Baseball fans have to put up with quite a bit of nonsense about competitive balance...it's a favorite of baseball sportswriters and pundits, and in my experience a favorite of baseball haters of all kinds. Baseball is perpetually supposedly rigged in favor of big market teams, and people tend to believe that whatever the evidence actually shows.
What I'm curious about is whether anyone complains about it in basketball. I rarely get involved in conversations about the NBA, and I pretty much skip most of the coverage in my local newspaper, but I certainly don't get the impression that people consider it a major problem. I guess I'm aware of conspiracy-like theories about the draft lottery supposedly having been fixed to favor the Knicks at some point...that's about all I remember. As I said, I don't pay a lot of attention, but as far as I know there's no such dominant conversation, certainly nothing like what baseball has.
The Lakers are the NBA champs (again); the Yankees are the defending World Series champs (again). The biggest three cities in the US -- also the biggest three TV markets -- are New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, right? So let's see, now.
In baseball, one team from NY/LA/CHI was in the World Series in 2009.
In the last ten years, 2000-2009, there were seven of those teams.
In the previous ten years, 1989-1999 (no WS in 1994), just three.
The previous ten years, 1979-1988, it happen four times.
Before that, 1969-1978, eight times.
And before that, 1959-1968, nine times.
So: it used to be almost an average of one team a year from the top three cities in the World Series, but in the last thirty years it's only happened about every other year.
What about the NBA? There was one of those teams in the NBA Finals in 2010. So:
In the last ten years, 2001-2010, it happened eight times.
In the ten previous years, 1991-2000, ten times, with only one year without such a team.
The previous ten years, 1981-1990, just seven times.
Before that was 1971-1980, only five times.
And before that, 1961-1970, eight times.
That would be, if my count is correct, twenty-five teams in the last thirty years, and 38 in 50 years -- compared to 14 in 30 years in baseball, and 31 in 50 years.
Of course, basketball also has a dominant "other" team from a very big market, although not from the top three...baseball doesn't really have anything like that. I'm not sure how to think about that, one way or another. But, really, I'm not trying to make a strict comparison between big market advantages in baseball vs. basketball; I'm just wondering why market size is a huge big deal in baseball, but not in basketball. Or, perhaps some readers who are far more rounded sports fans than me could tell me if I'm wrong: do NBA fans worry about market size?