The year that was 1995 sports was one of the dynasty. All of the six major team championships—the Final Four, the Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals, the World Series, the college football title and the Super Bowl—had dynastic overtones to it. In some cases, the dynasty was known at the time, in other cases we know it from the perspective of history, in still others it was an old dynasty coming to life, but it looms over every single championship run.
We knew at the time that the Dallas Cowboys were aiming for dynasty status. They had won the Super Bowl in 1992 and 1993 and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1994. One of the big sports stories of the year was the highly publicized pursuit of free agent cornerback Deion Sanders by owner Jerry Jones.
The acquisition of Deion gave the Cowboys the extra piece they needed to win a third Super Bowl in four years and earn dynasty status.
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The Nebraska Cornhuskers were already one of college football’s top programs, and a long-awaited national championship in 1994 had gotten the monkey off the back of their coach, Tom Osborne. It turns out, Osborne was just getting started. The 1995 edition of Nebraska football was one of the great college teams of all time. They won a repeat title and two years later, the Cornhuskers also completed a three crowns-in-four years run that earned them the dynasty tag.
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The period of NBA basketball from 1991 to 1998 was defined by Michael Jordan, with one notable exception—the interlude when he went to play minor league baseball. The Houston Rockets won the championship in the Jordan-less year of 1994. And though MJ returned in 1995, it was late in the regular season.
Houston again won a title and solidified themselves as the top alternative to the Jordan Bulls. And speaking of those Bulls…after Michael’s return, he played a marquee playoff series against the Orlando Magic of Shaquille O’Neal and came up short. It would be the last time Jordan came up short, as his own dynasty was back on track.
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Read more about the 1995 MJ-Shaq Playoff Battle
No dynasty ever dominated its sport the way the UCLA basketball program did under John Wooden, with their ten national championships from 1964-75. The dominance was so thorough, that an entire era of college basketball history is defined by its conclusion, and it serves as the marking point for where the modern era of the NCAA Tournament really begins.
But UCLA had never cut down the nets since Wooden’s departure. 1995 finally changed that. With Ed O’Bannon leading the way, the Bruins beat defending national champion Arkansas and UCLA was back atop the college basketball world.
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I suppose it’s debatable whether the New Jersey Devils are a dynasty, and they certainly weren’t perceived as such when the 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs began. But what’s indisputable is that the Devils were embarking on an era where they would become one of the NHL’s great franchises—over the next nine years they would make the Finals four times and hoist the Cup on three of those occasions.
The first one came in 1995 when they upset the Detroit Red Wings in a shocking Stanley Cup Finals. It was the last shocker in a postseason that began when the Western Conference saw three first-round series go to Game 7s, and two of the top three seeds eliminated in them.
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Finally, we come to the Atlanta Braves. Over the previous four years they had won two pennants, made three NLCS, and were in position to at least go back to the postseason in 1994 before the strike wiped out everything. In future years, they would continue to win NL East titles—every year through 2005—and win two more pennants.
But in only one of those years would they win a World Series and that was in 1995. Without this championship, Atlanta would have lived in sports infamy (I don’t condone that line of thinking, I’m merely acknowledging its reality). The Series they won in 1995 at least provided some inoculation against harsh judgment and validated their long dynastic run through the National League in general, and the Eastern Division in particular.
Atlanta’s World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians was cathartic for the franchise, but nothing was more cathartic for baseball fans—still wounded after the strike of 1994—then the excitement provided by the Seattle Mariners. The M’s staged a dramatic late-season comeback to win the AL West, and then one more dramatic comeback to upend the New York Yankees in a thrilling Division Series.
Read more about the 1995 Atlanta Braves
Read more about the 1995 Seattle Mariners