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Every state’s most successful sports team: Part 1

No matter how many sports and teams a state has, only one can have the fullest trophy case.

NCAA Men’s Championship Game - Kansas v Kentucky Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Greetings, BBN!

There are a lot of teams across the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL, as well as Division 1 college football and basketball, and while every state has its favorite one of these leagues to watch, they also have their most successful team that certainly owes a lot of their success to the local fanbase.

Today, we are going to take all a state’s teams from the four big pro leagues, college football, and men’s college hoops to find out what team in every state has historically been the best.

A couple of criteria:

1. As mentioned, we’re only looking at teams from these six leagues, so states without any of them (Alaska) are out of luck.

2. The primary stat we are comparing the teams with is number of championships, with that being almost the entire basis of the selection for “most successful.”

Other factors, such as playoff appearances and all-time winning percentage, will mostly be used as tiebreakers unless it is so important and obvious it can’t be ignored.

Also, a side note: if a pro team used to be in a different state but moved and took all their stats with them, I’m going to count that history in the different state.

For example, while the Braves have only won two World Series in Atlanta, they’ve won two others as the Milwaukee Braves and Boston Braves. I’m treating them as a 4-championship team vying for the status of Georgia’s most successful sports team, even though they didn’t do it all in Georgia. This article will just do states 1-25 in alphabetical order, and next week we’ll do states 26-50. Welp, with that being said, let’s get to it!


Most successful team: Alabama Crimson Tide (football)

The Tide have claimed 18 national championships on the gridiron and, since the cotton state has no pro sports, are easily the most successful team in the state, dwarfing Tide basketball and Auburn football and basketball.


Most successful team: None

Sorry Alaska, but you’re the only state without any eligible teams for this article. They have some very successful teams in other smaller sports leagues like their Alaska Goldpanners baseball team and Alaska Aces hockey team though.


Most successful team: Arkansas Razorbacks (basketball)

I took basketball by a thread—the football and hoops Hogs are so dead, even in their successes, that you can make a strong argument for each. Both won a title, with the football team winning in 1964 and basketball in 1994, and both have a lot of conference championships. At the end of the day, though, six Final Fours and one runner-up finish stand out just a bit more than all those bowl games and double-digit win football seasons, and they’ve just added three Sweet 16s and two Elite Eights to the vault as well these past three years.


Most successful team: Los Angeles Lakers

A very interesting state to parse out here! Both pro and college hoops made strong cases with the Lakers and the UCLA Bruins, and the 49ers and Dodgers were hard to ignore as well, but the Lakers are the NBA’s most popular team for a reason, and that fanbase has cheered them on to a whopping 12 titles—one more than UCLA’s 11 NCAA Tournament championships and just a cut of dominance above the 49ers six Super Bowls (though that’s still extremely impressive as well) and the Dodgers’ World Series victories.


Most successful team: Denver Broncos

The Denver Nuggets just one their first NBA championship, but three Super Bowls from the Broncos put them above all the rest.


Most successful team: UConn Huskies (basketball)

The defending NCAA Tournament champions have won five titles all in the past 25 years and are the top dogs of the state with no current pro sports teams.


Most successful team: Delaware Blue Hens (football)

At the FCS level, the Delaware Blue Hens have seen a lot of success, winning six national titles. The only other D1 school, and thus the only other team eligible to be on this list, is Delaware State, and their history is a lot less impressive.


Most successful team: Miami Hurricanes

This one seemed like it would involve sorting out a crazy four-way tie—Florida Gators football, Florida State Seminoles football, Miami Heat basketball, and Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey all have three titles!—but all were left in the dust behind Miami Hurricanes football—one of the most decorated college football programs anywhere in the country with five national championships.


Most successful team: Atlanta Braves

While the Georgia Bulldogs brought home their second straight College Football Playoff trophy in January, the Atlanta Braves’ four World Series and historical success stand out just a bit more than the Bulldogs’ four titles and historical success. Both are impressive, though.


Most successful team: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (football)

Did you know that in 2008, 12-0 Hawaii played Georgia in the Sugar Bowl?


Most successful team: Boise State Broncos (football)

The powerhouse football team takes the whole state in a landslide. The Broncos have the 5th highest winning percentage of any college football team(!), have 20 conference titles, went undefeated in 2006 and 2009, and in ‘09 played in a BCS game. Idaho holds one of the greatest non-Power 5 schools in the entire sport.


Most successful team: Chicago Bears

The team has existed for a whopping 103 years, and in that time, while none recently, they’ve taken home nine championships. Only one was a Super Bowl, but in eight other years between 1921-1963, they took home the NFL championship, and that sheer number of titles combined with the fact that they have the second most all-time wins of any NFL team puts them just above the Blackhawks and their six Stanley Cups and the Bulls and their six titles. Remember, nine titles is higher than six.


Most successful team: Indiana Hoosiers (basketball)

Another close call. The Colts and the Hoosiers both have 5 titles, but in the end, you have to go with IU and their success relative to the success of the other top teams in their sport. They are always listed among the greats of their sport. Not so much with the Colts.


Most successful team: Iowa Hawkeyes (football)

The Hawkeyes in football and basketball are more successful than their archrivals in Ames, but while the basketball team has three Final Fours and a runner-up appearance, the football team has 11 Big Ten titles and claims the 1958 national championship. 11 Big Ten titles is nothing to sneeze at.


Most successful team: Kansas Jayhawks (basketball)

Easiest state of the rankings so far. “But what about the Chiefs!” you might ask. Reminder: Kansas City is located in MISSOURI. The Jayhawks of Phog Allen Fieldhouse rules the Sunflower State unopposed.


Most successful team: Kentucky Wildcats (basketball)

The greatest tradition in the history of college basketball. Eight national championships, 17 Final Fours, and 53(!) SEC titles. This isn’t a small-town school with a small-town fanbase—this is a team the entire state roots for like a pro team because it really is Kentucky’s team, just like the Jazz are Utah’s team and the Trailblazers are Oregon’s team. They are the most successful team in the entire sport of college basketball, period. The state of Kentucky is one of the only states in the U.S. where college basketball is the most watched and followed sport by the entire population. I wonder why.


Most successful team: LSU Tigers (football)

Four national championships for the Tigers—one of which came in the College Football Playoff just a few years ago. They have a rich history and 16 conference titles, staving off the primary competition from the Saints and the Pelicans, which have just one championship combined between the two of them.


Most successful team: Maine Black Bears (football)

13 conference titles and 5 playoff wins at the FCS level for the football team, and the basketball team has never made the NCAA tournament. No offense to the Black Bears, but I can’t believe I’m putting teams like these in the same rankings as the Lakers, Yankees, and Kentucky Wildcats.


Most successful team: Baltimore Ravens

Three World Series you’d think would rule the sports world of Maryland for the smiling birds. They haven’t always been great when it’s come to baseball, but three titles are more than the Ravens’ two Super Bowls and the Maryland football and basketball teams’ singular titles. Not so fast, though. Remember that the Orioles have been playing (though not in Maryland) since the very first World Series in 1903. The Ravens have been playing only since 1996 and have won two Super Bowls in just that short period of existence, as well as making 14 playoff appearances. Simply put, they’ve been young but extremely successful.


Most successful team: Boston Celtics

So many great sports teams hail from Massachusetts, but none are as successful as the 17-title Boston Celtics.


Most successful team: Detroit Red Wings

Unknown to a large portion of the U.S., the Red Wings are historically the most successful NHL team in the entire country in terms of championships, as the only two teams with more Stanley Cups both reside in Canada. Thus while they might not be the most well-known Detroit sports franchise, they are definitely the best. This ranking was still a close call, though, as Michigan’s 11 claimed national championships rival the Red Wings’ 11 Stanley Cups. Some of Michigan’s claimed championships came from the very, very early 1900s when they didn’t even have polls, though, and the Stanley Cup is a very prestigious trophy.


Most successful team: Minnesota Twins

Unlike the Wild and the Timberwolves, the Twins are a very old team (though they started in D.C. and moved to Minnesota later) and have three World Series. The Vikings only have one NFL championship and no Super Bowls, so the Twins get the nod.


Most successful team: Ole Miss Rebels (football)

The Rebels have three claimed national titles and six SEC championships. In the SEC, a conference championship is almost as big as a national title. At least, that’s what it feels like a lot of the time, to be honest.


Most successful team: St. Louis Cardinals

The most successful baseball team in America besides the Yankees and dwarf the Chiefs, Blues, and Royals with their 11 World Series titles.

That’s it for this round! Up next, we’ll do the other 25 states.

‘Till then, go Cats!