Recently, an NFL Nation Confidential survey asked over 100 players to fill in a simple statement: “the only way I’d play for [insert team name] is if they doubled my salary.” One thing that needs to be acknowledged is that it was a fairly small pool of respondents, with only 82 players answering. However, the number one team, who received 23% of the vote, was the Oakland Raiders – an answer that doesn’t seem unreasonable. Oakland has had countless head coaches in the past decade and have had eleven consecutive non-winning seasons.
With this in mind, there’s a question that must be asked – what makes a team desirable (or not) to play for?
One of the answer is, of course, team performance. Regardless of the locker room dynamic, the coaching situation, and the fan base, players like to be a part of teams that win. While they can establish good connections amongst their team mates and learn from their mistakes, no player wants to be on a team that loses game after game after game. Teams that have a history of championships are generally seen as more desirable.
Another factor is legacy, to an extent. Every player makes their own mark on the team’s history, but there’s something undeniably cool about playing for a team that their childhood legends may have played for. A team that has a giant roster of Hall of Famers and athletic superstars often has a certain appeal to athletes starting out in their careers.
Yet another factor is team dynamics – even with the best history and records, if the environment in the locker room is unpleasant, or the management and coaching staff make things hard for players, it leads to a situation where players are unhappy coming to work every day.
Every team is different, as is every player, so there are no clear cut factors that make one team desirable and another a flop. However, here are 10 of the teams that many athletes and fans would agree are most desirable to play for.
*We're not going to look at factors like taxes for each team, as this list is more focused on looking at what players are looking for team-wise, not financially.
11 Boston Red Sox
Three words – Red. Sox. Fans. Red Sox fans are among the most passionate of all sports fans across the world. Founded all the way back in 1901, the Sox managed to win the first World Series in 1903 and get the Sox legacy off to a good start. However, shortly after that they went into an 86 year drought – the “Curse of the Bambino,” as any true Sox fan will lament. They’ve recently gotten back into the swing of things, winning three World Series titles since 2004. Though they have eight Championships to their name, the biggest part of the Red Sox isn’t their win percentage or performance on the field – it’s their fan base. In 2013, for a periodsof ten years, every single home game was sold out, a Major League Baseball record. Red Sox Fans will turn up in Fenway Park cheering, win or lose, rain or shine, every single time.
10 Boston Bruins
Let’s just go ahead and say it – Boston fans are dedicated, to say the least, and what they value most is heart. The Bruins fans aren’t looking for players who could double as figure skaters, gliding around the ice in complex plays. They cheer for home grown heroes, men who don their gear and leave everything they have on the ice. The city was insane during the 2011 Stanley Cup win. It also doesn’t hurt that they’ve had players like Bobby Orr, CAm Neely, and Patrice Bergeron, just to name a few. Bruins fans treat players like family, and root for them with about the same fervor one might root for their own blood. Plus, every single hockey fan has seen and committed to memory the picture of Bobby Orr after burying the goal against the St. Louis Blues and securing the Stanley Cup.
9 Chicago Blackhawks
What players have to say counts for a lot, since fans aren’t always privy to what happens during practices and in the locker room. In poll that the NHL Players’ Association and CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada” put forth to players, the Blackhawks were voted the number one team that players themselves would like to play for. In different segments of that poll, the United Center earned the distinction of favorite rink to play in, and both staff and players of the Blackhawks ranked fairly high on other accolades. While the margins in such polls are often fairly small, a team snagging so many distinctions can’t be ignored.
8 Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks have two conference championships and eight division titles to their name. They’re currently riding high this season as well, as the returning Super Bowl Champions. Notable Seahawks past include players such as Steve Largent, Shaun Alexander, and current Seahawks include “Beast Mode” himself, Marshawn Lynch, and the quarterback who no one thought could but nonetheless led his team to a Super Bowl win, Russell Wilson. Despite all this, perhaps one of the biggest things to consider in Seattle are the stands – or, more accurately, who’s sitting in them. Everyone knows that Seattle’s fans are often referred to as the “12th Man” because of their rabid support. However, their fans are so loudly enthusiastic that they have set not one, but two Guinness World Records for loudest crowd noise. That’s devotion.
7 San Antonio Spurs
Some of the best and brightest amongst the Spurs are getting up their in age, with Tony Parker at 32, Manu Ginobili at 37, and Tim Duncan pushing 40 at 38 years old. Despite this, they continue to do great on the court and show no signs of slowing down. Their offense is polished and functions like a fine tuned machine. While Texas is often associated with football fans, make no mistake – basketball definitely has its place, and Spurs fans solidify that.
6 Cleveland Cavaliers
It’s hard to attribute desirability and success to one player, but there are certain superstar athletes that just garner a certain level of excitement for whatever team they play for. LeBron James is one of them, and probably more than a few NBA fans switched their loyalties from Miami to Cleveland when LeBron moved back home to play for the Cavaliers. With James and Kevin Love bringing the attention to the team, they’re definitely one of the favorites this season. Even though it often takes teams awhile to figure things out when they get new blood, Cleveland has gotten a lot of NBA attention since James moved back to Ohio.
5 Montreal Canadiens
Le Tricolore, the Habs, the Canadiens, whatever you want to call them, this Montreal NHL team has an incredible history. Yes, they haven’t managed to snag a Stanley Cup since 1993. However, fans continue to turn up to games in tremendous numbers and support their home team. A player who gets a spot in Montreal becomes a part of a team that included champs such as Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, Guy Lafleur, Patrick Roy, Jacques Plante, Jean Beliveau, and more. While they haven’t brought back many championships lately, they do have a whopping 24 Championships to their name, as well as 34 Stanley Cup appearances, so historically they’re doing alright. They also have managed to get at least one championship in every decade from the 1910s to 1990s, so in terms of consistency, they’re pretty solid. They’re a team on which every aspiring hockey player dreams of grabbing a spot on the roster.
4 New York Yankees
If you want to see fan loyalty, think back to Derek Jeter’s retirement. He went out like a king. He played for the New York Yankees for his entire career, and fan's love and respect for Jeter shows what it means to be part of a team like that. They have 27 championships and 40 World Series appearances to their name, and are currently the highest valued franchise in Major League Baseball. Their roster historically contained some of baseball’s most legendary players, including Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and more recently, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. While they have their fair share of enemies due to their success, it’s simple – it’s pretty damn good to be a Yankee.
3 Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers are housed in a city that’s often known for quick trends and fickleness, but as a franchise, the Lakers are absolutely rock solid. They have 16 championships to their name and have only missed the playoffs five times in a whopping 62 years. They are the only franchise to snag a spot in the NBA Finals at least once every decade since founding, and have a 61.4% win percentage – not only the best percentage in the NBA, but the best in any North American professional sports franchise. Their games are star studded events with full attendance. Oh, and their team roster has included sixteen Hall of Famers, including names like Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shaquille O’Neal. You may have heard of them.
2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Steeler Nation is a real and serious thing. The Steelers have the NFL distinction of having won more Super Bowls than any other NFL team, and it’s not merely because they’ve shown up so many times since 1933 that they’re bound to get high stats. They’ve appeared at eight Super Bowls, and snagged rings six out of the eight times, which is a pretty great stat. They’re known for the dynasty in the 1970s that included players like Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, and “Mean” Joe Greene. The Steelers also satisfy the consistency criteria that many of the most desirable teams do, as they’ve appeared in a minimum of one Super Bowl in every decade, apart from the 1960s.