Nylon Calculus: Finding the saltiest NBA fanbase by analyzing over 400,000 Reddit posts

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Can the positive or negative tone of Reddit posts helps us find the saltiest NBA fanbase after wins, losses and more?

Which fanbases are the most insufferable? On the other hand, which fanbases suffer the most? Which fanbases find the most joy in their team, and which fanbases simply don’t care?

Of course, we know the stereotypes: Lakers fans are fickle, expecting constant success. On the other hand, fans of the Cleveland Cavs are still riding the high from 2016, an ecstasy nobody can take away. Sacramento Kings fans are dead inside, hoping to be spared from another season of agony.

However, are these true?

To answer these questions, I collected and analyzed message-board data from Reddit – the popular discussion platform, which houses an online community, or “subreddit”, for every NBA team. These communities discuss each game in “Post Game” discussion threads. My analyses focused on whether word usage within these threads (2017-2021) was positive or negative. The average level of positivity vs. negativity — often referred to as the “valence” — was scored using VADER, a language processing tool designed for online settings.

These positivity/negativity scores were linked to game outcomes, allowing us to see how each fanbase reacts to wins and losses.

The results were actually pretty consistent with stereotypes.

Which NBA fanbase reacted the most to wins and losses?

Of all the teams, Lakers fans were the most upset by losses. Even when the Lakers won, fans barely cared and the team ranked in the bottom five, in terms of post-win positivity. The jokes write themselves.

Several teams particularly cherish their wins. The Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Cleveland Cavaliers emerged as the three fanbases giddiest upon victory. Perhaps small market teams just have more fun? However, interesting to see, that Cavs fans were happy, win or loss. After winning in 2016, they seem to just be playing with house money.

It is also worth pointing out the Clippers. In stark contrast to their crosstown rivals and despite their championship struggles, Clippers fans appreciate their wins (fourth-highest) and remain reasonably jovial after losses (eighth-highest positivity).

Another team that stood out was the Houston Rockets, whose fans were way less happy about wins than any other team. Looking at their individual seasons, we find that Houston’s post-win positivity was normal during the 2017-18 season. However, in each of the next three years, Houston fans were dead last in this regard… it seems like the Warriors just broke them in the 2018 Western Conference Finals? On the bright side, Houston fans are recovering and showed typical levels of positivity in this most recent season.

A final fanbase that deserves special note is the Sacramento Kings. After the bad trades, laughable drafts, and many, many losses, one would think that such a team has little reason to be emotionally committed. And that would be correct. Kings fans showed the third-smallest difference between wins and losses.

And if you’re interested in the raw data for every team, you can check it all out below.

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