The NBA Finals Proves Location Matters For Success

The LA Lakers and Boston Celtics have met 11 times in the finals.  Combined, the two teams have won an incredible 32 championships in the NBA’s 63 seasons.  Purists will note that only 10 of LA’s 15 championships came in LA, while the other 5 were in Minneapolis from 1949-954.  Either way, there’s no doubt that the Lakers are one of the best teams in NBA history.

How is it that two teams alone combine for about half of all championships in league history?  The answer is simply superstar cities which offer high wages, a huge fan base, and enough diversity in all things to keep one entertained.  Let’s be frank.  There’s no way the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Charlotte Bobcats, and Utah Jazz will ever win an NBA championship.  Not to say any of these cities aren’t nice, they just don’t match the star power of places such as New York, LA, and Boston.  Eventually, the best players and staff all gravitate towards one of the major metropolitan areas to really compete for a championship.


There’s a reason why the best and brightest flock to the big coastal cities of America.  It’s where the best jobs, and therefore the best pay reside.  The networking opportunities are amazing, and if you have New York City on your resume for example, it’s like a stamp of approval that you can handle anything.

Some will say that big city living is expensive.  True.  But, that’s because you are making so much more money it evens out in the beginning.  As you progress in your career, your income starts to completely outstrip your basic living costs and real wealth starts to build.  The upper limits of the income band are much higher, which is one of the key competitive advantages.  A big city provides you the platform to make things happen.


By the time you retire from a superstar city, you can practically move to any other city in the world, and your living expenses will be cheaper.  Whereas if you start off in Altoona, Kansas, you’re pretty much stuck.  It makes sense that if you want to be the best, you should compete with, and surround yourself with the best.  The Lakers have the marquee player in the West with Kobe Bryant and the best coach in Phil Jackson.  Boston’s Doc Rivers and the big three aren’t too bad either.  The A players want to be in the best locations, and so should you.

Readers, for the younger readers especially, what’s holding you back from moving to a bigger city if you’re looking to build greater wealth?

Do you believe superstar cities offer more career and wealth building opportunities?  Or do you believe bigger cities just cause you to go broke?

Who do you think will win the NBA championship?


Sam @ Financial Samurai – “Slicing Through Money’s Mysteries”

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship. Sam focuses on helping readers build more income in real estate, investing, entrepreneurship, and alternative investments in order to achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

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  1. says

    Well I am not sure that the earnings outstrip the cost of living starting out in big cities. I know a few college grads from very well respected private colleges that have parents that are helping pay the rent in New York because they do not make enough to cover all their expenses.

    Plus, I wonder if a lot of people that bought penthouses in NYC and such at the top of the bubble will ever recoup their original investment. But for those that go from living in a 3 million dollar place in LA/NY and move to Georgia, they will be all set.

    I live outside Detroit and we have won a few NBA championships, and I do not consider our town to be one to ‘attract’ superstars. Maybe we are the exception?
    .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Kid’s Sports – Make Sure YOU Behave Yourself =-.

      • says

        I think that Detroit can be as depressing as hell now. But we have never been a city that draws glamor. If you look at the Detroit area as a whole, it is valued for its business much more so than its tourist industry or ‘star power’.

        I think a lot has to do with the General Manager/owner of the team. Bill Davidson of the Pistons did a great job attractive and keeping talent. I love Joe Dumars who manages the Pistons now, but I don’t fully agree with a lot of the deals that have occurred in the last couple years. (Need I say more about the Billups/Iverson deal? Geez!) I don’t think I have to say much about Ford and the Lions either.

        So glad we have Cabrera on the Tigers though! :) Dave Dombrowski and Mike Illitch have done a great job with the Tigers in recent years. We haven’t won a World Series i a long time, but at least we are above 500!
        .-= Everyday Tips´s last blog ..Frugal Gone Bad: When Saving Money Isn’t Worth It =-.

  2. says

    I need to add a side note here, living in an expensive city doesn’t guarantee a high paying salary. As an example, as a teacher I make an OK salary (will make more once I become a fully credentialed teacher) compared to other states teaching salaries. However, due to the exorbitant cost of living, the slightly higher salary doesn’t really equate to a better standard of living. I’d probably be better off in Lenexa, KS working as a teacher making slightly less but having more buying power due to cost of living differences.

    Now I agree with you on how it is probably easier to move from an expensive city to a less expensive city than the other way around. So perhaps retiring in a less costly area is important to achieving financial freedom.

    As for attracting superstars, I do think there is a quality in people that drives them to large metros, but that doesn’t mean everyone of them becomes a superstar!
    .-= Little House´s last blog ..Eco-Cottages and Sheds =-.

    • says

      You make a good point. Nothing is a guarantee in life. Using a teacher as an example, it’s hard since the upper income band for a teacher is somewhat limited like many public service jobs. Hence, I’d agree that it’s better to live in a smaller, cheaper town/city in your profession.

      Private sector jobs, are a different story.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Oops! The World Is Coming To An End! =-.

  3. Larry says

    I agree with House. It is by no means true that large cities necessarily pay high salaries. I’m sure statistics are readily available, but the nation’s largest cities are characterized by extreme poverty as much as by extreme wealth, with all kinds of gradations in between. There are plenty of instances of young professionals living in large cities who split their living expenses with roommates because rentals are so expensive. At the same time, any one who wants to make their mark in any field is likely to gravitate to a big city, especially New York.

    After being laid off for about six months in 1991 during a recession, jobs were hard to find and I finally took a position with a non-profit that paid $40,000 ($62K in today’s dollars). Since I live on Long Island, that also added commuting costs of $180 a month. Some big salary.

    • Larry says

      I see I should have clarified (if it wasn’t obvious) that said non-profit was located in midtown Manhattan.

      • says

        Thnx for clarifying as I was scratching my head a little wondering about Long Island, not being exactly the major metropolis of the world.

        Non-profit is a hard industry to use as an example to build wealth, since nobody is going into that industry to build wealth. Wouldn’t you agree?
        .-= admin´s last blog ..Oops! The World Is Coming To An End! =-.

  4. says

    In the investment management world it’s no secret that the action is in New York although with information so available on the internet it’s spreading out.
    Will your theory be disproved when the Washington Nationals win the World Series?
    .-= DIY Investor´s last blog ..New Bond ETF product =-.

    • says

      There are always exceptions to the rule, but don’t worry, the Nationals will never win the World Series so it’s a mute point! However, if they do, Washington DC and the surrounding areas is an area of density and power with the gov’t!
      .-= admin´s last blog ..Oops! The World Is Coming To An End! =-.

  5. says

    I live in Phoenix (5th most populous city in the country) and the cost of living is shockingly reasonable, but that is because we are in the West, rather than the Pacific coast (which is different). We pay $976 for a 1000 sq ft 2br/2ba condo with a private backyard and two parking spots, and it is 3 miles from where I work. Nice!
    .-= Honey´s last blog ..How Likely Are You To Get Divorced? =-.

  6. says

    For the younger readers especially, what’s holding you back from moving to a bigger city if you’re looking to build greater wealth?

    –> Is 32 considered ‘younger’? :) I’d say that what holds me back from moving from here in Utah to another bigger city is that I really like where I’m living and don’t mind the potential income loss by not moving. But it’s a good question nonetheless.

    Do you believe superstar cities offer more career and wealth building opportunities? Or do you believe bigger cities just cause you to go broke?

    –> I think superstar cities do offer more career and wealth building opportunities if you are qualified to work in them. If you move to one without the qualification or position to back it up, then you just go broke.

    Who do you think will win the NBA championship?

    –> Lakers in 7
    .-= Jeremy Johnson´s last blog ..Learning Fallout =-.

    • says

      32 is considered young my man! If you’re happy in Utah, that’s all that matters, especially if you’re planning on doing more business online. It won’t matter where you work from.

      I’m thinking Lakers in 6 myself.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

  7. Powell says

    Lakers in 6! Can’t stand Boston, ugh.

    The thing with being in the big cities is u have much more competition. You’re vying against every single go getter out there, it’s easy to fail or just be a regular schmuck.

    Everybody should experience NYC, London, HK once and see if they can compete. If not, at least you gave it a try!

  8. says

    interesting connection between NBA teams and the job opportunities available in the major coastal cities. While i definitely agree with you on the job part of it, I dont think its that simple with NBA teams. san antonio was the most succesfull team of the past 15 years with 4 championships, and its certianily not one of the better, larger, or more entertaining cities in the US.

    • says

      Good point about San Antonio. Definitely not a city most people aspire to end up in. Robinson and Duncan was an incredibly lucky combo, which attracted others to want to see if they can make things happen, and they did. They are now past their prime, and I just can’t see them ever winning a championship again.
      .-= admin´s last blog ..An Extra Seven Hours A Week =-.

  9. says

    What is keeping me back right now? Contractual obligations and, that’s about it. I’ve had my eye on San Diego for some time, and plan on moving there within the next three years. I just completed one huge step in ensuring a job there, I’ve got a few more things to do first:)

    Not really a Basketball (or any sport for that matter) fan. But go whichever team is the underdog! I love being the underdog myself, so naturally I’d root for that team!
    .-= MyFinancialObjectives´s last blog ..Entrepreneur! =-.

  10. Charlie says

    I grew up in a small towns and witnessed my dad struggle with finding a steady job a lot. I knew early on that I wanted to be able to support myself as soon as I was on my own b/c my parents didn’t make very much money and had enough of their own troubles to worry about. I also learned that living in a suburb wasn’t going to offer me very good job opportunities so I knew I had to get to a big city and break free of the nest. I’m glad I did!

  11. ctreit says

    A big city generally gives you more options, too. For example, if you want to check out Altoona, Kansas, you jump on a plane because your big city is probably somehow connected to this place. Hotels, meals, things to do, etc. are cheaper in Altoona than in the big city, which make a weekend trip easily affordable for a big city person. But if you live in Altoona, you may find it hard to have a job that lets you jump on a plane just like that to check out New York City. Never mind that you got to shell out a bit of money once you get to the big city.
    .-= ctreit´s last blog ..A Thank You to Our Hosts =-.

      • ctreit says

        Nope. Never heard of the place but I took your word for it that it existed. My travels did not go beyond Kansas City where I once spent an afternoon. I love the name! Great choice!
        .-= ctreit´s last blog ..Setting up a budget is the easy part =-.

  12. says

    Great post Sam…. In general this is totally true but sometimes smaller places hold opportunities of a lifetime. Montreal for example was a great place to be an artist or in the gaming industry but it’s a tiny city.

    I agree, if you are young and have no ties, move around, see the world (or just the country) and find your place to excel.
    .-= Forest´s last blog ..Redbox June Free Rental =-.

  13. chubbuni13 says

    I was going to bring up San Antonio’s championships, but it looks like someone beat me to it… again, it’s a little easier when you have Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward of all time, but they seem like they are definitely the outlier to your theory.

    I live in West LA, and despite the plethora of problems facing California, I can’t really imagine living anywhere else. My wife and I would rather live in a smaller, more expensive house than to be like our coworkers who drive in to Santa Monica from places as far as Fontana and Riverside… quality of life and saved hours in commuting is worth the extra money, and despite the horrible mismanagement in this state, it’s hard to beat LA’s mix of culture, weather and geography.
    .-= chubbuni13´s last blog ..The Bride of Frankenstein is Our Gardener =-.

  14. says

    Lakers in 6! I think it’s great for the younger generation to live in large metropolitan cities like LA and NYC after graduating college, if that’s what they want to do. I also think that you can live where ever you want, and be happy, and make a killer living. :) It’s all in the perspective. :)

  15. says

    We’re in New Jersey, just outside of NYC, but this is a Boston Celtics household. So my husband is pretty darned happy!

    As for our location, I think we have the best of both worlds: We live in the suburbs, where the cost of living is lower than in the city, but still have full access to all that NYC has to offer thanks to our proximity and the plethora of public transportation options. We could be in Lower Manhattan in 30 minutes, off-peak hours.

    I’ve never worked in the city (freelanced for a few magazines there, though), and I don’t think I ever will. My quality of life would be negatively effected by the insane commute, and a higher salary wouldn’t make up for it, either. I’d rather be home with my family than spend 3-4 hours commuting every day to Midtown.
    .-= RainyDaySaver´s last blog ..Carnival of Personal Finance #260: Forces of Nature Edition =-.

  16. Ben @ Sell Property Fast says

    I totally agree location proves to be a big factor to influence people standard of living. Big cities comes with better opportunities like work and health benefits, entertainment are one of the best benefit to have to introduce the city and promote people.
    .-= Ben @ Sell Property Fast´s last blog ..Another Quick Property Sale =-.

  17. says

    “Superstar cities”, as you put it, do offer more potential. I have to agree with that. For someone out of undergrad or grad school, particularly in business, those are places with a deep talent pool and a lot of energy. As one gets older, and family considerations get more important, being in one of these cities isn’t as high on the priority list. That said, I’m in the Chicago area, so I have followed the “Superstar City” approach – my bias toward my place of residence obvious, I’m sure! But to each their own – I can see the enjoyment and relaxation one might have in a more subdued, low-key place. All about tradeoffs, and what works for one might not work for another.
    .-= Squirrelers´s last blog ..Stealthy, Quirky Millionaires are Among Us =-.

  18. says

    This is very true in all aspects of life. These big cities can either break you or lead you on a path to success. Being surrounded by so much talent will either cause you to shine or just breakdown. However, I’d much rather get an opportunity in a big city full of talent rather than a smaller location with less competition. Competition weeds out the weak.

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