Three-peat is a portmanteau of the words "three" and "repeat", which has been trademarked for commercial use by basketball coach Pat Riley. It is used either as a verb or noun used in American sports to refer to winning a third championship in a row.

Origin and trademark

In a comedic context, the same play on words, additionally incorporating the name "Pete", is known to have been used as early as 1930 on the radio program "Empire Builders". The episode of that program broadcast on December 29, 1930, featured a trio of singers dubbed "The Three Visiting Firemen: Pete, Re-Pete, and Three-Pete". []

The OED credits an Illinois high school senior, Sharif Ford, with the earliest published use of the word in the March 8, 1989 edition of the St. Louis "Post-Dispatch". Ford's quote uses the term in a sporting context and serves to provide a clear etymology as well:

The Lincoln High Tigers say they want to "three-peat". "You know, kind of like repeat, except doing it for the third time," senior Sharif Ford said.
However, Riles & Co., the corporate entity of National Basketball Association (NBA) coach Pat Riley, submitted in November 1988 a trademark application for the use of "three-peat" on shirts, jackets and hats. At the time, the phrase was being used by members and fans of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team, of whom Riley was the head coach, regarding the Lakers' quest that season to obtain what would have been a third successive NBA championship. According to Riley, it was Laker player Byron Scott who coined the term in reference to the team's goal for that season.

In 1989, Riles & Co. successfully registered the trademark under U.S. Registration Number 1552980. The Lakers did not win a third consecutive NBA championship in 1989, but the Chicago Bulls did in 1993, and Riles & Co. collected royalties from sports apparel makers who licensed the phrase for use on merchandise commemorating that accomplishment.

Riles & Co. subsequently obtained additional registrations expanding the trademark to cover many other kinds of merchandise in addition to apparel. The company then went on to reap additional profits by again licensing the phrase to merchandisers when the Bulls again won three consecutive NBA championships from 1996 through 1998, as well as when the New York Yankees won three straight World Series championships from 1998 through 2000 and when the Lakers won three straight NBA championships from 2000 through 2002.

The trademark registration for "three-peat" has been challenged over the years by those who argue that the term has become too generic in its usage for the trademark to continue to be applicable. However, such arguments have yet to succeed, with the registration continuing to be upheld by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as recently as 2001, in the case of Christopher Wade v. Riles & Co.

In 2005, a group of individuals attempted to trademark the phrase "Three-Pete" in anticipation of the (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt that year by the University of Southern California (U.S.C.) football team to win a third consecutive national championship. The change in spelling was a reference to the team's head coach, Pete Carroll. However, the Patent Office ruled that the change in spelling was not dissimilar enough from Riles & Co.'s "three-peat", and denied the registration. Later that year, U.S.C. fan Kyle Bunch began selling his own "Three-Pete" t-shirts. He discontinued sales once he was notified that he was infringing upon the Riles & Co. trademark.

As of late 2007, the trademark "Three Peat" is still active for shirts, jackets, caps, etc, and for commemorative mugs, plates, etc, and also for posters, bumper sticker, etc. The similar "3 Peat" is a trademark for blankets and other bedding. Some of the Riles & Co. trademarks are no longer in effect, e.g. keychains.

Occurrences of three-peats

There have been numerous instances of teams winning three or more consecutive championships in the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, most of which occurred prior to the advent of the term "three-peat".

However, in the National Football League (NFL), a Super Bowl championship three-peat has never been accomplished. Two-time defending Super Bowl champions who failed to three-peat include the Green Bay Packers (1968), Miami Dolphins (1974), Pittsburgh Steelers (twice: 1976, 1980), San Francisco 49ers (1990), Dallas Cowboys (1994), Denver Broncos (1999), and New England Patriots (2005). None of these teams returned to the title game in the third season (indicated in parentheses).

In the early years of the NFL, decades before the introduction of either the term "three-peat" or the Super Bowl, the Packers won three consecutive NFL titles from 1929-31. This was achieved without playing any postseason playoff games, as the league title was determined at that time from the season standings. In addition, the Packers won the NFL championship in 1965, at a time when the rival NFL and AFL played separate exclusive championships. They then followed that 1965 championship with their first two Super Bowl victories in 1966 and 1967, thereby winning championships three years in a row.

It is well-noted that there has never been a three-peat winner of the Indianapolis 500 nor the Daytona 500.

The Appalachian State University Mountaineers, located in Boone North Carolina, won three consecutive FCS National Championship Titles(Formerly known as NCAA I - AA) in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in Chattanooga Tennessee. This is the only three-peat achieved in this division.

The first song on Lil Wayne's album "Tha Carter III" is titled "3 Peat", referring to Lil Wayne's championship winnings with Tha Carter trilogy.

Related terms

There have been efforts to come up with a similarly clever name for the potential fourth consecutive championship in the year following a three-peat. But attempts such as "quat-row" have thus far failed to catch on, and most fans simply use the term "four-peat". Since the term "three-peat" came into usage, however, no team in major American sports has managed to achieve a fourth consecutive championship.

Outside North America, the term "three-peat" is rarely encountered. The wordplay of "three-peat" is clearer if "repeat" is stressed on the first syllable; this pronunciation is uncommon outside North America. Other English-speaking peoples may instead talk of a hat trick of championships, or simply a three-in-a-row.

There are also terms for winning three different trophies in the same season:
*Triple Crown - various sports
*The Treble - football
*Grand slam - Philippine Basketball Association

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • three|peat — «threepeet», noun Informal a third championship or victory in a row: »soccer champions hoping for a threepeat; Term limits preclude a threepeat in the mayor s office. ╂[< three + (re)peat] …   Useful english dictionary

  • three-peat — noun Etymology: blend of three and repeat Date: 1988 a third consecutive championship • three peat intransitive verb …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • three-peat — /three peet, three peet / 1. Trademark. a third consecutive victory, as in a major sports championship. v.i. 2. to win a third consecutive victory. [1985 90, Amer.; THREE + (RE)PEAT] * * * …   Universalium

  • three-peat — [[t]ˈθri pit, θriˈpit[/t]] 1) cvb trm a third consecutive victory, as in a major sports championship 2) cvb to win a third consecutive victory • Etymology: 1985–90, amer.; three+(re)peat …   From formal English to slang

  • three-peat — 1. verb To win somethings three times consecutively. 2. noun A third successive win. See Also: hat trick …   Wiktionary

  • three-peat — ˈthrēˌpēt noun ( s) Etymology: blend of three (I) and repeat (II) : a third consecutive championship …   Useful english dictionary

  • three-peat N. Amer. — three peat N. Amer. informal verb win a particular sporting championship three times. noun a third win, especially the third of three consecutive wins. Origin 1980s: from three + repeat …   English new terms dictionary

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