With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers favored to repeat as Super Bowl contenders, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisting their second consecutive Stanley Cup trophy, and the Miami Heat forming their own superteam this summer, Florida is a hotbed of sports title winnings and aspirations. From 1966 (when the state saw their first professional franchise in the Miami Dolphins), all the way to last year (when the state welcomed their latest professional franchise in the Inter Miami CF), Florida has earned its recognition as one of the greatest — if not the best — sports locations in America. The area is also home to numerous NCAA programs, minor league squads, motorsports, and PGA courses.
Celebrating its 55th anniversary in professional sports, here are the top teams that have ever competed in the Sunshine State.
1972 Miami Dolphins
Bucs star Tom Brady almost did it with the New England Patriots in 2007. Almost.
However, to date, the 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only undefeated squad in NFL history. Their winning ways culminated in a 14-7 Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins. Third-year head coach Don Shula led the “No Name Defense” to a 17-0 record. The team defeated their opponents by a touchdown or more in 13 different contests, ranking first in points (27.5 ppg) and least allowed (12.2 ppg).
The upcoming year will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the team. With an extended season and a widespread distribution of talent around the league, it’s unlikely this feat will ever be duplicated.
2001 Miami Hurricanes
Universally acknowledged as the greatest college team to have ever stepped on the gridiron, the undefeated Hurricanes earned the No. 1 spot by slaughtering all opponents by an average 32.9 points. In total, the team averaged 42.6 per game and sacrificed only 9.75. It wasn’t just against the Big East that Miami dominated; non-conference schools were also bludgeoned on both sides of the ball, averaging an even larger 44.4 per game and allowing 12.4.
On the roster, 38 players were drafted, including 17 in the first round. The team consisted of six All-Americans and 11 First Team All-Big East Performers.
2006 Miami Heat
The super team concept didn’t work with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004.
After failing to earn a championship with teammates Karl Malone and Gary Payton — alongside infighting with the late Kobe Bryant — Shaquille O’Neal requested a trade and ended up back in Florida, the state that drafted him.
The 2006 team was stacked with NBA legends: led by Hall of Famer Dwayne Wade, the roster also included Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, James Posey, Antoine Walker, and Jason Williams, all coached by GOAT candidate Pat Riley.
After falling 2-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals, Wade established himself as a household name, averaging 34.7 points per game and guiding the Heat to four straight victories, earning the franchise their first-ever NBA title.
2008 Florida Gators
The Florida athletic department boasts 42 national titles shared amongst 15 sports.
The most impressive: the Tim Tebow led Gators squad that claimed two championships in the late ‘00s.
Despite being upset in Week 4 by a middling Ole Miss team, Tebow gave his notorious “Promise” speech, and the rest was Gainesville history. They didn’t lose the rest of the year. Florida accounted for a total of 611 points throughout the season, beat Alabama in the SEC Title Game, and dominated Heisman recipient Sam Bradford led Oklahoma in the finale.
Fun fact: they did it without NFL stalwart and Gator star receiver Percy Harvin, who was out with persistent heel and knee injuries.
2013 Miami Heat
This was the most talented team that LeBron James ever played on.
Following the philosophy “if you can’t beat them, join them”, Hall of Famer Ray Allen went turncoat against his former team the Boston Celtics, and tipped the balance of the Eastern Conference into Miami’s favor.
The move possibly saved LeBron James’ legacy. With the trophy already on the court, the San Antonio Spurs led Miami by five points with only 28 seconds remaining in a pivotal Game 6. On a second chance offensive rebound, Allen was fed in the corner and hit the game-tying shot with 5.2 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Heat went on to win in overtime and clinched the series the following game. Miami will never forget; the Alamo City still wishes they could.
2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The story for why this is one of the best teams – not just in Florida sports history, but throughout the legendary annals of the NFL – is best told in the franchise’s second Super Bowl dub. Best of all, they were the first SB winners to hoist the Lombardi in front of their home crowd.
Tom Brady dominated in his sole season away from New England, earning his sixth ring with the Bucs. Joined by fellow ex-Pat Rob Gronkowski, the duo passed Joe Montana and Jerry Rice for most touchdowns between players in championship history. Gronk nabbed both his fourth and record fifth touchdown in a drubbing against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The defense stepped up big, improbably holding gunslinger – and then defending champ – Patrick Mahomes to zero touchdowns, another first in history.
2021 Tampa Bay Lightning
Two Stanley Cups in nine months.
Recency bias aside, the Bolts proved that the 2019-20 season was no fluke. Following a shortened season due to the pandemic, the Tampa Bay Lightning spent 65 days in Canadian isolation to win their first title since 2004.
Now, they have a chance to be a dynasty.
In eight playoff series, the franchise didn’t lose consecutive games. Conn Smythe recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy cemented himself as the league’s best goalie, boasting a .943 save percentage against the Montreal Canadians in the championship game, only allowing eight goals on 140 attempts. Vasilevskiy ended all four series with a shutout.
In the last seven years, Tampa Bay has had the best record in the NHL.
Did we miss any? Let us know who your favorites are in the comments!
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