The on-court dominance may have faded, but that has hardly come at the expense of the Lakers’ overall popularity.
Here’s the latest example: The Lakers and Clippers may have switched positions as to who’s the best basketball team in L.A. But the Lakers rank No. 1 in social media equity, while the Clippers rank last out of 30 NBA teams, according to a study by Emory University.
The rankings had nothing to do with the Lakers’ financial fortunes (which Forbes recently valued at $1 billion partly thanks to a lucrative television deal with Time Warner Cable). Instead, the study measured to what degree Lakers fans responded to team and player accounts as well as to adversaries. Through both the good and the bad, no one matched the reaction from Lakers’ fanbase.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban remains familiar with that all too well. He’s often taken digs at the Lakers, including bringing up as a hypothetical that the Lakers may want to use the amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant with harsher luxury taxes for high-spending teams on the rise.
“I cannot even talk especially on Twitter. Everybody on Twitter, they get Twitter courage. If I even mention a Lakers name, my Twitter timeline just heats up with everybody,” Cuban said on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “They’re going to burn down my house. They’re going to beat me up. They’re going to play me 1-on-1 and just stomp me. It’s just horrible.”
For the Lakers, it’s great. Well, mostly.
The team account has about 3.3 million followers. Plenty of the Lakers’ personnel tweet regularly, including Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and president Jeanie Buss, ranging from injury updates to random musings. Newly signed players often remarked how the number of followers substantially increased when joining the Lakers.
But Lakers reserve guard Steve Blake and his wife, Kristen, received death threats over Twitter after Steve missed a potential game-winning shot in the Lakers’ Game 2 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 Western Conference semifinals. Lakers fans have hardly been nice to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni during his first season or when Dwight Howard jetted for Houston. And the moment the Lakers struggle, numerous trade proposals more imagined than real are expressed in 140 characters.
Still, regardless of the Lakers’ success or failure, it’s clear they’ll have Twitter all abuzz on the whatever’s surrounding the team.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org