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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How good can Minnesota be with Thibodeau?

When you have Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns to build around, the future of your team is very bright. Add in some unique talents like Shabazz Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones and Zach LaVine and you have the recipe for a great team in the future. The Minnesota Timberwolves have all of these pieces in addition to the veteran leadership of Kevin Garnett. But on Wednesday, they may have added the most important piece of all.

Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau had a winning percentage of .647 in Chicago.

Tom Thibodeau agreed to terms with the Wolves to take over as both head coach and president of basketball operations. This is something of a homecoming for the former Bulls coach, as he started his coaching career in Minnesota under Bill Mussleman back in 1989.

Thibs has a lot to bring to the table now though. He was an assistant for the Knicks toward the end of Patrick Ewing’s career, including the improbable run to the finals in ’99. He then went to Houston before landing in Boston as an assistant to Doc Rivers during the Celtics’ championship season. He then finally got his chance to take the top job in Chicago in 2010, where he won Coach of the Year in his first season.

Now that guy takes over in Minneapolis, where the Wolves haven’t made the playoffs in a dozen years. They have two former number one overall picks and a ton of potential. Thibodeau is tasked with forming this into a contending team in the next few years.

LeBron_James_and_Andre_Wiggins
Wiggins (#22) was the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

The first thing that he will overhaul is the defense. Thibodeau’s teams are always known for relentless defensive intensity. Four out of his five years in Chicago, the Bulls finished in the top three for opponents’ points per game and the top ten for defensive rating. Minnesota ranked tied for 23rd in points per game allowed and 28th in opponents’ field goal percentage. In addition to being the leader this young team needs, Thibodeau will fix this team’s reeling defensive efforts.

With a roster already dripping with potential, Minnesota likely has a top-five pick again this year, finishing the season fifth in lottery odds. If the Timberwolves enter the draft picking the fifth, they have a chance to add another high-end lottery pick to a roster already loaded with them. Buddy Hield, Dragen Bender or Kris Dunn all could be playing under Thibs next year and they all could be coming off the bench.

Thibodeau understands the importance of adding veterans and role players, which means I have no doubt he will build around the core he currently has.

The front office got another boost too with the hiring of assistant Spurs General Manager Scott Layden. You know, San Antonio. The team that has missed the playoffs once since 1989 and won five titles in a 15-year span.

The Wolves organization finally put talent in the front office and on the sidelines to match the future talent they have playing on the court right now. Give it about three years and this team will be a title contender. Sky is the limit with what Minnesota could achieve with Thibodeau at the helm.

Land of 10,000 Mistakes

Not every NBA draft pick turns into a Hall of Famer, a five-time all star or even a starter. A lot of making these picks is just luck. However, there seems to be one team who just cannot seem to get it right. The Minnesota Timberwolves seem to manage to blow the draft worse than anyone else in the Association. You might think I’m crazy but hear me out.

Shaquille O'Neal
O’Neal won three straight championships in LA.

The Wolves were founded in 1989 in the heart of the Twin Cities. In the past 26 years, they have found some spectacular ways to strikeout when it comes to the NBA draft. Some of it was bad luck, some of it was stupidity.

Fast forward to 1996, when the T-wolves found themselves on the clock with the fifth overall pick. They drafted a guard out of the University of Connecticut who looked like a promising shooter. However, they were enamored with the player who went the selection before them, a kid named Stephon Marbury. So they swung a trade with Milwaukee to get Marbury, which included the UConn guard. Marbury left Minnesota after three years when he said he wanted to sign somewhere else so the team traded him. Oh and the guard they sent to Milwaukee turned out to be NBA all-time three point leader Ray Allen.

Ray_Allen
Allen joined forces with Paul Pierce and fellow Timberwolves draft pick Kevin Garnett to win a title in Boston.

The year Marbury left, 1999, Minnesota owned the sixth pick and selected Wally Szczerbiak. Szczerbiak was by no means a bad player, but some other notable names that went that year include Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Baron Davis, Richard Hamilton, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Steve Francis and Metta World Peace. Yet somehow, Minnesota ended up with the kid from Miami University.

After several years of avoiding the lottery altogether, the Timberwolves found themselves with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft. They selected Brandon Roy and sent him to Portland. That ended up being the right move because Roy spent six injury-marred season in the league before retiring. However, the Wolves missed out on Rudy Gay, J.J. Redick, Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry. All of those players were drafted after Roy.

Stephen_Curry
Curry is the league’s reigning MVP.

The 2000s just got worse for Minnesota. In 2007, they drafted Corey Brewer. Brewer has had a solid career, carving out a role as a reliable bench player Joakim Noah went two picks later and the Wolves missed out on another All-Star.

2008 went pretty well for Minnesota as they gave up O.J. Mayo and got Kevin Love in return. That small bright spot was quickly forgotten in 2009 when the Wolves managed to have their worst draft ever. The Timberwolves had four first round draft picks. They selected Johnny Flynn, Ricky Rubio, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington. On draft night, they sent Lawson to Denver, where he became a star point guard. They kept Rubio and Flynn, whom they selected with consecutive picks. Flynn flamed out of the league after three years and Rubio has never developed into a reliable shooter. The player that went after those two: Stephen Curry.

Kevin Garnett
Garnett made it past the first round once in eight years with the Wolves.

The following year wasn’t much better. The Wolves took Wesley Johnson fourth overall and he ended up being a dud. Players who were picked in the top ten after Johnson included DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George. Cousins and George have both been All-Stars while Monroe and Hayward have been the cornerstones for their respective franchises for the past few years.

The last two years have brought some optimism to the franchise with the selections of Zach LaVine and Karl-Anthony Towns. Underscored in all of that is the return of the one true draft success Minnesota has in its history. Kevin Garnett was the face of the franchise for the Wolves for many years, becoming one of the league’s best players. Unfortunately, even Garnett’s greatness is not enough to wipe out all the years of draft failure from the Minnesota ledger.

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.