In 2000, Eminem released a song called “Stan” about an obsessed fan who writes letters to the rapper and gets increasingly agitated that he’s not getting a response. The song was a huge hit, charting at No. 1 in 12 different countries and going double platinum in the United States.
In the song, Stan is the name of the unhinged supporter and, as a result, “stans” became synonymous with diehard fans who are intensely loyal (sometimes to a fault). Last June, 15 years after Eminem’s song dropped, “stan” was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary and defined as “an overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”
If you’ve used social media, there’s a very good chance you’ve come across this word by now. There are self-proclaimed stans who put the term in their user name or bio, wearing the label with pride because it shows their intense fandom (“I’m a Kobe Bryant stan!”) and proves to their fellow stans that they belong in the club. It can also be used as a verb to describe one’s support, as in, “I stan LeBron James!”
But perhaps most commonly, it’s used as an insult. When a fan is accused of being a stan (often during a debate), it’s typically because they’re being biased and getting emotional or defensive rather than having a reasonable discussion. Additionally, stans typically have trouble acknowledging any of their favorite player’s weaknesses. Post something negative about a player and that player’s stans will flood your mentions. Post something positive about a different player altogether and those same stans may still flood your mentions because they sense a subtle diss or think you should be focusing on the individual whom they support. A stan is infatuated with their favorite player, so they have a habit of making everything about their idol.
Social media is so congested with stans that just last month, someone on Reddit changed the lyrics of Eminem’s song as if it were a letter to Kobe from an obsessed fan (“Dear Kobe, I wrote you but you still ain’t callin / I left my cell, my Insta and my AAU team at the bottom / I sent two tweets back in autumn, you must not-a got’em…”).
HoopsHype wanted to explore the world of NBA stans, so we talked to some of the top NBA Twitter personalities and writers about their experiences with stans, how the stan groups differ from one another, how stans have changed in the social-media era and much more.
WHICH NBA PLAYER HAS THE MOST STANS?
Rob Perez (AKA @World_Wide_Wob), who co-hosts ESPN’s show BUCKETS and contributes to The Action Network: “It has to be Kobe… still. Even with him out of the league! I’ve never seen anything like it. Remember that scene from “I Am Legend” when the zombies figure out where Will Smith lives and they charge his house like there are free NBA2K Pink Diamond codes inside? That’s Kobe’s fan base on the internet. If there’s anyone who’s ever going to overthrow him in terms of quantity, it’s LeBron, but the Kobe hive is truly an army.”
James Holas (AKA @SnottieDrippen), who writes for BBALLBREAKDOWN and RealBallInsiders: “In terms of sheer volume of stans, it’s Kobe Bean Bryant – hands down. No one is even close. If you’re between the age of 18 years old and 30 years old, the bulk of Kobe’s career coincided with your formative years as a fan – which also coincided with the rise of social media. Plus, Bryant’s theatrics and well-curated personality make for a perfect storm of fan adulation. There are plenty of LeBron James stans and they’re pretty faithful and rabid, but Kobe easily has the most.”
Michael Lee, who is a senior NBA writer for Yahoo Sports: “Among the active players, it’s LeBron. I don’t think anyone comes close to him in terms of the active players. He’s in a class by himself. I think the fact that he switched teams multiple times means a lot of his fans are supporters of him rather than the teams he was on. They’re going to root for him no matter what jersey he puts on. Also, LeBron came up with social media, so it makes sense that he has a ton of supporters on Twitter. With that said, Kobe clearly has the largest army of anybody. LeBron is the leader of active players, but Kobe is the overall leader. He has the most stans, and I think his stans are the most active too.”
Cassidy Hubbarth, who is a host and reporter for ESPN and ABC while also co-hosting ESPN’s show BUCKETS: “It has to be Kobe, and I’m assuming that’s been the most popular answer you’ve gotten for this question. The Kobe stans are far and away the most vocal and loyal and, sometimes, aggressive. I think the fact that Kobe’s career is over is one reason why we hear so much from Kobe stans. Part of it is that they’re chiming in on the G.O.A.T. debate, but I also think some of the fans just want to keep his legacy going.”
Arash Markazi, who is a senior writer for ESPN and an adjunct professor at USC: “It’s probably Kobe, but keep in mind that a lot of my answers will be skewed by the fact that I cover Los Angeles sports. But yeah, I think Kobe has the most. Anytime there’s a greatest-of-all-time debate and Kobe isn’t mentioned, his fans will start posting all of his accomplishments and making their case for why he belongs on that list.”
Coach Nick Hauselman (AKA @BBALLBREAKDOWN), who created BBALLBREAKDOWN and has a popular YouTube channel with over 500,000 subscribers: “LeBron James has to be the leader among active players, but if we’re factoring in retired players, then it’s Kobe Bryant. Kobe still commands the largest group of stans.”
Steve Kyler, who’s the founder and publisher of Basketball Insiders and has hosted various radio shows: “For me, James Harden stans jump in my mentions the most. There’s this perception that I have some agenda against James Harden, which I don’t. But he’s such a polarizing guy – you either love him or want to tear him apart – even though the guy may be the second-best player in the NBA right now. Joel Embiid is up there too. He has a lot of stans just because he has this great, crazy personality.”
Chris Palmer, who has contributed to ESPN, Bleacher Report and The Undefeated while also writing several books about basketball: “Kobe Bryant has, by far, the most stans. There’s still so many Kobe fans and Laker fans who will defend him vociferously. He has more people defending him than any other player in the NBA. And not only does Kobe have the most stans, he has the most diehard stans.”
Alexis Morgan, who creates content for the Memphis Grizzlies and has contributed to SLAM, Sports Illustrated and Bleacher Report: “I would say the player who has the most stans on social media is LeBron James and then second-place would be Kobe Bryant. But I think Kobe’s stans are much more hardcore, if that makes sense. LeBron stans win when it comes to quantity. Kobe stans win when it comes to quality, or how passionate and active they are.”
WHICH STANS ARE THE MOST AGGRESSIVE OR BELLIGERENT?
James Holas: “Again, Kobe wins this one. His stans have a combination of delusion and venom. Several years ago, I said Kobe was a top 12-to-15 player of all-time and I got FLAME SPRAYED by the Bean faithful. An adult man with a wife and a kid drove from his domicile to try and fight me in Temecula over Kobe on Christmas Day. Kobe stans are WILD.” (If you’ve never heard the Temecula story, read this).
Coach Nick Hauselman: “LeBron stans are the most hostile, belligerent group of fans on Twitter, in my experience. I’ll give you an example. I just recently shared that video of LeBron where he was talking to his kid’s team about playing your role and being a team player. It was a wonderful message and I even said that. I said it was a great speech, but I disagreed with him dropping F-bombs around kids. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but it sparked a two-day barrage of people coming at me. And they were all so convinced that I’m just a LeBron hater in general and that I’m always looking for any possible reason to criticize him.”
Alexis Morgan: “To Kobe stans, he can do no wrong. Here’s the thing about stans. It can be a positive thing because they’re so diehard and passionate and they love their favorite player no matter what, which is great for that player. It can be a negative thing because they fail to see their own biases, so it’s hard for them to grasp any weaknesses in that player’s game or comprehend anything negative surrounding that player. With a Kobe stan, you can say something seemingly fine, but they’ll sniff out any sort of negativity in the statement and then get defensive and continue tweeting at you for hours even if you’re no longer responding to them.”
Eric Pincus, who writes for Bleacher Report and Basketball Insiders while also contributing to NBA TV: “The Lakers had Jeremy Lin for a year and I found his fans to be extremely vocal, passionate and, to a degree, irrationally defensive when it came to anything concerning the point guard. I didn’t have much negative stuff to say about Lin, but anything I posted was scrutinized extensively. I could name other players who have strong fans, but no one is close to the Lin masses.”
Arash Markazi: “When Jeremy Lin was on the Lakers, I got introduced his fans because anytime he had a poor game, there would be a ton of people defending him.”
Tommy Beer, who writes for Forbes, NBC Sports, Rotoworld and Basketball Insiders: “It has to be Kobe stans. I honestly think Beyoncé‘s Beyhive is the only crew that rivals Kobe Nation in terms of aggressiveness. I will say, though, I’ve found Carmelo Anthony supporters to be quite belligerent as well.”
Michael Lee: “Not only does Kobe Bryant have the most stans, he has the most aggressive stans. I think the main reason they’re so aggressive is because they feel the need to defend their guy. Right now, Kobe isn’t listed in the G.O.A.T. argument and I think that offends his base. So they’ll interject whenever a G.O.A.T. argument is taking place and not only mention Kobe, but also try to bash the players who are in the G.O.A.T. mix. That’s why it’s so funny that LeBron is with the Lakers now because people who spent a lot of time in recent years debating why Kobe is better than LeBron now have to come to terms with the fact that LeBron is on their team.”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “I try to be fair and balanced with every player. One of the reasons I started BBALLBREAKDOWN was to poke holes in certain narratives and share my analysis. One player I analyzed a lot is Russell Westbrook, basically showing the flaws in his game that prevent him from being a top-five player in the league. He’s up there – he’s a great talent – but he’s not one of the league’s best players. Because of this, I developed a reputation as a ‘Westbrook hater’ and his stans are constantly coming at me. And while I don’t think his stans are the most hostile, they’re certainly the most unrealistic. Now, it’s gotten to the point where if Steph Curry turns the ball over, I’ll get tweets asking, ‘Why didn’t you criticize Curry for that turnover? If Russ did it, you’d be tweeting about it!’ Stans won’t just show up if you speak negatively about their favorite player, they’ll show up when you speak positively about a direct competitor too.”
Steve Kyler: “I don’t really get that many belligerent comments directed at me, but I have noticed the passion that Kobe Bryant stans have. Based on Twitter, you’d think the dude could walk on water. Nobody is going to take shots at Kobe. If you do, you’re facing an army. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think a lot of players have belligerent haters who are just as active as stans. There are a lot of hate-filled tweets about certain players. For example, if you bring up Carmelo Anthony and try to explain why he could have a good year, you’re going to get an insane amount of negative feedback.”
Chris Palmer: “I wouldn’t say any specific group of stans is belligerent, it’s just individual people within that fan base. I don’t want to generalize. Belligerence comes down to certain people who are acting out in a certain way, but that’s not representative of a whole fan base. Some fan bases do seem to have a lot of people who share the same qualities, though.”
WHICH STANS ARE ACTUALLY FRIENDLY AND REASONABLE?
Eric Pincus: “Wait, a reasonable stan? Is that a thing?”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “I don’t think there are friendly stans, but there are certainly less-hostile stans. This is a difficult one to answer because, of course, the hostile exchanges are the ones that stand out. I guess Steph Curry stans would fall into this category because they spend most of their time defending Curry and his greatness rather going on the attack. Yeah, I think Curry fans could be classified as ‘reasonable.’ He just gets so much push back and he has a lot of people who want to criticize him or downplay his accomplishments, so that’s when the Curry stans will pop up and defend him.”
James Holas: “This one is pretty easy: Dirk Nowitzki is in his twilight, he’s got his ring and his team has been mediocre-to-bad for quite a few years now. Dirk stans are content to reminisce gleefully about Dirk kicking tail in playoffs past and taking half-hearted swipes at other greats when debates like, ‘Who was better, Kevin Garnett or Dirk?’ come up.”
Michael Lee: “Dirk Nowitzki has one of the nicest fan bases. They don’t always have something to say, but every now and then, they’ll slide into the conversation and say something like, ‘Well, the Heat didn’t win that first championship because of our guy…’ They don’t disparage anyone; they just come around every now and then to remind everyone about the times Dirk busted everybody up.”
Chris Palmer: “Dirk Nowitzki’s fans are probably the coolest, most chill group of fans right now. I think Dirk’s stans reflect who he is because he’s just a super-chill, laid-back dude. He’s like, ‘Whatever, I’ll be in the Hall of Fame, everything is all good and I’m just enjoying life.’ His stans are a lot like that too; they seem to be super easygoing and fun to talk to. But people don’t really tweet much derogatory stuff about Dirk, so his stans have it pretty easy. They don’t have to defend Dirk and get into arguments.”
Alexis Morgan: “I think Klay Thompson‘s stans are the most chill. They all get his brand and get his image. And Klay is in a great position because he’s just chilling, being himself and playing in a situation where he thrives. I get along with Klay’s fans. They can take a joke and even laugh at him. Did you ever see the Klaytheism video that The Ringer did? The Klaytheists are great (laughs). Joel Embiid fans are excellent too. He’s built up such a great online fan base because I think he gets NBA Twitter more than any other player. I think he’s the guy who’s most in tune with his fans online. They’re all pretty reasonable as well; they love him and his game, but they also understand his weaknesses. Joel doesn’t take himself too seriously, which helps. I think his fans see that and share that sentiment.”
Rob Perez: “I would say JR Smith stans [are the friendliest]. Easily. All JR Smith stans care about are 35-foot fadeaways, Henny and memes. You can always expect a good laugh with this group.”
Michael Lee: “JR Smith stans are great and I don’t even think their support has anything to do with his play (laughs). There are some guys who have a big following just because of their personality or because of off-court things. Even with someone like JR, some of his blunders – on and off the court – have just made him more relatable and likable. Nick Young stans are the same way. I love that there were people who were genuinely excited for Smith and Young to match-up in the NBA Finals (laughs).”
Arash Markazi: “Anything that featured Nick Young, whether it was a quote or a picture or anything, would do well traffic-wise. Nick Young’s stans don’t think he’s a superstar or the best player on the team or anything, they just have fun rooting for him. When I covered him, I knew that my mentions would be full if he had a big game or went on a hot shooting streak. I think Nick Young fans, like JR Smith fans, are in on the joke so it’s a fun night on Twitter when he Nick Young goes off.”
Cassidy Hubbarth: “In today’s NBA, you get to know more about these players than ever before so a guy can become a star or a fan favorite based on his personality. Information about all of these guys is so easily accessible and, with social media, people feel like they know these players. That means anyone can become really popular [and have stans].”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “To me, James Harden stans are pretty reasonable. They’re easier to deal with because they recognize who he is as a player. When people would bring up his poor defense or how he draws a ton of fouls, his fans just sort of shrug it off like, ‘Yeah, it is what it is.’ The fans that drive me nuts are the ones who are so biased that they believe their favorite player is perfect and can do no wrong. Harden fans know his strengths and weaknesses, and they’ve accepted that’s who he is as a player.”
Michael Lee: “Steph Curry fans are really respectful, unless they’re talking about LeBron (laughs). I think Steph’s stans are pretty nice and they’re also pretty understanding. There is sort of a weird thing in the Bay Area that doesn’t get discussed much, though. In the same way that Kobe fans are hesitant to accept LeBron, Bay Area fans who love Steph aren’t entirely on the Kevin Durant train. As much as he’s helped the team and made them better and contributed to championships, those fans want Steph to be seen as the guy and they don’t like that Durant prevents that at times. It’s so funny because Steph doesn’t seem to care about it the way his fans do. He’s always stayed above the fray and he’s the one who welcomed Durant to the Warriors, going out to the Hamptons to recruit him, because he knew what having a guy like KD on his side would mean for the team. It’s interesting that there are still some Curry fans – not all of them, but some – who haven’t fully embraced Durant because he takes away from Steph’s shine.”
Steve Kyler: “I don’t get a lot of reasonable people in my mentions (laughs). If I had to pick one player, I think Anthony Davis’ stans are fine. I think it’s simply because you really can’t pick on Anthony Davis. He’s not a negative personality, he hasn’t made any kind of big free-agency move to upset a fan base and he is an incredibly good player. For the most part, I think everyone is on board with him and supports him. That’s not too common for a veteran. You see it with draft picks because fans are willing to get on board and really buy in to what this new prospect is all about. But once they start playing in the NBA, that’s when they become more polarizing.”
WHICH PLAYERS HAVE A SURPRISING AMOUNT OF STANS?
Rob Perez: “I thought the whole country of Georgia voting for Zaza Pachulia to try to get him into the All-Star game that one year was crazy. Zaza’s fans impressed me the most [and I thought he led all role players in stans] until I was introduced to Spencer Dinwiddie‘s stans. My goodness. You’d think this group was a bunch of bots based on the sheer quantity of posts that they can get into everyone’s mentions. Nope, they’re just that religious about Spencer Dinwiddie – who participates in the campaigning himself, which only adds fuel to their fire. They don’t forget either. They keep lists like Steve Buscemi in the movie “Billy Madison” and they will only take you off their list if you call them personally to apologize. Respect, Spencer Dinwiddie!”
Alexis Morgan: “In my work with the Memphis Grizzlies, I’ve seen a lot of Mario Chalmers stans and I wasn’t really prepared for that. I didn’t realize he had that many fans. Dion Waiters definitely has a lot of stans too. He has the whole Waiters Island thing and people go nuts for him.”
Cassidy Hubbarth: “As far as under-the-radar guys with stans, I’d say that – similar to the fan base for JR Smith – Dion Waiters has a lot of people who love him [and his antics]. Whenever he’s playing well, they’ll make sure to share it and try to get everyone to tune in. They aren’t defensive about him or standing up for him like some stans do with their favorite player; Waiters stans are really just interested in him and want to support him. JaVale McGee is another player who comes to mind.”
Eric Pincus: “Interestingly, there are quite a few diehards who believe D’Angelo Russell is the best player in the NBA. Also, there were way too many people who believed Kendall Marshall should be a starting point guard in the NBA. Solid guy, decent player, but not an NBA starter.”
Arash Markazi: “The one that was the most surprising to me was D’Angelo Russell. I like D’Angelo. But, my goodness, if I said anything even slightly critical about him on Twitter, there were many people who came to his defense. I actually had to take a break from Twitter one night because I said something about how trading D’Angelo to the Nets was a good move because it would put the Lakers in position to have a lot of cap space in the summer. But the D’Angelo Russell fans thought I was saying, ‘It was good to get rid of D’Angelo Russell.’ I was getting it from every direction. I was just trying to say that this was a good move for the Lakers, yet it was fans of the Lakers who were killing me. I guess that’s how I learned what a ‘stan’ is – it’s when their support for the player takes precedence over their support for the team.”
James Holas: “No matter how obscure or how far down the bench a player is, there’s someone who stans for them. I’ve had Wesley Johnson stans get upset at me. JR Smith’s brother, Chris Smith, has some stans! I’ve had Chris Smith stans ready for war in my mentions because I didn’t speak highly about him. Ricky Rubio has a devoted ‘standom.’ Rajon Rondo has a strangely relentless following that blames everyone and everything BUT Rondo for his struggles since leaving Boston. There are also Tracy McGrady stans who swear that T-Mac was ‘as good or better’ than Kobe. The Lonzo Ball stans are a fun bunch. Hell, a Jarrett Jack stan was recently livid at me for saying he wasn’t good last year. Many players have stans.”
Chris Palmer: “There’s one dude you shouldn’t say anything negative about because your mentions will get lit up and that’s Lou Williams. He might be the coolest dude in the NBA. People love Lou Will. I mean, he’s in rap lyrics, he’s a fan favorite, he has a ton of swagger… People go nuts on social media when he goes off for 30. Like Dirk, he’s so laid-back and chill. I think he has the most diehard, loyal fans of any non-star player.”
Tommy Beer: “Jose Calderon has a loyal and supportive international fan base, which might surprise some people since he’s not a star player. Derrick Rose has a very loyal and passionate fan base too.”
Michael Lee: “Derrick Rose is interesting because he had stans in his MVP days, but then he also developed a new group of stans who became supporters in response to the unfair blame and criticism he got for being injured all the time. That was cool to see; they were there for Rose because they didn’t like the way he was being treated and they wanted to defend him.”
James Holas: “The most jarring, rapidly expanding standoms belong to Rudy Gobert and Nikola Jokic. Both have a loud crowd of smug, analytics-obsessed fanboys behind them.”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “Nikola Jokic has a lot of stans and they post some things that are really provocative. I just saw the other day, someone was comparing Jokic to Tim Duncan using net rating and per-100 stats and stuff like that. I found that interesting. Duncan was obviously amazing, but he didn’t really fill up the stat sheet like that. So someone put together this comparison that was really provocative and it upset people. We obviously know Jokic isn’t better than Duncan, but he’s certainly doing fantastic things at a young age. I love seeing those kind of tweets because people go nuts. Stans can sometimes end up hurting their favorite player more than helping him by posting crazy stuff like that because people may start to think the player is overrated or they’ll start focusing on his weaknesses.”
Steve Kyler: “Mario Hezonja comes to mind. In Orlando, this past year, there were some fans who felt like Mario had the potential to become a superstar and he really hadn’t done much in his NBA career at that point. I think people would be surprised to learn just how much support Hezonja had in Orlando.”
Chris Palmer: “I think it’s natural for fans to gravitate toward players who are similar to them in terms of their personality. You aren’t going to be annoyed or turned off by a player who acts similar to you – you’re going to start following him and supporting him. I remember when I was a young NBA fan, I saw this with my friends. I’m from P.G. County and I had some pretty hardcore friends. Back in the mid-to-late ’90s, they were all Kevin Garnett fans because he had this raw edge to him. And they wouldn’t be a fan of, say, Joe Smith, who was in that same draft as KG. I think it’s almost second-nature for people to gravitate toward people who act like them.”
HOW WILL KOBE STANS REACT TO LEBRON IN LA?
Rob Perez: “In regards to Kobe stans adjusting to idea of LeBron being a Laker, I think LeBron’s decision caused a civil war that won’t end until LeBron either retires or leaves Los Angeles. The civil war is between the ‘KOBE IS THE KING OF LA FOREVER’ stans, the ‘WE’LL FOLLOW LEBRON ANYWHERE’ stans, and the die-hard Laker fans. Kobe stans want Kobe’s legacy to reign supreme in LA forever. LeBron stans don’t really care about anything other than LeBron becoming the unanimous best player of all-time – no matter what it takes or which team it’s with. Die-hard Laker fans just want the Lakers to return to greatness and start winning again. If these Lakers – this Meme Team of a roster – stumble out of the gate, look for Laker stans to join the Kobe stans. I don’t think Laker fans will ever join the LeBron stans; they’ll just agree to work together to reach a common goal (winning a championship) and then go their separate ways after it’s all done. Long story short: Kobe stans are going to blame LeBron every single time something goes wrong this season, LeBron stans are going to bunker in like the Spartans vs. Xerxes at The Hot Gates, and I’m going to be scrolling through it all and laughing a lot.”
Michael Lee: “I’m really curious to see how this plays out between the two fan bases. Already, it’s been disturbing to see people defacing these murals that were made to welcome LeBron to LA. These are super-talented artists who spent so much time and effort on those beautiful works of art and they’re being painted over. Nobody knows for sure if Kobe fans did it, but the assumption is that the Mamba Army was involved. The Mamba Army is very strong and large. It’s weird to see how that’s all playing out. I also think there’s going to be some fans who resist LeBron and he’s going to have to prove to them that he’s ‘worthy’ of donning the purple and gold by winning championships. I’m interested to see what will happen if LeBron loses in the second round or the Western Conference Finals because I could see Kobe fans just going ballistic about how ‘he’s not Kobe.’ Or, if LeBron leads the Lakers to a championship, will the Kobe fans be silenced? Or does it become a debate like, ‘Well, Kobe would’ve won it in five games instead of six games with this team…’ (laughs) I think everyone in the Laker fandom right now is having to figure out, ‘Is my loyalty to this team or to a player?’”
Arash Markazi: “It’s so interesting here in Los Angeles because for 15 years now, or however long it’s been, you’ve had Kobe fans saying, ‘Kobe is the best!’ and you’ve had LeBron fans saying, ‘LeBron is the best!’ There is an old guard that still doesn’t want to root for LeBron. Listen, we don’t know who painted over the mural of LeBron, but we can assume it’s someone who’s a Kobe stan. These are people who, in a weird way, don’t want LeBron to win a few rings with the Lakers – even though that’s their favorite team. And it’s all because they don’t want LeBron tying or passing Kobe. They’re thinking more about the individual player legacies than anything else.”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “I’m looking forward to seeing how Kobe stans will wrap their head around the fact that someone better than Kobe will be playing for Los Angeles. If LeBron thrives with the Lakers and he helps his legacy there more than people are anticipating, it’s going to knock Kobe down a bit, which I think will be really hard for Laker fans to handle.”
Steve Kyler: “There are definitely some conflicts there [between Kobe fans and LeBron fans] going all the way back to when they had their head-to-head rivalry. That was around the time that Nike had the commercial with the Kobe and LeBron puppets. There are some real differences between the two players. Kobe was a Laker for life and his fans loved that, while LeBron has hopped from team to team. But, at the end of the day, I think Laker fans love greatness and when you add LeBron James to your team, you’re getting greatness. It’s a different kind of greatness – a different style of greatness than what Kobe fans are used to seeing – but it’s greatness nonetheless. I’m curious to see what happens if LeBron’s Lakers struggle or if LeBron gets an injury. Would that segment of the fan base turn on LeBron? When you’re the homegrown talent who has developed within the franchise for your whole career, it’s a lot easier to keep the fans happy. When you’re the mercenary who’s on his third team, the fan support is a bit different.”
Eric Pincus: “Many Kobe stans predate modern social media, so they’re a bit more old school. Back in the day, the Laker fans were either Kobe stans or Shaq stans – not both – and they went at each other. Now, a lot of Kobe stans are anti-LeBron. Not all of them, of course, but there are plenty who dislike LeBron. What fires up Kobe stans is the talk about his legacy. In their mind, Kobe is clearly a better player [than LeBron]. It’s not even a debate, to the Kobe stan.”
Rob Perez: “Let’s be honest, arguments always end with who has more rings. You can come up with 1,000 reasons why LeBron is the best basketball player of all-time, but guess what? You just wasted your time because it means nothing to Kobe stans as long as Bryant has two more titles.”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “There are similarities between Kobe stans and LeBron stans. With both fan bases, you can say something really mild, but if they perceive it as even remotely negative then it’s treated as heresy and they’ll go on the attack. There are definite differences between the two groups too. LeBron fans are the more hostile and belligerent, but the Kobe stans are more disconnected from reality.”
Chris Palmer: “In my experience, LeBron’s fans tend to be more defensive than aggressive. Kobe fans, and Laker fans in general, can be pretty aggressive and confident. You know that GIF of Kobe sitting on the bench and someone was talking trash to him and he just put his hand up and counted on his fingers, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5’ without saying a word? I think a lot of confident Kobe fans act like that.”
James Holas: “We as NBA fans are still trying to figure out exactly how we view Kobe overall. His story has been written. The man is a legend, while LeBron is still creating his legacy. ‘Bron is pretty clearly the superior player overall, in the all-time scheme of things. As for the difference between their stans? ‘Bron stans have fistfuls of stats, data and game logs to show their work. Kobe stans who place him as a top-five player of all-time [don’t have that evidence]. I’ll put it this way: LeBron stans have more ‘rationale’ behind their yodeling. I also feel like some Kobe devotees are more concerned with tearing down other great players – saying things like, ‘Pau Gasol was really a bum!’ – in order to prop their guy up rather than just defending their guy.”
Arash Markazi: “If you’re a LeBron fan, I think the statistics and data are on your side – even though you’ve had to deal with a lot of heartbreak in the NBA Finals. If you’re a Kobe fan, it’s all about the rings. The weird thing is that LeBron fans have followed him from Cleveland to Miami to Cleveland and now to LA. They’re used to just following their guy, no matter where he plays. Where it gets hard is separating Kobe stans from Laker fans because they’ve been one in the same for 20 years since he was always with the Lakers.”
Michael Lee: “One interesting thing about Kobe’s stans and LeBron’s stans is that neither Kobe nor LeBron ever have to fire back at someone on social media because they each have an army of people willing to send those shots for them. Then, you look at someone like Kevin Durant, who will respond to some eighth-grader who says something crazy to him. KD will try to clown the kid on Twitter and we all start reacting to it. Durant is in a unique spot because he’s a phenomenal player, an all-time great, a two-time champion, a two-time Finals MVP, an NBA MVP and he’ll probably go down as one of the best scorers to ever play this game… but he doesn’t really have an army. He doesn’t have stans. If he had those stans behind him, he wouldn’t always have to respond on Twitter and defend why he left Oklahoma City or defend why he joined the Warriors. He wouldn’t have to defend anything because there would be this legion of fans out there who were firing back for him and defending him all day. Even before he joined the Warriors, he didn’t have an army of stans when he was in OKC. I’m sure not having that army frustrates him to some extent. If he had that kind of support, he wouldn’t need to create burner accounts because there would be real accounts having his back.”
WHY DOESN’T MICHAEL JORDAN HAVE MORE TWITTER STANS?
Tommy Beer: “Oh, Michael Jordan has plenty of supporters out there. If you don’t believe me, tweet out ‘LeBron >>> MJ’ and see what happens.”
Michael Lee: “Michael Jordan has stans, but he doesn’t really have stans in the way that we usually talk about them because his playing career predated even the term ‘stan.’ He was already retired from the Chicago Bulls by the time that Eminem song came out! (laughs) He obviously has a large following, but I think most of his supporters aren’t on social media. Mike’s supporters are sort of drowned out by the younger players’ fans, but they’re definitely there.”
Arash Markazi: “To be a stan, I think you need to be a little bit unreasonable. You sort of have to think outside of what the normal fan thinks. Michael Jordan is generally regarded as the greatest player of all-time. So if you’re on Twitter saying, ‘Michael Jordan is the best,’ that’s like the coldest take possible, right? Even people who weren’t alive when he played or have never seen him play are well aware of his greatness. Part of it is because Jordan doesn’t need anyone to jump to his defense.”
James Holas: “It’s absolutely a generational and age thing. Michael Jordan’s greatness ended in 1998 so to have experienced Jordan firsthand, you’d have to have been a teenager, at least, in the ’90s, meaning you’d be in your 30s or 40s now. Sure, there are plenty of us old fogeys on social media, but the majority of those involved in ‘stanning’ are 20-somethings who grew up with Kobe and LeBron as the faces of the NBA. MJ has some very solid (and sometimes stubborn) stans, for sure, but they simply aren’t as vehement or vociferous on Twitter.”
Cassidy Hubbarth: “I think it has a lot to do with age. I’m 34 and I’m a Bulls fan, but even when I was growing up, I was 6 years old during their [first three-peat]. I think you have a greater appreciation for basketball and that kind of greatness when you’re watching as an adult or, at the very least, a young adult because you understand the game. I’ll put the stans for Jordan’s shoes up against the stans for any player today! (laughs) But as for the player, we consume the game differently now than we did back in the day. I think it’s harder because there’s less access to Jordan’s games and entire body of work, which isn’t the case for current players.”
Chris Palmer: “We’re two generations removed from Michael Jordan. Let’s say you’re a 15-year-old kid and you’re a diehard NBA fan. Michael Jordan was already retired by the time you were born. For those young fans, they were introduced to Jordan through YouTube and I don’t think you can have that same kind of authentic connection with a player through YouTube clips alone. You can respect him and acknowledge his greatness, but there’s no connection there. To many young fans on Twitter, Jordan is either a meme or a sneaker. Fandom always fades, even if you’re the greatest player ever.”
Steve Kyler: “I think many of the people who grew up watching Michael Jordan just aren’t on Twitter – or at least, they aren’t engaging on Twitter. I think another big part of it is that Michael Jordan isn’t really a personality anymore. He still has a few commercials here and there, but you’re talking about a guy who just doesn’t make himself available publicly, including MJ not being present on social media.”
HOW HAVE STANS CHANGED SINCE THE RISE OF NBA TWITTER?
Rob Perez: “Stans have always existed, they just have a microphone and Photoshop now.”
Cassidy Hubbarth: “I think the biggest change is that we get to know these players so intimately because of social media. I think that’s why these platforms are so big and popular today, because fans feel like they have a relationship with their favorite player. Fans can learn so much about these guys. Just from following them on social media, they know their personality traits, their expressions, how they deal with conflict, when they’re excited and when they’re down. When the player is celebrating good news, the fans are celebrating alongside them. We really get a glimpse into these athletes’ personal lives and it’s just so much more exposure than fans have ever had before. With all of that in mind, of course fans are going to feel more loyal to their favorite player and have a deeper connection to them. They don’t feel like they’re just rooting for them [from afar]; they feel like they have a relationship with their favorite player. I think NBA Twitter has really elevated the personality of the league.”
James Holas: “Twitter is the best because it gives everyone a voice and Twitter is the worst because it gives everyone a voice. The constant stream of communication and dialogue can make fandom exhausting. I’m sure Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing had cult-like enclaves of fans, but they argued in bars and harangued each other at games. Now, Twitter allows these zealots to link up and unite in their obsession over their favorite player, and it gives them a platform to bleat incessantly.”
Eric Pincus: “Now, stans have a bigger platform, a bigger audience and more like-minded folk surrounding them to confirm their bias.”
Arash Markazi: “There’s just so many more people sharing their opinions now. It’s not like one or two people disagreeing with you and coming at you, it’s a hive of people.”
Coach Nick Hauselman: “I remember back in 1999, getting into arguments about the NBA in real life. We’d be at a party or something and the arguments would get boisterous and loud. There have always been stans and fights over sports. Now, I think it’s easier to be a fake tough guy since you’re online and you’re anonymous – unless you want to pull a Temecula meet-up. I think social-media just amplified everything because it gave all these people a platform. I think it’s the same kind of arguments we’ve been having for decades; now, you can sit back and debate about sports literally all day long. I do think because so many people are anonymous now, people tend to cross the line more often. Online, hiding behind a screen name, people will say some horrible things that they’d never say to your face.”
Alexis Morgan: “I think stans have gotten a lot smarter over the years. They watch all the games and have more information than ever. Now, they bring receipts to the table when they’re in an argument, which I think is great because they present actual evidence as they try to get their point across.”
Michael Lee: “NBA Twitter has allowed these groups of stans to have their own little communities. In the past, if you were a diehard fan of a guy, you expressed it in your own unique way. You bought a jersey and that’s how you showed your support. Now, you can have a whole community of like-minded fans and you can interact with each other. You can team up with other fans and, as a group, attack a hater into deleting his tweet. I’ll be honest, I have to be more careful about what I say on Twitter now. There have definitely been times where I won’t tweet something that I’m thinking because I don’t want to deal with the horde that would come after me in my mentions.”
Steve Kyler: “I think the rise of NBA Twitter has impacted fans in several ways. First, everyone is now a ‘cap expert.’ Everyone believes they’ve figured out how the cap works, even when they’re wrong. Second, there’s no subjectivity anymore. It seems like everything is an absolute on Twitter. You don’t hear, ‘This may happen.’ Everyone wants to say, ‘This absolutely will happen.’ Look at the Paul George situation and how, one year ago, it was almost insulting if you weren’t willing to say Paul George will definitely be a Laker. Well, here we are, and he’s not a Laker. The absolutism is definitely something I noticed. Finally, I think there’s way more negativity because there are no consequences for making comments. You can say whatever you want and nobody is going to hold you accountable. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the environment we’re in now.”