It's amazing what winning will do for your team, both on and off the court. There's no doubt that the Sixers' popularity has grown by leaps and bounds this season.
First, there was the excitement over the new ownership. Then, basketball's lockout lingered, causing fans to question if there was even going to be a season. Finally, the games started, and the Sixers found themselves atop the Atlantic division, boasting an impressive 9-3 record.
Here at Philly.com, we use a tool that tracks, in real-time, how many people are reading any one article and any given time. As the Sixers continued to win, I noticed something I hadn't really seen before: Sixers stories were consistently near the top of that list of articles.
Sure, they had been there before. Usually when the trade deadline was nearing, or there was something big, like an injury, happening. This was game stories, regular columns. Nothing spectacular.
But there they were, day after day, right up there with the Eagles and Phillies. So I decided to take a look at the numbers.
It's tough to make a year-over-year comparison, because we are so early into the season. Last year at this time, we had seen the Sixers get off to a 3-13 start and many people were already writing them off. It's even more difficult to compare the fist 12 games of this season to the first 12 of 2010 campaign because this time of year (especially with the holidays just passing) is generally slower in term of page views.
Here is my best, non-scientific, attempt to compare last year to this year:
I broke it down into three 22-day periods:
1. The first 22 days of this season (December 26, 2011 - January 16, 2012)
2. The first 22 days of last season (October 27, 2010 - November 17, 2010)
3. The same 22 day period of last season (December 26, 2010 - January 16, 2011)
When the numbers are compared, the results are staggering.
Page views during the first 22 days of this season are up 18.8% over that period (the first 22 days of the season) from last year.
More importantly, they are up 54% over the same 22 day period (December 26 - January 16) from last season.
For those who aren't math people (like me) that means that more than twice as many people are reading Sixers stories then there were at this time last year.
Perhaps it is because the season is still young, but more likely it is because the team is winning. Either way, there is an excitement surrounding this team that hasn't been there since Allen Iverson was running around the floor of the Wells Fargo Center.
The arena may not be filled just yet, but that doesn't mean anything. People are always hesitant to spend their money, especially on a team that has struggled so much in the past. The sellouts will come, as long as they keep winning. But they do already care about this team more than they have in the past.
The proof is right there in the numbers.
Matt Mullin is a sports producer at philly.com. You can reach Matt via email at email@example.com. Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin