Before he was “CNBC’s Darren Rovell,” he worked for ESPN. That’s right. Prior to tweeting photos of breakfast cereal boxes, he was the business reporter for the World Wide Leader. As such, Rovell took a fascinating look at the relationship between a city’s population and the likelihood of making the championship.
What he found was a pronounced advantage for big city teams in the NBA. The other sports? Not so much.
I’ve often wondered what an updated look at these numbers would yield, so today, I did a little research.
First, a reminder on Rovell’s methodology: He took the four most populous cities in the United States (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston) and calculated what percentage of the time a team from one of those cities made the finals.
From 1980-2002, that percentage was higher in basketball (96%) than in baseball (38%), hockey (35%) and football (22%).
Does that trend hold for 2003-2011?
During the nine seasons in question, a “big city” team made the championship four times in the NBA. It happened three times in MLB, twice in the NFL and once in the NHL, which–to be fair–also lost one season to a lockout.
Forget results of the draft lottery, this is what feeds so many of the conspiracy theories surrounding David Stern’s league. And it’s partly why Cleveland natives so resent LeBron James leaving for a city that, while not New York or LA, does perhaps offer a slightly brighter spotlight than he would get in Ohio.
Nobody in Small Town, America likes being told they’re at a big disadvantage.
(Now for the disclaimers: Yes, I realize the NHL doesn’t have a franchise in Houston, nor does the NFL currently operate out of LA. Rovell’s analysis, on the other hand, does include the Rams and Raiders during the years they were stationed in Los Angeles. And, yes, you could could argue Rovell would have been better served by focusing on TV market size instead of looking at population. He himself admits that Houston is the fourth largest city, but only ranks 11th when it comes to television. Philadelphia would replace Houston if you took that approach.)