Comparing to other sports: the NBA team that most resembles the Indiana Hoosiers

The other day I had a concept. I wanted to start a series that compares the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program to a team (or teams) in other sports/leagues. What teams would most resemble the Hoosiers and why?

In order to do so, I’m going to look at all of the major professional sports leagues and give my opinions on why my selection is comparable to our cream and crimson.

In my first entry, I’m going to look at the National Basketball League (NBA) to find our first specimen. The NBA was founded in 1946, which was generally around the time Indiana Basketball was starting to win (they won their first national title in 1940, and includes the Branch McCracken era). This timetable works out perfectly for this experiment.

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First, we need to start with a historic franchise. The Indiana Hoosiers are tied with Duke for the most NCAA Division I titles at five a piece. The most NCAA Championship wins comes from UCLA (11), then Kentucky (8), and North Carolina (6), before getting to Duke and Indiana. Let’s take away any team that has won fewer than five NBA Championships. That leaves us with the Boston Celtics (17), Los Angeles Lakers (16), Chicago Bulls (6), Golden State Warriors (5), and the San Antonio Spurs (5).

The Hoosiers are not on the level of UCLA with winning far more NCAA championships compared to the next school in line, so it is safe to say that by championship wins alone, that takes out the Boston Celtics (17) and the Los Angeles Lakers (16) since they have won 10 more championships as the next franchise in line.

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We are now left with the Chicago Bulls, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Antonio Spurs. This is not going to be a perfect comparison, because with just these three teams alone, if you were to compare how these three teams are currently doing in the NBA  and how Indiana is currently doing in the NCAA, there will be major differences.

Indiana prides themselves on a storied franchise that consists of multiple coaches who have made a difference and an impact on the school and the basketball program. While two of these schools have had multiple Hall of Fame coaches, those two schools won all of their NBA championships with one coach. The Chicago Bulls won their six titles with Phil Jackson as the coach, and those teams were led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The San Antonio Spurs won their five titles with long-time coach, Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have won their five titles over a period of fifteen years, but Popovich has been coaching the Spurs since 1996.

This leaves just one team standing alone as the comparison to the Indiana Hoosiers men’s basketball team, the Golden State Warriors. As I mentioned earlier, the Warriors current success is not the same as the Hoosiers current success, but the overall program fits quite nicely.

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The Warriors won their first NBA Championship in 1947, almost the same time the Hoosiers won their first NCAA title. The Warriors won their second title nine years later in 1956, and the Hoosiers won their second title thirteen years later in 1953. It took both teams approximately 20 years after that to get back to winning a title, where the Warriors won their third in 1975 and the Hoosiers in 1976, completing the season without a single loss.

This is where the two programs start to have some discourse. The Warriors went through a period of 30 years or so without winning consistently. Most seasons were below a .500 record, and had a few playoff appearances here and there. It was not until 2012 that the Warriors regained dominance over the entire league. The Hoosiers, on the other hand, during the 1970’s and 80’s, relatively dominated the league. The Hoosiers, after their last NCAA title in 1987, was still making the tournament consistently and had a few runs at the Final Four, basically up until Bob Knight was fired. Mike Davis lost in the 2002 championship game, but there has not been not consistent winning from the Indiana Hoosiers since 2002.

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Both franchises started out very similarly, winning three titles roughly in the same time period. After that, the Warriors needed a few years to get back to dominance, while the Hoosiers stayed dominant, and then went through a period of inconsistent winning. In addition to winning, both organizations take pride in many of the coaches they have had: Alex Hannum, Don Nelson, and now Steve Kerr for Golden State. Branch McCracken, Bobby Knight, and now possibly Archie Miller for Indiana.

If the Hoosiers can start to find consistent success, the comparison will hold true, even in the present day. Both teams have a history of winning, all the way back to the 1940’s, as well as a tradition of Hall of Fame coaches. The comparison might not be the best, but there sure are a lot of similarities between the two storied programs.


What do you think? Let us know who you think the Indiana Hoosiers compare to the most in the NBA.

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