I’ve seen these finals before! A difference between the NBA and NFL

The Superbowl has been around since the 1967. This Sunday will actually be somewhat unique. This Superbowl will be only the 3rd time that two teams with returning starters will have a repeat match up in the Superbowl. It will also mark only the sixth time that two franchises that have met in the finals before meet again. Here’s a breakdown:

Superbowl rematches

  • 1979: Rematch of 1976 Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Pittsburgh won both)
  • 1994: Rematch of 1993 Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys (Dallas won both)
  • 2012: Rematch of 2008 New York Giants vs. New England Patriots (Not looking good for New England)

NFL Honorable mentions

  • 1996: Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers “rematch” of 1979 (Pittsburgh won)
  • 1983: Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins “rematch” of 1973 (Split)
  • 1989: Cincinnati Bengals and San Fransisco 49ers “rematch” of 1982 (San Fransisco won both)

NBA Rematches

  • 1969: Rematch of 1968 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (Boston won both)
  • 1972: Rematch of 1970 Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks (Split)
  • 1973: Rematch of 1972 Los Angeles Lakers vs. New York Knicks (New York won)
  • 1979: Rematch of 1978 Seattle Supersonics vs. Washington Bullets (Split)
  • 1982: Rematch of 1980 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers (Los Angeles won both)
  • 1983: Rematch of 1982 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers (76ers won)
  • 1985: Rematch of 1984 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (Split)
  • 1987: Rematch of 1985 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (Lakers won)
  • 1998: Rematch of 1997 Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz (Chicago won both)
  • 2010: Rematch of 2008 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (Split)
  • 2011: Rematch of 2006 Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat (split)

NBA Honorable mentions

  • 1986: Rematch of 1981 Houston Rockets vs. Boston Celtics (Boston won both)
  • 2008: Rematch of 1987 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics (Boston won)

Summing Up

In 46 years of the Superbowl, we’ve only had three repeat match ups, for a total of six Superbowls (13%). Even for franchises looking to develop Superbowl rivalries, that’s only happened six times for a total of eleven times (24%). Compare this to the NBA, where there have been 19 finals that were “repeats” (41%) and 22 finals with the same franchises battling it out (48%). That’s right! At the current rate, the NBA is pretty much a coin flip as to whether the finals will have a repeat showing of a previous season.

In the NBA, the short supply of tall people means the sport is wildly unbalanced. Once a team gets several good players it will likely stay good for many years. If two such teams happen to do that at the same time, then we’ll have the makings of a rivalry. Add the fact that playoff length is longer and fans shouldn’t be too surprised by who shows up in the finals.

The NFL is a different story. Players have shorter careers. Also with more players on the field, it’s hard for just one player to make as much of a difference. Finally, with single elimination playoffs, anything can happen (try telling that to Packers fans this season!). Of course, both the NBA and NFL are very popular. So it’s hard to tell if it’s the bitter rivalry between teams repeatedly going to the finals or the randomness of the playoffs that bring fans back. All I can say is that I’ll be surprised if next season is a repeat Superbowl showing for the NFL, but I won’t be surprised if we see familiar faces in this years NBA finals or the next.