The 7 Worst Losing Streaks in NBA History
Earlier this season, the Los Angeles Lakers won a basketball game. This is not, by itself, all that surprising — after all, the Lakers have been a historically great franchise — but after their dismal, five-loss start to 2014, it was kind of shocking to see them beat the Charlotte Hornets, who famously drafted Kobe Bryant (even if a draft day trade was understood to be part of the deal: Bryant was never playing for any other team). A few years ago, when the Lakers were running the Triangle with Pau Gasol and the Bobcats were actually trying to compete for the playoffs, the annual meetings of the two teams were really great games. Seriously. We’re talking about the Gerald Wallace/Stephen Jackson Bobcats. Those squads played Los Angeles really, really well. Favorable matchups and all that.
But, more importantly, the Lakers have reset the counter on one of the least impressive records in the NBA, the most consecutive games lost. No one likes that. Not the Lakers, not the Bobcats/Hornets/Horncats, no one. They were the second to last team to get a win this year, and while they’re certainly bad enough to make a run at this record, they’ve got some seriously stiff competition. Check it out.
7. 1980 Detroit Pistons, 21 losses
The Pistons of the early 80’s were a far cry from the Bad Boy squad that would bring them to two NBA championships and sports infamy, as the team that closed out the decade with a physical, imposing style (that could reasonably be called nothing less than an affront to the game of basketball, if you weren’t a fan) had no shade of the Bob McAdoo-and-loose-change roster that managed to lose 21 straight games. Of course, had they not been so terrible, the Pistons wouldn’t have been able to draft Isaiah Thomas, so maybe it was a necessary evil.
6. 2012 Charlotte Bobcats, 23 losses
Surprised to see them this low? The 2011-2012 Charlotte Bobcats hold the record for the lowest winning percentage in the NBA, managing to claim victory in just seven games that season, but because it was a lockout year, the league only played 66 games, and the Bobcats were never bad enough to lose more than 23 games at a time. Who knows what kind of awfulness they could have achieved in a full season.
5. 1997 Denver Nuggets, 23 losses
One of the worst teams to ever see an NBA floor, the 1997-1998 Denver Nuggets set extreme levels of futility that even the tankiest of tankers and tanking advocates would dream of. For one thing, they won just 11 games that season. For another, they “started” the season with just two wins in their first 40 games. In other words, they were the anti-Bulls. Ewwww.
4. 1996 Memphis Grizzlies, 23 losses
This was back when the Grizzlies were still in Vancouver, one of the two Canadian expansion teams announced before the 1995 season. The other, the Toronto Raptors, are still in the Great White North, but the Grizz bailed out for the comparatively warmer climates of Memphis, where they frustrate their Western Conference rivals today. We’re not going to say that they moved exclusively because they were awful, but it certainly played a part.
3. 1982 Cleveland Cavaliers, 24 losses
That’s right — the first instance of the Cleveland Cavaliers on this list is older than LeBron James. And they had World B. Free, at least for the second half of it. The record starts in march of 1982, the tail end of the ’81-’82 season, and continues all the way to November of that year, or the start of the ’82-’83 campaign. That second season featured Free, who was an NBA scoring title holder and one of the most exciting players of his time.
2. 2010 Cleveland Cavaliers, 26 losses
But while the ’82 Cavaliers wound up signing World B. Free in order to break their horrific record, there was nothing the 2010 Cavs could do to change the fact that they lost LeBron James to The Decision, and were left with Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao as their best players. Watching it play out in real time, it was like every single fan and player and front office person had awoken to find that they’d lost their wallet after a raucous night out all at the same time.
1. 2013 Philadelphia 76ers, 26 losses
People will tell you that the Philadelphia 76ers are doing something that nobody has ever done in league history by being as bad as possible in an effort to snag high lottery talent. Those people clearly don’t remember the demise of the Seattle Supersonics, who are now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Regardless, Philly is committed to being completely and totally awful, and nothing shows that more than their 26 consecutive losses. Well, that and the fact that they actively trade real players for the draft rights to guys who could very well be imaginary. For the complete list of infamy, click here for our Basketball Reference search.