Basketball and hockey. Hoops and puck. The two professional sports played indoors.
Whatever you want to call them, the overlapping NBA and NHL postseasons make each May a glorious time on the sports calendar.
Nobody knows that better than us in Chicago, blessed to have the Bulls and Blackhawks still alive well into May. School nights haven’t been this fun since ‘summer break’ was a real thing.
For the first time since 2013 – and just the second since 1996 – both of Chicago’s winter teams made it out of the first round of their respective tournaments. Dreaming bigger, it means Chicago has a chance to be the first city since New York in 1994 to send their NBA and NHL representatives to the Stanley Cup and NBA Finals in the same season.
Two years before that, in the spring of ’92, the Bulls and Blackhawks did the same thing as the Knicks and Rangers. Had the Hawks won the Stanley Cup that season, Chicago would have done something that still hasn’t been pulled off: One city sweeping the NBA and NHL titles.
While the Blackhawks are on a post-Wild, pre-Western Conference Finals staycation, Jimmy Butler and the Bulls are two wins from their first ECF appearance since 2011. We’ll find out soon enough if a 1992 flashback is in our future (with the Bulls and Blackhawks presumably flipping roles), but either way this season is cementing Chicago as the current ruler of May’s yearly NBA and NHL playoff extravaganza.
The kings of spring, if you will.
Thirteen cities – 12 in the U.S. plus Toronto – are eligible for the prestigious crown.
*Boston: Bruins, Celtics
*Chicago: Blackhawks, Bulls
*Dallas: Stars, Mavericks
*Denver: Avalanche, Nuggets
Detroit: Red Wings, Pistons
*Los Angeles: Kings, Lakers, Clippers
Miami: Panthers, Heat
Minneapolis-St. Paul: Wild, Timberwolves
*New York: Rangers, Islanders, Knicks, Nets
*Philadelphia: Flyers, 76ers
Phoenix: Coyotes, Suns
*Toronto: Maple Leafs, Raptors
*Washington, D.C.: Capitals, Wizards
The nine cities with asterisks have one arena for both their NBA and NHL teams, leading to a lot of work like this at the United Center.
Clearly, being the ruler of May is centered around having a competitive NBA and NHL duo. But more subtle factors such as attendance and social media were also taken into consideration for bonus points.
Put it all together, and we have our five finest hoops and puck cities.
Kings of Spring: Top Five NBA and NHL Cities
1. CHICAGO – Blackhawks looking for third Stanley Cup in six seasons, Bulls fighting for first ECF since 2011. Eager and proud fanbases have made United Center the hottest place in sports this time of year.
Blackhawks: Seven straight playoff appearances, Cups in 2010 & 2013.
Bulls: Three 50-win seasons in last five years, seven straight playoff appearances.
Attendance (by percentage of capacity)
Blackhawks: 854,000 followers
Bulls: 2.1 million followers
2. LOS ANGELES– Clippers and Kings have shown Staples Center plenty of non-Lakers success in recent seasons. Clips trying to give city NBA title a year after Kings won NHL crown.
Kings: Missed playoffs for the first time since ’09, Cups in 2012 and 2014.
Clippers: Four straight playoff appearances, looking for franchise’s first appearance in a Conference Finals.
Lakers: Currently suck, consecutive NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.
Kings: 598,000 followers
Clippers: 734,000 followers
Lakers: 4.3 million followers (holy shit)
3. WASHINGTON, D.C. – Only city besides Chicago with both teams still alive. Capitals looking for their furthest finish since ’98, Wizards since ’79. The Verizon Center staff has been quite busy into mid-May.
Capitals: Seven playoff appearances in last eight seasons.
Wizards: Two consecutive trips to Eastern Conference semifinals.
Capitals: 293,000 followers
Wizards: 374,000 followers
4. NEW YORK CITY – Nets sneaking in playoffs make NYC third city to have reps in both playoffs this year. Rangers and Islanders one-two punch in hockey offsets awful Knicks, whose fans still pack Madison Square Garden.
Rangers: Nine playoff appearances in last ten seasons, lost Cup Final in 2014.
Islanders: Playoffs in two of last three seasons after six-year drought.
Nets: Third consecutive playoff appearance.
Knicks: Two playoff series wins since 2000. MSG looks like a single purpose playoff arena for the time being.
Rangers: 488,000 followers
Islanders: 190,000 followers
Nets: 577,000 followers
Knicks: 1.2 million followers
5. BOSTON – Bruins just missed joining young and upstart Celtics in playoffs. TD Garden is usually one of the busiest this time of year, but Bruins on downturn and Celts are rebuilding.
Bruins: Made playoffs 2008-2014, won 2011 Cup, lost 2013 Cup.
Celtics: Seventh playoff appearance in eight seasons, won Finals in 2008, lost Finals in 2010.
Bruins: 748,000 followers
Celtics: 1.7 million followers
It only makes sense that May in Chicago – when the weather finally turns the corner before summer – is the best time of the year in sports too.
With the NBA and NHL’s overlapping playoff itineraries, it’s damn fun to watch when a city has two teams surviving and advancing at the same time.
And regardless of what happens to the Bulls and Blackhawks this year, there’s no question where the epicenter of hoops and puck is.