Florida teams have had a mixed bag of success over the years. The leading franchise is the Heat, who have appeared in six NBA Championships, winning three. However, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Buccaneers leading the way, 2020 was the most dominant year for professional sports in Florida history.
Florida Sports History at a Glance
Florida does not have a long history in professional sports. Aside from the NFL, where the Miami Dolphins joined the league in 1966 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were added in ’76, the state was not represented in any other sport until 1988 when the Miami Heat joined the NBA.
The next year the Orlando Magic joined the NBA as well. In ’92, Florida got its first professional hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. In ’93, the Florida Panthers were added to the NHL, the Jacksonville Jaguars joined the NFL, and the Florida Marlins became the first Florida team in MLB.
In 1996, MLS got going, and the Tampa Bay Mutiny was one of the original teams, with the Miami Fusion joining the following year. In ’98, the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays joined MLB. Unfortunately, the MLS teams would both fold after 2001 but were later replaced with Orlando City SC in ’13 and Inter Miami in ’18.
Heading into 2020, these 13 teams had accounted for nine championships. The Dolphins brought the first hardware to Florida. After losing the Super Bowl following the ’71 season, they won back-to-back in ’72 (the perfect season) and ’73.
The Florida Marlins became the quickest team to bring home a championship, winning it all in their fifth season, then again in 2003.
Just before the Marlins’ second World Series win, the Buccaneers won their first Super Bowl, and, just afterward, the Lightning won the state’s first Stanley Cup.
Then the Heat won the first NBA Championship for Florida in ’06 and followed it up with wins in ’12 and ’13. That win in 2013 would be the last time Florida found itself at the top of any sport until 2020.
Florida Sports in 2020
2020 was a tough year around the country. Fortunately, for Florida sports fans, there was some joy to be had.
After a pause in the NHL, NBA, and MLS season and a delay to the start of play for MLB, for the first time, all five major sports leagues were playing at the same time when the NFL kicked off its season in September.
On September 28th, the year’s first season champion would be crowned with the Lightning defeating the Dallas Stars for a 4-2 series win. The Stanley Cup was heading to Florida. A couple of weeks later, the Heat had a chance to double down for Florida. However, the Lakers had other ideas, and Miami lost the NBA Championship in six games.
Shortly after that, Florida had another shot at glory with the Rays facing off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Once again, L.A. would win this battle, though, delivering the knockout blow in game six.
The only championship in which Florida did not make an appearance was MLS Cup.
Following the 2020 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first team in history to win a Super Bowl at home.
Florida teams performed at an unreal level in 2020. Even most of the teams that didn’t make it to the finals had pretty good seasons.
The Marlins made it to the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
The Magic made the playoffs, but they failed to advance beyond the round of 16.
Likewise, the Panthers made a playoff appearance but dropped in the round of 16.
While missing the final, both MLS teams did make the playoffs. Orlando dropped in the quarterfinals, while Miami lost in the play-in round.
The Dolphins fell just short of the playoffs as the odd team out at 10-6. The only Florida team that had a truly bad 2020 was the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a club worst 1-15 season, they did manage to win one thing, though: The first spot in the draft.
Will 2021 be even brighter for Florida sports? The chances of a five sport sweep are always slim, but this state might have the right teams at the right time.
Follow along all year and find out pregame odds.