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The Boston Celtics ended the year as the most successful organization in professional sports, according to a new bizjournals study.
updated 3/10/2009 3:55:16 PM ET 2009-03-10T19:55:16

There is a vast gap between success and failure in professional sports, as proven by two games on the last Sunday of 2008.

The Boston Celtics crushed the Sacramento Kings by 45 points, 108-63, in a National Basketball Association game on Dec. 28. It was the Celtics’ 68th regular-season win against just 18 losses in 2008, a year in which they clinched their 17th NBA title.

It was a far different story for the Detroit Lions, who lost a National Football League game to the Green Bay Packers, 31-21, on that same Sunday. It was the Lions’ 16th straight defeat in 2008, making them the only team in NFL history to finish a season with a record of 0-16.

The Celtics and Lions were polar opposites in 2008 — in terms of the final score and the bottom line.

The Celtics ended the year as the most successful organization in professional sports, according to a new bizjournals study, while the Lions were the least successful team.

Bizjournals analyzed the performances of all 122 franchises in the NBA, NFL, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in the 2008 calendar year. The top scores went to those teams that were strongest at the twin missions of professional sports — winning games and making money.

We also ranked the teams within their leagues — MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL.

Half of a team’s score was determined by its level of success on the field, court or ice. Bizjournals’ formula considered each franchise’s win-loss record, average margin of victory (or defeat), and playoff results.

The other half was determined by a team’s relative success in business. The formula analyzed average home attendance, the percentage of available seats sold for home games, and the increase (or decline) in a franchise’s value from 2007 to 2008. The latter was based on annual estimates published by Forbes magazine.

The study was confined to the 2008 calendar year. Statistics for the 2007-08 NBA and NHL seasons after Dec. 31, 2007, were combined with 2008-09 statistics through Dec. 31, 2008. Playoff results for the NFL, NBA and NHL came from the first half of 2008, since their 2008-09 playoffs had not begun as of the end of the year.

Championship teams that played before full houses did best in bizjournals’ ratings.

The No. 1 Celtics won the NBA’s 2008 title, posted the league’s best regular-season winning percentage (.791), sold every seat to every home game, and enjoyed a 14 percent increase in franchise value in a single year.

The other three pro-sports champions of 2008 also ranked among the 10 most successful teams: the New York Giants of the NFL (second), Detroit Red Wings of the NHL (seventh) and Philadelphia Phillies of MLB (ninth).

Each of the top 10 organizations sold more than 97 percent of its tickets last year. Six sold out every home game.

Frequent losses and weak attendance cursed the teams at the bottom of the standings.

The Lions not only lost the most games in the NFL, but also finished last in the league in average attendance and the percentage of seats sold.

Standards of success vary from sport to sport. Excellent NFL teams often win 75 to 80 percent of their games, but strong MLB teams rarely win much more than 60 percent.

And attendance figures are naturally higher for baseball and football, which are played in outdoor stadiums, than for basketball and hockey, which are staged in indoor arenas.

Bizjournals’ formula accounted for these differences before it slotted all franchises from first to 122nd place.


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