The city of Cleveland can thank LeBron James and the Cavaliers for freeing them from the shackles of not winning a professional sports championship for 52 years.
The last time Ohio’s second most populated city won a championship in the four major American professional sports was when Jim Brown led the Cleveland Browns over the Baltimore Colts in for the NFL championship in 1964.
Cleveland overcoming its championship curse prompted ESPN sportswriter Bill Barnwell to explore if any city ever waited longer for a title than Cleveland. Barnwell devised what he calls the Sports Misery Index to measure the estimated pain a city endures by experiencing years of championship drought.
The SMI takes into account the number of teams a city has that can lose a championship. For example, when comparing Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, the Jaguars are Jacksonville’s only professional team, while D.C. has hosted several professional teams (Redskins, Wizards, Capitals and Nationals) for decades. Jacksonville hasn’t won a title since its inception 21 years ago—rendering them 0-21. On the other hand, Washington, combining all of its teams, hasn’t won a championship trophy for 25 years, leaving them a staggering 0-84. Consequently, the nations’ capital earns a much higher SMI rating.
To find out other factors Barnwell uses to calculate the Sports Misery Index read here.
After crafting his scoring system, Barnwell traveled all the way back to 1876 for every city or market that sent a professional baseball, basketball, football or hockey team out to play.
Below are Barnwell’s findings for the all-time highest SMIs, calculated before the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship on Sunday:
1. Cleveland (100.5 points) 1965 to 2016
2. Seattle (66 points) 1979 to 2014
3. Chicago (65 points) 1964 to 1986
4. Philadelphia (62.5 points) 1983 to 2008
5. Atlanta (61.5 points) 1966 to 1995
As far as active streaks go, now that the Cavs reset Cleveland to zero, San Diego sits on top of the SMI list. America’s Finest City last won a title game 53 years ago in 1963, when the San Diego Chargers beat the Boston Patriots 51-10 to capture the American Football League Championship.