Popularity is hard to define. Every stadium is a different size, each city has a vastly different population, and a new team wins it all every year. However, 2018 showed us that there is one fool-proof method for measuring popularity: social media followers. By combining Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook followers, all US sports franchises can be evaluated on an even playing field to determine the most popular teams in the country… According to the Internet.
10. New York Yankees (14.0 Million followers)
The only MLB team that makes the cut are the New York Yankees. The Yankees are far more popular than any other team in baseball (the Red Sox are second with 8.8 million followers) and will most likely remain so for years to come. If baseball wants a shot at catching the popularity of the NBA or NFL, they will need more electrifying athletes like Aaron Judge to come onto the scene in the coming years.
9. New England Patriots (14.6 Million followers)
The winningest sports franchise of the century finds themselves at ninth on our list, showing the typical fan of the NFL might be slighter older than that of the NBA. It seems as if Patriots fans are everywhere across the country, so it’s interesting to not see them higher on this list.
8. Dallas Cowboys (15.1 Million followers)
Ah, America’s (8th most popular) team. The Dallas Cowboys are the internet’s favorite NFL team. They say everything is bigger in Texas, except for social media followers.
7. Houston Rockets (15.7 Million followers)
James Harden has more highlight-reel worthy plays per game than some players get all season. For this reason, fans have flocked to the Rocket’s social media to never miss a jaw-dropping play from one of the most electrifying athletes in the NBA.
6. Boston Celtics (15.8 Million followers)
The most-successful NBA franchise of all-time comes in at 6th on our list, cementing the fact that the NBA is the most popular American sport based on social media. With a star-studded roster and a diehard fanbase, the Celtics will continue to maintain social media success.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers (18.8 Million followers)
Despite plummeting from a championship-worthy level to the worst team in the NBA, Cleveland fans have clung on for dear life. Maybe they realize there’s no where to go but up, or maybe Clevelanders have learned a lesson from the Browns. Either way, the Cavaliers’ social media is still going strong.
4. Miami Heat (22.7 Million followers)
I’m guessing most of these fans followed the team in the Big Three era and never bothered to unfollow the team following the departure of LeBron James. With that said, Dwayne Wade is currently playing his last season and going on a tour of jersey swaps that is too good to miss.
3. Chicago Bulls (26 Million followers)
Turns out that everyone still wants to be like Mike! Despite poor performance and lack of notable star players over the past few seasons, Chicago shows its loyalty and Michael Jordan’s legacy lives on as the Bulls land at third on our list.
2. Golden State Warriors (27.3 Million followers)
Three championships in four years put the Golden State Warriors at number two on our list of Most Popular US Franchises. However, if this list was made six or more years you’d see them somewhere in the bottom five.
1. Los Angeles Lakers (35.5 Million followers)
The Lakers coming in at the top spot should be no surprise considering Los Angeles is the second largest sports market in the country and home to one of the most popular athletes on the planet, LeBron. From Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and everything in between, the golden boys from the City of Angels are the most popular American sports franchise on social media.
Based on social media followers, the NBA is hands down the most popular American league. In total, an NBA team averages almost double that of the average NFL team and almost triple an average MLB team. As we move further into the digital age and social media continues to grow, this type of measurement of engagement may be a sneak peek into our future. The NFL is the highest grossing and most profitable sport in America, but the NBA is not far behind. How long will it take for the NBA to eclipse the NFL as the No. 1 sport in America?
(All statistics as of 12/31/18)