After being named the top franchise in sports last year by ESPN the Magazine in their annual Ultimate Standings, the Thunder have slipped to No. 4 in the 2013 edition.
It’s not No. 1, but No. 4 in all of American sports — 122 franchises total — is pretty darn good. The reason for the drop is pretty obvious: Russell Westbrook got hurt and the team didn’t experience the same postseason success as the season before.
After being dubbed the Best Franchise in Sports by The Mag in 2012, the Thunder dropped to No. 4, which was probably predictable, given the postseason letdown last season. Still, fourth is nothing to sneeze at; OKC has top-10 rankings in five categories. In fact, the Thunder were among the NBA’s top five in seven of our eight categories, thanks largely to the incredible value Thunder games are in the sports world. Winners of the Northwest Division three years running, the organization charges 8 percent less than the NBA average for a ticket ($47.15); 29 percent less for a beer ($5); and almost 70 percent less for parking, with an NBA-low $5 to house your ride.
OKC is quickly becoming, if it isn’t already, the model NBA franchise, known for quality players and an enjoyable — and affordable — game experience (eighth overall in the bang for the buck category, and fifth in the affordability ranking). Now if only coach Scott Brooks would play plus/minus wizard Nick Collison at center instead of Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder’s rating for coaching, 12th in the league and OKC’s lowest rank, might jump back to the top of the standings. But for right now, even with Perkins, GM Sam Presti and owner Clay Bennett seem to have it figured out: a consistently winning product on the court with just as enjoyable an experience for fans off of it.
ESPN’s ranking system is based on things like “title track,” “ownership,” “coaching,” “players,” “fan relations,” “affordability,” “stadium experience” and “bang for your buck.” In those categories, the Thunder ranked 40th overall in title track, 54th in coaching, 20th in ownership, third in players, third in fan relations, fifth in affordability, eighth in stadium experience, and eight in bang for your buck.
Interesting: Last year, the Thunder ranked eighth overall in ownership, but fell 12 spots. Fallout from not extending James Harden, I presume? Also, the Spurs and Grizzlies were the two teams that finished ahead of OKC in the players category (it factors things like likeability as well as ability).
The Memphis Grizzlies were named No. 1, with the two other teams in front of OKC also being NBA franchises (Spurs and Pacers).