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Data Study

Cities With the Most NBA Playoff Seasons

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With the 2021-22 NBA season drawing to a close this month, the league’s teams and fans are taking stock of the year and looking ahead to next season. Only one franchise can hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy each June, but teams can have successful or unsuccessful years in other ways.

This season, upstart teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors exceeded expectations on their way to playoff berths. And star-studded squads like the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers delivered disappointing campaigns.

One important measure of success for many teams is playoff appearances.

NBA Playoff Appearances

Making the playoffs can be an important milestone for a young team’s development. For instance, the Phoenix Suns snapped a decade-long playoff drought last year on their way to earning the league’s best record in 2021-22.

A playoff berth could also mean a return to relevance, as was the case this year for one of the league’s premier franchises, the Chicago Bulls. They made their first playoffs since 2016-17.

NBA Cities

But in some NBA cities, playoff appearances are a baseline expectation. Boston is one of the NBA’s most storied cities, with a total of 59 playoff seasons and 17 NBA championships. While both the Lakers and the Clippers missed the playoffs this year, Los Angeles has seen a playoff berth in more than 90% of total seasons.

Boston and Los Angeles both have long histories in the league and are destination markets. But some comparatively newer NBA markets have seen sustained runs of excellence as well.

San Antonio has had a playoff appearance in 84.8% of eligible seasons, while Salt Lake City has had a playoff team in 72.1% of eligible seasons.

White Boston leads overall, LA and San Antonio have the highest proportion of playoff seasons

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Play-In

For cities longing for playoff basketball, the NBA created a new way for teams to qualify with the introduction of the play-in tournament in the 2019-20 season. Under the current format, teams ranked 7th through 10th in each conference at the end of the regular season compete for the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoff bracket.

This setup has allowed more teams a shot at earning a spot in the playoffs. In the 2021-22 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans each made their first playoff appearances since 2017-18 after surviving the play-in.

Despite the creation of the play-in, some cities have been waiting years to see their local team return to the playoffs. Among the 28 metros that host NBA franchises, only Charlotte and Sacramento have failed to make the playoffs in the last five years, though Charlotte qualified for the play-in in each of the last two seasons.

Only Charlotte and Sacramento have failed to make the NBA playoffs in the last 5 years

With 16 teams making the playoffs each season and some cities having been blessed with well-run franchises or Hall of Fame players over the years, some NBA markets can look forward to playoff basketball more often than not.

To find the cities with the most NBA playoff seasons, researchers at HotDog.com ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to total NBA playoff seasons.

In the analysis, a playoff season was defined as a season in which a metro area was represented by at least one NBA team in the playoffs. Regular season tiebreakers and play-in tournament games were not counted as playoff games.

Only locations with at least one playoff season were considered, and all NBA seasons since the NBA was founded in 1946 were included.

In the event of a tie, the location with the higher percentage of playoff seasons was ranked higher. Further ties were broken according to the most recent playoff season. The data was sourced from basketball-reference.com.

Cities With the Most NBA Playoff Seasons

Here are the cities with the most NBA playoff seasons.

Denver, CO
Photo Credit: JKO Photos / Shutterstock

15. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 28
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 47
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 59.6%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Nuggets)

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Phoenix, AZ
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

14. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 31
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 54
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 57.4%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Suns)
Indianapolis, IN
Photo Credit: Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock

13. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 31
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 51
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 60.8%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2020 (Pacers)
Salt Lake City, UT
Photo Credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

12. Salt Lake City, UT

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 31
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 43
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 72.1%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Jazz)
Houston, TX
Photo Credit: Tomas Simkus / Shutterstock

11. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 33
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 51
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 64.7%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2020 (Rockets)
Detroit, MI
Photo Credit: Ivan Cholakov / Shutterstock

10. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 34
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 66
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 51.5%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2019 (Pistons)
Milwaukee, WI
Photo Credit: Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock

9. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 34
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 58
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 58.6%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Bucks)
Atlanta, GA
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

8. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 35
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 54
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 64.8%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Hawks)
Portland, OR
Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

7. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 37
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 52
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 71.2%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2021 (Trail Blazers)
San Antonio, TX
Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

6. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 39
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 46
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 84.8%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2019 (Spurs)
Chicago, IL
Photo Credit: marchello74 / Shutterstock

5. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 40
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 62
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 64.5%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Bulls)
Philadelphia, PA
Photo Credit: Zack Frank / Shutterstock

4. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 50
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 75
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 66.7%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (76ers)
New York, NY
Photo Credit: dibrova / Shutterstock

3. New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 55
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 76
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 72.4%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Nets)
Los Angeles, CA
Photo Credit: Chones / Shutterstock

2. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 56
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 62
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 90.3%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2021 (Lakers and Clippers)
Boston, MA
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

1. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

  • Total NBA playoff seasons: 59
  • Total seasons with an NBA team: 76
  • Playoff seasons as a percentage of total: 77.6%
  • Most recent NBA playoff season: 2022 (Celtics)

Methodology and Detailed Findings

Researchers at HotDog.com ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to total NBA playoff seasons.

In the analysis, a playoff season was defined as a season in which a metro area was represented by at least one NBA team in the playoffs. Regular season tiebreakers and play-in tournament games were not counted as playoff games.

Only locations with at least one playoff season were considered, and all NBA seasons since the NBA was founded in 1946 were included. In the event of a tie, the location with the higher percentage of playoff seasons was ranked higher. Further ties were broken according to the most recent playoff season.

The data was sourced from basketball-reference.com.

Featured Image Credit: Oleksii Sidorov / Shutterstock

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By Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is Content Editor at HotDog.com. He specializes in technology, business, and film/television. You can see his writing on low-budget and weird film at Psychotronic Review — and many other places.

Contact Frank with thoughts, questions, and story ideas at [email protected]

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