What’s the point of compiling any kind of record about sports if you can’t use it to compare it to other teams in an effort to establish definitive metrics of greatness? While the purest joy in sports is also the simplest — watching people who are doing things that the vast majority of the human population cannot, and doing them in a way that makes the viewer stop what they’re doing and marvel in how cool it all is — the enduring myth of sports is that winning is everything. Winning is important. The game, whatever it is, must be won, and the better athletes, coaches, and teams come out on top, as winners.
In that spirit, here are the seven teams in American History that stand as the winningest teams of all time, pitted against each other to see which one has the greatest winning percentage of all time — because different sports have different seasons, and some teams have had more opportunities to add on W’s than others.
7 (tie). Dallas Cowboys, 55.4 Winning Percentage (510 Wins)
Christened America’s Team in the aftermath of their marvelous 1978 campaign, the Dallas Cowboys are the youngest NFL franchise on this list — having been brought into existence in 1960 as an NFL expansion team, the ‘Boys are one of two teams to hold the record for most Super Bowl appearances, making it all the way to the big game on eight separate occasions. The other team? The Pittsburgh Steelers.
7 (tie). Chicago Bears, 55.4 Winning Percentage ( 747 Wins)
Standing tall as the most successful team in the NFL, the Chicago Bears — who were instrumental in sowing the seeds for modern day football — have a storied rivalry with fellow elder statesmen Green Bay. All in all, the two teams have faced each other nearly 190 times, and Chicago has come out on top, historically, notching 98 wins to the Packers’ 88. The teams have tied six times.
5. New York Yankees, 56.8 Winning Percentage (9,986 Wins)
For a club so synonymous with winning, the Yankees might be a surprise rounding into fifth place on this list, but the team has more wins stacked up than any other team on this list combined. A byproduct of being around since the dawn of time, the Bronx Bombers have also picked up more losses than any other team on this list, racking up 7,606 losses. On the bright side, the Yankees would have to suffer several successive seasons of bad baseball in order to dip down to .500, so you’ll probably never see them be an average baseball team.
4. Green Bay Packers, 57.6 Winning Percentage (741 Wins)
The Packers, founded in 1919, can trace their lineage directly back to the time before the NFL was a billion dollar industry, when regionally affiliated teams would play against each other without any idea that their sport would transform into the megalith that it is today. The Packers have never forgotten their roots, evidenced by their status as a community-owned franchise, even if the stocks that the team periodically makes available are largely symbolic. They’re also one of the most successful squads in the league, stockpiling 741 wins against 561 losses.
3. Boston Celtics, 58.8 Winning Percentage (3,167 Wins)
The first basketball team on this list (but not the last), the Boston Celtics’ faithful will maintain that they are first in the only category that matters: Championships. And, when you’re about to put such a questionable roster on the floor for the upcoming NBA season, maybe that’s the only thing you can look for — the comfort of past achievements. As the superior half of one of the world’s most famous sports rivalries, the Celtics can take solace in the fact that their future is looking brighter than the Los Angeles Lakers.
2. San Antonio Spurs, 59.5 Winning Percentage (2,311 Wins)
One of the only teams to survive the NBA-ABA merger of 1976, alongside the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, and the Brooklyn Nets, the San Antonio Spurs have amassed a ton of victories in their thirty-eight years as an NBA team, only dipping into a losing record a handful of times in the franchise’s history. The last time, they won the draft lottery and grabbed Tim Duncan, one of the all-time greats, in 1997. They haven’t lost fewer than 50 games in any normal season since.
1. Los Angeles Lakers, 60.4 Winning Percentage (3,217 Wins)
A successful team even before they wound up in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Lakers, with their lifetime record totaling in at over 61 percent for the win column, are America’s most successful team in the major American sports. In case you’re wondering about the absence of the NHL, the most successful hockey team, the Dallas Stars, sit at a 51.9 percent, right behind the Chicago Bulls in twenty-seventh place.
Data courtesy of BestTickets.com.