NBA Fan Misery Historical Ranking 20-11
By Jon Ho
Now it is time to rank from 20-11 on how each fanbase city/team has 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. If you want to know 30-21, check out the previous list I did. With that out of the way, here we go!
20. Milwaukee Bucks Fans
Now we come to the current 2021 NBA Champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, whose fanbase has a lot to be happy about. The Bucks have won their first Championship in 50 years after being down 2-0 in the series, making it poetic that Giannis scored 50 points in Game 6. They have one of the best players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo, plus stars in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, as well as a good supporting cast in Brook Lopez, P.J Tucker, Pat Connaughton, and Bobby Portis. When you look at the history of the Bucks, overall it has been pretty strong. The Bucks have played 53 seasons and have made the playoffs 33 times. Interestingly enough, the best periods for the Bucks are the current era and the beginning, when the franchise started. In the early 70s, the Bucks went to the playoffs 5 straight times and were led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. There have been other successful periods for the Bucks too. They had a successful run in the 80s with Sidney Moncrief, Marques Johnson, Jack Sikma, Don Nelson, and Del Harris. Then there were the early 2000s when Ray Allen and George Karl went on a run that included an Eastern Conference Finals appearance. There definitely have been low points, like the entire 90s and the 2013 season in which they went 15-67, but overall it has been mostly good moments with the Bucks. When people think of Wisconsin sports, usually the Packers and maybe Wisconsin football comes to mind. Now it’s time to include the Bucks on that list.
19. Toronto Raptors Fans
Even though it seems like the Raptors might be heading towards a rebuild, I’m sure their fans will view this era as a success with the Championship in 2019. I remember when Kawhi was traded to Toronto for the beloved DeMar DeRozan and everyone thought it was a mistake because Kawhi was considered a rental. However, with Kawhi, Kyle Lowry, and Pascal Siakam the Raptors went on a magical run in which they came back from 2-0 against the Bucks and beat the Warriors in the finals. Besides the Championship, the Raptors have had a decent history for an expansion team. In 26 seasons, they have made the playoffs 12 times. The Raptors have also had some Hall of Famers like Vince Carter and Chris Bos. The most consistent run of success for the Raptors was definitely the 2010s in which they made 7 straight playoff appearances even with 3 straight series losses to Lebron James and the Cavs. While the history of the Raptors is not great, I’d imagine the 2019 Championship banner removes some of the sting of the bad moments.
18. New York Knicks Fans
If I was doing an NBA Fan Misery Ranking for the last 20 years, the Knicks and their fans would be pretty close to the bottom of the list. Over the last 20 years, most of my lifetime, the Knicks have been one of the biggest laughing stocks in sports. They’ve been owned by one of the worst owners in sports -- James Dolan. During that time span, the Knicks have had a winning percentage of 41% and only made the playoffs 5 times. Plus they had 3 of the worst GMs of all time with Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, and Phil Jackson. However, the Knicks have a pretty solid history preceding Dolan’s reign of terror. Before Dolan owned the team in 1999, the Knicks made the playoffs 36 times in 53 seasons and won 2 Championships with 8 Finals appearances. Knicks fans also got to see Superstars and Hall of Famers like Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere, Bernard King, and Carmelo Anthony light it up in the Garden. However, this year, the Knicks made the playoffs after 7 seasons so let’s see if Tom Thibodeau and this front office can turn the Knicks around.
17. Portland Trail Blazers Fans
There probably isn’t a more snakebitten franchise in the history of the NBA than the Portland Trailblazers. For starters, there are Bill Walton’s injuries that shortened his prime playing years. Drafting Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan and blowing a 15 point lead in the 4th quarter to the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals are up there as well. But it doesn’t end there; the Blazers drafted Greg Oden with the 1st overall pick, who was constantly injured. They also passed on Kevin Durant in that same draft, and Brandon Roy’s career ended early due to, you guessed it, more injuries. Consider Portland isn’t a premier free agent destination, and you’re left wondering why they can’t catch a break. However, the Trail Blazers have been a very consistent franchise. In 51 seasons they have made the playoffs 37 times and they have a Championship as well from 1977. Blazer fans have got to watch a few Hall of Famers like Clyde Drexler and Bill Walton and some really good players like Terry Porter, Rasheed Wallace, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Currently, players like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have brought stability and excitement to the franchise. Now that long-time head coach Terry Stotts has left, Chauncey Billups is taking his place, and it’ll definitely be interesting to see what direction the Blazers go in.
16. Oklahoma City Thunder Fans
The Thunder are the second newest franchise in the NBA. While they do not have a Championship, they have been pretty successful in the short amount of time they’ve been around. OKC has been in the NBA for 13 seasons and has made the playoffs in 10 of those seasons. During that span, Thunder fans have primarily watched future Hall of Famers Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder also had James Harden (who was foolishly traded), Paul George, Chris Paul, and Serge Ibaka for a bit. After the finals appearance in 2012, everyone thought the Thunder would go to multiple NBA Finals but it just never came together. Now, the Thunder are currently in a rebuild. They are positioned quite well with 17 1st round picks, and an additional 21 picks over the next 7 drafts.
15. Cleveland Cavaliers Fans
When an NBA fan thinks of the Cavaliers, there is only one person that comes to mind. Sasha Pavlović! Just kidding. Of course, it’s LeBron James. LeBron is the Cavaliers solution to everything, as most of Cleveland’s success happened when he was playing. During that time, the Cavaliers averaged at least 50 wins a season and made 5 finals appearances. The highlight of that period was definitely winning the Championship in 2016. The Cavaliers, led by LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love, came back from a 3-1 deficit against the 73-win Warriors. The Cavs were also decent in the 80s with Mark Price, even though they were known for losing to Michael Jordan in the playoffs. Other than that the Cavs have been pretty horrible when Lebron isn’t carrying them. The Decision was also a low point for the franchise but Lebron’s second stint with the Cavs helps put that in the past. The future of the Cavs is pretty murky but at least Cavs fans can look back to 2016.
14. Phoenix Suns Fans
I’m sure that right now, Phoenix Suns Fans probably feel like they're the most miserable fans in the NBA. They just lost the Finals after having a 2-0 lead while they were the favorite to win it all. Fans shouldn't be too upset, however, since the Suns have a great young core to build around for years to come. Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Payne, and Cameron Johnson make the foundation that will help the Suns contend for years to come. They also have veterans like Chris Paul and Jae Crowder, for now, anyway. The Suns have actually been pretty successful and consistent in NBA history, even though they have yet to win a Championship. In 53 seasons they have made 30 playoff appearances that can be divided into3 distinct periods. First, there was their run from the mid-70s to the mid-80s led by Paul Westphal, Walter Davis, Larry Nance, and John MacLeod. That team made 8 straight playoff appearances. They also made a Finals appearance in 1976, in which the Celtics and Suns had the legendary Triple Overtime Game 5. Then there was the team in the 90s led by Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson, who made 10 straight playoff appearances, complete with a Finals appearance in 1993. Finally, there was the 2000s in which the Suns were led by Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, and Amar'e Stoudemire. They made the playoffs 7 times in 10 seasons. After the Nash era was a pretty rough stretch for the Suns, missing the playoffs for 10 straight seasons and becoming a lottery team. However, it looks like the Suns have turned it around despite the Finals loss.
13. Utah Jazz Fans
Overall, the Utah Jazz have had a decent history, but they have never been able to get over the Championship hump. The Jazz have had 30 playoff appearances in 47 seasons. The high point in the history of the Jazz was definitely in the 90s when Karl Malone and John Stockton made the Jazz a perennial playoff contender and made two Championship appearances in the 1997 and 1998 Finals. Unfortunately, they were one of the many victims that would lose to Michael Jordan during his reign in the Finals. They were coached by the great Jerry Sloan, who coached the Jazz for 23 seasons. The Jazz have also had other good players like Adrian Dantley, Mark Eaton, Deron Williams, and Gordon Hayward. Right now, the Jazz are in a solid place with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Mike Conley. The tricky thing for Utah is the fact that they are a small market and their fans do not have the greatest reputation. I think the Jazz are well-positioned even with a disappointing playoff series against the Clippers. Can they take the next step and win a Championship? That remains to be seen.
12. Washington Wizards/Bullets Fans
The Wizards/Bullets have one of the weirdest histories of all the franchises in the NBA. They have had great parts of their history like in the 70s when they had Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld. During that time, they were a perennial playoff team and won a Championship in 1978. They have also had horrible stretches like most of the 90s. Historically, the Wizards/Bullets are the definition of mediocrity. They have been around for 60 seasons and have made the playoffs 30 times. They also haven’t had a 50 win season since the glory days of the ‘70s. Plus there was the drafting of Kwame Brown with the 1st overall pick and he became one of the biggest busts of all time. In their recent history, even with the likes of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Russell Westbrook, they have continued to be average. The Wizards have been good enough to make the backend of the playoffs, but nobody actually takes them seriously as a title contender. The only consolation I guess is that they are usually a fun team to watch. Overall the Wizards/Bullets do not have the most painful history but certainly not a great history.
11. Atlanta Hawks Fans
The Hawks franchise has had a good history overall, but not good enough compared to other franchises on this list. The Hawks have been around for 72 seasons and have had 47 playoff appearances. There have been some good players that have played for Atlanta during that time including Dominique Wilkins, Lou Hudson, Dikembe Mutombo, Joe Johnson, and Al Horford, and currently Trae Young. They have a Championship from 1958, though they were the St Louis Hawks back then. Since moving to Atlanta, they have never played in an NBA Finals and, until this year, had not played in an Eastern Conference Final. However, they do have a bright future with Trae Young emerging as a star in the playoffs and Nate McMillan proving to be a great head coach. Plus, they have a good core consisting of Bogdan Bogdanović, John Collins (if he stays), Clint Capela, Kevin Huerter, De'Andre Hunter, and Lou Williams. So the future should be bright in Atlanta if they can build off the momentum of this year’s improbable playoff run.