HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the rest of their Oklahoma City Thunder teammates spent their entire summer with a nagging pain eating away at them, knowing that they didn’t finish last season the way they wanted to.
Losing to the Miami Heat in The Finals is a stain on their record that won’t be shoved aside until they get back to The Finals and break through. But in the absence of a championship won on the court, the Thunder can revel in the fact that they’ve finished on top in another race.
The Thunder rank first overall in ESPN The Magazine’s 10th annual ranking of pro sports franchises, a list that includes 122 franchises from all the major sports. Fourteen NBA franchises — the Thunder, Spurs, Pacers, Grizzlies, Celtics, Sixers, Bulls, Mavericks, Heat, Jazz, Nuggets, Hornets, Cavs and Rockets — made the top 51. The most notable omission from that group, the Los Angeles Lakers, came in at No. 89.
Before you go screaming about your team not ranking higher, you have to understand the basis for the “Ultimate Standings,” which are explained in even more detail here:
The eight major categories that make up the Ultimate Standings were created based on feedback from fans about what they want most from their favorite teams. The categories:
Bang For The Buck (BNG): Wins during the past three years (regular season plus postseason) per revenues directly from fans, adjusted for league schedules.
Fan Relations (FRL): Openness and consideration toward fans by players, coaches and management.
Ownership (OWN): Honesty and loyalty to core players and local community.
Affordability (AFF): Price of tickets, parking and concessions.
Stadium Experience (STX): Quality of arena and game-day promotions as well as friendliness of environment.
Players (PLA): Effort on the field and likability off it.
Coaching (CCH): Strength of on-field leadership.
Title Track (TTR): Championships already won or expected in the lifetime of current fans.
Perhaps just as impressive as the Thunder finishing atop the list is the Spurs piling up four first place votes in the category standings. They ranked first for ownership, coaching, players and fan relations.
The Grizzlies ranked first in bang for the buck, giving the NBA firsts in all but three categories.
Now Heat fans are probably going to be upset that their beloved franchise didn’t make the top five or 10 coming off of their second title since 2006 and with a chance to win more as long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are healthy and hungry. And Kobe Bryant, if he cared about such things, would have to feel a bit slighted with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the fold now and the Lakers poised to return to championship caliber.
But in the estimation of the folks at ESPN The Magazine, Durant, Westbrook, James Harden and the boys are deserving of the No. 1 spot.
That Thunder crew would surely love to sit atop of another list at the end of the 2012-13 season, one that has only one category that matters … playoff wins!