DALLAS -- Of the last 18 NBA champions, seven of them have been Texas teams.
That puts the Mavericks, Spurs and Rockets collectively ahead of any other state in terms of championships over the last couple of decades. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls won six, but Houston got a pair of titles in 1994 and '95, San Antonio was able to ring it up in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007 and the Mavericks joined the club this season.
Throw in the Mavericks' 2006 loss to Miami, and Texas has been represented in eight of the last 18 NBA Finals.
You can argue Indiana is still the high school hoops capital of the country, and North Carolina is the college hotbed.
But when it comes to NBA supremacy, Texas reigns.
So what happened to quietly transform Texas into the hub of the NBA? It doesn't hurt that there are three teams in the state. That increases the odds, obviously. But there are several other key points that have helped turn the Lone Star State into a league stronghold. Mostly, it's a matter of all three teams employing smart leadership at the top. But it goes far deeper.
Here are four key reasons Texas has been the most dependable bet for NBA excellence since 1994:
--The star factor: With the possible exception of 2004 when Detroit won the title with a true strength-in-numbers team, every champion starting with the Bulls in 1991 has had an undeniable superstar.
It began with Jordan in Chicago and move through the A-list of stars that includes Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston, Tim Duncan in San Antonio, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwyane Wade in Miami, Kevin Garnett in Boston and finally Dirk Nowitzki with the Mavericks.
Only in 2004 when Detroit won with Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace did a team without a legitimate superstar take the trophy.
Whether it's fate or blind luck, the Rockets, Mavericks and Spurs have been blessed with superstars -- all born outside the U.S., incidentally. Olajuwon is from Nigeria, Duncan was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Nowitzki is German.
Bottom line these days: It's really, really hard to win without a superstar.
In south Florida, it's even hard with three.
Aggressive leadership: It started in Houston with long-since retired Ray Patterson and the more recently retired Carroll Dawson, both of whom had great eyes for talent and obscene luck in the lottery. Once they got their talent, they knew how to augment it.
Ditto for Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford in San Antonio. They parlayed a miserable season when they had no choice but to dive for lottery balls to land Duncan, but later proved their savvy by drafting Tony Parker late in the first round and Manu Ginobili late in the second.
Then it was Donnie Nelson, who put his job on the line in 1998 with the drafting of Nowitzki. That, along with the trade for Steve Nash, were the only times he guaranteed ownership that they'd be happy with the moves. Mark Cuban's trust has been rewarded.
--No state income tax: For those of us who deal in real dollars, it's not a big thing.
But in the Monopoly money world of the NBA, saving state income tax in Texas (and Florida, too) is enough to make a significant impact in a player's take-home pay. It hasn't made a huge difference for superstars, who have stayed with their teams through all or most of their careers.
But how many role players and sidekicks have joined the Texas teams at least partly because their money goes further here?
--Football's leave of absence: The Cowboys have been MIA since the mid-'90s. The Oilers left Houston and their replacement has yet to make the playoffs. The Spurs have been the only game in San Antonio.
The downturn in pro football in the state hasn't changed the fact that this remains a football state through and through. But it opened a window of opportunity for basketball and its fans. And the Texas teams took advantage, big time.