It’s been a painful stretch for many fan bases, but scratch the Sacramento Kings off that list. They recently ended what was the longest playoff drought in US sports. So which franchises now move one rung up the rankings?
Every team aims for the post-season. But for some, it’s been a treacherous, agonising wait to make a return to the promised land.
In all of the major American leagues across the nation, there are franchises that have unfortunately amassed a lengthy drought between trips to the playoffs and their fan bases are desperate to taste the post-season once again.
For some, the drought has only been a couple of seasons long and things look destined to change. For others, a decade has come and gone without a single feature in the post-season. Turning their fortunes around couldn’t come any sooner.
THIS STORY DETAILS THE LONGEST PLAYOFF DROUGHTS IN THE NFL, NBA, MLB & NHL
The success of the Sacramento Kings making the playoffs in the 2022-23 NBA season and breaking their longest playoff drought currently in the NBA has shown that good drafting, great trading and elite coaching can change a side’s destiny drastically. It’s a combo all the franchises on the longest playoff drought list wish they had.
So here’s the longest playoff drought runs across the five major competitions in the United States.
Longest post-season droughts in US sport
NFL longest playoff droughts
1. New York Jets – 12 years
2010 was the last time the New York Jets played a playoffs game, going down to the Indianapolis Colts 30-17 in the AFC Championship game. They’ve essentially gone ‘all-in’ to end this dire era; trading quite a bit of Draft capital for one or two years of Aaron Rodgers. Quarterback has been the problem area for the Jets way too many times and Rodgers, in the short-term, solves that. But he’s now 39 and nearing the end. Some are calling it Super Bowl or bust after the move for Rodgers, but we’ll settle on Playoffs or bust.
2. Denver Broncos – 7 years
The Denver Broncos and their fans definitely know about the highs and lows of sport with the franchise’s last playoffs game in Super Bowl 50; a win against the Carolina Panthers. Peyton Manning retired after that game, of course, which was won primarily through its defence. But the franchise hasn’t got the recipe right ever since and they’ll be hoping the arrival of high profile coach Sean Payton will change fortunes.
3. Detroit Lions – 6 years
Early 2016 was the last time Lions fans experienced the NFL playoffs with Detroit being dismantled by the Seattle Seahawks 26-6 in the NFC Wild Card weekend. This fan base has been absolutely starved of success and big games for a huge stretch of time and while there’s growing optimism about their chances of going deep this season, don’t underestimate the pressure of a hoodoo.
4. Carolina Panthers – 5 years
Similarly to the Lions, the Panthers last appearance in the post-season was in the Wild Card round. They fell at the hands of the Saints 31-26 in a close one. Carolina fans will be hoping shiny new quarterback Bryce Young, whom they recently took with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, can elevate the franchise back to the promised land.
5. Atlanta Falcons – 5 years
Tied with the Panthers on a five year playoffs drought, the Falcons’ last taste of the post-season was against the eventual Super Bowl winners the Philadelphia Eagles going down 15-10 in the 2017 NFC divisional game. It’s been a deep rebuild since then and only glimmering light at the end of the tunnel in the short term.
NBA longest playoff droughts
1. Charlotte Hornets – 7 years
It’s been a tough few years for Hornets fans with stars leaving the North Carolina side and young guns struggling to stay fit to help them push towards a playoff run.
The last time Charlotte made the post-season was the 2015-16 season where they were eliminated in Game 7 of the first round by Miami.
2. Detroit Pistons – 4 years
The Motor City’s last appearance in an NBA playoffs game didn’t go according to plan, losing to European superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks to finish off a 4-nil first round sweeping.
However, they’ll be hopeful that will change quickly if they can land the first overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft, who will be French sensation Victor Wembanyama, as the franchise has a 14% chance of landing the lottery pick.
3. San Antonio Spurs – 4 years
A Game 7 defeat in Denver against the Nuggets back in the 2019 playoffs was the last time legendary coach Greg Popovich and the Spurs featured in post-season, going down 90-86 in that final match.
The drought is not only the Spurs longest in decades, but also Popvich’s longest playoff drought in his 27-year coaching career.
4. Orlando, Indiana, Thunder, Rockets – 3 years
As it always is in the NBA, there is a constant rotation of teams making the playoffs each season and for these four franchises they have been in a rebuilding stage for the past few years and finding themselves on the ‘longest playoff droughts list’ won’t last long.
All of them besides Houston were eliminated in the opening round, whilst the Rockets fell to the eventual champions the Los Angeles Lakers in the ‘bubble’ playoffs.
5. Portland Trail Blazers & Washington Wizards – 2 years
You might not call it a drought but the two year absence from the post-season for the Trail Blazers and Wizards is the fifth longest playoff drought currently in the NBA; both eliminated in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
MLB longest playoff droughts
1. Detroit Tigers & Los Angeles Angels – 8 years
It’s edging closer and closer for both the Tigers and the Angels to a decade-long absence from the post-season with their last appearances being in the 2014 ALDS where they both were swept.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates & Kansas City Royals – 7 years
A crushing National League Wild Card match against the Cubs back in 2015 was the last time Pittsburgh featured in the playoffs, going down 4-0.
However for Kansas City supporters, their last memory of the post-season was a rather good one, winning the World Series 4 games to one against the Mets in the same year.
3. Baltimore Orioles & Texas Rangers – 6 years
Baltimore and the Rangers had a bit in common in the 2016 playoffs, both being eliminated from the post-season by the Toronto Blue Jays; Orioles in the Wild Card match and Texas in the ALDS.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks – 5 years
A sweeping at the hands of the Dodgers was the Diamondbacks last taste of the post-season, never coming within two home runs of the Los Angeles side in the three game series.
5. Colorado Rockies – 4 years
Similarly to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies were swept in their last playoffs series in 2018, losing Game 1 by the slimmest of margins 3-2. However, the next two games were difficult to watch if you were a Colorado fan, with the side unable to register a single run across both matches.
NHL longest playoff droughts
1. Buffalo Sabres – 12 years
The 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the Sabres last appearance in the post-season going down to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the first round.
2. Detroit Red Wings – 7 years
The Tampa Bay Lightning had no issues brushing past the Red Wings in Detroit’s last playoff series, dusting them 4-1 in a best of seven series.
3. Ottawa Senators – 6 years
They were one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2017 in their last playoffs appearance but now six years later Senators fans desperate for a return to the promised land.
4. Anaheim Ducks – 5 years
Ducks fans are praying for a new memory of the post-season considering their last appearance was a 4-nil sweeping at the hands of the Sharks.
5. San Jose Sharks – 4 years
San Jose were improving season by season heading into the 2019 NHL season, with the Californian side making the conference finals that season.
But unfortunately for Sharks fans, a playoffs drought is steadily building and as many teams above with longer droughts could attest, four years can quickly become ten in a blink of an eye.