League History Charts

Andy Bergmann

I’ve always thought it would be cool to see a high-level history of franchises in a single chart so I started putting them together for the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL. Each one is so chock full of data that they don’t fit on a screen, so I printed them out as large 28-inch by 18-inch posters!

It’s really interesting to see the similarities between the leagues. The basic shape of the visualization holds true for all four; Each league had a bunch of floundering teams in the early days that didn’t make it – and three of the four had a secondary league arise in the 1960-70s that eventually merged into the flow. Take a look:

NBA History Print


The long-term power of the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers (originally the Minneapolis Lakers) is abundantly clear in the NBA visualization. So is the Mt. Jordan effect during the 1990’s Bulls reign, as well as the continuously high win-percentage for the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000’s.

NFL History Print


The early days of the NFL were a free-for-all as over 40 teams came and went by the mid-30’s! How would the Evansville Crimson Giants or the Potsville Maroons fend today if they had just stuck it out another 80 years? Also check out the WWII era combo teams like the Pittsburgh/Philadelphia “Steagles”.

MLB History Print


The MLB chart goes all the way back to the formation of the National League in 1876 and both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs have been there for the full ride – of course they changed their names several times along the way. You can’t miss the massive four decade run of the New York Yankees between the 1920’s through early 1960’s.

NHL History Print


The NHL visualization is by far the most streamlined as the National Hockey League has only had seven franchises go under since its inception in 1917. See how clear the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs dominance is up until the 1980’s, soon followed by the string of Stanley Cup championships the Great One helped bring home to the Edmonton Oilers.