Miami Heat fans celebrate the Heat win against Oklahoma City Thunder in the Little Havana area of Miami, Friday, June after Game 5 of the NBA finals basketball series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Friday, June 22, 2012, The Heat won 121-106 to become the 2012 NBA Champions. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
South Florida sports fans get a bad rap, especially during baseball season. But a brand research firm said Tuesday that the Miami Heat have the most loyal fans in the NBA (even if it takes until the second quarter of Heat games for the lower bowl of the American Airlines Arena to fill up completely).
Brand Keys released its latest NBA fan loyalty index at Forbes.com on Tuesday, and the Heat jumped from the #6 spot in 2012 to the top, dethroning 2012 list-leader San Antonio.
Rounding out the top five (the Spurs were #2) were the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Brooklyn Nets (the Thunder and Nets tied for fifth).
The list was compiled after interviewing local fans throughout the league. Opinions on four metrics were used to develop each team's loyalty ranking.
The index, besides proving once and for all that Miami fans are not front-running opportunists, was developed "to help professional sports team management identify what drives fan loyalty in their home and national markets, with insights that enable league and team management to identify areas, particularly the emotional ones, that need strategic brand coaching."
The four metrics are "Pure Entertainment" (how exciting a team's style of play is), "Authenticity" (how well players play as a team), "Fan Bonding" (the number of players on a team that are "particularly respected and admired"), and "History and Tradition."
The Heat may not have as much history and tradition as other NBA teams, but they have more entertainment and authenticity than just about any other team in the league. Miami's fast-paced offense and huge number of alley-oops and precision passes make for exciting basketball.
The Heat also have more than enough players worthy of fan bonding. Even beyond the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat have players like Udonis Haslem, the hometown hero, and Ray Allen, the all-time three-point leader in NBA history, who captivate fans in South Florida.