Just how historically bad is the Pistons' skid?
“At this point, it’s like ‘Don’t be that team,’” the Washington Wizards forward wrote.
While the sentiment comes from a guy whose team has only won five games this season, Kuzma isn’t wrong. Nobody wants to be the team to lose to the historically moribund Pistons. The Celtics weren’t that team. After trailing by as much as 21 points, the NBA leaders improved to 24-6 on the season by pulling out a 128-122 overtime win to condemn the Pistons to a 28th consecutive defeat.
On Saturday night, the Toronto Raptors become the latest team with the chance to be that team. Rest assured, they will do whatever they can to avoid being it and try to inflict upon the Pistons yet another defeat.
With the loss to the Celtics, the Pistons pulled even with the Philadelphia 76ers for the longest losing streak in NBA history at 28. But the Sixers’ streak came over two seasons, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, meaning that the single-season NBA losing streak is the Pistons’ alone.
As Monty Williams’ team’s march of ignominy continues on with seemingly no end in sight, just where does it stand in the pantheon of the worst runs in modern men’s Big Four North American sports history? Unfortunately, on its own, standing atop Mount Failure.
The worst losing streak in the modern era of the NFL belongs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over the course of two seasons, 1976 and 1977, the Bucs lost 26 consecutive games. During the streak, the Bucs were shut out 11 times and scored more than 20 points just once. In fairness, they were the franchise’s two first seasons of existence and head coach John McKay, a four-time National Championship winner at USC, took everything in stride.
“We can’t stop a pass or a run,” McKay remarked of his team. “Otherwise, we’re in great shape.”
The Bucs’ streak ended in the penultimate game of the 1977 season when the team generated three defensive touchdowns, including two pick-sixes of Archie Manning, to defeat the New Orleans Saints by a score of 33-14 on Dec. 11.
In 1961, the Cincinnati Reds won the National League pennant by four games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Philadelphia Phillies came close, finishing only 46 games behind the Reds on the back of a 47-win season. That campaign was the Phillies’ 69th, but it was far from nice and featured the worst losing streak in modern baseball history when Gene Mauch’s team lost 23 consecutive games from July 29 to Aug. 20. Remarkably, that season also featured a 10-game losing streak and a run of two wins in 17 games. The team broke their duck in the second game of a doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves and would go on to win four in a row, the only time that season the Phillies won more than two consecutive games.
Two teams hold the distinction – more like distinktion (No? No?) – of the longest losing streak in NHL history: the 2003-2004 Pittsburgh Penguins and the 2020-2021 Buffalo Sabres, who both lost 18 straight games.
The Pens’ streak lasted from Jan. 13 to Feb. 12. Pittsburgh would go on to finish the season in last in the Eastern Conference on 58 points. Things would work out for them, though. That summer, they drafted with the second overall selection at the NHL draft and took Evgeni Malkin. Then, with a lockout wiping out the 2004-2005 season, the 2005 NHL Entry Draft order was determined by a lottery that the Penguins won. With the top pick, Pittsburgh drafted some guy from the Maritimes named Sidney Crosby.
Perhaps an asterisk belongs next to the Sabres’ 18-game losing streak, but that’s debatable. It happened during the NHL’s COVID season with temporary divisions as the result of the Canada-United States border closure during the pandemic. Normally an Atlantic Division team, the Sabres played in the East Division where they equaled the Pens’ mark from Feb. 25 to Mar. 29. The run cost head coach Ralph Krueger his job, fired by the team on March 17. Don Granato took the reins and remains the team’s head coach to this day.
What could be next for the Pistons is another humiliating chapter in recent Detroit sports history. While the Lions just won the NFC Central for the first time in 30 years and look to have a real chance to make noise in the playoffs under Dan Campbell, the city’s other sports teams currently hold the worst seasons of the 21st century in their respective sports.
In 2008, those same Lions became the first team in 26 years to post a winless season, going 0-16. They were the first non-expansion team since World War II to, uh, achieve the feat. They also became the first team in NFL history to have two full winless seasons with the Lions also having gone 0-11 in 1942. The 2017 Cleveland Browns also went 0-16, meaning the Lions only share the (dis)honour.
The 2003 Detroit Tigers had a season for record books, but not in a good way. The team went 43-119, with the most losses in MLB history, and finished 47 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central. The Tigers posted a -337 run differential and were eliminated from playoff contention on Aug. 22. Mike Maroth became the first pitcher in 23 years to lose more than 20 games (21) with fellow starters Jeremy Bonderman (19) and Nate Cornejo (17) not far behind him in the loss column.
The onset of the pandemic shortened the Detroit Red Wings’ 2019-2020 season to 71 games and that might have been a good thing. The team won just 17 games and finished with 39 points and a .275 winning percentage, good for the 16th-worst season in NHL history (minimum 70 games) and the worst in the current century.
In order for Detroit to avoid going four-for-four for the worst seasons of the 21st century in the Big 4 sports, the Pistons must win six more games this season. The 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats currently hold the worst record in NBA history at 7-59, but that season was lockout-shortened. The worst mark in an 82-game season belongs to the 2015-2016 Sixers at 10-72