Shock Poll: ESPN’s Ultimate Fan List of Greatest Sports Franchises

Tim Duncan, Danny Green
The Associated Press

What are the greatest sports franchises of all time? The Yankees may come to mind for many. How about the Los Angeles Lakers? The Celtics? Maybe it’s the New England Patriots.

Actually the above teams fall far behind the number one team.

For the last 13 years ESPN the Magazine’s Ultimate Standings ranked 122 sports franchises in baseball, basketball, football, and hockey using a matrix of what fans think are the most important elements that make up the ultimate sports team. The rankings based on over 100,000 responses proves quite surprising.

The Yankees actually rate 90th on the list in 2015. The team who prides themselves on being the “most successful franchise in sports history,” have made the World Series seven times in the last 20 years. That doesn’t sound so bad considering their storied history prior to that. But the Ultimate ranking considers other variables that diminishes their rank, such as ownership, ticket cost, coaching, players, stadium experience, fan relations, bang for your buck, and other variables.

In the case of the Yankees the affordability index takes its toll on their overall ranking. According to ESPN the Magazine’s rating, they are second worst in MLB (117th overall) in affordability. Coughing up $100 or more on a single ticket is not uncommon. The average ticket price runs $51.55. In MLB only the Red Sox tickets average more than the Bombers (by less than a dollar). Good seats for the Yankees can easily go for $500.

The San Antonio Spurs capture the number one sports franchise, according to Ultimate Standings. Thanks in large part to the leadership of Gregg Popovich, voted the best coach in sports by fans for the fourth year in a row.

President Obama referred to the team last year as “not just old, but kind of boring,” but that’s just how Popovich likes it. Former Spurs assistant Brett Brown, who now enjoys the head coaching job for the Sixers, claims that Pop anticipates problems and makes adjustments before things get out of hand. But his real skill is intangible.  “You can talk about what a masterful defensive coach he is, and that’s true,” Brown says. “You can talk about his fantastic leadership, which is also true. But nothing trumps his human skills.”

The top five franchises are:

1.  San Antonio Spurs

2.  Memphis Grizzlies

3.   Tampa Bay Lightning

4.   Anaheim Ducks

5.   Seattle Seahawks

You can see the complete list here.

The Los Angeles Lakers fared even worse than the Yankees, tying down the #101 spot on the Ultimate Standing List. Recent coaching problems and a fat $25 million Kobe Bryant salary militated against their overall rating.

The Celtics at #57, despite having the most NBA championships of all time (17, one more than the Lakers), offer at best a mediocre stadium experience and extort $42 for parking, contributing to a poor bang-for-your-buck score. 

The NFL’s popular Patriots came in a little better at #25, thanks to Tom Brady and a bunch of Super Bowls. Fans find it easy to overlook Bill Belichick’s devious reputation and swear that, “In Bill We Trust.”  The Ultimate Standings crowns Belichick No. 3 among coaches, the best in the NFL. $122 average ticket price gives them low marks for bang-for-your-buck as serving the cheapest hot dogs in the NFL at $3.75 per dog fails to offset the price for admission. Congested traffic to and from Foxboro on Route 1 depleted their ranking as well.

The worst franchise goes to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs finished last in affordability, charging $116 a ticket, $30 more than any other hockey franchise and last in fan relations, because as ESPN notes, “why should management care when every game sells out, no matter what?” The Air Canada Centre experience disappoints so badly that many fans journey to Buffalo and Detroit to watch their beloved Maple Leafs skate.