Parity has been a nice buzzword for professional teams in the United States. The thought is that parity breeds more fans because every team has a chance, and it widens the pool of fans. More people means more money essentially. Although that sounds nice, it’s really not in the best economic interest of league stakeholders.
The basic argument about the economics of the player market has quite a subtle corollary: Every team in a league benefits from allocating players such that the better markets have better teams. The weaker teams use the player reservation system to profit from the stronger markets; without the ability to transfer players to these markets, both weak and strong teams would be less valuable. Thus, competitive balance is not in the financial interest of a league except insofar as teams have to be sufficiently balanced to retain fan interest — Roger Noll, Stanford Sports Economist
Simply put, parity is often not in the best interest of anyone involved. Count NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as a believer.
In Silver’s press conference he acknowledged that parity isn’t as easy in the NBA.
If it was about parity every year, sports fans wouldn’t get to see greatness. There is a reason the Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, Lakers, Celtics, Yankees and Canadiens have massive followings — its because of their historical greatness. There is a reason that Golden State was must watch TV, or the Patriots create national stories — it’s because they are consistently better than their competition.
Parity creates less storylines. Manning versus Brady doesn’t exist if every team goes 8-8 every year. LeBron’s battles against the Celtics and now the Warriors don’t carry the necessary drama with every team going 41-41. Parity sounds great, but it does not help the economics of the sport. There are reasons ratings are higher when consistently good teams face off on the court or the field.
Every fan needs to feel like their team has a chance, or is building toward something, but parity — real 50/50 parity — doesn’t help a sport grow. J.A. Adande hit the nail on the head when he pointed out what helped the NBA grow.
Parity sounds nice, but in reality it doesn’t help anyone — especially economically and financially.