Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight is one of the best statistic-based research websites on the web, and earlier this week he tabulated the distribution of fandom in professional sports the last 10 years based on Google searches.
The data he and Ritchie King found was "taken from Google trends and is based on searches worldwide for for each team since 2004." Of course, for expansion teams founded after 2004 the data was taken from the first month of said team's creation and present day.
The "search strings" were grouped into topics, so in the Bulls' case searches such as "Chicago basketball" and "basketball Bulls" are counted the same as "Chicago Bulls." Silver and King admit that process is imperfect but they are comfortable that an accurate representation was found.
And what the two found was that the Bulls are, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular NBA teams.
Given a league average of 1.00, the Bulls' 1.84 frequency ranked fourth among teams, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers (4.47), Miami Heat (2.82) and Boston Celtics (2.08). The Knicks (1.65) rounded out the top-5. Here's a look at the entire chart (Credit: FiveThirtyEight):
Total searches weren't tabulated, but in relative terms the Bulls are the most popular in their sport when compared with other professional Chicago teams. The Blackhawks (1.78, 5th), Cubs (1.75, 3rd), Bears (1.59, 6th) and White Sox (0.81, 13th) make up the list, with only the White Sox having a below-average relative popularity.
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Given that the results were compiled since 2004, it's no surprise the Bulls were near the top of the NBA; they have had just one season below .500 (2007-08) since the start of the 2004-05 season, while Derrick Rose's arrival and the team's eight playoff appearances the last nine seasons are certainly big reasons for such popularity. That, and the Michael Jordan era undoubtedly still yields plenty of Google searches.
The Lakers' 4.47 frequency was tops among any pro team in its respective sport, while the Heat's 2.82 mark can thank Dwyane Wade's championship season in 2006 and the arrival of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in 2010, combined with the team's back-to-back championship seasons in 2012 and 2013. The Celtics' NBA-best 17 world championships has made them one of the most historic franchises in NBA history.