The Golden State Warriors recently recorded a milestone by becoming the first team in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to start the regular season with a 16-0 mark. The regular campaign is 82 games long and while the team will definitely incur a loss down the road, many are intrigued at the prospect of the team matching or surpassing the 72-10 win-loss mark set by the Chicago Bulls in 1995-96. There is also the 33-game winning streak the Los Angeles Lakers recorded during the 1971-72 season, the longest streak albeit posted midway and not at the start of the season.
Sports fans have always been fascinated by eye-popping starts in sports. There is that certain mystique about it when a team or an athlete comes out of the gates on fire. In most cases, the team/athlete sputtered upon tasting defeat, but there were a select few who were able to go all the way and finish unscathed.
In the history of the National Football League (NFL), the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the only team to win the Super Bowl with a perfect season. The team went 14-0 in the regular season and won all three playoff games, including Super Bowl VII, to finish at 17-0. In 2007, the New England Patriots made a run at the Dolphins’ record by going 18-0 before losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowel XLII.
In pro boxing, the record for the longest winning streak at the start of a career is held by Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., who won his first 87 fights. The streak is tainted with controversy because Chavez was actually disqualified in his 12th fight against Miguel Ruiz on March 4, 1981. The verdict was however changed to a victory for Chavez by the local Culiacan boxing commission following an appeal made by Chavez’s then manager Ramon Felix who was a member of the said commission.
Chavez’s winning streak was broken in his 88th fight, when he was held to a draw by American Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker in September 1993. In his 90th fight, Chavez officially tasted defeat against American Frankie Randall. Chavez retired in 2005 with a record of 107 wins and 6 losses.
Just recently, American Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired with an undefeated record of 49-0, putting him in a tie with former heavyweight champ Rocky Marciano. The fighters share the rare honor of starting and ending their careers with an undefeated (no draw) resume.
In amateur wrestling, the record of American Cael Sanderson remains unmatched to this day. Sanderson won all of his 159 fights (159-0) as an amateur wrestler and collared no less than four NCAA championships (1999-2002). The previous record was 100-0, set by Dan Gable back in the 1970s.
In amateur basketball, the men’s team from the United States won 63 straight games (spread in separate Olympiads) starting in the 1936 Games. The team never lost a game and won seven straight gold medals until it dropped a controversial 1972 championship game to the Soviet Union. Believing that they were robbed of the title, the members of the 1972 team have not claimed their silver medals.
It will be interesting to see how far the Warriors’ winning streak will go. In establishing the 16-0 mark, the Warriors broke the previous record of 15-0 shared by the 1948 Washington Capitols and the 1993 Houston Rockets. The Capitols won their first 15 games by an average margin of only 7 points and ended the regular season with a 23-23 record. In the finals, the team lost to the George Mikan-led Minneapolis Lakers. The Rockets, after starting at 15-0, finished the regular campaign with a 58-24 mark. Houston almost lost to the Phoenix Suns in the conference finals before squeaking out a 4-3 series win. In the NBA Finals, the Rockets walked the thin line anew before hammering out a 4-3 win against the New York Knicks.
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