The National Basketball Association is a professional basketball league in North America (Yong-zhen 10). It is widely agreed that, in the world, the NBA league is the premier men’s professional league. NBA has thirty member clubs, of which twenty-nine are from the United States and one from Canada. Over the time, NBA has been an active member of the USA basketball (USAB), and is well recognized by the International Basketball Federation. FIBA recognizes the USA Basketball as basketball’s governing body in United States of America. Statistics show that players participating in NBA are the best paid sportsmen in the world when the average annual salaries of players are considered (Yong-zhen 10). Origins of the league can be traced back to June 6, 1946 in New York. Initially, the league was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). However, this name was changed on 1946 June 6 to the Basketball Association of America. On August 3, 1949, after absorbing the National Basketball League who were the main rivals, the league adopted a new name, The National Basketball Association. The head offices of the league are located in the Olympic Tower, New York (Yong-zhen 13). The NBA TV and NBA Entertainment studios have their offices in Secaucus and New Jersey, from where information about the league is shared to the public. Currently, the NBA is one of the most popular sporting franchises in America and NBA games attract thousands of fans including renowned celebrities. On any game night, most arenas are usually fully packed with enthusiastic fans waiting to watch their favorite stars in action.
In sports, the term competitive balance is used to connote the inequality in the outcomes of matches and championships. In most cases, when determining the competitive balance in leagues, inequality measures and the distribution of income have always been used. The Herfindahl-Hirschman Indeed (HHI) has also been, for a long time, used to determine the win ratios. There is evidence that variations in the league’s number of teams have an effect to both the upper and lower bounds of the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (Yong-zhen 09).
The degree or extent of equality of the strengths that teams have in a league has been historically and in the present moments, been used in analyzing professional sports leagues. Much interest arises when tracking the movements that occur in the competitive balance and the need to analyze the institutional and regulatory effects and any other changes that may arise. Competitive balance may also have certain implications to the welfare of the fans and the attendance demands. Most people have argued that the competitive balance degree has a direct effect to the uncertainty of the results and outcomes in various leagues. As a direct impact, this affects the attendance demand. In literature, there are various measures that have been employed in measuring the competitive balance. In most cases, the commonly used measure is the actual within-season standard deviation, whereby the win ratios are compared to the standard deviation of the win ratios. In such a case, wins are always randomly allocated. Other measures have also been used to determine the competitive balance. A good example of such measures includes the Gini coefficient or the relative entropy method. The main reason for this is that the competitive balance is in most cases concerned with the inequalities that arise in matches and the outcomes of the championships. These two other measures can also be effectively used to determine the competitive balance of a league.
The competitive levels of the various teams in NBA depend on a number of factors. The resources, revenue and the support that a team gets from the fans have a major impact on how competitive a franchise is (Yong-zhen 12). The privileged franchises that have a better history when compared to the others, in one way or another, find it easy to add to their wealth when compared to the less privileged ones. In the NBA league, there is a growing trend of the superstars leaving the small teams and joining the big ones. As such, it becomes extremely difficult for the teams to equally compete. On a similar note, it is unthinkable of a superstar leaving a big team and joining a lesser team. This, to a large extent, creates a vast difference between the haves and the have-nots in the league.
Developing the major divides in sports is a major concern to several shareholders because it lowers the competitiveness of the league. To a great extent, sports thrive on competitiveness. However, whenever there are too many markets and no chance for a title, the competitive balance becomes lopsided to the extent that it becomes predictable. For this reason, it is possible that big teams with big markets such as New York and Los Angeles can accumulate titles and stockpile talent. This makes it difficult for the franchises belonging to the smaller markets, which have to depend on luck and margin of error in order to compete.
According to the national rankings, from the largest to the smallest, NBA market standings are as follow. The table takes into account the number of times that the teams have won the championships since 1980 (Yong-zhen 12)
Statistics shows that over the past two decades, most teams that have won the league have superstars in them. Only Detroit Pistons managed to win the league in 2004 without having a single super star in the team. This is despite the fact that they are still ranked among the top ten teams in the top-ten media market. Of all the thirty teams that participate in the league, only nine different champions have been crowned. Of all the nine different champions, none can be said to belong to the small market, apart from the San Antonio Spurs. As much as winning for the small market teams is not impossible, there is a difficulty for the teams to be termed as genuine, true contenders. This can be well explained through analyzing how teams such as Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies have struggled in the league and in most cases, they are not considered as genuine title contenders. Luck plays a role, however, whenever they win the league.
Both Spurs and Thunder have a rich history of making correct moves in the transfers as far as personnel recruitment is concerned. Their ability to compete and win the league, in most cases has, however, not been associated to the recruits they acquire. Winning to them is based on the luck that goes their way. However, landing high picks such as Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan helped galvanize their acceleration to winning the league. Such proficiency is, in the real sense, difficult and rare through drafting and free agency. Small-market teams have always struggled to cope with their counterparts. The teams ought to, for instance, draft brilliantly and find guys that would wish to remain in the less desirable cities in the long-term. The fact that the smaller-markets do not appeal to most superstars, prompting them to move to the larger-markets makes it very difficult for the teams to compete (Yong-zhen 15). Durant and Duncan are the only examples of the major superstars who have shown their loyalty to the smaller-market teams, the effect being the success that the teams have enjoyed. It would seem difficult, however, to imagine of the smaller teams challenging for the title without superstars in them.
Smaller-market teams face many challenges that make it difficult for them to compete with the large-market teams. For instance, they are under constant threat of losing their superstars even when the season is underway. This may have a negative effect on the players and the management team since such news is likely to unsettle the players and cast doubt as to their commitment to the team. Finally, when they get to transfer to the large-market teams, it becomes difficult for the smaller-market teams to replace such talents, hence bringing a huge blow to the team. Talents in the sports industry always want to compete with other talents. Due to this, it becomes difficult to attract a huge talent to sign for a team that has average players. This makes the competitiveness of the league becoming more predictable, as superstars are not evenly distributed around the teams that take part in the competition. As Jerry Reynolds once put it, “If you are going to contend for championships, you really do have to have two of the elite players in the league on your team and a third that’s All-Star caliber’ (Yong-zhen 16).’’ This means that it is tough for the smaller market teams to compete and challenge for the top honors.
Recreating small market teams to be successful in the championship and compete for the major honors is almost impossibility. This can best be explained by the early success that the Kings had in the early 2000s. Their early success was sparked by Vlade Divac, who was the city’s free agent signing. Divac was joined by Chris Webber, who had been released from Washington, and no team was interested in him, finally settling in The Kings. He went on to become a major force to reckon with. Despite the fact that he was released and no team was interested in him, the power forward was against joining The Kings. However, upon him joining the team, he magnificently combined with other players such as Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson, Jason Williams and Mike Bibby to form a strong team that thrived on its chemistry.
The final regular season standing report conference for the 2012/13 season is as shown below:
Using the above tables to analyze the competitiveness of the league, it is very clear that the large-market teams have a better performance when compared to the small-market teams. The Eastern conference, of the two conferences, has a more competitive balance since the gap between the eventual winners and the last team is so small. This is also characterized by the fact that the predictability of the results in the conference is less, meaning there are high chances of any team losing. As a result, the smaller-market teams have an outside chance to cause upsets and win matches against the large-market teams, with their several superstar players. Essentially, this makes the league more interesting as compared to when only select teams get to dominate the results of the conference. The Atlantic division of the Eastern Conference presents a more competitive balance as compared to the other divisions. This is because the number of points that are collected by the winning team do not show a great difference with the number of points that the worst-performing team in a season has. This shows that the division is more competitive, with chances of a team winning being as unpredictable as possible. The small-market teams, to some extent, have a high chance of causing upsets than compared to the other divisions. Such a division does not experience constant movement of talent from small-market teams to large market teams. Balance is, therefore, kept at a significantly constant rate.
In any league, competitive balance is very essential. Because of this, most league owners have advocated for competitive balance in sports for over a century. Important to note is the fact that leagues lacking competitive balance tends to lack some certain outcomes. The first disadvantage to this is that the support from the fans will effectively dwindle. When the difference in revenues between the teams in the league is too high, it becomes difficult for there to be perfect competition. The more powerful teams will have a collection of the best talents, hence depriving the small-market teams an opportunity to recruit quality players. The predictability brought about by such differences in revenues make the game boring and fans become disinterested. The game’s fan support will therefore reduce.
A look at the top ten teams in the revenue table standings is as follow.
Rank Team Current value ($mill)
1 New York Knickers 1400
2 Los Angeles Lakers 1350
3 Chicago Bulls 1000
4 Bolton Celtics 875
5 Brooklyn Nets 780
6 Houston Rockets 775
7 Miami Heat’s 770
8 Dallas Mavericks 765
9 Golden State Arrow 750
10 San Antonio 660
Using the above table to analyze the competitiveness of the NBA teams, it is evident that the top teams in the league spend a lot annually on their personnel. This makes it difficult for the small-market teams in the league to effectively compete with them. This predictability in the results of the league and the monotony that is created thereafter may negatively affect the support that the team may get from the fans. This may lead to the league becoming unpopular, hence its downfall and unpopularity.
Yong-zhen, Cao. "Competitive Balance of Professional Sports League--A Case Study on NBA." (2010): Print.