Where the Pistons’ losing streak ranks in North American sports history

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The Detroit Pistons are establishing themselves on a list that no sports team ever wants to be associated with.

Detroit has lost 27 games in a row, the longest losing streak in a single season in NBA history. The Pistons earned that claim with their loss to the Nets on Tuesday, falling 118-112 to make their mark on the NBA record book.

While the Pistons have already made some history, they still have a few losses to go before holding the record for the longest losing streak in the history of North American professional sports among the four major leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL). Let’s take a look at the longest losing streaks ever and see how the Pistons stack up.

1. Chicago Cardinals (NFL) — 29 games (1942-45)

The longest losing streak in NFL history happened well before the AFL-NFL merger. In fact, it happened more than a decade before the birth of the AFL.

The Chicago Cardinals (who now play in Arizona) began their losing streak with three losses to end the 1942 season before losing all 10 of their games in the 1943 season. Not even a merger with the Pittsburgh Steelers could salvage a win for the Cardinals in 1944. As several players left that season to serve in World War II, the teams merged for a year, but lost all 10 games again, causing them to earn the nickname “the carpets.”

After starting off the 1945 season 0-3, the Cardinals finally found themselves in the win column for the first time in three years when they defeated the cross-town rival Bears, 16-7. That was the only win of the Cardinals’ 1945 campaign, as they lost their final six games en route to a 1-9 season. But good times for the Cardinals came shortly after that season, winning the NFL Championship in 1947.

2. Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) — 28 games (losing streak carried over from 2014-15 season into 2015-16 season)

The Pistons might have broken the record for the longest losing streak in a single season on Tuesday, but they still have one more loss to match the longest losing streak in NBA history. 

“The Process” era 76ers currently own the lowest valley in NBA history. They finished the 2014-15 season on a 10-game losing streak, ending up with an 18-64 mark to hold the league’s third-worst record that year. The struggles got even worse at the start of the 2015-16 season, losing their first 18 games before they earned a win against the Lakers on Dec. 1.

That was the 76ers’ only win in the first 31 games of the season though, going 1-41 dating back to the final 10 games of the 2014-15 season. The stretch marked the beginning of the end for polarizing general manager Sam Hinkie, as the 76ers hired Jerry Colangelo to be the team’s chairman of basketball operations after they fell to 1-21. Hinkie resigned from his post in April of that season as the team went 10-72, finishing the year with the second-fewest wins in an 82-game season in NBA history.

3. Detroit Pistons (NBA) — 27 games (2023-present)

The Pistons are in the midst of history. They’ve already set the record for the longest losing streak in a single season among the four major leagues in North American sports, capturing that honor with their loss to the Nets on Tuesday.

Detroit isn’t too far off from a pair of other records, though. It could hold the longest losing streak in NBA history with just two more losses and is only three losses away from having the longest losing streak in the history of major North American sports.

Pistons sets NBA record with 27-game losing streak: How surprising is this failure?

Pistons sets NBA record with 27-game losing streak: How surprising is this failure?

4. Philadelphia 76ers (NBA) — 26 games (2014)

The multiple-season losing streak for the 76ers in 2015 was just one of the few valleys the organization had over a three-season span. Late in the 2013-14 season, the 76ers went two months without a win, dropping 26 games in a row following a win on Jan. 29, finally notching another victory on March 29. 

The 2013-14 season was the first of Hinkie’s three seasons as the 76ers’ general manager, kicking off the start of “The Process” era. Philadelphia was able to get the No. 3 overall pick at the end of the 2013-14 season, using it to select Joel Embiid.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) — 26 games (2010-2011)

The first season of the post-LeBron James era Cavaliers (following his first departure from Cleveland) didn’t go pretty. After a promising 7-9 start to the season, the Cavaliers lost nine games in a row to drop to 7-19. They got a very brief reprieve from losing, winning a game to snap the nine-game losing streak before losing 26 in a row after that. They went winless in January and didn’t pick up their next win until Feb. 11, an overtime victory over the Clippers.

Cleveland finished the season with a 19-63 record, which actually wasn’t the worst record in the league that year. However, it won the draft lottery, giving it the right to draft Kyrie Irving. 

6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) — 26 games (1976-1977)

The longest losing streak post-merger in the NFL belongs to the Buccaneers, who had to wait nearly two full seasons until their first win in franchise history. They lost all but three games in their inaugural season (1976) by multiple scores, going 0-14. The struggles continued for the Buccaneers well into the 1977 season, losing their first 12 games and shutout in six of them. They finally won their first game in Week 13, picking up their second a week later to finish the year 2-14.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) — 24 games (losing streak carried over from 1981-82 season into 1982-83 season)

The Cavaliers haven’t had many bright moments in their franchise’s history outside the 11 seasons James played for them. One of those low points came in between the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, losing their final 19 games in the former season and beginning the latter season 0-5. The Cavaliers had the worst record in the 1981-82 season, going 15-67 that year. However, they didn’t reap the rewards of it in the draft as they previously traded their pick to the Lakers, who selected James Worthy with the top overall selection that year. 

T8. Philadelphia Phillies (MLB) — 23 games (1961)

The Phillies’ several-year-long stretch of losing baseball culminated in 1961, when they went a National League-worst 47-107 that year. They lost 23 games in a row between late July and August that year, which is the longest losing streak in MLB history. 

T8. Charlotte Bobcats (NBA) — 23 games (2012)

Prior to “The Process” era 76ers, the Bobcats (now known as the Hornets) in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season were considered to be one of the worst NBA teams in the 21st century. Charlotte went just 7-59 that year, with its .106 winning percentage ranking as the worst in a single NBA season. The 23-game losing streak for the Bobcats came over their final 23 games of the season, but they were already well out of playoff contention as a 16-game losing streak earlier that year had them at 7-36 before their season-ending skid.

T8. Denver Nuggets (NBA) — 23 games (1997-1998)

Twenty-five years before winning their first Larry O’Brien Trophy, the Nuggets had one of the worst seasons in NBA history. They went 11-71 in the 1997-98 campaign, with a 23-game losing streak that lasted from the beginning of December through the final of January serving as their worst skid of the season. The Nuggets had two other double-digit-long losing streaks that season, including a 16-game skid between February and March.

T8. Vancouver Grizzlies (NBA) — 23 games (1996)

While the Vancouver Grizzlies won more games in their inaugural season than the Buccaneers did, they weren’t too different from each other. After opening the 1995-96 season with two wins, the Grizzlies went on a 19-game losing streak. They remained mostly bad for much of the next couple of months, but following a win on Valentine’s Day, the Grizzlies lost 23 games in a row. That 23-game losing streak was part of a 35-game stretch during which they won just two games. 

All stats courtesy of FOX Sports Research.

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