20 Best Sports Cities in the South

Sam R. Quinn@SamQuinn_Senior Analyst IIIMarch 14, 2012

20 Best Sports Cities in the South

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    The United States is littered with great sports cities, but the Southern region of the country is chock-full of sports-loving fanatics.

    On the Eastern seaboard, south of the Mason-Dixon line, as well as hundreds of miles inland, you will find some of the most loyal fans in both professional and college sports.

    Stretching from Texas to Maryland, we'll rank the top 20 Southern sports cities in the country.

    The amount of successful teams, tradition and fans will all be taken into account to determine which city will end up on top.

    Without further ado, here are your top 20.

20. Jacksonville

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    Some city had to be last on this list. Jacksonville seemed like the most sensible choice, possibly because of the Jaguars recent woes.

    The Jags play their home games at EverBank Field where they have finished 12 of their 17 seasons at .500 or worse.

    They did, however, make the playoffs four times in their first five seasons, but that was 12 seasons ago.

    Jacksonville plays host to only one team in the biggest sports leagues, so the hope of all Jacksonville residents rides on the Jags.

19. Orlando

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    Orlando, Florida is home to the Orlando Magic and the UCF Knights.

    The Magic have had more success historically, with guys like Shaq, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady and Penny Hardaway all creating their own brands in the city. They made the NBA Finals back in 2008-09 and are relevant this year, unless they have to trade Howard.

    The Knights will be moving to the Big East next season, so all of their programs should be taking a quantum leap in the future.

    The football team seems to have started that trend under coach George O'Leary, as the team won their first bowl game and achieved their first Top 25 ranking last season.

18. Charlotte

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    Both the Carolina Panthers and the Charlotte Bobcats call this city home.

    The Panthers had a handful of good seasons, but their best came when they lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 38.

    The Bobcats are a young NBA franchise, coming to Charlotte after the Hornets left. This season, they have the worst record in the league by far, but are 20th in ticket sales. That's somewhat of a silver lining.

    Bobcat fans are wishing that Michael Jordan would come down from his owner's box and help the team win some games.

17. Memphis

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    Professional sports were nonexistent in Memphis until 2001, when the Grizzlies left Vancouver to go to Tennessee.

    They've been pretty quiet since their arrival, with the exception of last season and this one. Last year, they beat the San Antonio Spurs in a six-game series to become the first No. 8 seed in NBA history to beat a No. 1 seed.

    ESPN ranked the Memphis Tigers basketball team as the 14th most prestigious program since 1984-1985.

    The Tigers have dominated Conference-USA but will depart to the Big East in 2013 in hopes of making an even bigger name for the program in a better conference.

16. Houston

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    The largest city in the state of Texas houses three professional teams.

    The Rockets, Astros and Texans can all identify with mediocrity (and sometimes futility) over the course of their historys.

    Residents of the state frequently flock to the Astrodome, the world's first multi-purpose, domed sports stadium.

    The Rockets won back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995, but the other two franchises have been pretty much abysmal, to be honest.

15. Washington D.C.

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    Our nation's capital is one of 12 United States cities with teams from all four professional sports leagues.

    The only problem is that those four teams haven't really given their fans anything to cheer about.

    The Wizards haven't won anything as the Wizards. Javale McGee is hands down the most clueless player in the NBA.

    The Capitals have never won a Stanley Cup and the probability of that happening this year doesn't look promising. They have this guy named Alexander Ovechkin, who's halfway decent. 

    The Redskins have the future of their franchise invested in Robert Griffin III. That's promising even though Roger Goodell completely owned them a few days ago.

    The Nationals will surprise some people in the coming years though. Five years into the future, it wouldn't be too hard to see them winning a World Series, or at least making some noise in the playoffs.

14. Baltimore

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    As the northern-most city on this list, Baltimore residents enjoy three sports teams.

    The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 and are perennial contenders in the AFC North.

    Some of you may be surprised about this, but the Orioles were once a powerhouse franchise. Led by Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson, they won World Series titles in 1966 and 1970.

    This next one may catch you off guard. The Johns Hopkins University boys lacrosse team has won 44 national titles.

    That alone will put your city on the map.

13. Gainesville

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    Nothing reminds you of sports more than a nice, cold Gatorade, which was invented in Gainesville in the 1960s for the Florida football team.

    Tradition, tradition, tradition. That's what comes to mind when you think University of Florida football. They've been playing since 1906, and have won 37 bowl games in their history.

    Let's rattle off some other UF stats: Three national championships, eight SEC championships, three Heisman Trophy winners, 135 All-Americans and 35 first-round draft choices.

    The Gators also gave us Tim Tebow. You either love him or hate him, which is typically how it goes with the university.

12. Tampa

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    Over the last decade, Tampa has perhaps been one of the most successful sports cities in all the South.

    The Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004. The Rays struggled through ineptitude for the most part, but went to the World Series in 2008, and are a contender again this year.

    For those of you who didn't know, Tampa Bay isn't actually a city...it's just, well, a bay. 

    The Bucs and Lightning play in Tampa, while the Rays play in St. Petersburg, which is close enough.

11. Louisville

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    The largest city in the state of Kentucky bills itself as one of the best college sports towns in the entire country.

    The city's claim to fame is the Louisville Cardinals. Specifically, Cardinals basketball. The Cardinals home court, Freedom Hall, has averaged better than 100 percent capacity for the last decade.

    The Kentucky Derby is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, which further solidifies the city's position on this list.

    It would be ranked higher if a professional franchise laid claim to the city. They missed out on that opportunity when the Vancouver Grizzlies chose Memphis, and the Charlotte Hornets chose New Orleans.

10. New Orleans

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    When Hurricane Katrina hit, the people of New Orleans needed something to hang their hats on.

    They got that something in the form of the New Orleans Saints.

    Saints fans are some of the most passionate in all of sports and it shows. The Saints have lost a mere six home games in the last three seasons combined.

    The Hornets are in a pretty ugly rebuilding era as of now, but won the Southwest division title in 2008.

    You could also make a case for LSU being one of New Orleans teams, but I think the entire population of Baton Rouge would be livid.

9. San Antonio

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    The San Antonio Spurs have built a cult-like following in this city as the only professional sports franchise.

    They have good reason too, as the Spurs have won four NBA championships since 1999. In the two seasons following their 1999 championship, the Spurs led the league in attendance by a pretty staggering amount.

    It seems like the Spurs never have a shortage of superstars on the court. They had their big three in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker before anyone even used the term.

    Almost forgot about "The Admiral," David Robinson, as it's easy to get lost in the shuffle of the Spurs' prominence.

8. Knoxville

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    The first capital of Tennessee is home to some of the most loyal college fans in the entire country.

    The Tennessee Volunteers, who bring people in from all over the state, have awarded their faithful with six national championships in football.

    They've also rewarded other cities by sending Peyton Manning and the late Reggie White to the NFL.

    Lest you forget about the great Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in the history of NCAA basketball. One of her most impressive achievements is that she hasn't had a losing record in 36 years of coaching. 

    In the history of the University of Tennessee, the varsity teams have won a combined 23 national championships.

7. Raleigh-Durham

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    The Raleigh-Durham area is home to the Carolina Hurricanes, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils.

    The Hurricanes are the only Carolina-based professional franchise to ever win a championship. They won the Stanley Cup in the 2005-2006 season, beating the Edmonton Oilers.

    There's not much that needs to be said of the UNC/Duke rivalry, but it'll be said anyway.

    It is one of the most intense rivalries not only in college basketball, but in all of sports. Actually, it may be one of the biggest rivalries in the world.

    The two schools harbor Palestine/Israel-esque hatred for each other and get to show it off frequently, as they have played at least two games against one another since 1920.

    The disdain is magnified by the fact that these two schools are situated just eight miles apart from each other on Tobacco Road.

6. Fayetteville

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    The Arkansas Razorbacks absolutely dominate the entire state, as well as the city of Fayetteville. They are known as the professional team of Arkansas.

    While the football and basketball teams have only won two combined national championships, the track and cross-country teams more than pick up the slack.

    The men's indoor track, outdoor track and cross country teams have won a combined 40 national championships since 1984. The dominance of these teams should not be overlooked or minimized.

    The indoor track team won 12 straight titles from 1984 to 1995. From 1992-1995, the three teams won every championship, every year.

    They also have a pretty good looking mascot.

5. Nashville

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    The city of Nashville has a great mix of sports to showcase to their residents.

    The Predators are on pace to make the playoffs this season, which is good for them as they are trying to win their first...anything.

    The Titans were established when the Houston Oilers packed their bags and got out of Texas. Year in and year out, the Titans fill LP Field to capacity, even though they haven't won a playoff game since 2003.

    You can't leave the Commodores out of this discussion. Vanderbilt University has one of the most storied programs in all of college sports, playing their first football game in 1890.

    Most Vanderbilt sports haven't exactly been dominant, but this could be the year for the men's basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

4. Miami

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    Miami is loaded with sports teams. Pretty good sports teams for that matter.

    The Heat are the Heat, unfortunately. They are the evil empire of the NBA. On another note, How's my Dirk taste LeBron?

    The Dolphins were a powerhouse back in the 1970s and 1980s with Don Shula, Larry Csonka and Bob Griese, then Dan Marino, Mark Clayton, etc.

    Now the residents of Miami have the Marlins to call their own. They pretty much did in the past, but the new name change gives them exclusive fan-hood rights. The franchise made a huge splash when it won two World Series titles in the first 10 years of it's existence.

    The Panthers are dreadful every season so we won't soil the reputation of Miami by recounting their failures.

    And the Miami Hurricanes football program is one of the best in the nation. Since 1983, the 'Canes have won five national titles and put out countless NFL prospects.

    Things haven't been going so well for the 'Canes as of late, but Miami is an exciting place to be with the Heat and the Marlins in town.

4. Tuscaloosa

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    Before you read this slide, watch the above video.

    Do you understand that the Crimson Tide faithful down in Tuscaloosa say "Roll Tide" for everything. These people say "Roll Tide" more than Italians say "ciao."

    That's almost unbelievable. To greet one another, to praise someone or to say goodbye, these people use the motto of their football team.

    The Alabama football team has won 14 national titles, which is why on every Sunday during college football season, 101,821 fans pack themselves into Bryant-Denny Stadium like sardines.

    Roll Tide.

2. Dallas-Forth Worth

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    Dallas-Fort Worth comes in No. 2 on this list, as the city has four major sports teams.

    Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the United States, so it's fitting that they would have four successful professional sports teams.

    The Mavericks won the title last season. The Rangers are trying to make it three straight World Series trips in 2012. The Cowboys are America's team. And the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1998-99.

    The Mavs beat the Heat in the NBA Finals and on this list. And one more time for good measure: Hey, LeBron, hows my Dirk taste?

1. Atlanta

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    The top sports city in the South is none other than Atlanta. The capital of Georgia plays host to the Braves, Hawks, Falcons and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

    They once had the Thrashers too, until Atlanta residents realized that it made no sense to wear a winter jacket to a hockey game in the Atlanta climate.

    The Braves won 14 straight National League East titles from 1991-2005.

    The Hawks have won four division titles and have the luxury of boasting about Dominique Wilkins.

    The Falcons have played in Atlanta since 1966, reaching the Super Bowl once in 1999 (lost to Denver).

    The Yellow Jackets always have successful, major sports teams.

    Atlanta owes it's No. 1 ranking mostly to the Braves, but the three solid auxiliary teams pull their weight as well.