1951 Stanley Cup, the team’s sixth title in a decade, he disappeared along with his dentist, Henry Hudson, after flying a small plane to a fishing trip. The wreckage of their plane and their bodies weren’t found until 1962, the next year Toronto won the Stanley Cup.
The Leafs won three more titles after that, but since winning the Cup in 1967, the signature team in arguably the most hockey-crazy city in the NHL (they have the most expensive tickets in hockey) hasn’t even played a Stanley Cup game.
12. Seattle Mariners
All-time record: 3,217-3,621 (.470 winning percentage)
Bottom line: As the Mariners begin the slow crawl to the 50th anniversary of the franchise, not only don't they have a World Series title. There’s not even an American League pennant.
In 42 years of existence, the M's have been to the postseason only four times, with all of those appearances coming in a six-year stretch from 1995 to 2001, including back-to-back ALCS appearances (and losses to the New York Yankees) in 2000 and 2001 that didn’t even go to seven games.
What’s been going on since? The Mariners have zero playoff appearances, and the last decade has been their worst since the 1980s.
All-time record: 2,568-656-1,147 (.587 winning percentage)
Championships: 2 (1961, 1962 — European Cup)
Bottom line: It’s going to be a little hard for Benfica fans to swallow, but one school of thought thinks Benfica’s struggles on the big stage come from being cheapskates.
After leading the team to back-to-back European Cup titles in 1961 and 1962, manager Bella Guttman went to management asking for a raise. Not only was the raise request turned down. He was fired.
In his exit, he declared Benfica wouldn’t win another European Cup for 100 years. Since then, Benfica has appeared in five European Cup and three UEFA Cup finals and lost each time.
10. Detroit Lions
All-time record: 561-658-33 (.448 winning percentage)
Championships: 4 (1935, 1952, 1953, 1957)
Bottom line: Only four teams in the NFL have yet to play in the Super Bowl, and the Lions are the only NFC team with that dubious honor. In fact, the Lions are the only team to play the entirety of the Super Bowl era without making it to the Super Bowl.
There's a lot of bad football behind the Lions’ struggles, but there’s also a bit of mystery. After winning three NFL championships for the Lions in 1952, 1953 and 1957, the team traded quarterback Bobby Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958. Reportedly, Layne told the coaches the team wouldn’t win for 50 years.
So far, that losing hex has held true. Adding insult to ignominy, in 2008, the Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16.
9. Buffalo Bills
All-time record: 418-477-8 (.463 winning percentage)
Bottom line: Ah, the cursed city of Buffalo. There is only one NFL franchise that has lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and it’s the Buffalo Bills.
What was bizarre about the Super Bowl losses was that the first defeat, against the New York Giants, was the closest the Bills would ever get to a Super Bowl title as Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt wide right that would’ve won the game in 1991.
The downtrodden Bills also were on the losing end of the "Music City Miracle" playoff loss to the Titans in 2000, Buffalo's last playoff appearance until 2017.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
All-time record: 1,165-1,657 (.413 winning percentage)
Bottom line: The Clippers have never been to the NBA Finals. And they didn’t make the playoffs for a 15-season stretch that covered three different cities as the Boston Braves, San Diego Clippers and Los Angeles Clippers.
The turgid villain behind the struggles was the team’s owner, Donald Sterling, a spendthrift real-estate mogul who bought the team in 1981 and ran them into the ground for profit. In 2014, he got banned from the NBA for life and was forced to sell the team after recordings of him making racist comments became public.
Things are better now (obviously), and the signing of free agents Paul George and Kawhi Leonard in 2019 point to better times ahead.
7. Saskatchewan Roughriders
All-time record: 580-607-23 (.479 winning percentage)
Championships: 4 (1966, 1989, 2007, 2013)
Bottom line: No team has struggled in the Canadian Football League’s Grey Cup more than the Roughriders and their "Raider Nation" fan base.
The Roughriders are 4-15 in the Grey Cup and hold the record for most Grey Cup losses, lowest Grey Cup winning percentage (.167), most consecutive Grey Cup losses (five) and worst Grey Cup loss, falling 54-0 to Queen’s University in 1923.
The Roughriders have had an uphill battle from the start. They’re the smallest market team in the CFL and the second-smallest market professional sports franchise in North America, ahead of only the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
6. Cleveland Indians
All-time record: 8,417-8,002 (.513 winning percentage)
Championships: 2 (1920, 1948)
Bottom line: How ill-fated are the Indians? From 1960 to 1993, they became synonymous with losing. The team even ended up on film in the 1989 movie "Major League," which portrayed a fantasy version of the team winning the American League pennant.
Becoming a respectable team in real life offered no respite. The Indians lost in the World Series twice in three years, losing to the Braves in 1995 and the Marlins in 1997.
But nothing could prepare fans for what happened in 2016, when the Indians blew a 3-1 World Series lead against the Chicago Cubs, who won their first World Series title since 1908.
5. Atlanta Falcons
All-time record: 359-454-6 (.438 winning percentage)
Bottom line: When we look at Atlanta as one of the most sports-cursed cities in history, the conversation must begin with the struggles of the Falcons.
The most obvious example is Super Bowl LI, when the Falcons led 28-3 late in the third quarter before the New England Patriots staged the greatest rally in Super Bowl history to win in overtime.
The night before the Falcons' other Super Bowl appearance following the 1998 season, star safety Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting an undercover police officer for prostitution. In the game against the Denver Broncos, he was burned several times for touchdowns.
What will the Dirty Birds do for an encore?
4. Hanshin Tigers
All-time record: 5,250-4,936-317 (49.9 winning percentage)
Championships: 1 (1985)
Bottom line: This one is bizarre. In 1985, the Hansin Tigers defeated the Seibu Lions to win the franchise’s only Japan Series championship.
In celebration, fans rioted and began to tear up the area surrounding the stadium, including an unlucky Kentucky Fried Chicken, where they took a statue of KFC founder Colonel Harlan Sanders and threw it in the Dotonbori River.
Sanders was enraged over this, and the Tigers haven’t won a Japan Series title since — despite appearances in 2003, 2005 and 2014.
Fans call this drought the "Curse of the Colonel" and actually retrieved the statue from the river in 2009.
3. Bayer Leverkusen
All-time record: 842-657-545 (.411 winning percentage)
Championships: None (Champions League)
Bottom line: The pro club out of Germany’s Bundesliga earned some great nicknames during a forgettable run in the 1990s and 2000s, when the team seemed to lose almost every time it made it to a championship match.
"Neverkusen" and "Bridesmaid of Europe" were the two most popular at the time, and were well-earned. In one stretch, Leverkusen lost in the Bundesliga finals three seasons in a row, capped by an astonishing stretch during the 2001-02 season.
That was the year Leverkusen lost in the league, DFB-Pokal and Champions League finals all in the same season.
Then Germany lost in the 2002 World Cup Finals with five Leverkusen players on the roster.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
All-time record: 2,134-1,836 (.538 winning percentage)
Championships: 1 (1977)
Bottom line: It was a heady first decade of existence for the Trail Blazers, who won an NBA title in just their seventh season.
After that, there have been some problems. Mainly with the NBA draft.
In 1984, picking No. 2 overall, Portland selected Kentucky center Sam Bowie, an all-time draft bust. At No. 3, the Bulls selected Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time.
In 2007, the Trail Blazers had a chance at redemption with the No. 1 overall pick and selected center Greg Oden, another all-time draft bust. At No. 2, the Seattle SuperSonics picked 2014 NBA Most Valuable Player, two-time NBA Finals MVP and 10-time All-Star Kevin Durant.
Those are some tough memories for Portland, which still is waiting for another title.
1. Cleveland Browns
First Season: 1946
All-time record: 517-496-14 (.503 winning percentage)
Championships: 4 (1950, 1954, 1955, 1964)
Bottom line: The Browns' last championship came two years before the first Super Bowl, and no NFL franchise has become more familiar with heartbreak over the last 50-plus years.
"The Drive" in the 1986 AFC championship game: Broncos quarterback John Elway led his team 98 yards to tie the game at the end of regulation and then win in overtime.
"The Fumble" in the 1987 AFC championship game: Browns running back Earnest Byner fumbled on the Broncos' 1-yard line with 1:12 left and trailing 38-31.
Pouring on the misery, the franchise became the Baltimore Ravens after the 1995 season but came back to Cleveland in 1999 and have been terrible ever since.