Kobe vs. LeBron (The Wi-Fi duel)

The offseason is here. After last night’s dramatic finals game 7 was won by the Miami big three of Wade, Lebron and Manu’s crunch-time turnovers, it seems like a long while until the NBA gets started again. To pass the time, I thought I’d take a look through our database of global Wi-Fi names to take a (possibly slightly) unscientific look at which basketball player enjoys the greatest worldwide popularity. Sure, I could just use normal metrics – like shoe deals or jersey sales to make this call, but that would be far too boring. Besides, I don’t have an exclusive database of shoe and jersey sales because, y’know, I’m not a Nike executive. What I do have, however, is a database of over 120 million worldwide Wi-Fi names (as recorded by the OpenSignal app) and so that will have to do.

So how do they fare? Kobe comes out the clear winner, with Lebron also comfortably ahead of the other players I searched for. In total searches for Kobe returned 1041 results, with LeBron trailing far behind with 261. Both of those are incredibly impressive though – I have spent my afternoon coming up disappointed to find not more than a couple of wifi names dedicated to the passing wizardry of Ricky Rubio or Manu Ginobili (yes, Manu, I couldn’t stay mad at you for even two paragraphs). The only other two players I could find that returned more than a handful of incontrovertible searches were Kevin Durant (59) and Derrick Rose (43). There were 628 Wi-Fi names simply called ‘MELO’ but a quick geographic search located most of these in Brazil and only a handful in NYC (those 5 players had the top shoe sales this year so were the ones I expected to perform best). Essentially, then, this boils down to a game of 1-on-1 between Kobe and LeBron, and as Kobe himself would no doubt expect: he #dominates. So let’s have a look at the names I searched for, and see exactly what form the world’s Wi-Fi tribute is taking.

Kobe LeBron
Black Mamba: 118 King James: 40
Black-Mamba: 10 KingJames: 49
BlackMamba: 194 King James: 40
Blackmamba24: 13 Lebron: 115
Black_mamba: 18 Lebron James: 16
Kobe: 640 LeBron23: 13
Kobe Bryant: 27 LebronJames: 18
KobeBryant: 21 LeBron_James: 7
Total: 1041 Total: 261

So what we can see is that Kobe is comfortably the more popular player, but where does his popularity come from? I flipped the geo-coded data into a fusion table to have a look at where these network names were clustered, and found something pretty surprising. Here is an interactive map of all 1041 Wi-Fi networks which are displayed in the ‘Kobe’ table above. You can click on the red dot to see which of the Wi-Fi names it has.

Obviously Kobe is most popular in California. That’s kind of a given. But what’s really amazing is his popularity in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Since the format above makes it a little difficult to see, I’ve transformed that map into a heatmap to show you what I mean (the dot off the coast of Africa is an error caused by a failure to locate lat and long for some wifi points – so they default to 0,0).

Screen Shot 2013-06-21 at 15.17.43

Those two red spots of intensity in Asia are the aforementioned Taiwan and Hong Kong – a result I definitely wasn’t expecting when I started out. New York and LA are the places in the US that appear to love Kobe the most based on this admittedly pretty unscientific metric (although they are the places you’d probably expect – based on their love of basketball and population density). I’m sure David Stern will be delighted to see Kobe’s popularity reaching all across the world, and Taiwan’s love for Kobe has previously been demonstrated by this. And to sum up the 1-on-1 duel: Sorry LeBron but you’ve come badly second, guess that championship ring you won yesterday will have to console you.


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All the data used in this Blog Post was collected by users of the OpenSignal app for Android and iOS. The app helps you find a better phone signal, locate nearby free Wi-Fi networks and compare the performance of carriers in your area. 

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