By Ed Easton Jr.
There have been many New York teams that captured the hearts of fans on their way to a championship. These 10 teams did just that and more during their runs to the top of the mountain.
(Selections were based on fan impact for teams after 1960)
#10 – 1980 NY Islanders
The ’80 Islanders finished their regular season with 39 wins and 91 points, in second place in the Patrick Division. The Islanders entered the playoffs against the Buffalo Sabres in the semifinals, winning the first two games in Buffalo. They went on to win the series in six games and reach the finals for the first time in franchise history.
The Islanders next faced off with the NHL’s regular season points leaders the Philadelphia Flyers, who had gone undefeated for 35 straight regular season games leading up to the series. In their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Islanders set the tone in Game 1 by winning at Philadelphia in overtime — and eventually took the series in six games at home.
Bryan Trottier won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs and the Islanders won their first title in only their eighth year of existence.
#9 – 2007 NY Giants
The ’07 Giants finished the regular season 10-6 and in second place in the NFC East. Big Blue qualified for the playoffs as a wild card team and faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. Each game was on the road as the Giants would win 10 straight games, including the regular season, away from the Meadowlands to become the NFC champions. They would go on to pull off the ultimate upset in beating the previously undefeated New England Patriots to capture the Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl XLII.
The highlight of the Giants’ improbable win at Super Bowl XLII is the game winning drive led by game MVP Eli Manning. Manning avoided being sacked twice to find a heavily covered David Tyree for an acrobatic “helmet catch” to keep the drive alive.
The Giants would go on to take the lead after Manning connected with Plaxico Burress in the end zone to clinch the 17-14 victory. They were the third team in NFL history to win three road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl.
#8 – 1969 NY Mets
The ’69 Mets went 100-62 in the regular season, rallying in August to win 39 of their final 50 games. They defeated the Atlanta Braves in a three-game sweep in the inaugural National League Championship Series for their first NL pennant. The Mets went on to win the 1969 World Series, defeating the American League champion Baltimore Orioles in five games.
The Mets were annual cellar dwellers since their inaugural season before their surprising 1969 title run. During the year, pitcher Tom Seaver recorded a remarkable 25 wins as the Mets became the first expansion team to win a World Series.
#7 – 1996 NY Yankees
The ’96 Yankees won the American League Eastern Division with a record of 92-70. They defeated the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series, three games to one, and went on to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series four games to one.
In the World Series, the Yanks beat the National League champion Atlanta Braves four games to two in dramatic comeback fashion. The Bombers won four consecutive games to overcome a two games to none deficit to earn their 23rd World Series title.
The 1996 team, led by manager Joe Torre and core players Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, started a dynasty for the Yankees. The title was the first for the team since 1978, ending an 18-year drought.
#6 – 1970 NY Knicks
The 1970 New York Knicks faced off against a mighty Los Angeles Lakers team led by superstars Wilt Chamberlin and Jerry West. The series was hard-fought and came down to a final Game 7 at Madision Square Garden, where an injured Willis Reed made his unexpected return to the lineup.
Reed’s presence in the game was inspirational as the Knicks rallied behind their captain, led by an incredible individual performance from Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The Knicks would go on to capture their first NBA title in franchise history.
During the season the Knicks pulled off a then-NBA record 18 straight wins, en route to an all-time best Knicks record of 60-22.
#5 – 1968 NY Jets
The ’68 Jets had the most successful season in franchise history, going 11 – 3 in the regular season. They defeated the Oakland Raiders in the AFL Championship game and were heavy underdogs heading into Super Bowl III against the NFL champion Baltimore Colts.
In a memorable upset, highlighted by quarterback Joe Namath’s famous guarantee, the Jets defeated Johnny Unitas and the Colts 16-7.
The ’68 season will always reign supreme to many Jets fans as the team went above and beyond many expectations. It was also the crown jewel of Namath’s stellar Hall of Fame career.
#4 – 1977 NY Yankees
The ’77 Yankees finished in first place in the American League East with a record of 100-62. In the American League Championship Series, they beat the Kansas City Royals in five games and in the World Series, they defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in six.
It was the Yankees’ first World Series title since 1962 and returned the team to baseball prestige.
The behind the scenes stories of the team were as compelling as the play on the field. The Yankees signed Reggie Jackson before the season, causing tension with manager Billy Martin. Jackson would then go on to deliver one of the most memorable moments in baseball history, hitting three home runs in the World Series’ title-clinching game against the Dodgers.
#3 – 1986 NY Mets
The ’86 Mets finished the season with a 108–54 record, winning the division title. They went on to defeat the Houston Astros in six games in the NLCS and had a historic battle with the American League champion Boston Red Sox in a classic seven-game World Series.
The most memorable moment of the World Series took place during game six, as the Mets came back in the bottom of the ninth, at home, in a win-or-they’re-out situation to defeat Boston and force a game seven.
Who could forget Mookie Wilson’s infamous “Holy Roller” ball that got past Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, allowing Ray Knight of the Mets to score.
The Amazin’s sent five players to the All-Star game that year in Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and Sid Fernandez.
#2 – 1986 NY Giants
The ’86 Giants finished the season a dominating 14-2. They steamrolled into the postseason and later defeated the Washington Redskins and San Francisco 49ers by a combined score of 66–3 in the NFC playoffs.
In Super Bowl XXI the Giants scored a Super Bowl-record 30 second half points in defeating the Denver Broncos 39–20. Quarterback Phil Simms earned game MVP honors by completing a Super Bowl record 88% of his passes in the victory. It was the Giants’ first Super Bowl title in their franchise’s history and fifth championship overall counting the original NFL championship days.
Head Coach Bill Parcells won the NFL Coach of the Year Award and eight Giants were named to the Pro Bowl. The Giants’ defense was nicknamed the Big Blue Wrecking Crew for having a reputation for terrorizing opponents. Led by league MVP linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the defense finished second in the league in points and yards allowed. The Giants were also the first team to start the tradition of giving head coaches Gatorade showers.
#1 – 1994 NY Rangers
The ’94 Rangers had a magical season, finishing the campaign with 52 wins, leading the entire NHL.
Led by captain Mark Messier, the Rangers led the league in several statistical categories: points, power play goals and fewest allowed shorthanded goals.
The Rangers rolled into the playoffs, eventually taking the Vancouver Canucks to a seventh and final game in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Rangers would, of course, go on to be victorious and have one of the biggest celebrations Madison Square Garden has ever seen — including the iconic image of Messier hoisting the cup in the air, screaming with excitement.
The Rangers were not shut out in any of their 84 regular-season games and Adam Graves would set the then-team record with 52 goals in a season. It was the Rangers’ first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years.
What did we miss? Add your favorite champs to the fray below…