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Let’s Rank the Fans!

For people who can’t get enough advanced analytics

This is the first of an irregular series that examines the state of the NBA fan.

The following rankings are based on the following formula:

(D + I + O + S): Delusional (rated on a scale of 1–10), IRL Obnoxiousness (rated on a scale of 1–10 based on the actions of fans inside or outside the arena), Online Obnoxiousness (rated on a scale of 1–10 based on their social media presence), and Self-Destructiveness (rated on a scale of 1–10), for a total of 40 possible points.

TIER 1: Teams other fans love to hate

Golden State Warriors

Warriors fans are enjoying the most remarkable runs of NBA success with three titles and four straight Finals. With that success comes the inevitable entitlement and arrogance of a team that is “light years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we’re going to go about things,” according to owner Joe Lacob. Naturally, fans would follow the owner’s lead, and become some of the most preening fans in the NBA. Combine that with the smug tech bros from Silicon Valley who sit in all those box seats, and you’ve got some new contenders when it comes to the title of most hated fans in sports. But are they delusional when the team has been so historically good?

I would say that the delusion is the idea that they have created a template which other teams could copy. It basically goes like this:

Just draft a Hall of Fame player who is one of the greatest shooters in history, a DPOY-small ball center who runs the offense, an All-NBA level shooting guard ranked the fifth best three point shooter of all time, and a fourth All-Star player over a period of four years. Then sign your Hall of Fame player to a cheap contract because of ankle problems, allowing you to have the cap space to sign another MVP winner.

All of it could have come crashing down, but didn’t, thanks to the Thompson’s miracle game when trailing 3–1 in the series against OKC in 2016, the 2017 injury to Kawhi Leonard in Game 1 of the WCF (when they were trailing by as many as 25 points), and, of course the 0 for 27 three point drought by Houston in Game 7 last year. So, yeah, there’s a decent amount of delusion to go around.

D Rating = 7/10

Warriors fans are super loud, but aside from that stupid chant “Warr-iors! Warr-iors!” their behavior is mostly loud and positive. At least they don’t ignore their opponents and chant for tacos.

I Rating = 3/10

Online behavior is another thing. When you have the best team in basketball, why on earth would you go to another team’s message board to troll fans? These fans don’t even have the excuse of going after a hated rival, like the Celtics. But they do, and it’s poor form. Not only that, but you can’t even argue with them, because the Warriors play beautiful basketball, the way it’s mean to be played. The fans are kind of like that Game of Thrones character who liked to squash beetles.

Ich bin ein Käfer

O Rating = 10/10

As far as being self-destructive, we’ll just have to wait to see what happens when something really goes badly for the Warriors. For now, the extent of their self-destructive behavior is flying drones in a restricted area during a victory parade.

S Rating = 0/10

Golden State Fan Rating: 20/40

Houston Rockets

Since those two titles in the 90s, Houston used to be a nice little team that could win a playoff series now and again. But Daryl Morey had other ideas about their place in the NBA. Obsessed with creating a team that could beat the Warriors, Morey brought together two of the whiniest players in NBA history and a coach who adopted an iso-heavy style of play that is boring to watch. Add in all the dirty tricks and flops that Harden and Paul use to draw fouls and you’ve got a team that doesn’t even need to win a title to be despised.

But the piece de résistance had to be the “memo,” leaked by Houston that proved they should have won the championship last year because they had so many calls go against them. That is some of the funniest, meme worthy bullshit of all time. And their fans swallowed it like it was the Holy Eucharist.

This has put Houston’s fans in the same situation as Agent Orange’s press secretary and just about everyone else in that administration — they have to lie non-stop about bad behavior already recorded on video or twitter for all the world to see.

Typical Rockets fans excuses include: “that’s not a travel, James has incredible footwork;” “that’s not an offensive foul, the opponent used telekinesis to force Jame’s arm to hook around it as he went up for a shot;” “that’s not a flop, the defender’s aura hit James squarely in the face.” Whether Houston fans believe this nonsense or not, the rest of the NBA regards them as being off the charts delusional.

D Rating = 10/10

Last year, losing a game 7 against the Warriors led to an “altercation” in the stands. But even the fighting is lame in Houston, so it’s tough to come down too hard on Rockets fans for pushing and hat grabbing.

This year, the fans upped their in-arena game, and chanted “New York Knicks” at Kevin Durant. I guess it’s a little creative, but this doesn’t approach the level of obnoxious behavior you’ll find in a traditional Eastern Conference fan.

I Rating = 2/10

When it comes to online participation, the combination of pushing their delusional and dishonest narrative, while trolling on other teams’ message boards represents a championship level of obnoxious discourse. Hopefully, it will be the only championship they win for a long while.

O Rating = 10/10

When it comes to self-destructiveness, this is one area where Houston does not have a problem. They can always drown their sorrow in dance.

Of course, in the case of some fans, that might still be interpreted as a form of self-punishment.

S Rating = 1/10

Houston Fan Rating: 23/40

Los Angeles Lakers

People love to talk about Lakers exceptionalism. It’s a form of delusion in which L.A. fans think great players will play for the Lakers because of the good weather, huge media exposure, hot women, and the chance to be part of a great winning tradition. Considering no team has won more titles since 1980 (10 banners, 10 rings, 10 titles to rule them all — just needed a confidence booster after these last six years… one, two, three… ping pong balls!!), and the fact that four of the 10 best players of all time (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, and LeBron) left their team to come to California, some people might actually believe that nonsense in spite of the obvious evidence that the owner and front office are beyond incompetence… and that’s AFTER Magic resigned!

What makes the whole “Lakers fans are completely delusional” such a big part of the media’s narrative is the fact that so many Kobe fans cling to the idea that he is the GOAT and actually did NOT want LeBron to come to the Lakers.

Can you imagine anything more delusional that an NBA fan NOT wanting their team to sign LeBron James (even the now mortal version) to a 3-year contract?

Just the above fact alone puts Lakers fans at the top of the heap when it comes to being delusional.

D Rating = 10/10

Lakers fans just want to look at their phones and hope they get on the Jumbotron, so they don’t have much to say about opponents, other than to cheer wildly for free agents (Paul George, Anthony Davis) they hope might come to L.A.

Lakers fans leave the fan-on-fan brawls in the area to hooligans… from Canada? About the only real chant Lakers fans use against a team is their old rivals, the Celtics. Here’s a video from the 2010 Championship Parade. See if you can make out the chant.

Lakers fans most obnoxious trait at games is to chant “We want tacos!” when the team is winning and the opponents are under 100 points near the end of a game. It is an old Jack in the Box promo left over from a time before NBA games turned into 3-point Pop-A-Shot.

This video is absolutely hilarious, showing Kobe’s competitiveness while his fans chant “MVP! MVP!” As far as the obnoxious quality of the chant, opponents aren’t even regarded with enough respect (except the Celtics) to even be the subject of the chant. But having a bunch of celebrities and rich assholes in those $1000 seats cheering to win a 99¢ taco has got to be irritating.

I Rating = 4/10

Given the city’s huge media reach and the number of Lakers fans all over the world, they have an extremely high online presence, mostly telling the world how Lonzo, Kuzma and Ingram are constantly screwed by the refs, with half of them reminding people of how great Kobe while trashing LeBron, and the other half getting on their knees to worship at the feet of LeBron.

O Rating = 8/10

As far as being self-destructive, there’s just too much else to do when the team loses, with the beaches and winter ski area less than 90 minutes from Staples Center and the entertainment capital of the world beckoning with its bright lights and swank restaurants.

Just watch out for the “knuckeheads” who come out when the team wins a championship and try to turn a celebration into their own personal excuse to act like the idiots they are the other 364 days of the year. Personally, I think these people were just disgruntled Boston fans.

S Rating = 3/10

L.A. Fan Rating: 25/40

Any LeBron NBA Finals Team

Nothing inspires more controversy and fan hatred than a successful LeBron team. Ever since “The Decision,” LeBron has been villified more than any modern player. You’d have to go back to Bill Lambeer and the Bad Boy Pistons to find a team more hated than LeBron and his guys.

Are LeBron fans delusional? After all, he seems to be regarded as one of the top 5 players of all time (except, of course for delusional Kobe fans). But his career isn’t over, so maybe it’s still a stretch to start having discussions about him being the GOAT. (Especially after a nothing-to-write-home-about season with the Lakers).

If we average the insane expectations of Miami Heat fans with the reduced expectations of long-suffering Cleveland fans, coupled with 8 consecutive NBA Finals appearances and 3 championships, team LeBron fans don’t hit the same level as some of the true crazies in this group.

D Rating = 8/10

When it comes to their behavior inside and outside of the arena, LeBron fans are legendary for their quick tempers. One day you’ve got arena-sized billboards where they are “witnesses” for the Chosen One, the next day, they’re burning his jersey.

Meanwhile, others simply jumped ship and swam toward Miami. Many Miami fans didn’t embrace the team early on, giving the Heat the distinction of being the worst fans in the NBA. Or they become haters once he moved back to Cleveland. Or, they get in a fight after winning a title in the opponent’s arena and a Warriors fan got thrown over a second-level deck railing by a Cavs fan. That’s pretty bad form on all fronts.

I Rating = 7/10

LeBron has become such a controversial person and has such a big online presence that both his own fans and his detractors are obnoxious, and their battles tend to crowd out everything else.

O Rating = 10/10

When LeBron left Cleveland in 2010, riots broke out. When he won a title in Cleveland, fans had similar “fun” as a group of fans jumped on a police car. And when he left Cleveland in 2018, one fan set himself on fire. That’s not good, but it could be worse.

S Rating = 6/10

LeBron Fan Rating: 31/40

Boston Celtics

When a team has had as much success as the Celtics did in the 50s, 60s and 70s (13 titles), it’s normal that they would have a high level of entitlement, almost as high as the Lakers. But Boston fans still have to deal with bad weather, a 100-year-old baseball curse, and a permanent inferiority complex when compared to New York in everything except sports.

Being located near ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, the Celtic media bias feeds the already delusional fans to an unparalleled level. If they could, Boston fans would willingly draw an “11” on the delusional knob, just to prove they’re even better in that category than the hated Lakers.

This fatal flaw extended up to the front office, causing perhaps the biggest mistake in franchise history, as the Celtics believed their own hype and refused to trade Jaylen Brown and some draft picks for the guy on the left.

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Kawhi Leonard is a Finals MVP, DPOY, and All-NBA fixture. He is the only living being — human or otherwise as some people might claim — who has won playoff series against Kevin Durant and LeBron James. And Boston fans believe that Brown and Tatum are going to be better players than him.

D Rating = 11/10 (Congrats on beating the Lakers again)

When it comes to their behavior inside and outside of the arena, Boston fans are legendary for their “passion”. Here’s an example. It takes a lot of passion to sacrifice a good bottle of vodka (there had to be at least a couple of drops left) to throw at opponents. Watch both KG and Lamar Odor jump out of the way.

But it’s only one bottle. And their basic chants of “Beat L.A.” “Let’s Go Celtics” and “Refs You Suck,” are pretty standard issue. Unfortunately, the NBA is cracking down on this kind of behavior and one “passionate” fan was banned for 18 months after he was found guilty of racially abusing Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus cousins in a game this January.

Their behavior toward the Lakers in those Finals during the 80s (throwing things at and shaking the team bus, calling the players’ hotel room at all hours of the night, etc) wasn’t much better. At least, they didn’t try to poison opposing players (See the Sacramento Kings).

I Rating = 8/10

It’s hard to separate the Boston fans from the media narrative. All season long, all we’ve heard is “Boston has the most talent in the East,” along with other nonsense. Even after the Celtics lost to the Bucks in 5 quick games (after the win in Game 1, Boston trailed by 10–25 points in the fourth quarter of each of the four losses), the lead story in the Athletic had this headline “So much talent, so much drama, so much disappointment. Celtics never found the answers”

The other obnoxious online behavior by Celtics fans was their presence as trolls on other fan sites. In 2016, as the Lakers suffered through another terrible season, hearing Bill Simmons and the online trolls relish the idea of getting the Lakers’ top 3 protected pick on the L.A. message boards was beyond obnoxious, but understandable as the Lakers-Celtics rivalry goes so deep, a number of ex-Lakers players still refuse to wear green.

O Rating = 9/10

In the old days, before the city won 12 titles in four major sports since 2000, Boston fans might have spent a lot of time drinking at their favorite bar and getting into the occasional fight at the arena. Now, Boston fans spend a lot of time drinking at their favorite bar and getting into the occasional fight at the arena.

Here are Celtics fans fighting each other, even when they’re wearing the same Rondo jersey, and another video of the Washington’s only playoff win as “Wizards Fan Knocks Out Celtics Fan At Game 7.” To be fair, a Celtics fan did enter the fray and blind sides the victorious Washington fan.

S Rating = 7/10 (it’s like diving judge where they have to leave room with their early scoring, knowing the real heavyweights, like Philadelphia and Detroit, are still to come).

Boston Fan Rating: 35/40

Written by

Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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