Baseball since it’s inception has been America’s favorite past time, but let’s be honest for just a second… Today in 2014, how many of us in this 21st Century- American Society are still captivated by the game of baseball? When we speak about American Sports, two come to the forefront quicker than all others: American Football and Basketball. Interestingly enough these two sports have long been intertwined. Many of today’s football stars have basketball pasts, much like many kings of the hardwood have a little gridiron action in their backstories. Tony Romo, Randy Moss, Antonio Gates, Terrell Owens, Julius Thomas, Tony Gonzalez & Julius Peppers to name a few on the football side who once lived by the riveting and famed phrase; Ball is Life. LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Matt Barnes, Charlie Ward, Nate Robinson, Terrence Williams, Tony Wroten & Glen Davis are a few basketball counterparts who could’ve possibly earned their living on Sundays and Mondays.
With that being said, the two Professional leagues themselves are also joined at the hip. Many NBA Franchises have taken shape in markets once owned by the NFL exclusively. Of the NBA’s 30 Franchises, 24 of them either share a city with an NFL franchise, or have one in close proximity. So, if you’re a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves, chances are you probably support the Vikings too. Team owners know this as well, hence at some of the pro games, you’ll see athletes from respective teams supporting each other on game nights.
I was driven to go further than the obvious geographic parallels between NBA and NFL teams. I wanted to do a true comparison of teams based on performance and fan support.
Chicago Bulls = San Francisco 49ers
Tell me you guys didn’t see this coming? The Bulls are clearly the NBA’s equivalent of the San Francisco 49ers. Both franchises boast arguably the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All-Time) in their respective sports: Michael Jordan and Jerry Rice. Innovative coaches in Phil Jackson and Bill Walsh were both at the helm of each team’s proverbial leap to prominence. The Bulls and the 49ers dealt with a bully that stood in their way; The Detroit Pistons and the Dallas Cowboys respectively. When both of these franchises won, they did so in unforeseen fashion; The Bulls were the team of the 90’s, while the 49ers were the team of the 80’s. Fast-forward to present day; we can all agree that if it weren’t for a few injuries, these historic franchises could have added to their totals of 6 and 5 World Championships respectively. Jim Harbaugh and Tom Thibodeau live by hard nosed, punch you in your mouth defense and rely on game changers like Derrick Rose and Colin Kaepernick to shore up the holes on offense.
Cleveland Cavaliers = Cleveland Browns
Another pair of teams who share both a city and a mutual connection to a championship starved city. The Cavaliers and Browns are spokespersons for the phrase “so close, yet so far”. The Mark Price & Brad Daugherty led Cavaliers couldn’t get through the Michael Jordan led bulls. That phenomenon being captured in the iconic shot made by Jordan over Craig Ehlo in the First Round of the 1988 NBA Playoffs. The Bernie Kosar led Browns coached by legendary coach Marty Schottenheimer, were on the wrong end of a few playoff matchups with the John Elway led Denver Broncos, none more heartbreaking than “The Drive”. Where the Cavaliers and Browns do differentiate is in their beginnings. The Browns were the toast of the NFL pre-merger, as Paul Brown and Jim Brown turned the Browns into the team of the 50’s. The Cavaliers have historically been awful with the exception of a few bright spots here and there. The LeBron James Era(s) breathed life into Cleveland, much as the Johnny Manziel Era has brought Cleveland into the NFL elite conversation once more. Should be interesting to see which one of these franchises can break the spell that has cursed Cleveland since 1964.
Detroit Pistons = Oakland Raiders
The Bad Boys and the Raiders. Isiah Thomas and company embraced the Bad Boy persona that had long been attributed to the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders pioneered by Mr. Al Davis. Bill Laimbeer was Jack Tatum painted white and in basketball shorts. Marcus Allen was Isiah Thomas. Digging deeper into the rosters, you’ll see that the similarities are deep and striking. Both of these franchises prided themselves on beating you up both physically and psychologically. 3 Titles to each team doesn’t hurt in continuing the tradition. Both teams have fallen on hard times as of late, the Pistons’ last Finals appearance coming in 2005 (lost to Spurs in 7), and the Raiders last Super Bowl appearance coming in 2003 (lost to Tampa Bay). The pistons made the playoffs all the way through the 2008-09 season, meanwhile the Raiders haven’t been back to the post season since their Super Bowl loss. Regardless of their records, the fan bases, of these two storied franchises, are very loyal and show up week in and week out.
Indiana Pacers = Tennessee Titans
Bare with me for just a second. Remember the Music City Miracle in 2000? The Titans were down 16-15 to the Bills in the Wild Card round with 16 seconds left. A Frank Wychek lateral pass on a kickoff to Kevin Dyson, who ran the ball 75 yards for the game-winning TD, propelled the Titans to an incredible Super Bowl run. Does that ring a bell? Of course it does. Rewind the clock to 1995… Reggie Miller in Madison Square Garden. Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, 18.7 seconds left on the clock, the Pacers are down 105-99. They lost right? WRONG. Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 8.9 seconds to lead an improbable comeback victory in front of Spike Lee and a bevy of stunned Knicks fans. The Pacers ultimately wouldn’t reach the big game, but that performance lives on. The Titans and Pacers have had some good teams and great players throughout the years. Both have suffered heartbreak after heartbreak. These new-aged Pacers were so close to beating the Miami Heat in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals. The ’99 Titans were a yard short of being crowned World Champions against the St. Louis Rams. Reggie Miller, Paul George vs. Earl Campbell, Warren Moon & Eddie George. Larry Bird vs Jeff Fisher. More parallels could be made, but we’ll let these two iconic moments tell the bulk of the story.
Milwaukee Bucks = Kansas City Chiefs
Glory days for these franchises have been shortcoming. The Bucks rose to prominence in the early 70’s through Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the wily veteran Oscar Robertson. Lamar Hunt’s Chiefs of the 60’s were major players in the AFL. Both franchises are 1-1 on the big stage. Since these championships, there has been very little to be high on. Ray Allen and company came close to returning the the Finals back in 2001, Derrick Thomas, Joe Montana & Marcus Allen came close in 1993. There have been many struggles in their histories. Although the Chiefs have been successful as of late, the Bucks haven’t had the same luck.