It’s hard to imagine being a fan of the modern NBA without the looming presence of Twitter, and that’s coming from an obsessive fan with a foot planted firmly in two different generations of fandom. That fandom used to be expressed in cut up newspaper or magazine features, read over and over again. It grew with the ability to watch Mitch Richmond highlights from the night before on cable TV over cereal before school, and into the nascent stages of the Internet – listening to NBA League Audio Pass on a 56.6k modem, swapping tales and slow-loading links over ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger.
Now, all manner of information comes to us within seconds under the umbrella of 140 characters or less. Fans can choose to follow a team’s official (and thankfully, often far from robotic) team accounts, all manner of newspaper beat writers, internet mavens, national columnists, TV types, and even well-heeled fans that know enough to be considered an expert of sorts partially because of the advent of information sent via Twitter.
The minds behind the service have decided to let us in on just where the biggest and most vocal pockets of NBA fandom lie, based on who Twitter users follow, and which teams they talk about. From Twitter’s website:
We built this @NBA map in the same way, by looking at the official Twitter accounts for each team, using their followers as an indicator of allegiance (as opposed to, say, instances in which people mention a team while watching an interesting matchup or talking about a team’s rival).
Here’s a look at the map in full:
The initial takeaways are ones that any rabid NBA follower (or especially writer, having to take in all those angry emails and tweets) would assume.
The Los Angeles Lakers are wickedly popular. Or, at the very least, they are a popular subject for discussion – the metrics that guide places in New Mexico and Kentucky toward turning purple don’t exactly account for Laker fans per se, but Twitter users talking all things purple and gold as Kobe Bryant does his thing.
The other obvious takeaway is one we all have been well-aware of since Vince Carter’s first go-round with Toronto: Canada loves them some Raptor news:
Work-wasting time spent with the map as a whole isn’t where Twitter, and “Twitter data visualisation scientist Krist Wongsuphasawat,” stopped, however. Thank goodness for that.
By clicking this link, fans can personalize the map for each team, they can compare one team versus another, and they can have all sorts of obsessive NBA goofs with various maps.
You can see the rather limited reach of the Memphis Grizzlies, save for the small pocket of British Columbia that is perched at the absolute opposite end of where the Grizzlies used to play in Vancouver.
And, yes, there is a reason why the 12-27 Los Angeles Lakers are all over the NBA’s national TV schedule:
To a fan, curious about these sorts of things, this is endlessly fascinating. Fine work, Dr. Twitter.
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