"Winning is a habit," legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi once said. "Unfortunately, so is losing."
No need to remind fans of the Los Angeles Clippers of the latter half of that quote. The Clippers have a well-developed losing streak. In their 40 NBA seasons, the Clippers have had a grand total of six – that's right, six – winning seasons. Since Donald Sterling, a lawyer and real estate investor, took over ownership in 1981 the Clippers have celebrated exactly two winning seasons. Their historical franchise "winning" percentage: .362.
What's more, the Clippers share a city and the Staples Center with the winningest active NBA franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers, who have won more than 60 percent of their games and own 15 NBA titles (and just might be on their way to a 16th).
Losing has hurt the Clips' bottom line. According the Forbes valuations, the Clippers – in the No. 2 television market in the country! – rank 23rd out of 30 teams in value, at $295 million, behind even the Oklahoma City Thunder. The No. 1 team on that list: the Lakers at $607 million. Ouch.
The Clippers are supposedly in the running for free agent LeBron James. Don't bet the house on it happening.
And yet the Clippers are merely No. 2 on our list of pro sports' most-losing teams. The chart-toppers are the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, who've been around for 15 seasons and have won just over one-third of their games. We've always maintained that the problem with the team is its name: The "Grizzlies" is leftover from the franchise's stint in Vancouver. Memphis Blues is more like it.
Losing teams are not just in the NBA. The NFL's Houston Texans, who have won only 38 percent of their games, are No. 4 on our list. The Texans have never made the playoffs in their history. They had some good news last year when they had their first winning season (9-7). They had some bad news this year when it was discovered that linebacker Brian Cushing, the AP defensive rookie player of the year in 2009, violated the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.
The most winning franchise in the NFL: The Dallas Cowboys, who have won 58 percent of their games.
In Major League Baseball you'll find the San Diego Padres, at No. 11 on our list, winners of 46 percent of their games. After an ugly loss in the team's first home game of the 1974 season, then-owner Ray Kroc told the crowd over the PA system: "I've never seen such stupid ballplaying in my life."
The Padres are off to a nice start this year, but history says that will change. Nice place to live, though.
Guess who the most winning baseball franchise is? The Yankees, of course, who win at a nearly 60 percent clip. (It's no coincidence that the Yankees, Cowboys and Lakers are global brands, while the Padres, Texans and Clippers are not. Winning trumps all.)
Behind the numbers
In compiling our list, we measured the win-loss percentage for each active franchise in the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB; we looked at points-percentage in hockey. This allowed us to compare teams across leagues. We pulled out the worst three teams in each league, then ranked them 1-12. Data was provided by www.pro-football-reference.com/; http://www.baseball-reference.com/; http://www.basketball-reference.com/; and http://www.hockey-reference.com/.
We uncovered some interesting tidbits. Tampa, sad to say, is a pro sports loser. Three Tampa teams (baseball's Rays, football's Buccaneers and hockey's Lightning) make our list. Tampa does have two championships (the Bucs in 2002 and the Lightning in 2004). And the Rays made the World Series in 2008 (they lost) and are off to a great start this year. But, historically speaking, these are anomalies. It's been a tough go for fans in the Bay area.
Also, all but one of the teams on our list (the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets, No. 10) is in the southern part of the U.S. The reason for this? Who really knows? Our theory: It may have something to do with the population migration to the Southern U.S. in the past 20 or 30 years. Sports leagues have followed the people, putting more teams in southern cities. Expansion teams can take a while to get up and running.
Seven of the 12 teams on our list could properly be called "expansion" teams, that is, franchises that were born since 1990.
Unfortunately for the Clippers (founded in 1971), that's no excuse.
12. Texas Rangers: Slideshow
11. San Diego Padres: Slideshow
10. Columbus Blue Jackets: Slideshow
9. Atlanta Thrashers: Slideshow
8. Tampa Bay Lightning: Slideshow
7. Tampa Bay Rays: Slideshow
6. Atlanta Falcons: Slideshow
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Slideshow
4. Houston Texans: Slideshow
3. Charlotte Bobcats: Slideshow
2. Los Angeles Clippers: Slideshow
1. Memphis Grizzlies: Slideshow