Top Professional Sports Teams

Top Professional Sports Teams in Michigan

Andy Brown
Published: Jun 21, 2023 Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Top Professional Sports Teams in Michigan

The Wolverine State is home to some of the most iconic franchises and has historic teams in all four major leagues in the US. These top professional sports teams in Michigan have all been champions in their respective sports. While most fans support the big franchises, there is also a large interest in college teams. They may not battle for a World Series or Super Bowl, but the leagues are still competitive. Lots of top athletes graduated from Michigan college teams, with Tom Brady and Magic Johnson being two of the most famous examples.

Major Sports Leagues

The top sports teams in Michigan are the Lions, the Tigers, the Red Wings, and the Pistons. They are all located in Detroit, the hotbed for sports teams in Michigan.

NFL – Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions were founded in 1928 and are one of the oldest franchises in the NFL. They have won 4 NFL Championships (precursors to the Super Bowl) and 4 Conference Championships. Originally called the Portsmouth Spartans, the team was located in Ohio until it moved to Detroit in 1934. It did not take long for the Lions to settle into their new home. In their second season, the team won the NFL Championship. The most successful period in the Lions’ history was in the 1950s when they won a further 3 NFL Championships and their only 4 Conference Championships.

MLB – Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers are also a historic team, dating back to 1894. The franchise has won the World Series 4 times. The last time they won the MLB championship was in 1984, and since then, the team has struggled to climb back to the top. In 2012, the team won the Central Division and went all the way to the World Series Finals but lost to the New York Giants.

Many famous players have donned the Detroit Tigers Old English D jerseys. These include Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Lou Whitaker, Al Kaline, and most recently, Justin Verlander.

NHL – Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings are the most successful of all the top sports teams in Michigan. It was formed in 1926 and is one of the Original Six teams in the NHL. It has won 11 Stanley Cups, 6 Conference Championships, and 19 Division Championships. The Red Wings dominated the NHL during the 1950s. The team’s key player, Gordie Howe, guided them to 4 Stanley Cups. The next great period in the Red Wings’ history started in the 90s and ended in the 2000s. Under team captain Steve Yzerman, the Red Wings won 3 more Stanley Cups and 12 Division Championships.

NBA – Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons was established in 1937 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In 1957, the franchise relocated to Detroit, where it has remained ever since. The team struggled for decades and never won any titles until 1988. With their key player, Isiah Thomas, the Pistons won its Conference Championship and only narrowly lost the NBA Finals. Made stronger by the loss, the Pistons went on to win back-to-back NBA Finals in 1989 and 1990. Their strong defensive style of play earned the Pistons the nickname The Bad Boys.

The Pistons also had success in the early 2000s, pushed by the Wallace duo, Ben and Rasheed. They won another NBA title in 2004, taking their championships tally to 3, but lost in the Finals the following year.

NCAA College Sports

Sports Teams in Michigan

The colleges in Michigan also boast a wealth of talented players. Most of these universities have athletics programs with varsity sports teams. The games at this level can be just as dramatic and competitive as the major leagues, and they can even bring in higher television viewerships than pro-level games. In 2022, Wolverines’ win against Ohio State was watched by over 17 million viewers.

Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State University has many sports teams, but the most famous is the State Spartans Basketball team. Its first success came in 1979 when a 20-year-old Magic Johnson took his team to the NCAA final and won. Since 1995, Tom Izzo is the head coach, and the Spartans have become a powerhouse. The team reached the Final Four on 8 different occasions with Izzo and won the NCAA Championships once. Draymond Green, Denzel Valentine, and Scott Skiles are also among the alumni who have played for the Spartans.

Michigan Wolverines

The University of Michigan boasts 29 varsity sports teams. They have won lots of Gymnastics, Ice Hockey, and Swimming trophies, but it is most famous for its football team. The Michigan Wolverines have the most wins in college football history.

Founded in 1879, the team has had many excellent players and coaches in its rich past. Bo Shembechler and Fielding H Yost are two of the team’s most successful coaches. Yost won 5 National Championships and 10 Conference Championships. Schembechler coached the Wolverines for 20 years and won 13 Conference Championships. A lot of top football players learned their trade here. These include Tom Brady, Steve Hutchinson, Charles Woodson, and Dan Dierdoff.


The Michigan Hall of Fame is full of athletes and coaches from the four major league teams. These legends all made contributions to Michigan’s sporting legacy. The recognition does not extend to those associated with the top four franchises either. Many Hall of Famers achieved success with Michigan’s college teams.

Though it has been some time since Michigan teams dominated any of the pro leagues, fans remain hopeful. The youth athletics program nurtures many talented players, and if more of them are drafted into the local teams, they may help recreate Michigan’s successes in the past.

Andy is a skilled recreational gambler for more than 11 years. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. Editor-In-Chief at
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