I’ve been managing blogs and message boards for over a decade now and I’ve been interacting with NBA fans online for the past eight years, so I’ve learned that basketball fans on the Internet can typically be labeled with at least one of the following 11 categories. While I’m singling out the Internet with these labels, I’m well aware that they could also apply to people who call into sports talk radio shows. However, I don’t personally listen to those shows because if I wanted to hear random assholes blowing hot air, I’d attend a chili cook-off.
If you think you don’t fit into at least one of these categories, you’re either the only perfect basketball fan on the planet, or you’re lying to yourself. I will readily admit to being guilty of up to six of these offences, but I won’t tell you which ones until the end of this post.
1. The Homer – This is the most common type of obnoxious basketball fan and he’s fairly easy to spot. He consistently overrates his team and underrates every other team, every draft pick is a future All-Star, and every loss is usually the fault of the referees. This type of fan takes rooting for his team to a level where it becomes somewhat unhealthy and extremely annoying. Don’t bother trying to debate him on how good his team really is, he can’t be reasoned with.
2. The Pessimist – As miserable as this fan usually is, you wonder why he bothers to root for his team or how he’s managed to avoid taking his own life by this point. Every win is meaningless because it’s only a matter of time before the season goes into a death spiral. This type of fan may actually be attracted to bad teams because they help validate their natural state of mind. See: Warriors fans.
3. The Player-Hater — With the irrational way that this fan hates a particular player, you’d think that the player had committed some unforgivable transgression against the fan’s family. In fact, this fan simply hates the way a certain player plays, carries himself and presents himself to the media – so much so that the fan wants this player to fail as much as he wants anything else in life. Sometimes, the player can be on the fan’s favorite team and he’ll gladly take a loss if it means this player has failed in a particularly egregious fashion. The more successful a player is, the more a player- hater will reach to find ways to criticize the player. For example, ESPN’s Bill Simmons can’t stop pointing out that Kobe Bryant went 6-for-24 in Game Seven against his Celtics — conveniently overlooking the fact that Kobe also grabbed 15 rebounds to help the Lakers win the championship.
4. The Stan – This type of fan loves a particular player so much, he may actually prefer his player to put up big numbers even if it means his team loses. If his favorite player gets traded, he dumps that player’s former team like a bad habit and moves on to the new team — buying that player’s new jersey as soon as it goes on sale. The Stan is blind to his favorite player’s faults and will defend him against any haters through the end of his career and beyond. In my experience, the “Vince Carter Stan” is possibly the most irritating NBA fan of all.
5. The Tanker – Nothing brings this fan more pain than when his favorite team wins games. Every game his team wins decreases their chances of winning the next draft lottery and landing the next rookie stud. You’d think that you’d only find this type of fan on really bad teams, but you’d be sadly mistaken.
6. The Statistical Manipulator – The revolution of advanced statistical analysis in basketball means that we can break down players’ strengths and weaknesses more effectively and go beyond the clumsiness of per-game numbers. Many NBA teams use these advanced stats to bring scouting and gameplans to whole new level. The statistical manipulator fan will use any manner of statistic — no matter how obscure or dubious — to make a point about how good or how bad a particular player is. If the stat is obscure and complicated enough, you may not even understand what the hell it means, which only allows him to point out that you’re too dumb to appreciate how awful or how great this player really is. You may frequently find yourself wanting to find out where this fan lives so you can drag him away from his computer, dunk his head in a toilet and give him a swirly.
7. The Trade Machine Maniac – Ever played with ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine? It’s a fun little tool that allows you to try out various configurations of trades and see if they work under the NBA’s complicated salary cap rules. It’s so fun that it can become quite addictive to a certain type of fan who can’t stop posting ridiculous trade scenarios that somehow manage to bring a player like Chris Paul to the fan’s favorite team without giving up any of that team’s valuable assets. For example, I bet you a Knicks fan somewhere has proposed trading Eddy Curry and Wilson Chandler for Chris Paul because it works in the Trade Machine and the Hornets would be happy with Chandler’s “potential” and Curry’s $11 million expiring contract. If you run a message board, you should give these fans their own thread or section where they can make their insane proposals without bothering everyone else.
8. The Conspiracy Theorist — Ugh, these fans are the worst. They’re convinced that everything in the NBA is fixed and will repeatedly state that it has as much credibility as pro wrestling. According to this fan, all the refs are instructed by the league to give certain players and teams the advantage at all times, the draft lottery is rigged, and David Stern is a Machiavellian monster. Don’t bother trying to ask this fan why he bothers to follow the NBA if everything is fixed, you won’t get a response.
9. The Rabid Nationalist – If you wonder why a certain fan is so irrationally supportive of a non-American player who isn’t really all that good, there’s a possibility that the fan is of the same ethnic background as the player. This is understandable and fine in theory, but these fans can be quite vicious and lash out at you if you attempt to point out that the greatest player to ever come from their country isn’t even a top-50 player in the NBA. Dead giveaways that you’re dealing with an rabid nationalist: broken English, creative swearing and wildly inappropriate comments about your family and your sexuality.
10. The Casual Racist – Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re all a little bit racist in one way or another. The particular breed of racist I’m referring to here isn’t a “real racist” in the sense that he actually hates or wishes harm on another race. He’s just convinced that the race in question is inherently inferior at basketball or he has a rooting interest in that race achieving greater NBA success. The casually racist NBA fan typically comes in two types: the fan who complains that his team has too many white or “Euro” players, and the fan who bemoans the lack of great white American NBA players. A lot of these fans are still heartbroken over the spectacular failure of Adam Morrison’s NBA career.
11. The LeBron/Kobe/Jordan Obsessive — Do I really need to explain this one? For some reason, there is a group of NBA fans who seem to exist only to compare LeBron with Kobe, LeBron with Jordan and/or Kobe with Jordan. It doesn’t matter whether the blog post or message board topic is supposed to have anything to do with these players, this fan will always find a way to steer the topic to his particular obsession. If you actually write a blog post comparing these players, you’ll surely attract these nutbars like the scent of freshly cooked bacon at a fat camp. Don’t blame the media for covering these players so extensively — because of these fans, it’s just good business. Note: out of all these fan types, this is the one that would benefit most from psychiatric treatment.
So there you have it. Those are the main types of obnoxious and delusional NBA fans I’ve dealt with online. There are surely more types that I’ve missed, and I encourage you to point these out to me in the comments. The best one will be added to this post with credit given to the commenter. As for me? At various points, I’ve been a homer, a pessimist, a Stan, a tanker, a statistical manipulator and a trade machine maniac. (Cue the Judd Nelson fist pump and “Don’t You Forget About Me”.) I’m a complex guy, and more than a little mentally unstable. You knew that “fan” is short for “fanatic”, right?
Bonus obnoxious fan type! The Revisionist History Major (suggested by commenter ThatPatty) – “The fan that loves to point out that his team could have had Player X in the 200# draft if they had only drafted smarter… or his team could have signed Player Y in the summer of 200#… and if only his team had been smarter, they would be contenders.” What cracks me up about this fan type is that they completely ignore the fact that if they had drafted the right player in one draft, they would have had a completely different (and lower) draft pick in the following draft.