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Data Study

Cities With the Longest NBA Championship Droughts of All Time

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This year, the NBA Finals pit one of the most successful franchises of all time, the Boston Celtics, against one of the most successful franchises of recent years, the Golden State Warriors.

The Celtics have earned 17 titles in the NBA’s history, most recently in the 2007–2008 season, with championship teams led at different points by legends of the game like Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Kevin Garnett.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are making their sixth Finals appearance in eight seasons behind a revolutionary offense featuring two of the greatest shooters ever, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. In addition to changing how the game itself is played, the current Warriors core has won three titles together for a total of six all-time for the franchise.

Between the Celtics’ success over multiple eras and the Warriors’ current period of dominance, many of the NBA’s other 28 franchises and their fans may feel envious when watching the Finals this month. The association’s championships have primarily been won by a small group of franchises, including Boston and Golden State, and this year’s result will only add to the count.

Most Teams Suffer Long Droughts

Historically, it is rarer for a team to break through to end a long championship drought — like the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2020-21 season — or to win a first title, like the Toronto Raptors in 2018-19 or Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015-16.

The championship wait has been longer for some cities than others. More than one-third of US cities with an active NBA team have experienced a drought of longer than 40 years without a championship. This includes two that have never won a title in more than 50 years in the association. Eight of the 10 teams whose longest championship drought is longer than 40 years are currently in the midst of an active drought.

Over one-third of active NBA cities (10 out of 28) have experienced 40+ season championship droughts

Franchises Can Turn Around Fast

But with some lucky breaks and a top player or two, even historically downtrodden franchises can see their fortunes turn quickly.

The aforementioned Milwaukee Bucks ended a streak of 49 years without a championship with their victory in last year’s Finals. The Cavaliers’ 2015-16 title marked not only their first title in 45 years in the NBA, but also the end of a 52-year drought for a Cleveland pro sports title of any kind.

Even the modern Warriors dynasty began with the end of a 39-year NBA championship dry spell in 2014-15.

Many Teams Are Currently Suffering Long Droughts

However, nearly two-thirds of cities with an active NBA team are currently experiencing their longest championship drought in history.

Many of these cities have never seen a title at all, including Atlanta (home of the Hawks) and Phoenix (home of the Suns), whose droughts are tied at 54 years apiece.

Other cities have gone decades since last winning an NBA title, including New York’s 49 seasons, Portland’s 45 seasons, and Washington’s 44 seasons.

Nearly two-thirds of active NBA cities are currently mired in their longest championship drought in history

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Researchers at HotDog.com ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to NBA championship droughts. Championship droughts were calculated as the total number of consecutive, non-championship seasons for the metro’s NBA teams.

In the analysis, droughts were considered to be concluded when either a championship was won or when the location’s NBA team(s) relocated to another metro — separate losing streaks in the same location are listed as separate droughts in this analysis.

The 2021–2022 season is factored in for all locations except for the two that are actively pursuing the championship at the time of this writing (San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH).

Cities With the Longest NBA Championship Droughts of All-Time

Here are the cities with the longest NBA championship droughts of all time.

Minneapolis, MN
Photo Credit: IVY PHOTOS / Shutterstock

15. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • NBA championship drought: 33 seasons (1989–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: 1953 season (Lakers)
  • Total NBA championships: 5
  • Total professional sports championships: 7
Orlando, FL
Photo Credit: Songquan Deng / Shutterstock

14. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

  • NBA championship drought: 33 seasons (1989–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 0
Sacramento, CA
Photo Credit: Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

13. Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom, CA

  • NBA championship drought: 37 seasons (1985–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 0
San Francisco, CA
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

12. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

  • NBA championship drought: 39 seasons (1975–2013)
  • Reason the drought ended: 2014 championship season (Warriors)
  • Most recent championship season: 2017 season (Warriors)
  • Total NBA championships: 4
  • Total professional sports championships: 18
Philadelphia, PA
Photo Credit: Zack Frank / Shutterstock

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

  • NBA championship drought: 39 seasons (1983–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: 1982 season (76ers)
  • Total NBA championships: 4
  • Total professional sports championships: 17
Salt Lake City, UT
Photo Credit: photo.ua / Shutterstock

10. Salt Lake City, UT

  • NBA championship drought: 43 seasons (1979–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 1
Washington, DC
Photo Credit: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

  • NBA championship drought: 44 seasons (1978–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: 1977 season (Bullets)
  • Total NBA championships: 1
  • Total professional sports championships: 13
Cleveland, OH
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

8. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

  • NBA championship drought: 45 seasons (1970–2014)
  • Reason the drought ended: 2015 championship season (Cavaliers)
  • Most recent championship season: 2015 season (Cavaliers)
  • Total NBA championships: 1
  • Total professional sports championships: 9
Portland, OR
Photo Credit: Jon Bilous / Shutterstock

7. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • NBA championship drought: 45 seasons (1977–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: 1976 season (Trail Blazers)
  • Total NBA championships: 1
  • Total professional sports championships: 2
Denver, CO
Photo Credit: Nicholas Courtney / Shutterstock

6. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

  • NBA championship drought: 46 seasons (1976–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 6
Indianapolis, IN
Photo Credit: Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock

5. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

  • NBA championship drought: 46 seasons (1976–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 1
Milwaukee, WI
Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock

4. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI

  • NBA championship drought: 49 seasons (1971–2019)
  • Reason the drought ended: 2020 championship season (Bucks)
  • Most recent championship season: 2020 season (Bucks)
  • Total NBA championships: 2
  • Total professional sports championships: 3
Manhattan, NY
Photo Credit: Victor Moussa / Shutterstock

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

  • NBA championship drought: 49 seasons (1973–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: 1972 season (Knicks)
  • Total NBA championships: 2
  • Total professional sports championships: 58

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Atlanta, GA
Photo Credit: AntonSokolov / Shutterstock

2. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA

  • NBA championship drought: 54 seasons (1968–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 3
Phoenix, AZ
Photo Credit: Mark Skalny / Shutterstock

1. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

  • NBA championship drought: 54 seasons (1968–present)
  • Reason the drought ended: Active
  • Most recent championship season: N/A
  • Total NBA championships: 0
  • Total professional sports championships: 1

Methodology and Detailed Findings

Researchers at HotDog.com ranked US and Canadian metropolitan areas according to NBA championship droughts. Championship droughts were calculated as the total number of consecutive, non-championship seasons for the metro’s NBA teams.

In the analysis, droughts were considered to be concluded when either a championship was won or when the location’s NBA team(s) relocated to another metro. Separate losing streaks in the same location are listed as separate droughts in this analysis. Only droughts of at least 10 seasons were included.

In the event of a tie, the location with the more recent drought was ranked higher. Further ties were broken by total NBA championships, and then total professional sports championships, with locations with fewer championships being ranked higher. Each NBA season is referred to by the year that the season started. All seasons since the NBA was founded in 1946 were considered.

The 2021 season is factored in for all locations except for the two that were actively pursuing the 2021 championship at the time of this writing (San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA and Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH).

The data was sourced from basketball-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, baseball-reference.com, hockey-reference.com, and fbref.com.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Brocreative / 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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