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Could Lightning join short list of recent history’s three-peaters?

In the last 50 years, only 11 teams in major college/pro sports have won 3 titles in a row.
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with Anthony Cirelli (71), left, and Steven Stamkos (91) after beating Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) for a game-tying goal in Game 6 of the teams' first-round playoff series. Tampa Bay, seeking its third consecutive Stanley Cup, topped Toronto in seven games.
Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates with Anthony Cirelli (71), left, and Steven Stamkos (91) after beating Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) for a game-tying goal in Game 6 of the teams' first-round playoff series. Tampa Bay, seeking its third consecutive Stanley Cup, topped Toronto in seven games. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 18|Updated May 18

TAMPA — The grind is still just getting started. In mid-May, with only one tense, taxing playoff series in the books, any excessive talk of a Lightning three-peat remains premature.

But at this juncture, the possibility of achieving the rare feat at least can be acknowledged.

Only 11 teams in what is considered major-college and pro sports — NFL, NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, college football, college basketball — have pulled off a three-peat or better in the last 50 years. The Lightning are trying to crack the elite pantheon of Jeter’s Yankees, Jordan’s Bulls and Geno’s Huskies.

In some circles, that’s called immortality.

Here’s a look at the 11 three-peat-or-more teams of the last half-century:

UCLA men’s basketball

UCLA coach John Wooden, right, celebrates with players (from left) Mike Lynn, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren and Lew Alcindor after the Bruins beat North Carolina, 78-55, to win the 1968 NCAA championship final. The championship was the Bruins' second of seven consecutive titles from 1967-1973.
UCLA coach John Wooden, right, celebrates with players (from left) Mike Lynn, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren and Lew Alcindor after the Bruins beat North Carolina, 78-55, to win the 1968 NCAA championship final. The championship was the Bruins' second of seven consecutive titles from 1967-1973. [ ASSOCIATED PRESS ]

Seven consecutive national titles (1967-73)

Technically, this untouchable streak precedes the past half-century, but we’re including it because it ended 49 years ago. The West Coast dynasty built by John Wooden never will be matched; college sports’ current parameters (or lack thereof) aren’t conducive to roster stability, and patience is at a premium. UCLA didn’t even reach a Final Four until Wooden’s 14th season.

Oakland A’s

Gene Tenace, right, leaps into the air and embraces reliever Rollie Fingers as catcher Ray Fosse, left, comes in to join the jubilation after Oakland's 3-2 win against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series. The triumph gave Oakland its third consecutive world title.
Gene Tenace, right, leaps into the air and embraces reliever Rollie Fingers as catcher Ray Fosse, left, comes in to join the jubilation after Oakland's 3-2 win against the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1974 World Series. The triumph gave Oakland its third consecutive world title. [ ANONYMOUS | AP ]

Three consecutive World Series titles (1972-74)

A generation before the A’s of general manager Billy Beane thrust sabermetrics into the mainstream, Oakland had an eccentric owner, Charlie Finley; sterling defense; a slugger or two; and the best pitching in baseball. The A’s totaled 16 runs in topping the Reds in seven games in 1972 and needed only 21 to top the Mets in seven games the following season. Three members of the dynasty — Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Rollie Fingers — are in the Hall of Fame. So is Dick Williams, the manager in 1972 and 1973.

Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens bench celebrates as its team defeats the New York Rangers, 4-1, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final to win the franchise's fourth consecutive Cup on May 22, 1979. From left are Yvon Lambert, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay, Pierre Mondou and Guy Lafleur.
The Montreal Canadiens bench celebrates as its team defeats the New York Rangers, 4-1, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final to win the franchise's fourth consecutive Cup on May 22, 1979. From left are Yvon Lambert, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay, Pierre Mondou and Guy Lafleur. [ ASSOCIATED PRESS ]

Four consecutive Stanley Cups (1976-79)

The Canadiens of the polyester era remain arguably the most complete team in NHL history. Every nook of the roster featured a Hall of Famer: the bench (coach Scotty Bowman), the wings (Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt), the net (Ken Dryden). The 1976-77 team posted the NHL’s best regular season ever (60-8-12 in wins-losses-ties) to that point, outscoring its opposition by 216 goals.

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New York Islanders

New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin (5) reaches out to touch the Stanley Cup trophy as teammate Brian Trottier, right, looks on after the Islanders topped the Flyers, 5-4, in overtime in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup final. The victory clinched the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups for New York.
New York Islanders captain Denis Potvin (5) reaches out to touch the Stanley Cup trophy as teammate Brian Trottier, right, looks on after the Islanders topped the Flyers, 5-4, in overtime in Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup final. The victory clinched the first of four consecutive Stanley Cups for New York. [ RICHARD DREW | AP ]

Four consecutive Stanley Cups (1980-83)

An unassuming ensemble led by sniper Mike Bossy (who scored 50 goals in as many games in 1981), the Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series, a record unapproached since. Seven members of the group are in the Hall of Fame.

Chicago Bulls

Michael Jordan celebrates after the Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns, 99-98, in Game 6 to win their third consecutive NBA title on June 20, 1993. Behind Jordan, Chicago would win three consecutive titles again from 1996-1998.
Michael Jordan celebrates after the Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns, 99-98, in Game 6 to win their third consecutive NBA title on June 20, 1993. Behind Jordan, Chicago would win three consecutive titles again from 1996-1998. [ JOHN SWART | AP ]

Three consecutive NBA titles (1991-93)

Three more NBA titles (1996-98)

The first phase of the Bulls dynasty featured Michael Jordan in his prime. His Airness was named league and NBA Finals MVP in 1991 and ‘92, when Chicago won 61 and 67 regular-season games, respectively. Physically taxed by consecutive extended seasons and the 1992 Olympics, Jordan still averaged 41 points in the 1993 Finals against the Suns, winning his third Finals MVP honor.

After nearly a two-year basketball hiatus, during which he pursued a pro baseball career, Jordan found his groove again in short order. When rebounder extraordinaire Dennis Rodman also came on board in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls established what was then the best regular-season record (72-10) in NBA history. Two seasons later, the Bulls dynasty bowed out gloriously, with Jordan juking Utah guard Byron Russell with a crossover dribble and nailing a winning jumper at the top of the key to clinch an 87-86 win in Game 6 of the Finals, capturing the franchise’s sixth NBA crown in eight seasons.

Tennessee women’s basketball

Former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight national titles, including three in a row from 1996-1998.
Former University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight national titles, including three in a row from 1996-1998.

Three consecutive national titles (1996-98)

Pat Summitt’s program already owned three national titles when 6-foot-2 prep sensation Chamique Holdsclaw arrived in 1995. Behind the New York native and a glistening supporting cast, the Lady Vols won national titles in each of Holdsclaw’s first three years, capped by the school’s first perfect season (39-0) in 1997-98. Injuries thwarted the chance at a four-peat the following season.

New York Yankees

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was a cornerstone of the franchise when it won three consecutive World Series titles from 1998-2000.
Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was a cornerstone of the franchise when it won three consecutive World Series titles from 1998-2000. [ BILL KOSTROUN | Associated Press (2001) ]

Three consecutive World Series titles (1998-2000)

Nearly 40 years after the Bronx Bombers’ mythical run through the 1950s and early ‘60s (eight titles in 13 years), their dynasty was resuscitated. Joe Torre, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte served as the cornerstones this time around. The 1998 club (114-48), which swept the Padres in the World Series, still is regarded as one of the best ever.

Los Angeles Lakers

Shaquille O'Neal (left) and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002.
Shaquille O'Neal (left) and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002. [ KEVORK DJANSEZIAN | AP ]

Three consecutive NBA titles (2000-02)

More than a decade after the Laker dynasty known as “Showtime” concluded, the franchise was rebooted by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and coach Phil Jackson. Bryant earned the first of nine All-NBA Defensive first-team honors in 2002 as Los Angeles won 67 games. The following year, he and O’Neal both averaged more than 28 points as the Lakers lost only one playoff contest. In 2002, O’Neal won his third consecutive Finals MVP honor as the Lakers swept the Nets.

Connecticut women’s basketball

Six-foot-4 sensation Breanna Stewart (left) helped lead Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma to four consecutive national titles from 2013-16).
Six-foot-4 sensation Breanna Stewart (left) helped lead Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma to four consecutive national titles from 2013-16).

Three consecutive national titles (2002-04)

Four consecutive national titles (2013-16)

The Huskies already had won a pair of national titles (1995, 2000) when Naismith National High School Player of the Year Diana Taurasi arrived in 2001. The final ingredient Coach Geno Auriemma needed for an already-formidable lineup, Taurasi led UConn to a 39-0 mark and national title by her second season in 2002, and ultimately helped UConn win 70 consecutive games.

The program’s four-peat a decade later was sparked by the arrival of another national player of the year, Breanna Stewart. Led by the 6-foot-4 matchup nightmare, UConn posted two undefeated seasons during Stewart’s four years, never lost an American Athletic Conference game and accounted for the bulk of an NCAA-record 111-game win streak.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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