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 continue taking 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, doing Montana through Wyoming. 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.
With that being said, let’s get to it!
Most successful team: Montana Grizzlies (football)
Between 1986 to 2011 the Grizzlies reached the FCS championship seven times and won twice, and in 2021 upset the #20 (FBS) Washington Huskies at Husky Stadium. Like a lot of these sparsely populated states with few big cities, FCS football is about all they’ve got.
Most successful team: Nebraska Cornhuskers (football)
While they don’t look like it right now, the Cornhuskers are one of the greatest college football programs of all time, with 5 national titles and 46 conference titles. Imagine winning the conference almost half the seasons you play. That’s success.
Most successful team: Las Vegas Raiders
Arriving in Vegas with three Super Bowls and a bunch of history, the Raiders look like they are out of Oakland for good and are getting busy injecting a bunch of success into the Silver State, along with the Golden Knights est. 2017. Nevada’s becoming a sports hub all of a sudden.
Most successful team: New Hampshire Wildcats (football)
No pro teams in Hartford right now, and no NCAA Tournaments for Wildcat basketball, so the football team’s 15 conference titles take the state. Boooo-oooring.
Most successful team: New Jersey Devils
While the NFL’s Giants and Jets’ both technically play their home games in a stadium that sits on New Jersey soil, that doesn’t make them New Jersey’s teams (I mean if they were going to be their teams they would’ve named them differently, c’mon). Thus the only true New Jersey pro team from our four primary leagues and the one with three Stanley Cups gets the nod, who have been playing for 49 years and recently reached the second round of the playoffs this year.
Most successful team: New York Yankees
No doubt about it. 27 World Series in a trophy case that might be the most impressive of any team in any league in the entire country. The Yankees are to MLB what Kentucky is to college hoops, except multiply it by 30. Half the MLB record book’s been written by them—co-authored Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris, Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle. Think about the fact that I’m 19, in no way a Yankee fan at all, and I know each of these players all these decades later and what they did, even if some of their records have since been broken. That’s success that’ll enamor a whole nation.
Most successful team: New Mexico State (basketball)
Believe it or not, the NMSU Aggies went to the 1970 Final Four! While their archrivals have one of the coolest arenas for any sport in the whole country in The Pit, the Lobos have never made it further than the Sweet Sixteen and neither school’s football teams have done much either. Thus a 1970 Final Four combined with 20 regular seasons conference titles and 13 conference tournament titles give the crown to NMSU men’s hoops.
Most successful team: North Carolina Tar Heels (basketball)
A very competitive basketball state, but as heated and contested as one of sports’ most famous rivalries is, UNC take the state here—6 national titles and 21 Final Fours are just a tad more than Duke’s 5 and 17, and most of their other stats are pretty similar.
Most successful team: North Dakota State Bison (football)
The Alabama of the FCS, NDSU has won 17 national championships, with nine coming in FCS Division 1. Their FCS playoff record is an absurd 44-3, and they have 37 conference titles. The Roughrider State seems to have found its sports niche.
Most successful team: Ohio State Buckeyes (football)
A very, very crowded state. Home to a whopping six pro teams from MLB, NHL, NBA, and NFL, as well as 13 Division 1 universities (with 10 of those even at the FBS level!), it’s easy to see why fans are so passionate about their teams in the Buckeye State—which actually is the Buckeye State because OSU has eight national titles, the 3rd-most wins of any FBS school with 953, and 39 conference championships. In terms of hardware, that just beats out the Cincinnati Reds’ five World Series, but they are the most successful of the state’s pro teams.
Most successful team: Oklahoma Sooners (football)
Very similar to the Buckeyes just mentioned, but with a tad less hardware. Seven national titles, 50 conference championships, and the 6th-most wins among FBS schools at 937 for the Sooners, who also have produced the most Heisman winners at seven.
Most successful team: Portland Trailblazers
Oregon Ducks: One championship, two Final Fours, eight regular season conference titles, and five conference tournament titles. Portland Trailblazers: One championship and three NBA finals appearances, along with six division titles. Such a close call, but I think the state’s only pro team beats out the Ducks here. Such close calls like this make these states so much fun.
Most successful team: Pittsburgh Steelers
If you thought Ohio was packed, the Keystone State boasts seven pro teams across MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. Finding the one with the most success was not easy, as the teams of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia all have rich histories and success at one time or another, but the Pittsburgh Steelers boast six Super Bowls, have played in 16 AFC championship games, reached the playoffs 33 times, and won their division 22 times.
Most successful team: Providence Friars (basketball)
Another state without a pro team and not a lot of schools, but the Friars have been to two Final Fours and have made the NCAA Tournament 22 times. Playing in the Big East has been a big boost for their basketball and helped them to win a fair amount of hardware in Rhode Island’s capital.
Most successful team: Clemson Tigers
Another southern state with no pro teams but plenty of college football ones, the three-time national champions from Clemson University are one of the biggest names in the college football world and have 27 conference titles—21 of which were in the ACC.
Most successful team: South Dakota State Jackrabbits (football)
A defending national champion! The Jackrabbits, fresh off of winning the 2022 FCS Playoffs for their first-ever national title, now have one more title than their rival South Dakota Coyotes and either team’s basketball programs. How interesting that with that championship, they’ve pretty much-laid claim to the whole state as the most successful team just like that.
Most successful team: Tennessee Volunteers (football)
The Vols are six-time national champions and have long been SEC heavyweights on the gridiron, having a much bigger head start than the NFL’s Titans. The six titles pretty much take the state in a landslide.
Most successful team: San Antonio Spurs
One of the biggest fights for the top spot in any state we’ve seen yet. College football powerhouses Texas and Texas A&M boast four and three titles, respectively, but those are both trumped by the NBA’s Spurs and the NFL’s Cowboys, who both are among the biggest names in their respective sports, and each has five championships. The Spurs were founded in 1967 and won titles in ‘99, ‘03, ‘05, ‘07, and ‘14. The Cowboys were founded in 1960 and won Super Bowls in ‘71, ‘77, ‘92, ‘93, and ‘95. While the Cowboys probably have more fans, I’m giving the title to the Spurs for this stat: over the previous three decades, they have the highest winning percentage of any team in any American pro sport. That’s the tiebreaker, but it’s so close.
Most successful team: Utah Jazz
The Utah Utes gave the championship-less Jazz a little run for their money with consistent Pac-12 football success, but two NBA Finals appearances and 11 division titles won the day for the state’s only pro team.
Most successful team: Vermont Catamounts (basketball)
The only state with just one eligible team. Since the state’s only Division 1 university no longer fields a football team, the basketball Catamounts take the state unopposed, though not without some success—the team has nine NCAA Tournament appearances and one victory in 2005 to reach the Round of 32. Pretty good for a small school in the America East Conference.
Most successful team: Virginia Cavaliers (basketball)
No pro sports team for a very big and historic state (those 1604 Jamestown settlers sure would be disappointed their colony didn’t grow to become an MLB or NFL powerhouse), but the Virginia Cavaliers make up for that one time they lost to a 16-seed with three Final Fours and the 2019 national championship.
Most successful team: Seattle Seahawks
There was some competition from Washington Huskies football, but the 2013 Super Bowl, combined with 20 playoff appearances since their inception in 1976, took the state.
Most successful team: West Virginia Mountaineers (basketball)
A strong football program, but the basketball team has just won a little bit more hardware. The Mountaineers are the 1959 runner-ups, two-time Final Four participants, and have over a dozen of both regular season and conference tournament titles.
Most successful team: Green Bay Packers
The smallest pro sports team in America and the all-time winningest in the NFL. Winners of 11 NFL championships and four Super Bowls, the Packers have one of the most passionate fanbases in sports and are proof that you don’t need to be a big, rich city to win championships and dominate a pro sport.
Most successful team: Wyoming Cowboys (basketball)
1943 NCAA Tournament champions. Know that before? Didn’t think so. No titles for the football team, so the hoops Cowboys can continue to ride that 80-year-old title into the sunset.
Wow, what interesting results! No team has more championships in their sport than the Yankees with their 27, and are joined by a couple of other MLB teams representing states, and every sport was represented by at least one state.
Some smaller states have found success through FCS football, some through Power 5 football, some through big, historic cities with established pro teams, and some just have the Green Bay Packers slap everybody else silly.
Some states had super close races almost impossible to call, and some had so few teams there wasn’t anyone else to pick. In every state there were plenty of fans, however, celebrating their teams no matter how many or few titles they had.