Data Visualizations
from Best Tickets

The Winners and Losers Of North American Sports

There are more than 120 teams in the “big 4″ leagues of North American professional sports. They reach all the way from Edmonton, which is more than 300 miles north of the Canada/US border, to Miami, which sits in the tropics of the southern tip of Florida. Aside from covering a wide geographic range, the fanbases these teams command are immense, and they are passionate. Ask a fan of any team why his/her team is the best, and he/she will unload a list of reasons, whether true or imagined.

Unfortunately, in sports not everyone can be the best. In fact, a lot of the teams are flat-out bad. While losing is certainly not the point of sports, it is necessary for sports to remain exciting and it will always be part of competition. For me, this raises the questions: Historically, which teams are the very best? Which are the worst? After looking through this study, we should have the answers to those questions and more.

Without further ado, I give you the win percentages of every North American professional sports team in the “big 4″ leagues.

Win Percentage Rankings
At the top of the list, we find the names that most knowledgeable sports fans expect to see: Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, New York Yankees and Green Bay Packers. As a Spurs fan, it makes me happy to see them sitting so close to the top of the heap, but it INFURIATES me that the only team with a better win% (and yes, it is slightly better) is the Los Angeles Lakers. Go away, Lakers!

After the obvious names, we see some teams that you might not have guessed off the top of your head – at least I didn’t – like the Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and Phoenix Suns. The Suns in particular come as a surprise to me, but when you give it some thought, it is not all that surprising. The Steve Nash era saw elite play from the Suns, as did the Barkley era. The Suns have been the the playoffs 28 times since 1975. That’s 28 out of 39 years, which is very impressive.

At the bottom of the pack we see the Charlotte Bobcats. This team truly has been awful, but I’m willing to let them slide since they are such a young team. Which brings us to our next and far more concerning apparent dumpster fire of a franchise: the Los Angeles Clippers. In their 44-year history, the Clippers have had ten winning seasons.  Three of their ten winning seasons have come in the last three years. These last three seasons tied their existing record for most consecutive winning seasons. Twice in franchise history, the Clippers have gone 12 straight seasons under .500. For all of you 50+ year-old Clippers fans, I am truly sorry.

Below, I’ve separated the teams by league for your slightly more specific enjoyment.

NBA Teams2
Top Five: LA Lakers, SA Spurs, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz
Bottom Five: Charlotte Bobcats, LA Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors
Middle of the Road: Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, NY Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks

 

NFL Teams2
Top Five: Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens
Bottom Five: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints
Middle of the Road: St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs

 

MLB Teams2
Top Five: NY Yankees, San Francisco Giants, LA Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox
Bottom Five: Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Miami Marlins, Colorado Rockies
Middle of the Road: LA Angels of Anaheim, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays

 

NHL Teams2
Top Five: Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Philadelphia Fliers, Boston Bruins
Bottom Five: Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, Florida Panthers, LA Kings, Vancouver Canucks
Middle of the Road: San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild, Carolina Hurricanes

 

Now after reading this, some of you may argue that despite the fact that your team has a poor overall record, they have won more championships than other teams. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Below, each team’s championship count.

Championship count2

The elite teams on this chart are also elite teams from our win percentage chart. In fact, the  top five teams on this list are all on the top five on their league’s win percentage chart. The Yankees, Canadiens, Celtics, Lakers, Packers and Maple Leafs have won 30% of all the championships in North American pro sports.

There are 32 North American pro sports teams who have yet to win a championship in their respective league. The Phoenix Suns are the winningest team to never win a championship. With the tenth best win percentage in North American sports, you’d think at least one Larry O’Brien trophy would have made it into the Suns’ locker room, but it’s just not the case.

Sports have a way of developing a fan’s pride for his/her city. After all, sports teams may be the most famous group of people a city has to offer. They are ambassadors for their hometown and reflect upon the city as a whole. With that in mind, let’s shift our focus a bit to see which cities have the greatest winning heritage in pro sports.

City Wins and Champs
There is a reason why San Antonio Spurs fans are so obsessed with their old, boring, small market team. The Spurs WIN. The consistency with which the Spurs have won over the years is arguably unprecedented. With five titles to back it up, the Spurs have swayed most sports fans into believing that they are one of the NBA’s top franchises. That being said, San Antonio’s five championships pale in comparison to some of the true heavy hitter cities on our list, like Chicago (25), Boston (34) and New York (48). Bear in mind, however, that New York’s 48 championships is the total between eight pro sports teams, whereas San Antonio’s are all shared by one team. Which cities win championships at the highest rate per team?

 

City Champs Per Team
Montreal’s titles per team really jumps off the page here. The Montreal Canadiens have brought home championships at a ridiculous rate. The only single team that has won more championships is the New York Yankees with 27. The difference: Montreal is a 1-team city and New York is an 8-team city. The Green Bay Packers are another team that has managed to win many championships despite being the only team in their home city. The San Antonio Spurs, while still not yet in the double-digits of championships, are building an impressive legacy as their city’s only team.

These single-team cities that win championships at a high rate experience all of the success of having a good team represent their city, without any of the disappointment of a bad team. It’s no wonder that Packers fans are considered some of the most dedicated and rabid fans in all of sports. I can tell you from personal experience that the following for the Spurs here in San Antonio is utterly insane and can at times, flirt with being cult-like. As a resident of one of these high-performance single-team cities, it’s hard to avoid becoming a fan of the team that single-handedly brings a winning heritage to your city.

As a ticket seller, we thought it might be fun to take a look at the cost of seeing these teams and comparing it to how successful they have been over the years.  Which teams offer the very best bang for you buck? The worst? Let’s find out. We’ll start with the NBA.

NBA Value
The Celtics perch atop the NBA  list thanks to their rich history of excellence and relatively low average ticket price. It would be hard for any honest NBA fan to say that going to a Celtics game would be uninteresting. Despite their recent struggles, the Celtics offer the best value of any team in the NBA. They are followed closely by the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs. Spurs tickets are the 8th-most expensive in the league, but the Spurs bring everything to the table for fans with a winning pedigree as well as a team that is at the top of their game. Right now, it just doesn’t get much better than Spurs basketball.

On the other end of the spectrum, we see an appearance from the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn (or New Jersey if you prefer) does not have a sparkling history, nor did they have a fantastic season last year. After losing their head coach and reporting more than $114 million in losses last season, it’s not only the past that looks dark for the Nets; it’s the future as well. Nothing about this team justifies their average ticket price, which is the fourth highest in the NBA. The lowly Bobcats, whose expectations are even lower than those of the Nets, are still trying to demand an average ticket price that sits in the top half of the league.

 

NFL Value
The Indianapolis Colts offer the greatest bang for your buck in the NFL. For the most part, the Colts have been a winning team throughout history, including four championships. The Manning era certainly padded their win percentage, and the new era of Andrew Luck looks to be a successful one as well. Now, if they could just get a handle on Mr. Irsay…

Houston Texans tickets command the 13th-highest ticket price in the league, but why? They have the second-worst historical win percentage of any NFL franchise, have won zero championships and were the worst team in the NFL last year. This one is a real head-scratcher.

There is a team low on the NFL list for whom I will make an appeal. Stadium awesomeness did not play a factor in my rankings and according to recent news, this is doing the Jacksonville Jaguars an injustice. The Jags plan to add the largest video screen in all of sports to their stadium in 2014. On top of that, they are putting in special poolside cabanas for the fan who wants to take a dip during a game. That is seriously cool and should bump them up a spot or two.

 

MLB Value
Major League Baseball’s best team in 2013 offers the best bang for your buck in 2014. The St. Louis Cardinals claim the 4th-best historical win percentage, the second-most championships and last season’s very best record. At an average price of just $63.8, more than $15 cheaper than the league average, Cardinals tickets are quite the steal.

The New York Yankees have the most expensive tickets by a wide margin. Despite this, they fall in the middle realm of price per value thanks to their status as one of the most recognizable and successful sports franchises on earth. Plus, anyone who has been to a game at Yankee Stadium knows that there’s just something about being there.

The Seattle Mariners are historically not a very good team, with no exception for last season. Were they charging a price closer to that of Cardinals tickets, we might have some leniency for their price per value but in reality, they are charging about $15 more than the St. Louis team. Not seeing the justification for this.

 

NHL Value
Common sense says that the NFL, with fewer than 20 games in a season, should command the highest average ticket price, but this is not the case. With an average price of $194.24, NHL tickets are more expensive on average than any other league. The best bargain in the NHL by far is the one offered by the Anaheim Ducks. With a middle of the pack win percentage and a championship under their belt, the Ducks have solidified their role as a good but not great team. That being said, they had one of the best records in the league last year, and tickets are set at a league low of $114.5. That’s nearly $80 less than the average NHL ticket.

The Yankees of the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens, charge a premium price for a premium product. At $224, they have the seventh-most expensive tickets in the league, but they have earned the right to charge whatever they want. The LA Kings, on the other hand have not proven themselves to be a winning franchise until just recently. With two Stanley Cups in the last three seasons, the Kings have proven they are on the upswing as a franchise. With that in mind, their last-place price per value rating is not really fair.

The most appropriate winner of the worst bang for your buck in the NHL is the New York Rangers, whose tickets cost $338 on average. That’s $33 more expensive than the second-most expensive team. For a team with a less than stunning historical win percentage, that price simply is not justified. Teams in New York can generally get away with charging more per ticket than other teams, but the Rangers may have overdone it this time.

 

That does it for this study. Here’s to continued excellence for your favorite team or hope to get them out of the gutter! Let me hear your thoughts in the comments or on twitter @andrewpomo.

Comments (1)

  1. Phil - Reply

    October 6, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    Hey Andrew.. great column. I have a few questions. Where did you get your average ticket prices? They seem extremly high compared the “team marketing report” site. Also do you have data that pertains to re-located teams? Such as Dallas Stars/Minn North Stars or Phoenix Coyotes/Quebec Nordiques? And finally in your “bang for your buck” charts.. how do you arrive at the “value” column? Thanks

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