The Top 12 Cincinnati Sports Teams of The Last 25 Years
By: Tyler Dugan
Inspired by the editor in chief’s blog The 12 Days of Christmas: Cincinnati Sports Edition, I’m here to give you my own ’12 Days of Christmas’ blog five days before Christmas.
This time I’ll be giving you the 12 best Cincinnati sports teams of the last 25 years. I gave myself the perfect range, there is no team on this list that could have won a championship. The last Cincinnati title was the 1990 Redlegs. Obviously it has been tough stretch for Cincinnati sports for the last 25 years, so cut me some slack because this is slim pickens.
12. 2010 Cincinnati Reds
The team that shocked the world. No one really anticipated the Reds to be what they were that year. They had a young core with Votto, Bruce, Phillips, a young Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and a reliable Bronson Arroyo. The team was emerging, but wasn’t supposed to be this good quite yet. That didn’t turn out to be true.
The young Reds had that chip on the shoulder, they were mean, tough and good. Johnny Cueto cleated Jason Larue, and the rest of the Cardinals in that memorable brawl. Votto won MVP. Bruce walked off, and the Reds won the division. They would go on to get no hit by Doc Halladay, and annihilated by the Phils in the first round.
11. 1994 Cincinnati Reds
This team is often forgotten about. The ’94 Reds held the second best record in the National League, and were well on their way to the playoffs. Of course we come to find out that the season would be cancelled due to a strike by the players, and there would be no playoffs. The Reds were 66-48 when the season abruptly ended. Had players like Larkin, Rijo, Reggie Sanders, and of course Primetime himself Deion Sanders. Who knows folks, this could’ve been the year.
10. 2008 Xavier Musketeers
Yeah, this makes me want to puke, but its whatever. This team was loaded. Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender, Derrick Brown, CJ Anderson and Stanley Burrell. The Muskies were balanced. They were extremely well coached by a young Sean Miller. They went 30-7. They lost in the A10 finals. Then proceeded to make a run to the elite 8 where they would meet Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and the UCLA Bruins. They went on to lose by 20 that game, but overall a very successful season by the Muskies.
9. 1996 Cincinnati Bearcats basketball
Right in the prime of the Huggins era Bearcats. Huggins had himself a team. Danny Fortson, Darnell Burton and Damon Flint were a three-headed monster. The Cats went 28-5. They won Conference USA, and made it all the way to the Elite 8 where they would lose to Mississippi State. This team was a peak Huggins team. Mean as shit. Physical as hell. They just beat the hell out of you for 40 minutes, and they had a star in Danny Fortson to lead the group.
8. 1995 Cincinnati Reds
The ’95 Reds are another team that was completely forgotten about. They went 85-59 which was good enough to win the division. They had a superstar in Barry Larkin, quality hitters in Benito Santiago, Reggie Sanders and Bret Boone. Ace Pitcher Peter Schourek. They made it to the NLCS, where they would get swept by the Atlanta Braves. No Reds team since has made it to the NLCS.
7. 2004 Xavier Musketeers
When you ask Xavier fans who the best team in Xavier history is, you would often see the response of the 2004 Muskies. They were the closest team in Xavier history to make it to the coveted Final Four. Lionel Chalmers, Romain Sato, Dedrick Finn, Justin Cage and Justin Doleman.
Seeing those names again truly makes me want to puke on my screen. I HATED this team. Seeing Thad Matta’s ugly ass on the television screen was the worst. Is it just me or does he always have a zit on his nose? Is that just part of his nose? Thad was the WORST. They were good though. They made it all the way to the Elite 8 where they would lose in a heart breaker to JJ Reddick, Luol Deng and the Dukies.
6. 2009 Cincinnati Bearcats football
This is my favorite sports season as a fan. The amount of excitement surrounding that year was unreal. I will never in my life forget Armon Binns’ catch in the corner of the endzone in the shit hole they call Heinz field. That game was unforgettable. The Cats went 12-0 and made it as high as 3rd in the nation. If Nebraska didn’t botch the end of the Big 12 championship game that year, there was a real chance UC was going to be in the National Championship.
Instead, Texas won. UC went to the Sugar Bowl. Brian Kelly would leave for the Notre Dame job like 9 days before the game. UC had to play Tim Tebow in his last game. Oh, and Urban announced his first retirement before this game too. So, at the time it was Tebow and Urban’s last game, and UC just lost their Head Coach 9 days ago. They got crushed. It was ugly. But again, take any head coach off a team, and they struggle, take the head coach who also calls the plays off that team they really struggle. That last game did not indicate what that team was, Mardy Gilyard, Tony Pike, Armon Binns, Isiah Pead and DJ Woods. True GOATs.
5. 2012 Cincinnati Reds
The year Walt Jockety’s plan peaked. The stars were emerging into stars. Bruce, Phillips and Rolen had All Star years. Ryan Ludwick picked up the slack when Votto went out with injury. They had the best bullpen in baseball. Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Bailey and Leake were a top 5 rotation in baseball. The Reds were good. Very very good. They held the 2nd best record in baseball at the end of the year. They played the Giants in the first round of the playoffs.
Cueto went out in the first inning of game 1, the Reds would still win. They would go on to win game 2 as well. They needed to win 1 more game to advance to the NLCS. All the games were at home. You know the story. Bailey deals in game 3, but the Reds don’t hit. Rolen boots a ball in the 10th. Reds lose Game 3 1-0. Game 4 was a slaughter. Reds could not hit again. Reds lose game 4. Posey hits a grand slam in Game 5, and the Reds season went by by. 3 games, all at home, all lost. It was demoralizing. A great year that ended in such great disappointment. It has been down hill ever since.
4. 2015 Cincinnati Bengals
Talk about from one playoff collapse to another. Bengals started out the year 8-0, go on to win the division. Dalton gets hurt in one of the final remaining games. He misses the rest of the season including the playoff game. McCaron comes in and plays well. After a complete Jets collapse the Bengals land the Steelers in the first round.
You know the drill, Gio gets knocked out, Bengals come out fired up after that. Burfict sacks and injures Fat Ben, Green scores, Burfict picks off Landry Jones, Hill fumbles, Fat Ben returns (not being able to throw the ball ten yards), Bengals penalty the Steelers all the way down the field. Bengals lose. Poetic. I now am confused why I started this blog. 😦
3. 1992 Cincinnati Bearcats basketball
A very young Bob Huggins lead the Bearcats to one of the more memorable runs in Cincinnati sports history. The Cats went 29-5 and made it to the Final Four. The last Final Four in school history.
They were lead by star Nick Van Exel. They played Michigan in the 1992 Final Four. You may know that team, they were referred to as the ‘Fab Five’. UC had them on the ropes, leading them at half. They would go on to lose by 4. For some reason that is like not mentioned in the Fab Five 30 for 30, it really pisses me off.
2. 2000 Cincinnati Bearcats
You can often find a peak with most dynasties. This season was the peak of the Huggins era at UC. Cats spent most of the season ranked number 1, they finished the season with a 29-4 record. They were the best team in the country, all year long. They had a load of talent, future lottery pick Demarr Johnson, along with Kenny Satterfield, Steve Logan, Pete Mickeal and the best player in the country Kenyon Martin.
They were destined for a Final Four run until a brutal play. Kenyon Martin went to set a screen across the middle of the floor when legs collided during a first round game in the C-USA tourney, his knee shattered. He was done. The Bearcats could not regroup. It just wasn’t the fact that he broke his leg. It was the fact that he broke his leg one week before the tourney. They never recovered. They somehow got a 2 seed in the tournament even though they spent most of the year as the #1 team in the land. They lost to a Bill Self led Tulsa team in the second round.
1. 2005 Cincinnati Bengals
The hits just keep coming don’t they. Bengals went 11-5 in the regular season. Had one of the more high powered offenses in the league. Palmer, TJ, Chris Henry, Chad and Rudi. Their defense was top of the line. Odell Thurman, David Pollack, Deltha O’ Neal, Justin Smith and Brian Simmons.
The Bengals were real, and at the very least they had a helluva future to look forward to. That all changed when they played, you guessed it, Pittsburgh in the first round of the playoffs. Three plays in, Palmer drops back throws a bomb to Slim (RIP) ball is caught, stadium goes wild. No one noticed Kimo Von Oelhoffen rolled under Carson’s knee.
Next thing ya know, everyone notices is Palmer in the end zone rolling around in pain. I remember where I was when it happened. I was on my way to St. James to play a basketball game, when I heard on Dave Lapham on the radio say “Oh my God, they are bringing out the cart for Carson Palmer.” That moment I think I did throw up, I at least blacked out. Horrible. Bengals go on to lose, as crazy legs Kitna could not keep the fire going for that team.
The team later just began to collapse. Palmer was never the same. Odell Thurman couldn’t stop getting arrested, Pollack had a career ending neck injury, Chris Henry couldn’t stop getting arrested, then when he finally did stop, he tragically died. The wheels fell off of what looked like an unbelievable core. Damn that’s depressing. Still, the turn around of what was the most laughable franchise in sports was incredible that year.
So there it is, my best Cincinnati sports team of the last 25 years. Didn’t anticipate being as depressed by the end of it as I was. One day folks, one day. One day we will be on top again. Until then….. wish evil upon our enemies.