10 Longest Losing Streaks in NBA History

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The Philadelphia 76ers playing against the Washington Wizards in 2018.
(Wikimedia Commons/Keith Allison)
Anatoly Pimentel @AnatolyPimentel Oct 02, 2022, 8:36 PM
  • Here’s a list of the longest NBA regular season losing streaks.
  • The 76ers lead the list.

A losing streak in the NBA, particularly on this list, can be attributed to two reasons: a rebuilding team with young players and the departure of their superstar through trade or free agency.

Regardless of the reason, a prolonged drought is still an embarrassment to a franchise and a major blow to their NBA championship odds. The most recent losing streak recorded was the 20 straight losses of the Houston Rockets in the 2020-21 season after they traded away James Harden to Brooklyn.

But that 20-straight game loss of the Rockets is not the worst in history and tied for the 7th spot with two other teams. Here’s a list of the six most extended regular-season losing streaks by an NBA team.

Longest Losing Streaks in NBA History

RankTeamYear(s)Losing Streak
1Philadelphia 76ers201528 games
2Cleveland Cavaliers2010-201126 games
3Philadelphia 76ers201426 games
4Cleveland Cavaliers198224 games
5Charlotte Bobcats201223 games
6Denver Nuggets1997-199823 games
7Vancouver Grizzlies199623 games
8Detroit Pistons198021 games
9Dallas Mavericks199320 games
10Houston Rockets202120 games
T-10Los Angeles Clippers199420 games
T-10New York Knicks198520 games
T-10Philadelphia 76ers197320 games

Philadelphia 76ers – 28 Games

Before the start of the 2015-16 season, the Philadelphia 76ers lost their last ten games of that year, then at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, they lost their first 18 games, which accumulated the longest NBA losing streak of 28 games. 

Philadelphia, who were rebuilding at that time, finally got a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, 103-91, to snap the dry spell on December 1, 2015. However, they only managed to win ten games throughout that regular season and became the league’s worst team with 72 losses.

Cleveland Cavaliers – 26 Games

After LeBron James departed for his quest to win his first title, the Cleveland Cavaliers became an instant mediocre team in the 2010-11 season. This produced the second-longest NBA losing streak by a team with 26 straight losses. It began from December 2010 to February 9, 2011.

A victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on February 11, 2011, avoided an extended string of defeats, but still, they finished dead last in the Eastern Conference standings with 19 wins and 63 losses. Nonetheless, this forgettable year paved the way for them to draft Kyrie Irving as the top overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Philadelphia 76ers – 26 Games

Tied with the Cavaliers for the second-longest losing streak in NBA history with 26 straight losses is the Philadelphia 76ers. In the 2013-14 season, they never picked up a victory from January 29 to March 27, 2014.

A 25-point victory over the Detroit Pistons halted the skid on March 29, 2014, saving them from a further slide in the standings. Eventually, they ended the year with 19 wins and 63 losses, thus avoiding a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference as Milwaukee won 15 games of their own.

Cleveland Cavaliers – 24 Games

Before setting the franchise-worse losing streak in 2011, the Cavaliers experienced a 24-game losing streak spanning two seasons. They lost 19 straight games during the 1981-82 season, then opened the following season on a five-game skid which extended their win drought.

The Cavs finally ended the losing streak when they outlasted Golden State in their sixth game of the season with an overtime victory. 

Charlotte Bobcats – 23 Games 

A shortened regular season in 2011-12 due to a lockout saw the Charlotte Bobcats only win seven games in the regular season, including a 23-game losing streak which began from March 19 up to their last contest on April 26, 2014, against the New York Knicks.

The duo of Gerald Henderson and Corey Maggette was not enough to salvage their tanking season. Thus, Kemba Walker was just a rookie at that time and was freshly picked out of Connecticut as the number nine pick in the draft.

Denver Nuggets – 23 Games 

Joining Charlotte in the 23-game losing streak is the Denver Nuggets, who also had a similar drought in the 1997-98 season after failing to win a game from December 9, 1997, until January 23, 1998. The Nuggets also registered the lowest wins with only 11 victories and absorbed 71 losses.

Additionally, they were second to last in terms of offensive rating, last in defensive rating and last in the net rating, which ultimately caused the losing season and the worst record of an NBA team.

Vancouver Grizzlies – 23 Games  

Another team that experienced a 23-game skid is the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1995-96 season when they first joined the NBA as the latest expansion team. They had a tough first year in the league as they finished dead last in the overall regular-season standings with only 15 wins and 67 losses.

The pair of Greg Anthony and Bryant Reeves was the initial foundation of the franchise, but still not enough to impress in their maiden stint in the NBA. They started the losing streak on February 16, 1996, until April 2, 1996, before finally breaking it with a win over Minnesota on April 3, 1996.

Detroit Pistons – 21 Games  

Detroit’s franchise-worst record for the most consecutive losses was recorded across two seasons in 1979-80 and 1980-81. The team dropped the last 14 games of the 1979-80 season, beginning with a loss to the Knicks on March 8, 1980, until the end of the regular season against San Antonio on March 30, 1980.

This tough stretch carried over to the start of their new campaign in 1979-80 as they suffered seven more defeats at the hands of Washington, Indiana, New Jersey, Cleveland, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. The team finally picked up a win over the Houston Rockets on October 25, 1980, to stop the losing run.

Dallas Mavericks – 20 Games

Dallas had a rough opening season in 1993, as they only got one win in four games. It was only a prelude of what would unfold as the Mavs suffered their worst losing streak in team history when they went winless in 20 straight games.

The losing streak began during a loss to Utah in November 1993 and ended on December 22, 1993. Thankfully, they snapped the dry spell when they scored a close 93-89 win over Minnesota on December 23, 1993. 

Houston Rockets – 20 Games

Even before the 2020-21 season commenced, the media and the fans expected that the Houston Rockets would be a cellar-dweller team due to its rebuilding process and a tanking strategy to try and nab a top prospect in the draft. 

The young Rockets began their dismal play on February 6, 2021 when they absorbed a loss to the Spurs and it lasted until March 21, 2021, with a razor-thin loss to the Thunder, 112-114. They finally recorded a victory on March 22, 2021, after a lopsided win over the Toronto Raptors, 117-99.

Los Angeles Clippers – 20 Games

During the tail-end of the 1993-94 season, the Los Angeles Clippers lost its last four games to Golden State, Denver, Phoenix, and San Antonio to finish the year with a 27-55 record. Then, the following season, they had an awful start, dropping 16 straight games to drag their losing streak to 20 across two seasons.

They finally stopped this skid with a 96-94 overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on December 7, 1994; however, it was also a forgettable season because they were only able to tally 17 wins and suffered 65 losses which placed them dead last in the standings.

New York Knicks – 20 Games

Another NBA team who experienced a 20-game consecutive loss is the New York Knicks, who sustained this during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons. The struggle began in the latter stages of the season as they experienced 12 straight defeats and finished the season with a lowly 24-58 record.

Despite drafting Patrick Ewing in the NBA Draft, this dry spell carried on at the beginning of the 1985-86 season when they received eight more losses to kick off the year. It placed them on the wrong side of the history books by tying the 10th-longest losing streak in league history. 

Philadelphia 76ers – 20 Games

Joining the Clippers and the Knicks with 20 consecutive losses is the Philadelphia 76ers, who encountered the same fate during the 1972-73 season. Unlike the two teams mentioned above, the Sixers suffered this unfortunate stretch in only one season. This started with a blowout loss to the Chicago Bulls on January 9, 1973.

It lasted for over a month when the Clippers handed them a 108-90 beating on February 11, 1973. Fortunately, they broke the losing skid by eking out a close win over the Bucks on February 14, 1973. But that season, they only managed to win nine games throughout the season, setting a record for the worst record in NBA history.

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About the Author

Anatoly Pimentel

Read More @AnatolyPimentel

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with B.A in Communication and is currently a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.

Anatoly Pimentel is an NBA and MMA writer previously featured in ASEAN Sports, Asian Persuasion MMA, and Overtime Heroics MMA. He graduated from Adamson University with B.A in Communication and is currently a Web Content Writer for BetMGM.