There Aren’t Many Wizards Fans—And Here’s Where They Live
Attention Wizards fans seeking a distraction from a painful playoff series: The New York Times has just unleashed a fascinating, interactive map of where NBA fans live. (It draws on Facebook “likes” data and is up here, at David Leonhardt’s fantastic new blog, “The Upshot.”)
I was prepared for D.C. fans to be outnumbered in their current series—after all, the Indiana Pacers conceivably represent an entire state.
But brace yourself: The Wizards can barely lay claim to being Washington’s favorite team.
To get a reasonable team-by-team comparison, start by looking at the map above. It’s a screenshot of the Eastern seaboard, which shows concentrations of fans by ZIP code. The darker the color, the more that an area leans toward that team.
And in some places, it’s no contest. The state of Ohio is a stronghold for Cleveland Cavaliers fans. Supporters of the Philadelphia 76ers dominate Eastern Pennsylvania and stretch well into New Jersey.
But see that thin slice of red, around the D.C. metro area? That’s where Wizards fans live.
It’s a pretty narrow corridor of fandom. Even around the Verizon Center, only 23 percent of area NBA fans pull for the Wizards. (Contrast that with rooting patterns in the ZIP code by Cleveland’s arena, where 38 percent of local NBA fans say they “like” the Cavaliers.)
And the further you get away from downtown D.C., the less likely that residents are likely to be fans of the Wizards. In Congress Heights, ZIP code 20032, the New York Times estimates that just 20 percent of fans “like” the Wiz—and 18 percent “like” the Lakers.
By the time you get out to the Maryland and Virginia counties around D.C., the Wizards aren’t even the favorite team. In Silver Spring, fans prefer the Lakers to the Wizards, 22 percent to 14 percent. Further away in the Virginia ‘burbs, Fauquier County residents like both the Lakers (17%) and the Heat (17%) much more than the Wiz (12%).
Some of this might be explained away by D.C. fans’ historic fickleness, or the fact that so many Washington-area residents originally come from other parts of the nation. I’m sure we could chalk up much of this to bandwagon-jumping, too.
But then how do you explain the Nationals? Unlike the Wizards, Washington’s young baseball franchise does a far better job of holding down local fans—see below.
I’m pulling the above graphic from the Upshot’s similar look at where baseball fans live. Note that in Fauquier County—again, a place where fans prefer the Lakers to the Wizards by a noticeable margin—29 percent of residents “like” the Nats, versus 16 percent for the runner-up Yankees.
I’d bet that this will change in coming months, though. That the Wizards’ playoff success will translate to an upsurge in new fans. Then if John Wall and company have another solid season in 2015—and the Lakers stay stuck in the gutter—more and more D.C. folks will switch their allegiance back to the local team.
But in the meantime, TAI readers can take pride. You’re part of the few. The proud. The Wiz fans.