The Biggest Basketball Fans
A lot of NBA fanatics follow the sport to witness the hype and the athleticism, but most importantly, they follow basketball to see their team go the distance. Whether it’s the exciting return to prominence of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference or the battle for supremacy between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets in the Western Conference, each team’s support would claim to be the most loyal fan base in the league.
But is that really the case? Is it possible those who win the most games have a more loyal fan base, or are there some perennial losers whose fans are with the team through thick and thin? We examined teams throughout the league to uncover who can truly claim to be the champions of cheering their team on to success. Which teams’ fans are most loyal? Which are followed by the fairest of fair-weather fans? Read on to see where your team ranks!
The Best of the Best
There are a lot of reasons why rooting for your favorite team makes you happy. The shared language between fans, the thrill of the battle, and even the roller coaster of emotions come together in nearly every match to bring fans to thrilling highs (and sometimes perilous lows – but we won’t talk about that).
When it comes to the most loyal fans, we can’t deny there’s one thing that probably makes them happiest of all: winning. Fans of the Golden State Warriors have more than a few reasons to smile, and championships are just a part of the equation. Since the 2012-13 season, the Warriors have played in the NBA Finals three times, and brought home the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy twice. Winning might not be everything in sports, but it’s reason enough to smile for Warriors fans across the country.
Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Chicago Bulls also ranked among the most loyal. With past and present mega-star players like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and the legendary Michael Jordan, even if their teams aren’t pulling out victories like they used to, they don’t have to go very far back in time to find a history of greatness.
Pulling up the rear were fans of the New Orleans Pelicans, Indiana Pacers, and Atlanta Hawks. Iconic Celtics hero Larry Bird stepped down as the Pacers team president in May 2017 and the team traded Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder just one month later, which could explain why fans have been so glum.
Bring Down the House
As excited as NBA fans get when celebrating the success of their team on the court, there’s still a maximum number of individuals who can take in the game live. In fact, the largest NBA arena is only capable of seating about 21,000 attendees. The United Center, home to the Chicago Bulls, doesn’t quite fill its stadium to the max despite the team making the playoffs 13 of the last 15 seasons. Perhaps their title drought, having last won the NBA Finals in the 1997-98 season, has something to do with the reason behind their almost full house.
It may seem the Houston Rockets’ winning ways aren’t capable of filling the seats, but the arena’s seating capacity is the culprit for their lower-than-average league attendance. The Toyota Center can only accommodate 18,300 attendees for a basketball game. Despite challenging for first place in the Western Conference this season, players like Chris Paul and James Harden are, on average, being watched less in person than Dirk Nowitzki and his teammates on the nearly last-placed Dallas Mavericks.
Some players make a bigger splash online than others, and their social media presence could be helping to boost their team’s visibility in the digital arena.
Players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Dwayne Wade, and James Harden pull in millions of Instagram followers on their own, and the fan following of some of these iconic (and photogenic) players could be helping their teams earn even more popularity on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
There aren’t too many professional sports players who can add an Oscar nomination to their resume, but Kobe Bryant is no stranger to being an exception to the rules. Bryant may have played his final game in 2016, but the legacy of Black Mamba lives on as pundits continue to debate where Bryant ranks on the list of all-time greats. All that fanfare could be a part of why the Los Angeles Lakers have the strongest social media presence in the NBA. With more than 22 million Facebook followers, 7 million Twitter followers, and over 4 million Instagram followers, the Lakers may not have won the Finals since 2010, but they’re certainly winning the social media game.
The Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and Miami Heat posted similar numbers, earning them top slots while other teams paled in comparison. The Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards, and Utah Jazz rounded out the bottom, with roughly 3 million followers across various social media networks.
What to Wear
From the throwbacks, City Editions, and everything in between, the jersey you wear to the game can say a lot about your passion for the sport. Current players making big waves, retired players whose legend statuses helped propel their teams to greatness, or even players no longer with us (like the late great Philadelphia 76er Darryl Dawkins, who passed away in 2015) all say something different about the way you love the game.
Perhaps as a result of having won the NBA Finals twice in the last five years, or the simple association of some of the greatest players on the court today (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant), Golden State Warriors jerseys have outsold more than half of every other NBA team during the 2017-18 season so far. For every NBA jersey sold this season, the Warriors have accounted for more than 1 in 5, so if you’re looking to stand out from the crowd at the next game, you might want to consider going with a variant edition instead.
It’s hard to image another Cleveland Cavaliers player who isn’t LeBron James earning the title of the star player, and the Cavs are responsible for nearly 10 percent of NBA jersey sales in the 2017-18 season. LeBron has been with the Cavs for a combined 11 seasons and helped them win the NBA Finals for the first time in team history in 2016. Of course, LeBron isn’t the only player jersey worth sporting at Cavs games. Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson deserve a little love too and can help keep Cavs fans from turning into a giant sea of “23”s.
Loyalty Has No Price
When it comes to team loyalty, winning isn’t everything. Passion for some teams is written into the very fiber of the cities they call home, and rooting on clubs like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, or Miami Heat isn’t just a matter of team spirit, it’s point of pride – whether that means showing up to the games in person, following your favorite players or clubs online, or calling yourself one of their most loyal fans. If loyalty means repping your team wherever you are, Fanatics has your back.
The total fan loyalty rankings for each NBA team were calculated by looking at average arena occupancies, social media followings, and jersey sales. This formula was used to put all NBA teams on a scale of 0 to 1 for each factor that made up a category. Since categories had multiple factors, possible scores ranged from 0 to 3.
NBA teams were ranked on a scale of 0 to 1 for average arena attendance. That number counted as a positive number toward their total loyalty score.
NBA teams were ranked on a scale of 0 to 1 for social media following. Our ranking formula was applied to each of the three factors that made up the social media ranking: Twitter followers, Instagram followers, and Facebook fans. This score also counted as a positive toward the total loyalty score.
Finally, NBA teams were ranked on a scale of 0 to 1 for their average jersey sale rank position. This average was calculated using Fanatics internal sales data from January 2017 to December 2017. A score of 1 meant a team sold the most jerseys. This scale score was added to the total loyalty ranking score, along with the other two categories.