Updated: Aug 18, 2021
By Jon Ho
Between all the major sports leagues in the US, the NBA seems to have the least amount of parity. In the history of the NBA, it seems there are certain franchises that always make a run at the title, like the Lakers or Celtics, while other teams like the Nuggets and Pacers never make it that far. However, this year the Bucks and Hawks were in the Eastern Conference Finals and the Clippers and Suns were in Western Conference Finals. This is refreshing for me since none of these franchises have been perennial Championship contenders. Eventually, the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Championship, and they play in one of the smallest markets in the NBA. There are teams in big markets that are more popular and have the most revenue like the Lakers, Knicks, and Celtics. Then there are smaller market teams that do not get as much national attention like the Hornets and the Kings. That got me thinking which fanbases have historically suffered the most. I decided to rank each fanbase city/team based on how much they have suffered. I am basing this off of historical success, recent success, Championships, Hall of Famers, draft makes, and misses. Also, I will factor in the franchises that each city has had for each fanbase (so I will look at the Pelicans/Hornets history for New Orleans fans). However, if the franchise won a Championship in a different city (like the Atlanta Hawks winning a Championship when they were the St Louis Hawks) then I will not factor that into the ranking since it’s technically a different fanbase. I will also not be considering history from the ABA. I will start with 30-21, then get to 20-11 and 10-1. With that out of the way, here we go!
30. Los Angeles Lakers Fans
Starting off the list are Lakers fans, which probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The Lakers have 17 Championships, 62 Playoff appearances, only 18 losing seasons in 73 seasons, and 31 Hall of Famers. Plus Lakers fans have seen some of the greatest players in the NBA wear the purple and gold, from Jerry West, to Wilt Chamberlain, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to Magic Johnson, to Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James, who just won a Championship last year for them. If a few really bad seasons after the Kobe Bryant era is considered the low point in your franchise history, then you’re doing pretty well considering some franchises have more bad seasons than good. With such a rich history and high bar for success, it is no wonder Lakers fans have been accused of being spoiled.
29. Boston Celtics Fans
That leads us to the franchise that is tied with the Lakers for the most Championships: the Boston Celtics. Boston Celtics fans have been blessed to witness a ton of great basketball in their history, whether it was the Bill Russell era of the 60s, the John Havlicek era of the 70s, the Larry Bird era of the 80s, or the Big 3 era during the 2000s. Plus, the Celtics have two of the best young players in the NBA with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The Celtics also have the record for most Hall of Famers with 40, including 10 MVPs, and 58 playoff appearances. There definitely have been low points for the franchise like the death of Len Bias, the Rick Pitino era, Gordon Hayward’s freak injury, or the whole Kyrie Irving debacle. However, historically the Celtics are one of the greatest franchises in the NBA.
28. San Antonio Spurs Fans
The Spurs are the model franchise of the 21st Century and are a great measurement of success and consistency in sports. Under Gregg Popovich, the Spurs made the playoffs for 22 straight seasons from 1998 to 2019. They won 5 Championships during that span with players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginóbili leading the charge. Even before the Popovich era, the Spurs were a respectable franchise with stars like George Gervin and David Robinson. Since joining the NBA in 1976, the Spurs have had a winning record 35 times and been to the playoffs 39 times. That means that they have only missed the playoffs 6 times in 45 seasons. Currently, the Spurs are going through a transitional period having missed the playoffs the last two seasons and it seems like Gregg Popovich will retire soon. However, it’s unlikely we will ever see a similar run of consistency ever again in the NBA.
27. Golden State Warriors Fans
Next are Golden State Warrior fans, who have had plenty to celebrate recently. From 2015 to 2019, they appeared in 5 straight NBA Finals -- winning 3 of them. With Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and eventually Kevin Durant, the Warriors had one of the most dominant runs in basketball history. Before the Steph Curry era there definitely were some really rough stretches, but they won a Championship in 1974 with Rick Barry and had some respectable years with Chris Mullin. Next season Klay Thompson should be back from his injury, so it’s easy to see the Warriors competing for another Championship over the next few years.
26. Miami Heat Fans
Miami fans have been accused of not being the most loyal, but they do have a lot to cheer about. The Heat have been a pretty consistent franchise since coming into the league in 1988. In 33 seasons, the Heat have had 22 playoff appearances, have made it to the NBA finals 5 times, and won 3 times. The Heat have had many periods of success from the Alonzo Mourning era, to the Dwayne Wade and Shaq era, their own Big Three era, and currently the Jimmy Butler era. Even with an underwhelming 2021 season, coupled with the quick playoff exit, the Heat will be in the mix in free agency and the playoffs. As long as Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra are there, they should be fine.
25. Chicago Bulls Fans
A major reason I put the Chicago Bulls in this spot is because of the Michael Jordan era. During that time they won 6 Championships and the 1996 Bulls are arguably the greatest NBA team of all time. Plus Michael Jordan was at the peak of his career, both performance and commercial-wise. They also had the likes of Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and Phil Jackson who contributed to the 90s Dynasty. The Bulls have definitely had some decent seasons before and after the Jordan years (especially during the Derrick Rose years) but for the most part, the Bulls have been pretty mediocre. Even though the Bulls have not been to the playoffs since 2017, their fans can always look back at the Jordan years.
24. Philadelphia 76ers Fans
Philadelphia fans can definitely be critical of their teams. Especially after losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs this year, in which they blew Games 4 and 5 due to some questionable Doc Rivers coaching decisions (and of course Ben Simmons not shooting the ball in the 4th quarter of any game). However, if you look back at the history of the 76ers it is pretty solid. They have made the playoffs 51 times in 72 seasons and have 2 Championships (technically 3 even though one Championship was when they were the Syracuse Nationals). 76ers fans have seen some of the greatest players in NBA history like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone, and Allen Iverson. Plus the 76ers have two young stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (but maybe not Simmons depending on what happens during this offseason).
23. Houston Rockets Fans
The Houston Rockets are another franchise that has had frustrating moments but overall has been pretty consistent. Throughout their history, they have made the playoffs 34 times in 54 seasons and have 2 Championships. The Rockets have also had their share of all-time great players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, Tracy McGrady, and recently James Harden. However, when I think of the Houston Rockets and their history, I think of unfortunate injuries. I think of players like Ralph Sampson, Yao Ming, and Tracy McGrady who had injuries that derailed their careers. In addition, there is Game 7 in the 2018 Western Conference Finals in which Chris Paul did not play due to injury and the Rockets missed 27 consecutive 3s. If Chris Paul had played in that game, many people believe the Rockets would not only have won that series but won the Championship as well. Even with some frustrating moments, the Rockets have a solid history and those Championships in the 90s definitely help.
22. Dallas Mavericks Fans
When fans think of the Dallas Mavericks there are two people that come to mind. One is Dirk Nowitzki, who was drafted by the team in 1998, was a 14-time All-Star, won an MVP in 2007, and a Championship in 2011. Then there is their current star, Luka Dončić, who is the best young star in the NBA and will be one of the faces of the NBA. Under current owner Mark Cuban, who bought the team in 2000, the Mavericks have been a perennial playoff team. Even before then the Mavericks were a decent team in the 80s with Rolando Blackman and Mark Aguirre. However, they had a really bad run in the 90s. The Mavericks are moving in a new direction after the departure of their long-time coach Rick Carlisle but their future should be bright as long as Luka Dončić stays.
21. Detroit Pistons Fans
Currently, the Pistons are kind of a dumpster fire. Over the past two seasons, they have won 20 games each season and the team has only made the playoffs 2 times over the last 12 seasons. However, the Pistons have had a very successful history with two very distinct eras. One was the Bad Boy era in the 80s with Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, and Bill Laimbeer when they won two Championships. The other is the 2000s team with Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace that went to the playoffs for 8 straight years and won a Championship as well. Plus the Pistons had Bob Lanier in the 70s and Grant Hill in the 90s. Even though the Pistons are down bad now, they do have a building block with Jerami Grant and the Number 1 pick, Cade Cunningham.