When the history books are rewritten in about a hundred years, there’s little doubt that 2016 will go down as one of the worst in recent memory. The United States was divided in an ugly presidential election, radical religious terrorism was at an all-time high and scores of iconic human beings passed away, including the likes of Muhammad Ali, Prince and David Bowie.
What can be savored on from 2016, however, is how great and unique of a sports year it was. The NBA saw a team that set a record for most regular season wins (the Golden State Warriors) be defeated by a team who came back down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to win it’s city’s first pro sports title in half a decade (the Cleveland Cavaliers). Major League Baseball crowned the Chicago Cubs World Series champs for the first time since Henry Ford produced the Model T in 1908.
It was quite the year in sports and below I have compiled, what I believe to be, the ten best professional sports towns in America. The list is based on a plethora of factors including team success and fan interest. Check it out and let us know what you think! But first, just for fun, these are our picks for the top college sports towns of 2016… in no particular order.
Tuscaloosa, AL – The Nick Saban train just keeps on chugging out football championships at the University of Alabama.
Philadelphia, PA – Villanova winning the 2016 NCAA men’s basketball title was imperative for the pride of one of the worst pro sports cities in the country.
Ann Arbor, MI/Columbus, OH – UM’s Jim Harbaugh & OSU’s Urban Meyer will be battling for Big Ten – and national titles – for years to come and the party started this year with OSU’s controversial 2OT win in Columbus to clinch a CFP spot.
Louisville, KY – There isn’t a better football/basketball powerhouse south of the Mason-Dixon line than in Louisville.
Madison, WI – There isn’t a better football/basketball powerhouse north of the Mason-Dixon line than at the University of Wisconsin.
Before you complain that “of course Detroit would make this list on a Detroit sports website”, just know this – the Motor City didn’t make this list by fandom from the author. Unbiasedly, I had to include the 313 on this year’s list because although it’s not the winningest time in the city’s sports history; it is still a top ten sports town in terms of buzz and credentials.
The buzz being all four of Detroit’s pro teams are at least contending for a playoff spot with the squads all at different yet hopeful junctions. The Tigers are old yet talented and it seems like they’re ready to take one more shot at the playoffs. The Wings have an iffy mix of regressing veterans and young talent that are struggling to mold but they are still barely a threat to extend the team’s playoff streak to a major pro sports record leading 26th straight year. The Pistons are young, talented and inconsistent. Look for Stan Van Gundy to make a trade or two to take a shot at winning a playoff round – or more in 2017 (as well as prepare to move back to the city of Detroit to make the town the only American city with four pro sports team to all play in the heart of downtown). And finally, Detroit has it’s Lions. After low expectations before the season and a slow 1-3 start, many people wrote the team immediately off. THEN the Lions filled every cardiac ward in Michigan up by winning 8 of the next 9 games – INCLUDING 7 fourth quarter comebacks! Hey, the fans are buzzing and hope is always alive in the D. I could not leave it off this list.
9. Los Angeles
Well, one man’s loss is another man’s treasure. The sadness that you feel for the great football fans in St. Louis – is just as strong the happiness you feel for the great football fans of Los Angeles. That’s right – Tinseltown got it’s Rams back and although the team didn’t perform well in their first year, their arrival is enough to give the city a nice boost in the sports world. The Lakers are young and, for the first time in a few year years – promising. The Clippers look sharp and, pending health, feel like contenders. The Dodgers are winning and the Angels always have Mike Trout. Both hockey teams are performing well and the MLS’s LA Galaxy are a class, winning organization. LA is buzzing.
8. Washington, D.C.
The District of Columbia had some really, really good teams this year and there’s a ton of hope going forward. The Nationals won 95 games in the NL East but can’t seem to find a way out of the NLDS. The Washington Redskins got a jolt of rejuvenation from scrappy quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has kept them afloat in the NFC playoff landscape in the NFL. The NHL’s Washington Capitals led the league with 120 points before succumbing to the eventual league champion Penguins in six games. DC seems to have quite the collection of dominant stars playing for the city with the likes of John Wall, Bryce Harper, Max Scherzer, Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby playing for the District.
Ah yes, Boston. Beantown. The apple of America’s pro sports eye. The New England Patriots. The Boston Red Sox. The Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins. Nine pro championships combined since 2000. Every one of these teams had a winning record in 2016 and fan support will always be at a fever pitch.
6. New York
The Big Apple will likely always be on these type of lists. They have TEN teams in the five major sports leagues and with all that history, it’s just impossible to imagine New York not being somewhere in the pro sports hierarchy. And right now there is as much optimism as ever for the future, as there are several teams ready to contend in their respective sports. The Knicks are still trying to find their niche but with future perennial all-star, Kristaps Porzingis getting better every day, a playoff berth (and maybe more) is attainable right away.
The Red Bulls and NYFC finished first and second in the MLS Eastern Conference regular season standings. The NHL’s Rangers and Islanders both made the postseason as well. The Yankees and Mets are also both division title contenders going forward. The Jets might stink but the New York Football Giants have done their best to stay on the heels of the first-place Dallas Cowboys this NFL season. What a great time to be a New York sports fan, eh?
The Mile High City only managed to make it on this list because of their Super Bowl 50 victory in early February. It was neat to watch Peyton Manning go out on top, despite such poor play throughout the duration of the season. The Super Bowl is probably the biggest game in sports, thus Denver rightfully deserved a spot. Sadly for these rankings – the Nuggets, Avalanche, and the Rockies all haven’t been good in a while. Even their MLS team, the Rapids, can’t seem to get going in the win column.
Led by the megastar of the new NHL generation – Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins delivered Lord Stanley’s Cup to the Steel City for the fourth time in its history. The Pens also are leading the NHL in points thus far through the 2016-2017 season. The Steelers seem to be a mainstay AFC contender in the NFL and after three straight years in the playoffs, the Pirates hit a snag in 2016. I will always admire how all three of their teams bear the city’s official colors – black and gold.
3. San Fransisco (Bay Area)
California’s San Fransisco Bay Area, which is composed around the cities of San Fransisco, Oakland, and San Jose, didn’t bring a championship to the sports history-rich region but they did have a ton of success in multiple sports – with bright futures to match. The Golden State Warriors were obviously the crown jewel; setting a regular season wins record before falling to the aforementioned Cavaliers in the Finals. The San Fransisco Giants were winning a World Series every other year up until they lost to the eventual champion Cubs in the NLDS. The Oakland Raiders and San Jose Sharks are both conference contenders in their respective sports.
The region of northeast Ohio had possibly their biggest sports year of all-time in 2016. In one of the biggest come-from-behind seven game series ever, the Cleveland Cavaliers – led by the living legend of LeBron James, brought a pro sports title to the proud city on Lake Erie. Several months later, MLB’s Cleveland Indians went on an impressive World Series run themselves, only to be stopped short in a stupendous seven-game battle with the Cubs. However, the city’s beloved Browns didn’t keep the celebration going by starting the NFL season 0-14 before winning their first game on Christmas Eve.
The result of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians inevitably tilted these rankings from Cleveland to the Chicago. Professional sport’s “Lovable Losers” finally delivered a championship to the Second City and filled an entire nation with a feel-good top story in a year that we didn’t feel too many of them. The Blackhawks are still contenders and the Bulls seem to be functioning with a new Dwayne Wade-led core. Chicago has been riding high of late and was the top American sports town of 2016. Below are some honorable mentions for cities that didn’t make this list.
Kansas City, MO