Ranking Cities Sports Title Droughts

It has been a wild couple of years in sports in terms of ending title droughts. In 2016, Cleveland won its first championship in any sport in over half a century and the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year curse by winning the World Series. In 2017, the Houston Astros won their first ever World Series title. 2018 has already seen the Philadelphia Eagles win a long-awaited championship and the Washington Capitals finally bring home the Stanley Cup. Some of the most historic title droughts in all of sports have ended in recent years, begging the question of which cities remain the most tortured for a title. Here is my top ten.

10. Detroit
Teams: Lions (NFL), Pistons (NBA), Red Wings (NHL), Tigers (MLB),
Last title: 2008

It has only been a decade since a Detroit team has won a title, but the history of sports success in the Motor City is not a great one. The Lions have famously (or infamously) never won a Super Bowl, or even appeared in one. They also hold the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses. Baseball is a little more promising because the Tigers have won before, three times actually, but the last World Series victory came in 1984. The Pistons have had some great teams, but have also been one of the worst run NBA franchises in the last ten years. In the NHL, the Red Wings represent the true bright spot. Detroit has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice since the turn of the century. It hasn’t been that long for Detroit, but it might be a while before one of these four teams wins another title.

9. Indianapolis
Teams: Colts (NFL), Pacers (NBA)
Last title: 2006

Only two teams reside in Indianapolis and the Colts have won a title. The Peyton Manning era is still one fans could look back on proudly, but for a long time the Colts were one of the most tortured franchises in the NFL. They have resumed that post since then. For a city as crazy about basketball as Indy, zero NBA titles is a real bummer as well. The Pacers have only reached the NBA finals once in franchise history losing to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Both the Colts and Pacers have been competitive in recent years as well, but always end up faltering in the playoffs, leaving a bitter taste in fans’ mouths.

8. Charlotte
Teams: Hurricanes (NHL), Hornets (NBA), Panthers (NFL)
Last title: 2006

It has also been 12 years since Charlotte has won a title, but they get the edge for having three teams as opposed to Indy’s two. The Hornets have been one of the worst franchises in NBA history. It has been 30 years since the Hornets were founded and the team has never so much as won a division title. Football has treated fans a little better, as the Panthers did reach the Super Bowl back in 2003. They came agonizingly close to beating that Brady guy, but Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winner as time expired to beat Carolina. The Hurricanes are the only team in Charlotte to win a title. After losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup final, Carolina broke through in 2006 to lift the cup. Still, just one title between three teams over the past 30 years is a poor return.

7. Nashville
Teams: Predators (NHL), Titans (NFL)
Last title: N/A

If you also lump in the Memphis Grizzles, the Tennessee would likely move up a few spots on this list. Seeing as Memphis and Nashville are on opposite sides of the state though, it did not seem too fair. Both teams moved to town in 1997, but the Predators came close to bringing home a title in 2017. On the other hand, the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in nearly ten years. What holds Nashville back is how new of a sports city it is. It has only had pro teams for 20 years, so the lack of a title is not totally shocking. Only one appearance in a finals setting is more than enough to qualify for this list though.

6. Cincinnati
Teams: Bengals (NFL), Reds (MLB)
Last title: 1990

Oh, where to begin with Cincinnati. For one, the Bengals have been a punch line in the NFL for quite some time. Head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003 and has taken the team to the playoffs seven times in his tenure. He is also 0-7 in the postseason. It has been 27 years since Cincy has won a playoff game, the longest active streak in the league. The Bengals weren’t always this way though. In the ’80s, Cincinnati made it to two Super Bowls, both times losing by less than a touchdown to the Joe Montana led 49ers. The Reds haven’t been a whole lot better. Since winning the World Series in 1990, Cincy’s baseball team has only made the playoffs four times. With the Bengals looking like an average team and the Reds in the middle of a rebuild, it could be a while before Cincinnati celebrates another championship.

5. San Diego
Teams: Padres (MLB), Chargers (NFL)
Last title: N/A

Technically, there is only one pro team still in San Deigo, but to not include the struggles of the Chargers in evaluating the drought this city has gone through would be unfair. I actually think the fact the Chargers left makes life as a fan in this city even more torturous. Boasting one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, San Diego never managed to reach a Super Bowl. Its lone appearance was a blowout loss to the 49ers in 1994. Even during the early 2000s, it seemed like the Chargers would finally break through, but never managed to reach the Super Bowl. For the Padres, opportunities for postseason success have been few and far between. In 49 years as a franchise, the Padres have made the playoffs just five times, including two different losses in the World Series. San Diego has long awaited a title and now will have an even tougher time securing one with only the Padres left in town.

4. Phoenix
Teams: Cardinals (NFL), Coyotes (NHL), Diamondbacks (MLB), Suns (NBA)
Last title: 2001

It has been 17 years since the largest city in Arizona brought home a sports championship. The Cardinals came agonizingly close in 2009 before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild Super Bowl. The Suns haven’t been good in years, but still remember the days of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash fondly. Neither of the ever managed to bring home a title. The Coyotes have never made it to a Stanley Cup final, much less won one. That leaves the Diamondbacks, who won the cities last championship in 2001. It is the only title in the city’s history. The Cardinals won an NFL Championship in 1947, but that was actually while the team was located in Chicago. Only one title between four teams is tough for fans to swallow and it does not seem like any of them are close to a title for a least a few more years.

3. Atlanta
Teams: Hawks (NBA), Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB),
Last title: 1995

Between the Hawks, Falcons and Braves, Atlanta has only brought home one title in the history of sports in the city. The Braves broke through in 1995, which isn’t really that long ago, but this city definitely knows what it is like to want a title. The Hawks have never made it to the NBA Finals while in Atlanta. The 2016 Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and blew the largest lead in the history of the game. It marked the second time the Falcons lost in the championship. Looking at the Braves, they lost four other World Series during the ’90s. Had it not been for that World Series in ’95, Atlanta might very well top this list.

2. Buffalo
Teams: Bills (NFL), Sabres (NHL)
Last title: N/A

Western New York is home to one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. The aptly named “Bills Mafia” provides a fun home field advantage whenever the Bills are hosting. Sabres fans have suffered through many years of woeful play on the ice, but still support the team nonetheless. Between these two franchises, Buffalo has appeared in six different championships, winning none of them. The Bills came up short in four consecutive Super Bowls! Talk about torture for fans. The Sabres made two different runs to the Stanley Cup final over the years, but fell short in both. It was the NHL team who made Buffalo’s last championship appearance in 1999. Up until last year, the Bills hadn’t even been to the playoffs since 1999. What holds Buffalo back from the top spot is the fact that the city only has two teams.

1. Minneapolis
Teams: Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Wild (NHL), Vikings (NFL)
Last title: 1991

21 years ago was the last time a team from the Twin Cities won a title. Minneapolis is home to some of the most tortured fan bases in sports. On one hand, you have the Vikings. The Purple People Eaters lost four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976. The Vikings have never made it back to the big game since their loss in ’76. It seemed like they would in 1998, with a historically good offense, only to lose in their first playoff game that year. Then there are the Timberwolves. Minnesota finally broke the second longest playoff drought in NBA history in 2018 after 13 years of failing to qualify. In a league where more than half the teams make it to the postseason, that is quite a feat. The Wild haven’t been in town long, but like the Timberwolves, have never even reached the finals. The Twins are the only team in town with a title, but have not returned to the World Series. While Minneapolis has won a title, none of the teams in the city have even reached the championship stage in the 27 years since. This city is starved for a title and well-deserving of the top spot on our list.

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George needs to be back on the court for Indiana

Paul George needs to come back to the Pacers’ as soon as he is healthy enough to do so. The notion that he could disrupt the team’s chemistry is laughable. There will probably be a slight adjustment period where George acclimates himself to playing in the NBA again but that shouldn’t take too long. The sooner George returns the better for both Indiana’s hopes of making the playoffs and making some noise when they get there.

The Pacers currently sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, holding tiebreakers over both the Heat and the Celtics. Obviously, the race is very tight and with those three teams fighting over two playoff spots, it is still entirely conceivable that the Pacers miss the postseason altogether. This is the first part of where having George back is a necessity. He is the unquestioned leader of this Indiana squad and even if he has yet to suit up for them this year, he will still fill a very notable void. Not to mention that George will be a much-welcomed replacement to Solomon Hill in the starting lineup.

Statistically, George represents an upgrade in every facet of the word. George, in his career, has a better career shooting, three-point shooting, free throw shooting, rebounding, assisting, stealing, blocking and scoring average than Hill has this season. That is an across the board improvement on both offense and defense. George will instantly make this team better, even if he is a little rusty at first and leads to some small adjustments in the Pacers’ play.

From a team perspective as well, the two-time all-star will provide an immediate boost in some key areas. Indiana has struggled all year to score, ranking as the 25th best scoring team in the league. Their leading scorer right now is George Hill, with only 15 point per contest and he has only appeared in 27 games anyway. The next highest is Rodney Stuckey, who is averaging under 14 point a night. George over his last two season tallied roughly 19.5 points per game. He will provide an immediate injection of offense into a team struggling to make baskets. Additionally, the Pacers have been a below average three-point shooting team in George’s absence. His 36 percent career shooting percentage from beyond the arc should provide a boost as well. George is also one of the best on ball defenders in the NBA. The small forward clocked in with the most defensive win shares in 2013 and the second most in 2014, according to Basketball Reference.

Those added benefits should carry Indiana to a playoff berth. Even without George, the Pacers could likely make it to postseason but if he is not on the court, then they have no shot of legitimately competing. I mentioned before that George is the unquestioned leader of this team. He also turns up his level of play come playoff time. During Indiana’s run last season to the Eastern Conference Finals, George carried the team. He posted phenomenal numbers, averaging over 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals per game while draining more than 40 percent of his shots from three-point territory. Having a player who understands what is at stake and raises his game when the postseason roles around is invaluable.

If George is playing at full strength come the playoffs, it becomes a lot harder to count the Pacers out. If they were to matchup with Toronto or even Cleveland, it is not unconceivable that Indiana could find a way to win. They have the type of team that can wear you out over the course of a series and if they manage to push it to six or seven games, I would definitely pick the Pacers to win. Another little nugget that should convince you of how dangerous Indiana might be with a healthy George in the postseason is their record in the division. The Pacers actually have the best in division record for anyone playing in the Central region. At 7-5, Indiana ranks higher than Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and Detroit. Those first three teams all sit ahead of Indiana in the standings and will be part of the playoff field.

It is not guaranteed that George will immediately return to the same level he played at before his injury. But if there is even a possibility he might and he is healthy enough to be in the lineup, then Frank Vogel would be crazy to hold him out. The Pacers are a much better team when George is on the court and if he can play, Indiana might just find itself back in the Eastern Conference Finals once again.

Some Love lost in Cleveland

The Cleveland Cavaliers have returned to being one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference this year with LeBron James’ return home. However, this team has its fair share of deficiencies, starting with how players fit together on the floor. It is no secret that Kevin Love has had a tough year. He has been a decent contributor but not at the level that the Cavs thought he would play when they acquired him last summer.

Love is posting career lows as a starter in attempts per game and makes per game this year. His shooting percentage is at its worst mark in a season where Love has started at least 20 games. His rebound average is the lowest it has been since his rookie year. On top of all of that, Love’s scoring has dipped by almost ten points this season. He clearly does not fit with the Cavaliers. Realistically, Love will likely leave Cleveland at the end of the season with his contract set to expire. Here are the best places that Love could land next offseason.

Minnesota Timberwolves: This would be the icing on the cake for the T-Wolves. Getting Love back and hanging on to Wiggins. Essentially, the Cavaliers would have traded for the 3-time All-star in exchange for clearing Anthony Bennett of the books. This is not the most likely scenario, as Minnesota will probably be looking elsewhere to spend their money. With a ton of youth, the Wolves could look to sign a veteran power forward instead. Either way, the Wolves have a need at the position and Love would certainly fit their system. However, Minnesota ranks as the worst defensive team in the league. Love, who is primarily an offense first player, would be benefit from playing elsewhere.

New Orleans Pelicans: With Omar Asik’s contract about to expire, he could become expendable. Enter Love and suddenly, the Pelicans have one of the best duos in basketball in their frontcourt. Anthony Davis and Love teamed up together could be scary. Love would also assuredly benefit from Davis’ shot blocking presence, negated much of his poor play defensively. Unfortunately, Love could run into the same problem that he has in Cleveland. There would be a lot of mouths to feed in New Orleans with Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Davis and Love all wanting high volume touches.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are one of the best defensive squads in basketball and with Larry Sanders unlikely to return, the Bucks could use a new body in their frontcourt. Love’s addition to Milwaukee could pose some problems with Jabari Parker’s return next season and Giannis Antetokounmpo already stationed at small forward. Love would be able to take over as a lead scorer on this team though as the Bucks have zero front court players scoring more than ten points per game. Plus, with Milwaukee ranking at 25th in rebounds per night, adding Love would be a welcome addition.

Indiana Pacers: The odds that this one happens might be the highest of any team. It makes a lot of sense to me. Love is a great scorer and can play alongside one other top scorer in Paul George. He would join a team that is one of the best defensively in the league, which is a perfect fit for Love. On top of that, he would play alongside a great rim protector in Roy Hibbert and an excellent distributor in George Hill. And no one else on the Pacers requires a ton of touches except for George, which creates a nice opening for Love to come in and be an elite scorer. This moves when it is broken down makes a ton of sense and would propel Indiana into the conversation of best team in the East if George returns the same.

Love might return to Cleveland because he wants a shot at a championship but he would be smart to walk away. This is not the best spot for him and he would benefit tremendously playing elsewhere. It will be an interesting year in free agency and teams would likely be willing to spend a year in biting the bullet of the luxury tax knowing that the 2016 offseason will provide a massive boost to the cap. Getting a top offense weapon like Love in a weaker offseason will be a smart move for an offensive needy team. Now it just remains to be seen who will make a run for the former UCLA product.

Lance’s landing spots

Lance Stephenson has not fit in too well with Charlotte. I wrote back in June that I thought this would be a good fit for the ex-Pacers guard but clearly, that hasn’t been the case as the front office is rumored to be looking to move him via trade. Today marks the first day that Stephenson can be traded because of an NBA rule regarding players who sign contracts in free agency. So now that he can be moved, it’s time to take a second look.

Believe it or not, Stephenson is actually having a career year for himself so far. He scoring 10.4 points per game and average 5 assists and 7.2 rebounds a game. All of those would be career bests. The issue is he has shot an abysmal 39% from the floor and hit only 16.7% of his three point attempts. Needless to say, he has not been an effective shooter and that is more of what Charlotte was looking for to pair with his great on ball defense. Here are the teams that I think could be interested in acquiring Stephenson.

The obvious on would be the Indiana Pacers. This is the team Stephenson walked away from in free agency because he did not get opportunities he wanted offensively. The Pacers have been decimated by injuries this year, particularly in the backcourt. Having Stephenson back could be a major boost to the team’s guard play for sure and might break Stephenson from his shooting woes. The Pacers would likely have to give up a couple of players the most likely players would be CJ Miles, Chris Copeland and maybe a future second round draft pick in exchange for the out-of-favor Stephenson. That would prevent the Pacers from giving up too much allowing them to still compete in the East and would give Charlotte a couple of talented players to work into its rotation.

Another team with plenty of guard injuries is the Minnesota Timberwolves. They struggled all year to stay healthy and have been one of the worst defensive teams in basketball this year ranking second to last in the league for points allowed per game. Stephenson would provide a much need defensive presence for a young Wolves team. He would also provide some veteran leadership on a team with rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine and second-year players Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad. In return, Charlotte could likely receive Chase Budinger and Corey Brewer. Both players have been rumored to be pieces Minnesota would like to move and could fill in as productive role players for the Hornets.

The last team is a bit of a wild card but apparently, the Brooklyn Nets are contemplating a fire sale. They would be looking move practically all of their star players. This could be the opportunity for Charlotte to snag a top player in a deal to get rid of Stephenson. The Hornets could land Kevin Garnett potentially along with a young guard in Sergey Karasev while shipping Stephenson, Cody Zeller and PJ Hariston to Brooklyn. This would give Charlotte better option at power forward creating a formidable frontcourt with Al Jefferson. It also allows the Nets to experiment with some young players.

The most likely scenario is Stephenson goes back to Indiana. I have no doubt though that Stephenson will be moved sooner rather than later. The NBA’s Eastern conference is wide open right now and if you can avoid matching up with either Chicago or Cleveland in the first round, you have a chance to run the table and win a playoff series. I think Charlotte, right now, is still thinking about competing. The Hornets made the playoffs last year and gave the Heat a run for its money in a couple of games in that series. We will see what Michael Jordan decides to do.