Not all championships are equal. If — in a hypothetical universe — one team won 99% of the championships, any championship won in that remaining 1% would be worth more. It’s like the difference between giving someone with billions of dollars another million dollars and giving someone with no money a million dollars. That million dollars has more worth to the person with no money — it means more and makes a bigger difference. Of course, the worth of a championship is a little more complicated than calculating what a million dollars would be worth to different people. A championship has no practical worth. Its worth is contained entirely in feelings of pride and excitement — its worth is decided by emotions.
This article will attempt to figure out the factors that go into that worth.
It was my original plan to create some sort of formula to decide the worth of a championship, but the more I pondered the issue, the clearer it was that many of the facets of such a formula would be impossible to calculate. We will have to settle on discussing the factors that would go into a championship worth formula instead. At least we can use these factors as thinking points when determining worth for ourselves.
For the sake of this article, words like “winning” and “success” relate only to ultimate winning and ultimate success — IE – winning a title.
Factor 1 – Number of Fans
This factor (combined with Factors 2 and 3) is the main reason why a formula would be impossible to create. Figuring out the number of fans for each individual team would involve censusing the entire world population. However, number of fans can usually pass a small thought test. For example, it is very likely that there are more New York Knicks fans than Minnesota Timberwolves fans. New York City is just a much bigger and farther reaching market. In terms of pure numbers, more people care about the Knicks than the Timberwolves — or so we can reasonably assume (probably).
Factor 2 – How Much Fans Actually Care About Their Team
Not all fans are made the same. Two people can call themselves Spurs fans, but one of those fans could be heavily invested in the team while the other vaguely pays attention to how the team is doing through box scores and Sportscenter. Again, the entire world population would need to be censused on how much they care about their team. My thought is to keep it to a simple scale of 1-10 (a Fanatic Rating or FR for short) . Fans at the lower end of the scale are as close to indifferent about the team as one can get while still technically being fans. Fans at the higher end of the scale have an obsession bordering on madness. Since we are only factoring in the positive worth of a championship, there would be no negative ratings.
The base worth of any one championship is decided by the number of fans multiplied by the average Fanatic Rating. So let’s say the Washington Wizards have 4,000 fans with an average FR of 6.5. The base worth for a Wizards title would be 26,000. Of course, this number in isolation doesn’t really MEAN anything. This number only has meaning when calculated against other titles (or potential titles if, for instance, we are calculating what a title for each individual team would hypothetically be worth this season). It’s like looking at a score in a leaderboard — this number’s position against other numbers is what creates the meaning.
The lowest base worth of any title is the lowest result of the number of fans multiplied by the average FR. The highest base worth is the highest result. This initially skews the worth of any title in favor of larger markets, but do not worry — the base worth of a title is not the same as the actual worth. Several other factors exist that either add to or subtract from the worth of a title.
Factor 3 – Fans Who Are Also Fans of More Than One Team/Success of That Other Team
It is hard to feel sorry for Knicks fans, considering that a great many of them are also Yankees and Giants and Jets and [Insert Name of Local New York City Hockey Team Here] fans. All of these teams have won championships within the last twenty years — the Yankees being especially prolific at winning them. If a Knicks fan is also a Yankees fan, that takes quite the sting off of the Knicks being so hopeless.
On the other hand, a Cavs fan who is also a Browns and/or Indians fan has known no joy or relief. If anything, being a fan of multiple losing teams would make any single title for any of those teams worth so much more. Lack of success in this case multiples the worth of a title.
Being a fan isn’t that simple, though. A fan of a certain team does not have to be from that team’s geographic region, and this complicates the issue of what other teams that fan supports. This third factor cannot be calculated even partially by looking at how well all of a city’s professional franchises have done. A Golden State Warriors fan who lives in Europe probably cares very little about how well the San Jose Sharks do or don’t do during any given season, but that fan may care about something weird… like soccer?
Factor 4 – Overall Success of a Franchise
The Celtics and Lakers are the winningest NBA franchises in terms of total titles. When a franchise has had a lot of overall success, it makes any additional title they win mean less (usually… we’ll get to exceptions to that rule with Factor 6). This factor is pretty self-explanatory.
Factor 5 – Recent Success of a Franchise
While the Mavericks have less titles than the 76ers, I would argue that in complete isolation (not considering either cities’ other teams), a 76ers title would mean more. Titles have relatively short memories. The longer it has been since the last title, the more the next title matters. Title proximity is just as important as overall franchise success — maybe more so.
Factor 6 – Length of Franchise Existence
It would be completely unfair to group both the Cavs and the Thunder together as “teams who have never won a title.” How long franchise has existed means a lot. The people of Oklahoma City can’t rightfully complain about not wining a title in 2007 because their team didn’t exist in 2007. They have less room to complain than even a team like the Pistons who have had a lot of franchise success and have even won a title within the last 10 years. Another name for this factor could be the “wait your turn” factor. In terms of complaining about not winning a title, relatively new franchises need to get in line behind others.
Factor 7 – Recent Fanbase Turmoil
This is probably the most variable factor. Turmoil could be as small as a star player leaving for another team (IE – Lebron James leaving Cleveland) or as big as a hurricane completely wrecking a city (IE – Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans). The further the time proximity from the event of turmoil, the less this factor matters. This can also be called the “feel good story” factor.
Of course, other people may consider different factors in the worth of a championship, but I believe these are the main seven factors to calculating that worth. We will never have enough data to precisely calculate the worth, but at least these can serve as thought points when considering the worth of any specific championship.