The other day I saw a tweet about Shaquille O’Neal congratulating Kobe Bryant in 2009 after the Shaq-less Lakers won a title. Thought that was cool, since the Penguins also won a championship in 2009. Then, I remembered that Pittsburgh’s first two titles in 1991 and 1992 lined up perfectly with Michael Jordan’s first two NBA titles.
An idea was born. Who were the top teams in the same years that the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. Let’s take a look,
2009 stands out as a truly iconic year of champions. The Lakers took the title in a win for the NBA’s most glamorous franchise. For better or worse when you think about baseball’s marquee team, that’s the NY Yankees, who also got to the top of their mountain with Derek Jeter. Barcelona and Lionel Messi won the Champions League to join Sidney Crosby as another iconic 2009 champion in a year chalk full of them.
Most relevantly for this audience, 2009 was also extremely special to create another “City of Champ-yinz” that saw the Pens and Steelers capture two titles for Pittsburgh within a few months of each other. Both had thrilling and dramatic finishes coming from Santinio Holmes’ wonderful touchdown catch and Marc-Andre Fleury stopping Nick Lidstrom at the last second. Those would be special moments in any context, but the timing made it even more thrilling to witness.
If the Penguins win, chances are it’s time to Roll Tide with Alabama in college football. (Then again, even if the Pens aren’t capturing titles, Alabama is a strong bet). The Tide nearly won it all in 2016 too, falling just short to Clemson in the playoffs.
Recent NFL Super Bowl winners in the same years as the Pens have been notable. Peyton Manning helped lead the Broncos to win Super Bowl 50 in 2016 for would be his final game played. The following year, Tom Brady broke Manning’s record as the oldest Super Bowl winning QB in Super Bowl 51 - the infamous game where the Patriots came back from a 28-3 deficit to defeat the Atlanta Falcons. Infamy was a common theme in 2017 in general, with the Astros taking a World Series title that was somewhat marred later by cheating allegations.
Even though I don’t follow basketball so closely, the Pens’ titles aligned with some historic NBA years. Title winners at the same time as the Pens make for a who’s who of the last 30 years of the sport: Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, Steph. The 2016 final saw the very rare for NBA 3-games-to-1 comeback fueled largely by LeBron too. The star is also an investor is FSG for another Penguin tie.
For the miscellaneous column, I grabbed some ones that stood out for fun. Dale Earnhardt won the 1991 Winston Cup. Not much is more iconic than Ric Flair going the distance in the 1992 Royal Rumble (wooo!) in what seemed like some fitting 1990’s names to include. Usain Bolt continued to thrill and put his name in the record books at the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2017 was right in the middle of Lewis Hamilton’s dominant stretch of seven F1 championships.
Which year and fellow champions with the Pens are your favorites? Did we miss anything from other sports like golf or tennis that you also associate with the Penguins as champs at the same time?