B/R 2017

The Evolution of the Modern-Day Sports Fan

Bleacher Report defines sports culture by capturing and creating the moments that matter. Our community shares our passion for a game that never stops and constantly evolves, and our content serves as the lifeblood that keeps sports fans coming back for more.

2017 was a huge year for the sports world—here’s a look back at the best of the best.

Our community of fans is evolving non-stop in how they consume and share content. Every evolution gives us an opportunity to better understand them—and to ultimately serve them the content experiences they crave.

1. Importance of Off-Field Events

The days of the year in which fans were most engaged validated our perspective that sports represents much more than the games themselves. Eleven of our 15 highest-traffic days in our app came as a result of off-field events (trades and trade rumors, draft picks, schedule releases, etc.) rather than on-field events (game results, highlights, analyses, etc.). Similarly, the top-performing type of NBA highlights we distributed wasn’t dunks, three-pointers, or even buzzer beaters—it was players’ handshakes and dances.

2. Fans Love to Hate

Unsurprisingly, the single most discussed athlete this year—both in our app and on our social channels—was LeBron James. However, the rest of the top-10 list was comprised of athletes who had recently changed teams (Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony) or were the center of controversy (Lonzo Ball, Kevin Durant). Fans love to discuss the players they root against, so it’s no surprise that one of the most frequently used terms among fans commenting on content about those players was “snake.”

3. Soccer Rivalries Create Unique Fan Graphs

It’s rare to find people who are fans of rival teams. You don’t find a lot of people following both of the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Warriors and the Cavaliers, or the Patriots and the Steelers. Soccer is different, though—eight of 10 people who subscribe to at least one Champions League stream in our app subscribe to multiple. Soccer fans care about much more than “their team.” They care about the games, the players, the rivalries and the culture around the sport.

4. The World Is (Increasingly) Social

In a year when many publishers saw significant declines in traffic to dot-com properties, we were able to grow our owned and operated audience by more than 25 percent. We consistently reach 30-40 million fans in the United States (per comScore), and our highly regarded app continues to gain traction.

However, more and more fans continued to turn to social media as their platform for engaging with sports. In 2017, B/R’s network of social channels drove over 2.3 billion interactions and 11.4 billion video views—staggering numbers that are indicative of the continuing importance of social media in sports coverage. Many of our advertising partners have caught onto this trend as well, as over 35 percent of our advertising revenue came from social sponsorship and branded content packages.

Sports are so much more than what happens on the field or the court. Being our community’s conduit to sports culture means covering everything that touches the world of sports—fashion, music, entertainment and more. These were the biggest trends we started or amplified this year.

1. Hoodie Melo

Entering the summer of 2017, Carmelo Anthony was an aging NBA veteran, far from forgotten but also far from the cultural icon he once was. However, his offseason workouts—all in a black hoodie—went viral on B/R’s social media accounts, making #hoodiemelo a cultural phenomenon and launching Anthony back into celebrity status.

2. #drivebydunkchallenge

Out of school for summer break and with a shortage of basketball on TV, a few teenagers began filming themselves pulling up to strangers’ houses, dunking a basketball on their driveway hoops, and getting back into their car to drive away. After House of Highlights (one of B/R’s pre-eminent Instagram accounts) picked up one of the teens’ videos, the trend went viral to the point where NBA players themselves were participating.

3. Chance the Rapper—“can we add uno mas?”

B/R celebrated Chance the Rapper winning his second Grammy of the night with a mashup of the Chicago-born rapper’s face on the iconic image of Michael Jordan holding his first championship trophy. Less than an hour later, Chance won his third Grammy of the night, prompting him to request that B/R add a third trophy in his arms. (We happily obliged.)

4. #bowwowchallenge

The internet relentlessly roasted rapper Bow Wow when he posted a picture of the private jet he was supposedly flying to New York, only to be spotted hours later on a commercial flight instead. The internet took off with reaction memes of people framing their pictures as if to give the impression of celebrity. As part of editing a funny NBA highlight (James Harden getting a game-winning shot blocked), B/R included a reference to the #bowwowchallenge, prompting Bow Wow himself to re-post the video in self-deprecating appreciation.

2017 included countless amazing moments in sports, but there were also times when sports paved the way for something more important. B/R was there to give a platform to these moments.


1. Hailey Dawson

Hailey is a 7-year-old girl who was born with a rare disease and without three fingers. An avid baseball fan, she taught herself to hold a ball with her special 3D-printed hand and set a goal for herself to throw out the first pitch at every MLB stadium. When we told this story to our community, the response was nothing short of incredible—team after team invited her to come to their stadium. Ultimately, thanks to B/R amplifying this inspirational young sports fan’s story, Hailey ended up throwing out the first pitch at Game 4 of the 2017 World Series.

2. K’Hari Lane

Adam Kramer wrote a detailed feature for B/R on high school quarterback K’Hari Lane, who threw a Georgia state-record 56 TD passes but had zero Division I scholarship offers. That is, until the article opened some collegiate coaches’ eyes. K’Hari is currently a freshman at the University of Arizona, on a full athletic scholarship.

3. LeBron’s Infamous ‘U Bum’ Tweet

In September, Stephen Curry announced that he would not visit the White House to celebrate the Warriors’ recent championship. President Trump responded, “uninviting” Curry, which prompted countless players (including LeBron James) to come to Curry’s defense. Every sports outlet—B/R and others—rushed to cover this debate, helping propel LeBron’s infamous ‘U bum’ remark to be the most retweeted athlete tweet of the year.

4. Devon Gales and Marshall Morgan’s Unlikely Friendship

In a 2015 football game between the University of Georgia and Southern University, a collision between Devon (Southern) and Marshall (Georgia) left Devon paralyzed. B/R told the story of how this tragic college football accident led to a unique, inspirational, lasting friendship between the two players. B/R hosted Devon, his family, and Marshall in its New York City office to debut the video and collectively wish Devon all the best as he continues on his road to recovery.

At B/R, we are committed to creating premium content every minute of every day. But some projects were simply more special than others. These were our audience’s favorites.

1. Game of Zones

The fourth season of our mashup of the NBA and Game of Thrones.

2. Colin Kaepernick Has a Job (by Rembert Browne)

A look inside the past, present and future of this country's most inconvenient truth, by way of the most controversial black man in America.  

3. No Script with Marshawn Lynch

An eight-episode series that blends comedy and reality, told through the unique lens of the one-of-a-kind Marshawn Lynch.

4. The Baller, The Teacher, The Trigger: How One Man Lived and Died for NBA Dreams (by Jeff Pearlman)

A tragic and powerful story of the life and death of a former NBA player.

5. Mayweather vs. McGregor, Celebrity Deathmatch Style

A hilarious preview of the most heavily anticipated fight of the year, chock full of cultural Easter eggs.

6. The Real First Family of Hoops (by Mirin Fader)

A celebratory feature on the Ogwumike family, a group of four sisters that consist of a former WNBA MVP, two aspiring doctors, and a broadcaster-in-the-making.

7. God Shammgod, 20 Years Later

An in-depth look at God Shammgod, the man who had a short-lived NBA career but whose revolutionary crossover dribble lives on through today’s superstars. 

8. Is This the NFL’s First Female Player? (by Lars Anderson)

A feature on 18-year-old Becca Longo, the first woman to earn a college football scholarship (currently a freshman at Division II Adams State University).

9. Inside the Secret World of Football in North Korea (by James Montague)

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the most secretive soccer program in the world.

10. NBA’s Royal Rumble

A preview of the NBA Finals matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, depicted as an ode to WWE’s Royal Rumble.