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Best and Worst Pro Sports Cities - Part I (1970-2014)

February 2, 2015

With the Patriots Superbowl title, Boston's four major teams have now won nine championships in the last 13 years. More remarkable is the fact that all four teams won in a six year span between 2005 and 2011. No other city comes close to matching this feat. All four Philadelphia pro teams won titles between 1960 and 1980. New York City (seven teams) won in each of the four major sports between 1973 and 1994. The Los Angeles area had championships in all four major sports between 1984 and 2007. Chicago won in the four majors between 1986 and 2010 (no thanks to the Cubs). Detroit's shortest four-sport run was 44 years (Red Wings in 1955 to Pistons in 1989). None of the other four sport cities (Dallas, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Washington) have won in all sports. Atlanta was a four sport city until recently.

The Patriots won Boston's 36th pro title in the four major sports. The breakdown is as follows: Celtics (17), Red Sox (8), Bruins (6), Patriots (4) and Boston Braves (1). Amazingly enough, the Patriots had owned the longest drought among the local teams. It must also be noted that Boston is a freak helmet catch and a Kendrick Perkins knee injury away from having ten titles since January 2002. Does this make Boston the best sports city in America? Right now, the answer is an obvious Yes. But does that hold up over a longer period of time? I looked to the data to find out.

To rank the pro sports cities, I simply counted the number of championships won since 1970 and divided by the number of completed seasons for all of that city's pro teams. For example, Boston has won 16 championships since January 1970 while playing 179 total seasons (44 for the Sox, 46 for the Pats, 45 for the Celtics and 44 for the Bruins). I divide 16 by 179 to get Boston's championship percentage of 8.9%. In other words, the Boston teams won the championship in 8.9% of the seasons in which they have participated. The average number of teams in the four major pro sports during that time is about 26 which makes the average championship rate about 3.8%. I chose 1970 as a starting point because the late 60s and early 70s began the rapid expansion era in the major sports. It's difficult to compare championships of today to championships of earlier decades because there were a lot fewer teams competing for the title. In 1950 there were 16 major league baseball teams, 13 NFL teams, 17 NBA teams and 6 NHL teams. By 1970, major baseball and the NFL had 24 and 26 teams, respectively. The NBA was at 22 teams by 1976-77 and the NHL expanded to 18 teams in 1975-76. Today, each league has 30 to 32 teams.

I had to make some judgement calls about which teams were part of each city. Obviously, the Patriots are a Boston team even though they are called the New England Patriots and play in the suburbs. For New York City, I did not include the Islanders, Devils or Nets when they played in New Jersey but I did include the Jets and Giants. I combined the teams that play in Anaheim with the Los Angeles teams. I didn't combine Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose though it might have been reasonable to group the Bay Area teams. Green Bay and the Milwaukee teams were not combined. Most Milwaukee people root for the Packers, but Green Bay's fan base includes many in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where fans might root for the Tigers and Red Wings.

I included most of the current two-sport cities. Keep in mind that all pro teams since 1970 are included for the city in which they played. For example, the Buffalo Braves, Kansas City Kings and San Diego Clippers. I pulled this data from a few different sources so feel free to report any errors. I don't want to short change anyone.

Numerically-speaking, Boston is the best sports town of the past four decades. Thanks to the Giants third title in five years (49ers have won five), San Francisco moved into second place. Pittsburgh finished third. The Steelers have won more Superbowls than any other NFL team, the Penguins have been highly successful over the past twenty years, winning three Cups, and the Pirates won the World Series in the early and late portions of the 1970s. Cleveland is no doubt the worst sports city of the past forty years. Since the Cleveland Browns won the 1964 NFL championship, Cleveland teams have completed 146 seasons without a title. With LeBron back in the fold, that could change. Here are the numbers:

Top Sports Cities since 1970 (minimum 70 seasons played)

Rank City # Titles # Seasons Title Pct
1 Boston 16 179 8.9%
2 San Francisco 8 92 8.7%
3 Pittsburgh 11 134 8.2%
4 Los Angeles/Anaheim 18 266 6.8%
5 Miami 7 113 6.2%
6 Baltimore 5 81 6.2%
7 New York City 15 271 5.5%
8 Oakland 7 129 5.4%
9 Dallas 7 142 4.9%
10 Chicago 10 223 4.5%
11 Detroit 8 179 4.5%
12 St. Louis 4 126 3.2%
13 Denver 4 125 3.2%
14 Cincinnati 3 93 3.2%
15 Washington 4 138 2.9%
16 Philadelphia 5 179 2.8%
17 Tampa Bay 2 77 2.6%
18 Kansas City 2 105 1.9%
19 Seattle 2 115 1.7%
20 Houston 2 128 1.6%
21 Minnesota 2 152 1.3%
22 Indianapolis 1 76 1.3%
23 Milwaukee 1 89 1.1%
24 Phoenix 1 106 0.9%
25 Atlanta 1 154 0.6%
26 Buffalo 0 97 0.0%
27 San Diego 0 98 0.0%
28 Cleveland 0 136 0.0%

New York has won more total championships (not only 1970 to present) than any other city. Eight different teams (Yankees, Mets, NY Baseball Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, NY Football Giants, Jets, Rangers and Knicks) have combined for 50 championships over the years. Boston is second with 36 titles, including one World Series victory from the Boston Braves.

Total Championships by City (minimum five)

Rank City # Titles Last Title Best Team (titles)
1 New York/Brooklyn 50 2012 Yankees (27)
2 Boston 36 2015 Celtics (17)
3 Chicago 27 2013 Bears (8)
4 Los Angeles/Anaheim 23 2014 Lakers (11)
5 Detroit 22 2008 Red Wings (11)
6 Philadelphia 16 2008 Atheltics (5)
7 Pittsburgh 14 2009 Steelers (6)
8 Green Bay 13 2011 Packers (13)
  St. Louis 13 2011 Cardinals (11)
10 Baltimore 9 2013 Colts, Orioles (3)
11 Cleveland 8 1964 Browns (4)
  Dallas 8 2011 Cowboys (5)
  San Francisco 8 2014 49ers (5)
14 Miami 7 2013 Heat (3)
  Minneapolis 7 1991 Lakers (5)
  Oakland 7 1989 Athletics (4)
  Washington 7 1991 Redskins (5)
18 Cincinnati 5 1991 Reds (5)

In Part II of my Best Pro Sports City analysis, I looked at all "final four" finishes since 2000. Click HERE for Part II.





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