Small Market Frustration with NBA Collaboration
Good Evening fellow sports fans! I am the artist formerly known as @&!$%*( aka Anthony Weigel and I am one of the new NBA contributors here TJRSports! I cannot tell you how blessed and excited I am for this opportunity. A little bit about myself. I am a 27 years old living in UT country, Austin, TX. I married my beautiful wife Kelly in March and we are expecting our first baby in December! I am born and raised in Minnesota so naturally, I root for most Minnesota teams, including the Timberwolves. Growing up, I fell in love with the Pacers because of Reggie Miller and the Raptors when Vince Carter played up there. Now, onto the show
As a frequent listener to ESPN radio on my way to work, I have become a fan of Colin Cowherd. I enjoy his honest approach to sports and his ability to use the world of business as to why players make the decisions they do. Recently, he had a discussion on why NBA fans get so frustrated and outraged when NBA players collaborate (LeBron, Bosh, Wade) as a prime example. His basic point was that these NBA players want to play in the huge markets (Miami, New York, Los Angeles) because A) it’s easier to attract free agents and B) the lifestyle in these cities is a lot better for these star players. His other point was that he didn’t understand why fans get so frustrated with professional players doing this, when college players do this yearly. Every year in college, the same teams (North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, Syracuse, Michigan State) are always attracting the best players to literally make college all-star teams. No one ever complains when colleges do this so why do we care when NBA players do?
In all honesty, I agree with him on all of these points as to why players go to these larger markets. As someone who comes from what would be considered a “medium market” (Minnesota), I want to answer his question as to why fans get frustrated with this type of collaboration.
The ten biggest US metro areas (don’t hate me for not mentioning Toronto John) by population is: New York, LA, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Miami, Atlanta and Boston. Of the 32 NBA teams, 38% (12) of the NBA teams are located in these 10 metro areas. Over HALF of these teams are not located in what we would classify as a “large market”. Also, in a lot of these cases, there are multiple teams with which to root for in the same state. New York has 2 teams with split fans, Texas has 3 NBA teams so fans could be split three ways via geographic area.
Now, let’s look at these small/medium market NBA teams and see the geographic area these fans cover. I will use the Minnesota Timberwolves as an example. Now, they have been terrible for a long time but, they are the only NBA team in Minnesota. FSN North, who televises a large portion of these games, is received in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa (I won’t include Wisconsin because they have the Milwaukee Bucks). The total population of those 4 states is just under 10,000,000 people. Now, I know that is half the size of New York but it illustrates the point I am trying to make. Millions and millions of people support these smaller market teams.
Let’s look at the NBA champions from 2000-2013: LA, San Antonio, Detroit, Miami, Boston and Dallas. That is 6 teams in 13 years and 4 of those 6 are considered are in that top 10 metro population list above. Now, I am not knocking tremendous organizations that produce consistent winners. This shows that the NBA championship has frankly been confined to six different cities for the last 13 years! That is 6 different fan bases being able to say “my team is the best” while 26 fan bases having that ecstasy and yearning build year after year.
My answer to Colin’s question is two-fold: the fan bases in these smaller markets want to win just as badly, if not more so than these bigger market teams. There are a few reasons for this assertion. First, these fan bases have either never tasted championship glory or have been waiting for another for a very long time. Let’s take 10 smaller market teams as a sample: Minnesota, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Indiana, Orlando, San Antonio, Charlotte/New Orleans, Detroit and Seattle/Oklahoma City and Portland. Since 1980, these teams combined have made 18 NBA finals appearances out of a possible 66 (33*2) and won 7 of those. 7 teams have actually tasted the finals (San Antonio 5 times, Detroit 5, Seattle/OKC 2, Orlando 2, Portland 2, Indiana 1 and Cleveland 1). Roughly, only 1/3 of those 18 small/medium market teams have even been to the finals and only 2 have won them in the last 33 years. Besides Detroit and San Antonio, the last smaller market team to win the NBA championship would be the 1978-79 Seattle Supersonics.
I’ve thrown a lot of statistics at you to illustrate my point. The other reason why we, as fans, get frustrated is because we get attached to great players. They grow into our favorite players and become so much larger than life that we name our pets and sometimes our children after them. (As a Vikings fan, have I suggested the name Adrian to my wife if our child is a boy?? Hint: yes) However, in the NBA, all the great players seem to end up in those large markets, one way or another. Why? The money is better, the marketing opportunities are better, the party life is better, etc. There is nothing more disheartening as a die-hard fan of a team than drafting a guy like LeBron James, knowing that if you’re lucky, you have 7 years before he leaves. Why would he leave? LeBron gets told you can’t be marketed nearly as much if you play in Cleveland, but Miami or LA, your financial opportunities are endless! What even more frustrating is when a player (like Kevin Garnett) gives 11 years to a team and starts aging, we are told that trading our stars is THE RIGHT THING to do to give them a chance at a championship.
This, Colin, is why smaller market fans are cynical and frustrated. We have a revolving door of superstar players, can’t attract other superstars to replace the ones we lose and feel like we get our hearts broken every decade because we don’t feel like we get a chance to win. There are exceptions but for most of us, we will always be left wanting.
Please don't hesitate to leave comments with ideas for me to write in the future. I have some ideas for future columns but if people have a specific topic they want to discuss, I am more than willing to chime in the conversation. Thanks for reading y'all!