Ties That Bind: A Look at Similarities between NBA and NFL Franchises
We often hear announcers and commentators discuss how an NBA player's talent would translate to the NFL.
How many times have we listened to someone talk about how LeBron James would make a fabulous tight end or wide receiver?
In fact, many NFL players have a hoops background, most notably Tony Gonzalez and Antontio Gates, who played basketball, not football, in their college days.
Gonzalez has made a routine of dunking the football over the goalposts when he scores a touchdown.
Allen Iverson has also talked about how much he loved playing quarterback in high school.
Even when not considering how a player would be if he switched sports, we compare the accomplishments of athletes across sports and debate how they match up.
Michael Jordan's accomplishments vs. Joe Montana's, Dan Marino and Karl Malone being great players but never winning the big one, and so forth.
What about the teams, though?
How do franchises across the NBA and NFL match up in terms of historic accomplishments, recent trends and other circumstantial similarities?
Here is a look at each NBA team and its NFL counterpart.
Atlanta Hawks-Kansas City Chiefs
It's been a long time since either of these franchises have won a championship.
Atlanta's only one came in 1958, and the Chiefs' last Super Bowl victory was in 1969.
Both teams have had legendary players—the Hawks featured Dominque Wilkins for many years, while Kansas City has had the likes of Joe Montana and Marcus Allen grace their field—as well as great coaches who fell short of winning it all.
Lenny Wilkens held the record for most wins by an NBA coach before Don Nelson broke the mark. Kanas City was coached by Marty Schottenheimer for a number of years.
The clubs have also had stretches of consistent playoff appearances, yet were unable to break through and even make it to the championship round.
More recently, Atlanta has made the playoffs three years in a row. Kansas City, meanwhile, has had a resurgence in 2010, hoping they can mirror the Hawks' regular season success.
Boston Celtics-Pittsburgh Steelers
Boston is the winningest franchise in professional basketball, with seventeen NBA Championships.
They are geared up for another run at a championship this year, and with one of the best point guards in the game, should be contending for years to come.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have more Super Bowl trophies than anyone in the NFL, and are an early favorite to get another one in 2010.
Think of how these franchises have gotten it done, too. Strong defense, intimidating, legendary players and Hall of Fame coaches.
Just the names of the athletes who have played for these teams are awe-inspiring; Terry Bradshaw, Bill Russell, Larry Bird, Franco Harris and, more recently, Jerome Bettis, Kevin Garnett, Hines Ward and Paul Pierce.
With players like these, it's no wonder these two franchises have become the standard of excellence in their respective sports.
Charlotte Bobcats-Houston Texans
The Charlotte Bobcats and the Houston Texans.
Both are their league's newest expansion teams, and both are replacing teams that had a fair amount of success and popularity (the Bobcats took the place of the Hornets, while the Texans took over for the Oilers).
While Charlotte does not have any players who are on the same level of Andre Johnson in Houston, they do have a legendary owner in Michael Jordan and a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown.
The Bobcats were able to make the playoffs for the first time last year, and the Texans are in good shape to break into the postseason this year.
Chicago Bulls-San Francisco 49ers
The Bulls and Niners had dynasty runs that were among the best we have seen in professional sports.
From 1981 to 1994, San Francisco won five Super Bowls, including four in the '80s.
In the '90s, Chicago won six NBA Championships on the strength of two three-peats. Had Michael Jordan not decided to give baseball a try, it's possible, even probable, that they would have won more; maybe eight in a row.
Bill Walsh and Phil Jackson are considered two of the best coaches ever, and it's no surprise that the two teams had some of the best to ever play.
Jordan is widely considered the best basketball player ever, maybe even the best athlete ever.
Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott are in the discussion of the best to play their positions, with Rice being, basically, the undisputed greatest receiver of all time.
Both franchises are attempting to rise back to prominence, although Chicago seems to be in better shape at the moment.
Cleveland Cavaliers-Detroit Lions
Fans of these teams know what it's like to struggle.
Before Detroit became the laughing stock of the NFL, they were a regular playoff contender. Like Cavs fans, however, they witnessed their star player abrubtly leave.
Barry Sanders shocked just about everyone in the sports world when he suddenly retired in 1999, as he was very close to breaking the all-time rushing record that would eventually become Emmitt Smith's.
The Lions have struggled to be competitive since then.
The man who was supposed to be the franchise-savior in Cleveland, LeBron James, left the team via free-agency this summer, and it appears it will be a while before the Cavs are contenders again.
The Lions have never appeared in a Super Bowl, and the Cavaliers have made it to just one NBA Finals, where they were quickly dismissed by the San Antonio Spurs.
Dallas Mavericks-San Diego Chargers
The Chargers and the Mavs have enjoyed periods of success, but also stretches of losing.
They have also both played for a championship one time each, both losing.
What makes them even more similar is how they've gotten their hands on some of their franchise players; through draft-day trades.
Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks, but was quickly dealt to the Mavericks.
San Diego selected future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson fifth overall in 2001, but only after swapping places with the Atlanta Falcons, who wanted to move up to No. 1, where they could select Michael Vick.
Nowitzki and Tomlinson are both considered unique, possibly revolutionary, players at their positions.
Dirk is a seven-footer who can not only mix it up in the post, but can also shoot the three as well as anyone, making him a matchup nightmare.
Tomlinson became the player that he is not only for his running talents, but also his ability to catch passes out of the backfield, a type of player other NFL teams have tried to find.
Denver Nuggets-Philadelphia Eagles
The Nuggets and Eagles have had a good run of things as of late, consistently making the playoffs, but also consistently falling short of winning it all.
This recent success can be attributed, in a large way, to star players who played their college ball at Syracuse.
Carmelo Anthony and Donovan McNabb had huge success playing with The Orange, and have continued winning at the pro level.
The Nuggets have never missed the playoffs since 'Melo came to the team and the Eagles were a virtual lock for the postseason with McNabb at quarterback, making the NFC Championship Game five times.
Nuggets fans will hope that the similarites between the two players don't continue as McNabb was shown the door this offseason when he was traded to Washington. All signs are pointing to Anthony making his exit soon.
Detroit Pistons-New York Giants
In 2004, the Detroit Pistons faced a superstar-laden L.A. Lakers team in the NBA Finals, with no one giving them a shot to win.
In 2007, the New York Giants made the Super Bowl, going against the undefeated New England Patriots as 12-point underdogs.
Both teams won on the strength of their defense and team mentality.
The Giants have won three Super Bowls, and the Pistons have won three NBA Championships, each time with strong defense.
When the franchises have been good, they have been intimidating presences on the field and on the court, known to beat up on their opponents.
Add in that both teams wear the same colors, and you have a cross-sport link that can't be broken.
Golden State Warriors-Seattle Seahawks
Both these teams are buried on the West Coast, where, unless they're playing at a high level, no one pays much attention to them.
The Warriors have won two NBA Championships, but not since 1975.
Seattle's only Super Bowl appearance came in 2006, where they fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Seahawks recently hired Pete Carroll as their head coach and are hoping he can turn things around, just like the Warriors hope Keith Smart, along with players like Stephen Curry, can do.
Houston Rockets-Miami Dolphins
While the Dolphins have more lore attached to their name due to their undefeated season, both franchises have been a pretty consistent presence in the playoffs.
Both teams won their championships in consecutive seasons. The 'Fins won Super Bowls in '72 and '73; the Rockets won in '94 and '95.
They also have some all-time greats, most notably Hakeem Olajuwon and Dan Marino.
Both teams are hoping to return to the playoffs in 2010 after missing them last year.
Indiana Pacers-Atlanta Falcons
These two franchises are in hotbeds for their respective sports, but in many ways are overshadowed by the high school and college games.
The Pacers are by no means an NBA powerhouse, but they have had more consistent success than the Falcons, who did not have consecutive winning seasons until 2008 and 2009.
A striking resemblance between the teams is how they have fallen apart in recent years when expectations were highest.
Indiana acquired Ron Artest, who was supposed to put them over the top and land them a spot in the Finals. But after the infamous Brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Artest was suspended for the season, and the Pacers kissed those championship aspirations goodbye.
Atlanta thought they had a franchise quarterback in Michael Vick, who had landed them national attention they had never seen before.
Entering the 2007 season, the Falcons hired coach Bobby Petrino, hoping he could turn the quarterback into the unstoppable force his talent promised.
Vick ended up in prison on dogfighting charges and never again played for the Falcons, while Petrino snuck out the door before the season even finished.
Los Angeles Clippers-Arizona Cardinals
Two of the most laughably bad franchises in professional sports, they tend to have brief runs of winning, followed by longer stretches of losing.
Both teams have had struggles drafting players, with the Clippers being particularly cursed.
Their first pick a year ago, Blake Griffin, missed the season with a knee injury, adding to the notion that being selected by the Clips is about the worst thing that can happen to you as a basketball player.
Arizona made the playoffs the past two seasons, even going to Super Bowl XLIII. But with quarterback Kurt Warner retiring, it appears the Cardinals are on their way to more misery.
Los Angeles Lakers-Dallas Cowboys
Are there any higher-profile organizations in all of sports?
The Cowboys are behind only Pittsburgh in Super Bowl victories, while the Lakers are one behind Boston for the most NBA Championships.
Like the Steelers and Celtics, L.A. and Dallas have been the homes of many of the all-time greats.
Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant for the Lakers; Roger Staubach, Emmit Smith, Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman for the 'Boys.
Dallas has been unable to attain the success that L.A. has had in recent years. But with the resources the Cowboys have, it will be hard to keep them down for long.
Memphis Grizzlies-Jacksonville Jaguars
These two teams came into their leagues in the same year, 1995, and have had similar histories, having some success, but never competing for a championship.
They have some stud players in Rudy Gay and Maurice Jones-Drew, but the rest of the supporting cast is questionable.
The Grizzlies started out in Vancouver, but relocated to Memphis in hopes of gaining a larger fanbase.
The Jaguars have had trouble getting people to attend their games in Jacksonville, even getting games blacked out locally, and are the team most mentioned for a possible move to Los Angeles.
If that happens, the likenesses between the franchises will continue.
Miami Heat-New York Jets
Miami is newer to the scene than New York.
But just like the Jets, the Heat has played for a championship one time, and won it one time, against a team that was heavily favored, and thanks to the performance of a superstar player.
For Miami, it was Dwayne Wade coming through when the team needed him most. For the Jets, it was Joe Namath.
Both teams have entered the 2010 seasons in similar fashion.
New York acquired some very high-profile players in LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie, Jason Taylor and Santonio Holmes during the offseason, and annoyed a lot of people with their trash talk and TV show.
They were easily the most hyped team coming into the NFL season.
The Heat brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh this summer and angered fans, and quite a few people around the league, with their WWE-style introduction of their three star players.
Despite this, they are the headliners of the most heavily-anticipated NBA season in recent memory.
Milwaukee Bucks-St. Louis Rams
For a couple of teams who have just one title apiece, the Rams and Bucks have been some pretty solid franchises.
Sure, they've both had their dark periods, but they've also been consistent winners for long stretches of time. When they did win, they did it in impressive fashion.
The Bucks' lone championship came after one of the best seasons ever. Milwaukee had a 66-16 regular season record and lost just two games in the playoffs.
Super Bowl XXXIV, featuring the Rams and the Tennessee Titans, was one of the best that has been played, coming off a 13-3 St. Louis season that featured one of the best offenses we've seen.
Minnesota Timberwolves-Cleveland Browns
The Browns and Wolves have had truly great players spend a majority of their careers with the teams in Jim Brown and Kevin Garnett, although Brown played before the NFL-AFL merger.
Minnesota's only real success came when Garnett was on the team, when they were a consistent presence in the playoffs, but managed to advance past the first round just one time.
Aside from the time Brown played for Cleveland, their only run of winning came with Bernie Kosar quarterbacking the team in the '80s.
More recently, both teams have basically become laughingstocks. The Browns appear on their way to another miserable season in 2010, and Minnesota's awful 15-67 record in 2009-10 was overshadowed by New Jersey's pitiful year.
New Jersey Nets-Buffalo Bills
Before these guys became jokes in their leagues, they were actually quite successful.
From 1988 to 1999, Buffalo made the playoffs just about every year, and in the early '90s made four consecutive Super Bowls, losing them all.
New Jersey made the playoffs a number of times in the '80s and '90s, although they did not make it past the first round until the 2000-01 season, when they made the Finals twice in a row, losing both times.
Like the Bills, who had the bad luck of running into some majorly good teams when they made their Super Bowls in Dallas, Washington and the New York Giants, the Nets were unfortunate in having to square off against the L.A. Lakers and San Antonio Spurs in their championship round appearances.
New Orleans Hornets-Minnesota Vikings
Consistent winning is a good thing, but you need to eventually break through and win a championship to be considered a great franchise.
The New Orleans Hornets, who started out in Charlotte, have been in the postseason pretty regularly for a team that's never been to the Finals.
Minnesota has played in four Super Bowls, but are so far championship-less.
Both franchises have truly special talents who they hope will put them over the top in Chris Paul and Adrian Peterson.
They also dealt with their fair share of distractions this past offseason, with the Vikings unsure whether or not Brett Favre would return and the Hornets having to deal with Paul talking about being traded.
New York Knicks-Oakland Raiders
In recent years, the Knicks and Raiders have made headlines and been the subject of many jokes due to seeming front-office incompetence.
Fans in New York and Oakland are among the best in both sports and are starving for competitive teams.
The Knicks won two championships before the NBA-ABA merger, but have been back to the Finals just twice since then, losing to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
They had the misfortune of having some of their best seasons while Michael Jordan was around.
The Raiders have won three Super Bowls, but have made it back only one time since then, losing badly to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
They also had some bad luck that year, running into former coach Jon Gruden in that game, who knew everything there was to know about the team and gameplanned accordingly.
Oklahoma City Thunder-Baltimore Ravens
After controversially relocating from Cleveland, the Baltimore Ravens used their first ever draft pick in 1996 to select linebacker Ray Lewis, who has become one of the best of all time, leading the team to a Super Bowl victory in 2000.
Likewise, the Thunder were originally in Seattle, where they were loved by their fans.
The people of Seattle got to see Kevin Durant in person for one season, but will now have to watch from afar as he likely becomes one of the best ever and wins at least one championship in Oklahoma City.
Orlando Magic-Cincinnati Bengals
While Orlando has had way more success than the hapless Bengals, both teams have played for a championship twice, both losing each time at the hands of some all-time great players.
Cincinnati twice fell to Joe Montana's 49ers; the Magic lost first to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets, then had the joy of facing Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers two years ago.
The team's most notable players, Dwight Howard and Chad Ochocinco, have also been questioned about their commitment, with some believing they are more interested in fame and media attention than winning championships.
Philadelphia 76ers-Green Bay Packers
Two teams with their fair share of history and lore, their fans have been witness to some of the more legendary coaches and players in sports.
Philadelphia has been the home of Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Brown and Allen Iverson; Green Bay has seen the likes of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr and Brett Favre.
The Packers did most of their damage before the Super Bowl era, but have won the big game three times.
Winners of three NBA Championships, Philadelphia has won just once since its league's merger.
Phoenix Suns-Indianapolis Colts
Since Peyton Manning has taken over as the Colts' quarterback, Indy's offense has been absolutely brilliant, seemingly incapable of being stopped at times.
In a similar fashion, when Steve Nash was brought back to Phoenix in 2004, the Suns' offense quickly became one of the best in the NBA, scoring quickly and at will.
What both teams became known for, however, was their inability to stop anyone defensively, and losses to huge rivals in San Antonio and New England.
Peyton and the Colts were eventually able to topple the mighty Patriots and win a Super Bowl, while, despite finally beating their nemesis in last year's playoffs, the Suns were unable to break through and win a title.
Portland Trail Blazers-Denver Broncos
Winners of the first post-merger NBA title in the 1976-77 season, Portland made the playoffs every year from 1982 to 2003, but have just the one championship to show for it.
For a long time, it appeared the Broncos were fated for a similar destiny, until John Elway led them to consecutive Super Bowl wins in the '90s.
Having recently hired new coaches in Nate McMillan and Josh McDaniels, both organizations sport promising, young teams who appear to be just a year or two away from being real contenders.
Sacramento Kings-Chicago Bears
Sacramento has a long, long history, bouncing around a few cities before landing in Sacramento prior to the 1985-86 season.
The Bears have been in Chicago since the 1920s, but what binds the teams is their lack of success.
Chicago did most of its winning long before the first Super Bowl was played, and aside from a stretch in the '80s when they made the playoffs seven out of eight years, winning the country's most famous football game once, they have largely been a losing team.
The Kings' franchise won its only championship when they were known as the Royals and played in Rochester, New York, long before the NBA-ABA merger.
Since they were relocated to Sacramento, the Kings' only streak of success came in the late '90s and early-to-mid 2000s, when they made the playoffs eight consecutive years, failing to make it to the Finals in any of those seasons.
San Antonio Spurs-New England Patriots
Two teams that started out in the ABA and AFL before joining the more prominent leagues, the Spurs and Patriots were unable to win it all until they found themselves being the homes of all-time great coaches and two of the best to ever play.
The combinations of Greg Popovich and Tim Duncan for San Antionio and Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for New England, led the franchises to the ranks of dynasties.
They have also gotten it done in similar ways; bringing in players who will fit their systems and kindly saying goodbye to those who don't.
It's gotten to the point where, when a player is drafted by one of these teams, we just expect the guy to be good.
Both teams employ defensive, team-first mentalities, and it is hard to imagine either organization without their coaches and star players.
Toronto Raptors-Carolina Panthers
Like Memphis and Jacksonville, these two teams started playing in 1995.
Carolina is easily the most successful of the four franchises, being the only one to play for a championship.
The Raptors have had more success than the Grizzlies, making the playoffs five times in their fifteen years, putting them closer to par when it comes to the Panthers.
Toronto and Carolina have also been host to two freakishly talented players who were accused of dogging it in their time with the teams in Vince Carter and Julius Peppers.
Peppers never admitted to it like "Vinsanity" did, but he made his way to greener pastures just like Carter.
Utah Jazz-Tennessee Titans
Originally the Houston Oilers, the Titans moved to Tennessee where, upon realizing there was no oil there, they changed their name to the Titans.
The Jazz started out in New Orleans before moving to Utah in 1979. Unlike the Titans, the Jazz chose to keep their name, even though it doesn't make much sense for the region they are in.
The teams have the longest-tenured active coaches in their leagues with Jeff Fisher and Jerry Sloan, and both lost championships on iconic plays.
Utah had the pleasure of taking on Michael Jordan and the Bulls two years in a row. In 1998, Jordan hit what became known as "The Shot" in the final seconds of Game 6, giving Chicago its sixth championship in eight years.
The Titans lost their only Super Bowl on the final play of the game when, attempting to tie the score, receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled at the one-yard line. The play is one of the most famous in NFL history.
Both franchises have also been home to some of the best, and somewhat underappreciated, players ever in John Stockton, Karl Malone, Steve McNair and Eddie George.
Washington Wizards-New Orleans Saints
No team comes close to meaning to its city what the Saints do to New Orleans, but not many teams know how to lose like the Saints and Wizards.
Before New Orleans won the Super Bowl a year ago, they made the playoffs a total of six times in their 43-year history, with fans famously wearing bags over their heads to avoid being identified when they attended games.
Since winning the NBA title in the 1977-78 campaign, the Wizards/Bullets have made the playoffs 13 times and have often been very, very bad.
To highlight this, in the 2004-05 season, when Washington made it past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1982, they had "First Round Champions" t-shirts printed.
It's the little things that count.
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