If you're a stats geek, the score in the NBA's version of the Final Four was 3-1.

Three small-market teams, one big market.

The numbers aren't official (or even looked up in this case), but it's a good bet the combined market sizes of Memphis, San Antonio and Indiana don't hold a combined candle to the year-round summer scene of Miami. David Stern & Co. are likely beaming at how this year's conference finals scream much-desired, league-wide parity.

But if Miami wins it all? Moot point.

There's a difference between being close — and being champs.

Aside from the Spurs, "parity" hasn't stood a chance in, well, forever. Just look at the list of the last 30 NBA champions. The Lakers (nine times). Boston (three). Chicago (six). Detroit three times. Miami and Houston twice. Dallas once.

From a media standpoint, all of those cities are — with the exception of San Antonio — top-15 markets, a far cry from the likes of Salt Lake City, Sacramento and Atlanta.

Don't misinterpret this as a dig on those cities, or a claim they will never matter. San Antonio won multiple titles because of a once-in-a-milennium combination of tanking, luck and Duncan's low-key personality.

Meanwhile the rest of the lower-profile cities mutter, "must be nice."

Oklahoma City is, for now, another exception, but imagine if they hadn't inherited Kevin Durant along with the Sonics/Thunder. Imagine, instead, them receiving what Seattle nearly got this summer: the Kings, in all their dead-end, me-first, perennial lottery glory.

You think Oklahoma City becomes the renowned fan base and franchise it is today? Please.

Already the Thunder's star core has started dissolving, starting with last season's trade of James Harden. In years past, Phoenix was similarly unable to keep a quartet of Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash, Joe Johnson and Shawn Marion.

For whatever reason, star cores don't stick in smaller cities. Miami's core, on the other hand, flocked to be there.

Still not convinced? Take the Heat's vaunted Big Three (LeBron, Wade and Bosh), and flash back to 2010. LeBron was in Cleveland. Bosh in Toronto. Wade in Miami. All three teams were willing — if forced — to pull sign-and-trade deals for next to nothing in order to avoid … well, getting nothing in return should their respective star players leave.

1 comment on this story

Two of them did. You're not going to believe this, but Miami wasn't one of them.

Loyalty — uncommon, feel-good player loyalty — appears to be the only counter to big-market allure. It's what has the Spurs gunning for a fifth title in 14 years — thanks to Duncan's loyalty. It's what made Oklahoma City more than a temporarily trending NBA town — thanks to Durant's loyalty.

As for the Larry O'Brien trophy? Its loyalty, like that of most star players, appears to belong to the big cities.

Matt Petersen is the sports Web editor for DeseretNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheMattPetersen.