When cities have successful sports franchises, morale and attendance is high and the winning becomes contagious, lifting the spirits of their fans and keeping them loyal when seasons do not go as planned. Cities that don’t have such good fortune, often struggle to fill empty seats which in turn leads to further losing as it becomes harder to attract and keep star players.
While struggling teams rebuild, the more successful teams retool. Successful teams can come from cities of any size. The small city of Pittsburgh has 14 championships between its 3 major sports teams (NFL, NHL and MLB). New York has had plenty for fans to be excited about with 54 championships with its major sports teams. Boston has had a rich tradition of winning with 35 championships in the four major sports. On the other hand, there have been some cities that have not experienced such measures of success.
The following 10 cities have had more despair than success. This has led to franchises moving on, empty seats, coaching carousels and fewer championships to share with fans.
10. Charlotte / NBA, NFL – 0 Championships
Charlotte does not have a lengthy history with its two pro sports franchises, but they make the list due to the fact that neither team has won a championship. The Carolina Panthers have been pretty successful since entering the NFL as an expansion team in 1995, winning their division and making the playoffs in just their second season in the league. The Panthers made it to the Super Bowl in the 2003 season where they lost to the New England Patriots 32-29.
The NBA Charlotte Hornets entered the league in 1988 and relocated to New Orleans in 2002. In 2004, the NBA came back to Charlotte when the Bobcats entered the league as an expansion team. The team was just renamed the Hornets for the 2014-15 season, hoping to regain some of the success it achieved with teams from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The Bobcats and Hornets might have different names but the results have been the same, no titles. The Panthers offer the city the most hope with their current team.
9. Kansas City / MLB, NBA, NFL – 5 Championships
Kansas City has some great fans, but its sports teams have not given them a whole lot to cheer about. The MLB Royals did win a World Series Title in 1985, beating the cross-town rival St. Louis Cardinals. This era with George Brett saw the Royals make the playoffs in 7 out of 10 seasons. However, since 1995 the Royals have had only one winning season and hold the MLB’s longest postseason drought since winning the World Series in 1985. The NBA’s Kansas City Kings had some good players, but only made one real playoff run during their time in Kansas City (1972-1985), before moving to Sacramento.
The Chiefs have had a long drought since the early years when they were a dominant team. They won three AFL titles in the 1960’s and had one Super Bowl victory against the Vikings in 1970. The franchise has suffered since then with only one AFC Championship game appearance in 1994, the same year that they had their last postseason playoff victory. Since then, there has been very little for fans to cheer about and this past season’s playoff collapse against the Colts only added to their misery.
8. Houston / MLB, NBA, NFL – 4 Championships
The city of Houston has had plenty of lean seasons with the Astros, and more recently the Texans, creating enough misery to erase memories of the NBA Championships won by the Rockets. The Astros lead the way in futility with no World Series Titles and only one Series appearance since being established in 1962. The Houston Oilers were AFL Champions in 1961 and 1962 and had some success in the NFL being second fiddle to Pittsburgh and then Buffalo before moving to Tennessee in 1997. The Texans brought the NFL back to Houston and were looking good until suffering a devastating setback last season, winning only two games.
The only titles that most Houston fans have memories of are from the NBA Rockets in 1994 and 1995. Led by Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rockets were considered by many to be lucky to win the two titles because they never had to face Michael Jordan who moved on to baseball during that time. The Rockets had another good team with Yao and T-Mac and now have a pretty solid team with Dwight Howard and James Harden offering some hope for the future.
7. Seattle / MLB, NBA, NFL – 2 Championships
Until the Seattle Seahawks finally established themselves as a force in the NFL, winning last year’s Super Bowl, the city had only one championship to hang its hat on. The fact that it came from an NBA team that moved on to Oklahoma City did not make things any better for Seattle sports fans. The Seattle SuperSonics won an NBA Championship in 1979 after being founded in 1967. They had some other productive seasons with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, but then moved to Oklahoma City in 2008.
The Seattle Seahawks entered the NFL as an expansion team in 1976 and had very little success until 2005 when they made it to the Super Bowl and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They finally broke through in 2014 for their rabid fans. The MLB Mariners on the other hand are one of only two teams in MLB that have never made it to the World Series. They did tie an American League record in 2001 with 116 regular season victories. Despite this milestone, they are still one of only 8 teams that have never won a World Series title.
6. Milwaukee / MLB, NBA – 2 Championships
Milwaukee has a rich sports history with many prominent players powering its two sports teams. The MLB Brewers were established in 1969 and have had only one World Series appearance, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. The Milwaukee Braves did beat the NY Yankees for a World Series Title in 1957 behind the efforts of the legendary Hank Aaron. The Brewers have had some recent success, but still have no titles in 40 plus years.
The Bucks on the other hand have been an even bigger picture of misery. The franchise was established in 1968 and went on to win an NBA Championship in 1971 after acquiring Oscar Robertson. That remains their only NBA title even though some pretty good players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Marques Johnson, Sidney Moncrief, Terry Cummings and Jack Sikma have been on the Bucks. Even with those solid players, since the 1980’s, the franchise has been pretty mediocre.
5. Buffalo / NBA, NFL, NHL – 2 Championships
The city of Buffalo has had some good teams but failure in big games has punished its sports fans. The Buffalo Bills won AFL Championships in 1964 and 1965, but have yet to win an NFL title since then. The Bills did make it to the Super Bowl in four straight years, from 1990-1993, only to lose the big game each time. That in itself is enough misery. The Buffalo Braves started out in the NBA in 1970, only to move on to San Diego in 1978 and become the Clippers, continuing their title drought.
The Buffalo Sabres are even worse. Since entering the NHL in 1970, the Sabres have appeared in only two Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Philadelphia Flyers in 1975 and the Dallas Stars in 1999. The Sabres have also had difficulty winning the big games even when they do have successful seasons. This leaves the city of Buffalo with just two AFL championships and little else to celebrate in almost 50 years.
4. New Orleans / NBA, NFL – 1 Championship
New Orleans has seen the Jazz move to Utah, the Hornets become the Pelicans and has made it through many years where the Saints were called the “Aints.” Saints fans spent many years wearing brown bags over their heads and being the butt of jokes throughout the league. The Saints didn’t experience success until they finished 12-3 and made the playoffs for the first time in 1987. Since then the Saints have fared better, winning a Super Bowl title in 2009 after finishing the season with a 13-3 record in the Drew Brees era.
The NBA Jazz franchise started in New Orleans in 1974, making a big mistake to acquire aging guard Gail Goodrich only to then move to Utah in 1979 without achieving any measure of success. The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans in 2002 and spent a couple of years in Oklahoma City following Hurricane Katrina, but moved back to the city and became the Pelicans in 2012. The Hornets had some success with Chris Paul leading the way in 2007-2009, but that is about the extent of their success in the NBA.
3. Phoenix / MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL – 1 Championship
The city of Phoenix does not have the longest history with professional sports, but nonetheless has only one title with four major professional sports teams. The MLB Arizona Diamondbacks were only established in 1998, but managed to win the World Series in 2001 in just their fourth year of existence. The NHL Coyotes have only been in the Phoenix area since 1996 and have endured bankruptcy problems and limited success from 2010-2012, but no titles.
The Phoenix Suns have had the NBA’s fourth best all-time winning percentage since beginning play as an expansion team in 1968. Despite making the playoffs 29 times and 9 trips to the Western Conference Finals, the Suns have no NBA titles to show for their efforts. The NFL Cardinals moved from St. Louis to the Phoenix area in 1988 and have had only three playoff appearances and two division championships since that time. Close, but no cigar has been the story of Phoenix sports teams.
2. Atlanta / MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL – 1 Championship
It is hard to believe that Atlanta has only had one title despite all those great Braves teams, the “Dirty Bird” Falcons and even some decent Hawks teams. The Braves have been in Atlanta since 1966 and were one of the most successful teams in baseball between 1991 and 2005, winning 14 consecutive division titles and reaching the World Series five times. Despite all that success, they only came out of that time period with one World Championship in 1995.
The Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team. The Falcons have had only 5 divisional titles and one Super Bowl appearance during their existence in the league. That is a measure of success compared to the NBA’s Hawks. The Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1965 and now own the second longest run of of not winning an NBA title at 57 years. They have yet to advance past the second round of the NBA playoffs in any season. The NHL Atlanta Flames went 1972-1980 without a title and moved to Calgary where they finally won a Stanley Cup.
1. San Diego / MLB, NBA, NFL – 1 Championship
Lucky for many residents of San Diego there is perfect weather, the beach and plenty of entertainment options besides watching sports. The city lost two NBA teams, the Rockets and Clippers, and has won only one major title back in 1963 when the Chargers were in the AFL. Since then, the Chargers have been in one Super Bowl (1994) where the San Francisco 49ers handled them rather easily by a score of 49-26. At least the Chargers do have a playoff history and have always been an entertaining team.
The San Diego Padres were founded in 1969 and have won two National League Pennants in 1984 and 1998, only to lose in the World Series both times. The Padres have only had 13 winning seasons since entering the major leagues. The Padres also have the distinction of being the only MLB team to never have a pitcher pitch a no-hitter or a batter hit for the cycle (tied with the Miami Marlins). That leaves the city with no titles in over 50 years!