As the All Blacks celebrated their third World Cup triumph at Twickenham last month, they weren’t just hailed as the greatest Rugby Union team of all time, but the greatest sports team of all time. So how do they stack up against other legendary sides? Take a look at the contenders below and decide for yourself. Honestly, this list could have gone on and on so make sure you let us know your suggestions in the comments.
New Zealand, 2011-Present
The All Blacks are one of the most iconic and fearsome teams in world sport. But, after winning the inaugural Ruby World Cup in 1987, they had to wait another 24 years for their next triumph. During that time they were regarded as such colossal chokers you feared for their safety during team meals. To doubt them now would be to doubt the sun rising. The current side has a scarcely believable win rate of over 90%, lost only three games in four years and became the first team to retain the World Cup. Having record Test points scorer Dan Carter and the most capped international player in Rugby Union history Richie McCaw, both contenders for the greatest players in their position ever, certainly helped. The two of them have since retired, but ominously this side looks in no danger of being deposed as top dog just yet.
Generally regarded as the finest club side in football history, Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona not only won everything domestically and abroad, they did so with a unique style of play; the beautiful short passing, high tempo ‘tika-taka’. They racked up 14 trophies in four years, including three league titles, two domestic cups and two European cups. This included a clean sweep in 2009 when they won every competition they played in. With a mix of home-grown talent and international stars, including graduates of the club’s fabled La Masia academy Xavi and Andres Iniesta orchestrating play in the midfield, it was another graduate Lionel Messi who became the inspirational talisman. Probably the finest player ever to kick a football, he scored an astonishing 211 goals in 219 games.
Chicago Bulls, 1996-1997
Stats aren’t the be all and end all in sport, but they certainly find favour with this NBA team. They won 72 games during the regular season, losing just 10, had the top offensive and defensive rating in the league and the best average points per game. The likes of Michael Jordon (best known in the UK for being that bloke in the film with Bugs Bunny) and Dennis Rodman (best known in the UK for being that idiot on Celebrity Big Brother) were outstanding, dominating the opposition under the stewardship of coach Phil Jackson (probably not known in the UK at all). The Chicago Bulls backed up this impressive billing, defeating the Utah Jazz in the 1997 NBA Finals.
The retirement of the successful, but defensive, Allan Border in 1994 ushered in an Australian side with an attacking mentality that resulted in an era of near total cricketing dominance. They won 72 out of 93 Tests, lost just two Test series and won three Word Cups in a row. The team oozed quality and included Shane Warne (the finest leg spinner to play the game), Glenn McGrath (the highest wicket-taking fast bowler in Test cricket), Adam Gilchrist who redefined the role of the wicketkeeper-batsman (as well as being able to smack a ball into the next county) and run machines Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh. It took a Freddie Flintoff inspired England, a misplaced cricket ball injuring McGrath and a bizarre decision to bat first by Ponting at Edgbaston to hand the Aussies their only Ashes series defeat in this period.
New England Patriots, 2007
Okay, this might raise a few eyebrows considering they didn’t actually win the Super Bowl that season (so what, Richard Burton never won an Oscar either), this New England Patriots side of 2007 was an absolute juggernaut regardless. Clear favourites going into the NFL championship game, the Patriots were 16-0. They had a rapid running game, a deadly offensive line and players such as Randy Moss, Wes Walker, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi either in their prime or in blistering form. Sometimes both. Alas, their 17-14 loss to the New York Giants is regarded as one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. It is a defeat that still irks quarterback Tom Brady: “We had such a great team. To me, the greatest team that ever played in the NFL. I remember after the game I was trying to think, ‘Man, am I dreaming?’ Let me wake up and then start the day over. I just didn’t think we could lose.”
Spain, 2008-2012: The first side in international football to win three major tournaments in a row.
New York Yankees, 1947-1962: Qualified for 13 of 16 World Series, winning 10.
Manchester United, 1998-1999: Won the treble.
Boston Celtics, 1957-1969: Won 11 NBA championships in 13 years.
Arsenal, 2003-2004: The Gunners went an entire season unbeaten on their way to winning the Premier League title.
Queensland Rugby League Team, 2006-2013: Won eight series wins a row.
Brazil, 1970: Won the World Cup in 1970 with a side that boasted the talents of Carlos Alberto, Jairzinho and Pele.
Do you agree? What do you think are the greatest sports teams in history? Let us know below.