Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now



Forget Baseball, The NBA Is The Least Competitive Professional League 3

Posted on April 14, 2010 by John Wingspread Howell

The uneven distribution of talent is structural. Can you spell LOTTERY?

The NBA lottery has not dispersed success the way people originally expected.

The NBA lottery has not dispersed success the way people originally expected.

You can blame Patrick Ewing for the mess in the NBA.

Is there a mess? Don’t you “love this game?” Aren’t the games better attended, the media exposure better than ever, the league’s popularity and fan base broader than ever?  Perhaps, but it won’t last. One of these days fans in 24 cities will wake up and realize the fix is in. It is always in.

Now it is true that “Amazing things happen” in the NBA, but not necessarily in the sense that their current tagline implies. What is amazing, is that the league has gotten away with fixing outcomes, if not fixing individual games, and the victims—most of the league’s fans—are none the wiser. But people are starting to figure it out.

In the 24 years since 1985 when the NBA adopted a lottery to determine draft order, there have been six league champions. The league has expanded to 30 cities in that time but there have been only six champs. Five of them have been from the league’s largest markets.

Since the inception of the lottery, the Lakers have won six titles, Chicago six, Detroit three, Boston two, Houston two, Miami one. That’s 20 titles out of 24 total, to teams from the league’s 11* largest markets. That leaves little San Antonio (37th* largest in US, 27th of 30 in NBA), with four.

By contrast, in the nineteen years between the Celtics eight straight titles (1959-1966) and the implementation of the lottery (1985), there were nine different champions.  One third of those were small market teams: Milwaukee, Portland, and Seattle.

(It is true that the Celtics and the Lakers– including six titles in Minneapolis– dominated the league in its early years, but the draft was not fully operational until the sixties, and it could be said that the institution of the draft brought down the Celtics dynasty.)

So, you do the math: nine different champions in 19 years versus six champs in 24 years; three small market teams out of nine versus one out of six. And you can blame Patrick Ewing, even though his Knicks never won a title. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Archie Griffin: 2-Time Heisman Winner
      December 11, 2022 | 1:42 pm
      Archie Griffin

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is the only football player ever to capture college football’s top individual award twice.

      As a star running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Archie Griffin claimed the Heisman Trophy during his junior season in 1974 and then was able to repeat the honor the following season.

      Griffin joined the Buckeyes for the 1972 season, which happened to be the first in which freshmen were eligible to play varsity football, and made an immediate impact. After fumbling in his only carry of his first game, Griffin more than made up for it in his second game by rushing for 237 yards against North Carolina. By the end of the season, Griffin had rushed for 867 yards.

      Read more »

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