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NBA Finals: The psychology of fandom

NBA Finals Basketball
Posted at 6:45 PM, Jul 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 21:45:46-04

PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns play, fans feel the wins and losses personally. It's the psychology of fandom.

"This explains why we're so grateful to those players who have brought success to our city to our state to ourselves," said Dr. Robert Cialdini, a professor emeritus in psychology and marketing at Arizona State University.

When Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Chris Paul lead the team to victory, we feel fantastic.

It's especially poignant after so many losing seasons and the isolation of the pandemic. Now, people can pack the arena and the bars to revel in the greatness together.

"People feel that they're entitled to part of the success of a sports team that they haven't had any real influence on except, perhaps, cheering them on from in front of their TVs," Cialdini said.

Fans also literally wear the team's success when they don jerseys, t-shirts, and other team gear.

Professor Cialdini said sustained success on the court could lead to more ticket sales and bigger crowds at Phoenix Suns Arena.

On the flip side, he said, fans try to distance themselves from a losing team.

Cialdini explained, "When somebody asks them the outcome of the game, [fans] won't say as often, 'We lost.' They'll say, 'the Suns lost.'"

But when the team is victorious, fans are more likely to say, "We won," according to Chialdini.

Phoenix fans hope they'll be able to say "we won" the Larry O'Brien Trophy later this month.