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Detroit’s title drought could end with Lions: Last time city’s teams won

Detroit earned the nickname ‘City of Champions’ in 1936 after the city’s NFL, MLB and NHL teams all won titles in the same calendar year. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1935, the same year the Detroit Lions won the NFL championship, followed by the Detroit Red Wings’ Stanley Cup win in 1936.

The Motor City has since experienced a fall from grace.

Detroit’s major professional sports teams haven’t won a championship since 2008 — when the Red Wings hoisted the Stanley Cup and the Detroit Shock reigned supreme over the WNBA – marking 16 years since a championship parade has been hosted in the city. But there appears to be a possible end in sight.

After winning their first playoff game in 31-years, the Lions are now one win away from their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. Head coach Dan Campbell said the Lions are surely going to give the people of Detroit ‘something the city can be proud of’ when they face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

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‘Here (in Detroit), man, it’s harsh winters, auto industry, blue-collar. Things aren’t always easy, and I think that’s what we’re about,’ Campbell said Monday. “I think these guys, they have a kinship with this city, this area. And they love it.’

Here’s the last time each of Detroit’s major professional sports teams won a title:

NFL’s Detroit Lions: 1957

The Lions are one of 12 NFL clubs that have never won a Super Bowl and they are one of four teams that have never made a Super Bowl appearance (Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars). However, the Lions have the opportunity to erase their name off that list.

Sunday will make their first NFC championship game appearance since January 1992, when Detroit suffered a 31-point loss to Washington, the eventual champions. The Lions went 31 seasons without ever reaching the championship round or winning another playoff game after that loss. But with wild card and divisional round wins, Detroit is back to being one win away from the Super Bowl.

Although the Lions have never hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the franchise did win four NFL championship games (1935, 1952, 1953, 1957) prior to the Super-Bowl era. The first Super Bowl game was played during the 1966 season.

NHL’s Detroit Red Wings: 2008

The Detroit Red Wings won the 2008 Stanley Cup title, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. It was their fourth championship in 11 years. 

The team, coached by Mike Babcock, featured skilled forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and future Hall of Fame defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios. 

That core got back to the Final the following season, but lost to the Penguins in Game 7 at home. 

The Red Wings’ 25-season playoff streak ended in 2016-17 and they haven’t been back to the postseason since, though they’re in the mix this season. 

Stanley Cup championships: 1936, 1937, 1943, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008

WNBA’s Detroit Shock: 2008

Arguably, the best professional sports team in the Motor City in the first decade of the 2000s was the WNBA’s Detroit Shock. Coached by Bill Laimbeer, who was beloved in Detroit for his long playing career with the NBA’s Pistons, the Shock won three WNBA championships in six years: the first in 2003, the second in 2006 and the third in 2008 – almost four months to the day after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup.

The 2008 title team swept the San Antonio Silver Stars (now the Las Vegas Aces) in three games (Game 1: 77-69, Game 2: 69-61, Game 3: 76-60). The Shock was led by three-time Olympic gold medalist and seven-time WNBA All-Star Katie Smith, who was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018; five-time All-Star Deanna Nolan, a Flint, Michigan native; six-time All-Star Taj McWilliams-Franklin, a late-season acquisition; four-time All-Star Cheryl Ford; and Plenette Pierson, who won the WNBA’s first ever Sixth Woman of the Year award the previous year.

Despite the dynasty – the Shock made the WNBA playoffs in 8 of 12 years – the team only played one more season in Detroit. The Shock then relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 2010 season before changing their name to the Wings in 2016 and moving to Dallas, where they remain today.

WNBA championships: 2003, 2006, 2008

NBA’s Detroit Pistons: 2004

In a David vs. Goliath matchup, the underdog Pistons defeated the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 in the 2004 NBA Finals to win the franchise’s first title since 1990. The Pistons, led by Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince, dominated the Lakers, made up of four future Hall of Famers — Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal and Gary Payton — and outscored them 454-403 across the five-game series.

“They may have had better individual players, but we always felt we were a better team,” said Billups, who was coached by Hall of Famer Larry Brown.

The Pistons returned to the 2005 NBA Finals the next season, but were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs in seven games. In the past 15 seasons, the Pistons have only made it to the playoffs two times (2016, 2019), both first-round exits. And the Pistons are nowhere near the postseason this season — they set an NBA record after losing 28-straight games.

NBA titles: 1989, 1990, 2004

MLB’s Detroit Tigers: 1984

The Tigers ended Detroit’s 16-year championship drought by defeating the San Diego Padres in five gamest in the 1984 World Series to win their first title since 1968. The World Series win capped the Tigers’ franchise-high 104-win season, which remains a record for the Tigers.

The Tigers took Game 1 in San Diego, before dropping Game 2 to the Padres. Detroit, however, responded by winning the next three games at home in Tiger Stadium to win the title. Shortstop Alan Trammell was named World Series MVP after registering a nine hits in the five-game series, while closing pitcher Willie Hernández was named the regular-season American League MVP.

The Tigers returned to the World Series in 2006 and 2012, but the baseball team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals (4-1) and the San Francisco Giants (4-0), respectively. The Tigers have not been to the playoffs since 2014.

World Series titles: 1935, 1945, 1968, 1984

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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