Thursday, May 16, 2013

Which League has the Most Balance Among Champions?

Article by Stefan Jagot 



Stefan Jagot’s “Finding Parity” evaluates records within the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA to determine which sport truly has the most parity. In this edition: championship parity.

Just like every team has their fan-boys/girls, so do their respective leagues. While in an ideal world, everyone would love every sporting league, that’s simply not the case. NHL diehards bash the NBA and vice-versa; MLB maniacs defend their sacred sport religiously, and NFL fanatics boast their sport’s superiority every chance they get. The reasons these fans give in support of their sport differ, but parity is seemingly something everyone disagrees on.
If you are wondering what exactly parity is, let’s start by saying it’s not parody (sorry; pet peeve). Our friends at Merriam-Webster describe it as, “the quality or state of being equal or equivalent.
In the sporting world, the more parity a league has, the more balanced the competition will be. The assumption then becomes that since the league is more balanced, it will be more competitive, therefore creating a compelling (and some argue, superior) product. Basically, the sport/league with the most parity makes it the best sport/league to follow.
So which league has the most parity? Is it the NHL? Is it the NBA? Or is it the NFL? After all, commissioner Roger Goodell used it as a talking point when the league was on the verge of a lockout before the 2012 season.
“When you come into a season, every fan thinks that their football team has a chance to win the Super Bowl and that’s what I believe the 32 clubs are working towards. There are several issues that need to be addressed (regarding competitive balance) in (negotiating) this Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
Don’t forget the MLB either, where it has been widely documented that any team can win in any market.
This series, Finding Parity, attempts to settle which league has the most of it, starting with the analysis of differing champions within a league ranging from 1990-2013. Undoubtedly there are factors about why we have the results we do, but this will at least answer a few questions that have lingered through the years.
*Teams listed in alphabetical order

National Hockey League

Number of teams: 30
League championship awarded: Stanley Cup; a.k.a., Lord Stanley’s Cup
Stanley Cup championships played from 1990-2012: 22; 2005 season vacated
Stanley Cup champion teams from 1990-2012: 14; 4 teams with multiple championships in that period
  1. Anaheim Ducks: 2007
  2. Boston Bruins: 2011
  3. Carolina Hurricanes: 2006
  4. Chicago Blackhawks: 2010
  5. Colorado Avalanche: 2x – 1996, 2001
  6. Dallas Stars: 1999
  7. Detroit Red Wings: 4x – 1997, 1998, 2002, 2008
  8. Edmonton Oilers: 1990
  9. Los Angeles Kings: 2012
  10. Montreal Canadiens: 1993
  11. New Jersey Devils: 3x – 1995, 2000, 2003
  12. New York Rangers: 1994
  13. Pittsburgh Penguins: 3x – 1991, 1992, 2009
  14. Tampa Bay Lightning: 2004
Consecutive Stanley Cup champion teams in that period: 2
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: 1991-1992 (2)
  • Detroit Red Wings: 1997-1998 (2)

National Basketball Association

Number of teams: 30
League championship awarded: the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy; a.k.a., the O’Brien Trophy
NBA championships played from 1990-2012: 23
Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy winners from 1990-2012: 8; 6 teams with multiple trophies in that period
  1. Boston Celtics: 2008
  2. Chicago Bulls: 6x – 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
  3. Dallas Mavericks: 2011
  4. Detroit Pistons2x – 1990, 2004
  5. Houston Rockets2x – 1994, 1995
  6. Los Angeles Lakers5x – 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010
  7. Miami Heat: 2x – 2006, 2012
  8. San Antonio Spurs: 4x – 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 
Consecutive Larry O’Brien Trophy winners in that period: 3
  • Chicago Bulls: 1991-1993 (3); 1996-1998 (3)
  • Houston Rockets: 1994-1995 (2)
  • Los Angeles Lakers: 2000-2002 (3); 2009-2010 (2)

Major League Baseball

Number of teams: 30
League Championship Awarded: Commissioner’s Trophy; a.k.a., World Series championship
World Series championships awarded from 1990-2012: 22; 1994 season vacated
World Series champion teams in that period: 13; 5 teams with multiple World Series wins in that period
  1. Arizona Diamondbacks: 2001
  2. Atlanta Braves: 1995
  3. Boston Red Sox: 2x – 2004, 2007
  4. Chicago White Sox: 2005
  5. Cincinnati Reds: 1990
  6. Florida (Miami) Marlins: 2x- 1997, 2003
  7. Los Angeles Angels: 2002
  8. Minnesota Twins: 1991
  9. New York Yankees: 4x – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009
  10. Philadelphia Phillies: 2008
  11. Toronto Blue Jays: 2x – 1992, 1993
  12. San Francisco Giants: 2x – 2010, 2012
  13. St. Louis Cardinals: 2x – 2006, 2011
Consecutive World Series champions in that period: 2
  • New York Yankees: 1998-2000 (3)
  • Toronto Blue Jays: 1992-1993 (2)

National Football League

Number of teams: 32
League championship awarded: The Vince Lombardi Trophy; a.k.a., The Lombardi Trophy, Super Bowl championship
Number of Super Bowls played from 1990-2013: 24; This is the only league to crown a 2013 champion
Vince Lombardi Trophy winners in that period: 13; 8 teams have won multiple Super Bowls
  1. Baltimore Ravens: 2x – 2001, 2013
  2. Dallas Cowboys: 3x – 1993, 1994, 1996
  3. Denver Broncos: 2x – 1998, 1999
  4. Green Bay Packers: 2x – 1997, 2011
  5. Indianapolis Colts: 2007
  6. New England Patriots: 3x – 2002, 2004, 2005
  7. New York Giants: 3x - 1991, 2008, 2012
  8. New Orleans Saints: 2010
  9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2x – 2006, 2009
  10. St. Louis Rams: 2000
  11. San Francisco 49ers: 2x – 1990, 1995
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2003
  13. Washington Redskins: 1992

What does this all mean?


When looking at this data, we can quickly see that the NHL has the most variance in terms of championship winners. Out of the 22 Stanley Cup finals that have been played, there have been 14 winners, and only 4 teams have won two or more championships. The most Detroit Red Wings have won the most Stanley Cup’s since 1990 with 4.
The NBA would be the league that has lacked the most variance from 1990-2012; they have had only 8 teams win in that span, six of which were multiple winners. The Bulls have 6 O’Brien trophies since 1990, the Lakers are second with 5. The Miami Heat have two, but are the most likely franchise to increase their total over the next few seasons.
The MLB and NFL are close in terms of variance. They both have had 13 teams win championships in our allotted time period, with the difference being that the NFL has had more repeating champions, including the Patriots and Cowboys, who both won 3 titles in that time span.The MLB has had only one 3-time champion, the New York Yankees.
That being said, the MLB has slightly more variance in that there have been only 5 multiple World Series winners; the NFL has had 8 out of their 13 Super Bowl winners since 1990 win on multiple occasions.
In terms of the four major sports in North America, the sport with the most parity in terms of championships can be ranked as follows:
  1. NHL
  2. MLB
  3. NFL
  4. NBA
While this data does show us the variance/parity, or lack thereof, in terms of championships, it does not look at other factors such as playoff qualification, performance, and trends. This data also does not compare regular season competitiveness. The following posts will seek to answer those questions.

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