This Sunday, Team SoloMid will take on Immortals in the NA LCS Finals in Boston. It’s the 10th-ever NA LCS Final, and the 10th time TSM will be playing in it. That’s not only a phenomenal achievement, it’s something that as far as I can tell has never happened in traditional sports.
There are some important caveats — for one, the NA LCS has always been a small league, starting with eight teams and eventually expanding to 10. And parity has never been a big part of the league: Immortals is only the fourth different opponent TSM has faced in a final, after a stretch of eight straight where it was either TSM vs. Cloud9 or TSM vs. Counter Logic Gaming.
That being said, 10 straight finals is 10 straight finals (with five championship wins, to boot).
Here are the closest analogues I can find to TSM’s impressive stretch at the start of a league’s history:
- Real Madrid won the first five Champions League finals, and were in eight of the first 10 final matches.
- The Minneapolis Lakers won four of the first five NBA championships, and were in five of the first 10 finals.
- Preston North End finished in the top two in the first five seasons of top-flight English soccer (which does not have a playoff).
- Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid each finished in the top two in six of the first 10 seasons of top-flight Spanish soccer (which also does not have a playoff).
- Standard Athletic Club won five of the first 10 seasons of top-flight French soccer.
- Johns Hopkins was in 7 of the first 10 collegiate lacrosse title games.
Okay, so what we’ve got is a lot of teams that were pretty dominant, but not a single one that matches TSM’s 10-for-10 streak.
There is one other that is perhaps the closest comparison to TSM’s stretch of dominance at the start of a sports league, but it requires context.
Princeton football won at least a share of 11 of college football’s first 12 national championships. There was no 10-for-10 stretch, but it’s as close as you’ll find.
A few important caveats: almost nobody was playing college football in the mid 19th-century, which is when this stretch happened. Princeton’s opponents were mostly Rutgers and whichever other Ivy League schools picked up the new sport.
Take Princeton’s first three title seasons, for example. In 1869, Princeton and Rutgers shared the national title after a “season” that saw each team play the other twice, both winning once. Princeton’s first three titles had them play a combined four games, all against Rutgers.
There are other runs later in sport life cycles that match or best TSM’s: the Celtics made 10 straight NBA Finals from 1957-66 in the midst of a stretch that saw them win 11 titles in 13 years, and UCLA basketball won an astounding 10 national titles in 12 seasons from 1964-75. UConn women’s basketball is currently in the midst of a streak of 10 straight Final Fours, but only six title games in that stretch.
There are certainly sports teams whose accomplishments have surpassed TSM’s, but as far as I can tell, the closest any team has come at the start of a sport’s life span was Princeton football — playing with shared titles, no league structure and barely any competition to speak of.
If there’s a league I didn’t think of in which this feat was accomplished, please let me know in the comments and I’ll update this post!