Home Features Which NBA Fans are the Most Toxic Online? An Analysis of NBA Subreddits

Which NBA Fans are the Most Toxic Online? An Analysis of NBA Subreddits

The hard court may elicit strong emotions, and the venom of NBA fans has caused significant criticism in recent campaigns. Some of the league's greatest stars, like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, have exchanged explicit jabs with raucous hecklers — and have been fined as a consequence.

Fan rage is hardly uncommon in professional basketball; for example, in 2004's "Malice at the Palace," players leaped into the bleachers in search of their mockers. However, the NBA is at a crossroads in terms of fan behavior, as more players clamor for steps to keep hecklers in control.

We chose to explore which NBA team's fans are the most vulgar, both in their support for their teams and in their criticism of other players. To do so, we examined each NBA team's fan subreddit, measuring the use of swear words and obscene expressions per 100 users. Are your team's fans mild-mannered, or are they perhaps the most outspoken? Continue reading to find out which fan bases took the top places in our vulgarity rankings.

Prevalence of Profanity


Los Angeles Lakers fans were the most profane NBA fandom on Reddit, with 52.7 offensive language per 100 subreddit followers. The vulgarity of the fan base may reflect the team's previous struggles: After a terrible season in which the historic organization failed to make the playoffs, supporters flocked to Reddit to organize a demonstration outside the Staples Center. The Phoenix Suns' third-most profane fan group may have been prompted to profanity by their team's poor results.

However, successful teams appeared to draw crude supporters: the Philadelphia 76ers, who made an excellent run in the playoffs in 2019, seemed to have the second-most vulgar fanbase. And the current NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors, were fourth in terms of vulgarity (so much for Canadians' legendary manners, eh?). Maybe these fan bases utilized explicit phrases in a joyful manner, demonstrating their superiority over competitors through victorious taunting.

Some clubs' supporters, on the other hand, appeared positively puritanical. For example, Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards fans used less than eight explicit phrases per 100 subscribers. As the Eastern Conference's lowest two clubs, both have provided plenty of opportunities for their supporters to spew obscenities. But perhaps fans of faltering franchises are content to suffer in silence: Neither of the five clubs with the least raucous fan groups made the playoffs.

Bad Language by Fan Base


F-bombs accounted for 44 percent of all obscene phrases used across all NBA subreddits. The frequency of these swear words may surprise you since many consider it to be amongst the worst. The S-word was also the only phrase used nearly as frequently, representing 30% among all filthy terms.

Nonetheless, certain clubs' fans have a specific proclivity towards additional obscenities. In comparison to NBA fans in general, Utah Jazz supporters, for example, were more prone to use the term "hell." This conclusion may reflect Jazz fans' reluctance to more venomous swear words: the majority of Utah citizens are Mormons, who frown on profane language. Alternately, Jazz supporters might be a vicious bunch: the supporters have been regularly chastised for heckling opposition players.

Many fan groups adopted specialized disparaging phrases, such as Sixers fans' love of the slur "d-ck." Of course, these phrases might be applied to opposition players as well: Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has a tendency of clashing with other players, and Sixers supporters enjoy mocking his foes. However, many of the supporters' jabs are likely intended for their own team. Poorly performing Nuggets players have been booed by Denver supporters, who loved to use the nickname "bastard."

Top Team According to Term


Which team's fans used each vulgar phrase the most frequently? While we've already explored several fan communities' specific swearing routines, some unexpected leaders appeared for a few nasty terms. The Brooklyn Nets, for instance, had the most fans who used the phrase "a—hole." Whereas New Yorkers are not really exactly known for their friendliness, it appears that Nets supporters use this word even more than Knicks fans.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the top team for "trash," which may properly define their 19-63 record – particularly after four consecutive NBA Finals appearances. Lakers fans rated #1 for the word "damn," which is a natural reaction given LeBron James' big entrance swiftly went catastrophic.

And then there are the Boston Celtics fans, who were unsurpassed in their use of F-bombs. The Boston Celtics have recently disappointed their ardent supporters, with many urging Kyrie Irving to leave the team. In a region that many regard to be the finest in the country for sports, anything less than actual championship contention may elicit caustic denunciation.

Postseason Profanity


Which fan groups take an extra obnoxious attitude to cheer on their teams during the postseason? Raptor fans had the greatest rate of swearing per 100 subreddit members by far. Perhaps Toronto's fans are following in the footsteps of superfan Drake, whose sideline antics defy all rules of decorum. Philadelphia fans took second place in our playoff profanity rankings; evidently, the postseason brings out the worst in Sixers fans. Following a playoff defeat to the Brooklyn Nets in April 2019, the club was booed on their home court.

In comparison, other fan bases appeared to tidy up their act in preparation for the playoffs. During the postseason, Nets supporters used only 2.5 obscene phrases per 100 subreddit users, a significant decrease from their normal pace. Maybe, after three consecutive campaigns with less than 30 victories, Brooklyn supporters had cause to grit their teeth with the team's playoff presence in 2019. The only postseason club with better-behaved supporters was the Indiana Pacers, whose fans cursed rarely despite the Celtics' humiliating first-round sweep.

Graphic Enthusiasm

Our data indicate that there is substantial diversity in the usage of vulgar language: Curses and other disparaging phrases are not often used. Furthermore, explicit posts do not always signal a tough campaign (just glance at the followers of the successful Toronto Raptors). Rather, it appears that the usage of profane language is the result of a complicated combination of circumstances, spanning from regional slang to the actions of managers and players. Although obscenities can be used to criticize a team's failure, they can also be used to express joy and dedication.

After all, supporters may express their sadness or excitement in a variety of ways. Maybe our results may help you analyze your own fan remarks, either you're posting online or sitting in the front row. Sure, a few obscene words aren't the end of civilization. However, part of the fun of rooting for a team is rejoicing (and empathizing) with others. If your vulgarity appears to be alienating fellow fans, you may strive to figure out another method to convey your strong feelings.

The Method

We extracted 587,270 comments that contain any of the above obscenities from all 30 NBA collaborative subreddits: "f—k," "sh-t," "damn," "hell," "d—k," "b—-h," "crap," "a—hole," "bastard," and "douche" are all words. PSRAW and PRAW were used to harvest responses from Reddit's API. The comments examined were made between October 16, 2018, and August 15, 2019. Tableau was used to analyze all of the postings.