Memory and the NBA: The Power of Winning (& Losing)


The relation between a team’s performance and people’s ability to remember that team’s name.

Sporcle is the web’s most popular trivia and quiz site. Since 2007, we have offered people a fun way to learn more and challenge their knowledge on virtually any subject, from sports, geography and television to things as esoteric as Pokémon characters and the birthdates of U.S. presidents.

People play these quizzes hundreds of millions of times a year on Sporcle. Each play reveals what one person remembers right now, and what they don’t; collectively, over thousands of days and millions of plays, they tell a story about the world’s knowledge on a topic. We can rank these quiz results to show which answers people remember most, and which are least-remembered. This ranking, which we call “memorability”, offers a unique lens on the prevailing cultural zeitgeist, helping us understand what is top-of-mind right now on any topic — and how that knowledge changes over time.

As we approach the NBA Finals, we thought it would be fun to look at the data from one of Sporcle’s most popular quizzes –the “NBA Teams” quiz, played more than 1.8 million times since 2008– to see which NBA teams are consistently the most memorable, which ones are most frequently forgotten, and how teams’ memorability changes from season to season. We also thought it would be interesting to compare our data with each team’s NBA regular season win-loss record, to see whether there’s any relation between a team’s performance (good or bad) and people’s ability to remember that team’s name. We found some interesting things, particularly about the Golden State Warriors.

Golden State: an unforgettable turnaround

The 2000s were a decade of futility for the Golden State Warriors. They had only two winning seasons, made the playoffs just once and in the 2001-2002 season had the worst record in the league. In 2010, the Warriors finished with a 26-56 record in the NBA regular season, 27th in the league in overall win-loss percentage. That year, they were also one of the least-remembered teams on our NBA quiz, placing 28th — meaning only two teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Memphis Grizzlies, were less memorable than Golden State. But a lot can change in six years.

Given that Golden State won the NBA championship last year and have had such a remarkable run in the 2015-2016 season, we thought surely their memorability would improve significantly. What we didn’t expect was how closely correlated winning would be to the team’s memorability. The chart below compares Golden State’s win-loss record in the NBA regular seasons from 2010 through 2016 with their memorability on our “NBA Teams” quiz in the same period.

As you can see, the data did not disappoint. As the Warriors moved from 27th in win-loss percentage in the 2009-2010 regular season to the league’s best record in the last two seasons, the team’s memorability changed remarkably. Golden State is now the third most memorable team in the NBA — ahead of storied franchises like the Boston Celtics, the New York Knicks, and the Chicago Bulls. That turnaround –from 28th in memorability in 2010 to third in 2016– is unique in its speed and its scale. Our data shows mild cross-season fluctuations in memorability for many teams (see chart C below), but Golden State’s dramatic shift in memorability is just as dramatic as the turnaround in the team’s on-court performance.

This should come as no surprise: winning a championship, setting an NBA record for regular season wins, having a well-liked superstar like Steph Curry, and an all-star supporting cast in Klay Thompson and Draymond Green would bolster any team’s memorability1.  But in our data, no other team has seen such a dramatic shift in memorability.

But what about losing? Could a team with strong memorability become more forgettable, if they started to lose consistently year-after-year? According to our data, yes.

Orlando: losing impacts more than your standing

In 2009, the Orlando Magic made it to the NBA Finals, led by their dynamic star center, Dwight Howard. While the Magic lost in those Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, the team followed up the next season with the NBA’s second-best regular season record. This success helped make the Magic the 6th most-remembered team on the “NBA Teams” quiz in 2010 (see below). By the 2012-13 season, however, Howard had moved on, and the Magic finished with the worst record in the league. They have placed last in their division every year since, and haven’t made the playoffs. Matching the team’s slump on the court, the Magic’s memorability on the “NBA Teams” quiz plummeted from 6th in 2010 to 16th in 20162.

Our data is consistent with Forbes’ annual estimates on NBA franchise values. Between 2010 and 2016, Golden State moved from the NBA’s 18th most-valuable franchise to its 6th (behind only powerhouse franchises like the Knicks, Lakers, Celtics and Bulls). In that same time, Forbes estimates that the Magic dropped from the league’s 13th most-valuable franchise to its 19th. When you lose big, it impacts more than just your place in the standings! 3

Memorability: size matters

In looking at which teams have the highest memorability (see below), it’s striking that the teams with the highest and most consistent memorability tend to be from the largest geographic markets, like New York and Los Angeles, or have an iconic history of winning and championships, like the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics. These franchises, among the oldest in the league, have had up to 70 years to build large followings. Teams like the Lakers (2016’s most memorable team), Celtics and Knicks have reached a level of fame where memorability transcends winning or losing; their names are recognizable even to people who don’t follow basketball. Thus, the Lakers can remain the NBA’s most memorable team in 2016, and the Celtics, Knicks and Bulls can be the fourth, fifth and sixth most memorable, despite a string of lackluster seasons for each team.

The Grizzlies: making the playoffs isn’t enough

Our data also revealed that winning is not necessarily enough to make (or keep) your team memorable. When we looked at each teams’ regular season win-loss percentages between 2010 and 2016, the Memphis Grizzlies had the NBA’s fifth-best average. But as you can see from the chart below, the Grizzlies’ success on the court hasn’t translated into memorability. In fact, the Grizzlies have consistently been the least memorable team on the quiz, ranking last in every year but one since 2010. While making the playoffs (as the Magic did in 2011 and 2012) is nice, lack of success in the NBA’s second season and lack of Kobe- or Curry-level star power (quick, name the Grizzlies’ leading scorer in 2016!) have left Memphis stuck in place as the league’s least-remembered franchise.

Our conclusion is that being consistently good isn’t enough to improve memorability for smaller-market teams; to make a profound shift, they need to go deep in the playoffs and win championships. And for the largest-market teams, like the Lakers and Knicks, being consistently bad isn’t enough to be a drag on their high memorability.

We found this exercise interesting and hope you did, too. In the coming months, we plan to share more insights like these on other teams, leagues and topics; given the variety of quizzes on Sporcle, there’s a lot to share about the things the world remembers.

Until then, Sporcle on.


1 – The correlation coefficient between Golden State’s memorability on the “NBA Teams” quiz on Sporcle and the team’s yearly win-loss percentage was -0.987. Winning was clearly a major contributor to the Warriors’ rapid increase in memorability.
2 – The correlation coefficient between Orlando’s memorability and their yearly win-loss percentage was -0.716.
3 – The correlation coefficient between rank in team memorability in 2016 and rank in Forbes franchise value was 0.728. Memorability and franchise value are highly correlated!

El_Dandy, El Jeopardy! Champion

Congratulations to Jason Sterlacci: Jeopardy! champion, Sporcle user


source: Jeopardy!

At Sporcle, we’re huge fans of Jeopardy! — as is anyone who’s a fan of trivia. Last week was the conclusion of the show’s annual Teachers Tournament; the winner this year was Jason Sterlacci, a middle-school English teacher from Somerset, New Jersey.

We know Jason better as Sporcle user El_Dandy. He’s one of Sporcle’s most passionate users, holding the #20 spot for most plays of all time –and, incredibly, the #9 spot for plays of the most unique quizzes. (In case you’re curious, that means he has played more than 49,500 unique quizzes on Sporcle….wow!!)

Sporcle has a strong community of trivia-lovers, and a long history of community members both competing and winning on Jeopardy! Sam Deutsch, a junior at USC who won the 2016 Jeopardy! College Tournament in February, said he used Sporcle to practice.

Among others, our users Nathaniel Barnes (NJSB on Sporcle), sproutcm, phil_quiz, podpod, Propellerhead, LL3rd, jpahk, and maggie882 are all previous Jeopardy! contestants. And Ken Jennings, who holds the all-time record for Jeopardy! victories (a winning streak of 74 consecutive games in 2004), has called Sporcle “the only trivia site I visit regularly.”

Jason’s victory in the Teachers Tournament means that he’ll be competing in Jeopardy!’s annual Tournament of Champions later this year. We’re excited to tune in for that. In the meantime, congrats, Jason, from all of us at Sporcle HQ.

Getting Published: Daily Dose Edition

Getting your daily dose quiz published…a love story.


Time and time again when getting Daily Dose quizzes (Missing Word, Word Ladder, and Quick Pick) ready for publish, we find that we have to make many of the same changes. So if you have learned how to create a classic quiz and have reviewed these musings on getting published, it might be time to use the checklist below to get your quiz one step closer to the Sporcle home page.


If making a Missing Word, add ‘Missing Word:’ to the front of the title, same goes with Word Ladder and Quick Pick.


Set this to ‘Just for Fun’. We might add some more functionality to the tools here around this in the future. For the time being, all Daily Dose quizzes should be categorized as JFF.


Make sure the appropriate Daily Dose tag (e.g. Missing Word) is applied. Also add any relevant or interesting tags to the quiz.


Set this to another published, related Daily Dose quiz. If you make a ‘Missing Word: 90s Boy Bands’ and we published ’Missing Word: 80s Boy Bands’, link to that.


Be responsive to comments and make changes as necessary. If the community has pointed out errors and flaws, be sure to review those comments and update as you see fit.

Duplicate Check:

Check to make sure your quiz hasn’t been done before. Do a search on the site or spend some quality time reviewing quick picks, word ladders, and missing words.

Game Description:

The Game Description (Can you name…) should be something like – ‘Can you name the four-letter words in this song title-themed ladder?’ not like ‘Can you name the four-letter words in this super awesome ladder about music and song titles yay baby!’

Those are the basics. For every Daily Dose we publish we use this checklist. Do you have any suggestions or other best practices? Let us know in the comments.

Ray Romano and Jimmy Kimmel Talk Sporcle

We’ve always loved Ray Romano.

Last night Ray Romano was on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and it turns out, he is quite fond of Sporcle as well. We have the clip down below.

Ray is a bit worried about keeping “sharp”. Seems like he is doing just fine and hey we are always happy to help him have a happy Uber experience.

All that is left for him is to master the Countries of Asia.

The Great ‘Where’s Sporcle?’ Quiz

Come one, come all and be a part of the Where’s Sporcle? slideshow quiz.

sporcle gear

Sporcle is doing something a little different. We are putting together a new community based quiz we will evenutally feature on our home page. This quiz posts pictures of you, the Sporcler, in famous cities, near well-known landmarks, or by recognizable structures wearing Sporcle gear. We want to celebrate our users from around the world, so send us your photos and there is a good chance you can become a part of this quiz.

What we need:

  • A picture of you wearing or holding official Sporcle gear
  • A famous landmark or recognizable scene in the photo to help people make guesses
  • A link to the image or a copy of the image
  • Your Sporcle username
  • Note: The image should be 640 x 480

Send photos to

Once we get 25 images in the quiz, we will feature this on our home page. BUT keep sending those pictures to us and we will keep updating the quiz.

What If Every Country In The World Had A Population Of 100 Million?

OK, go with us here. What if the world was made up of countries that had an equal population of 100 million? Borders get redrawn, larger countries get divvied up, the works! Well Reddit user DMan9797 thought it might look a little like this.

Check it out:

(Click the map to open a larger version in a new window)

For a little comparison, try this quiz that asks you to name the countries that rank in the top 30 in both area and population.

Zack Snyder tweets Jason Momoa as Aquaman and he looks pretty awesome

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder dropped a bit of a bombshell today with a first look at Jason Momoa as Aquaman.

The former Game of Thrones actor debuts as the character in the March 25, 2016 release and then gets his own standalone movie in 2018. “Unite the Seven” could refer to the seven seas or it might be a call to unite the original seven members of the Justice League.

Think you can name the members of the Justice league?  Try the quiz:

Introducing OctoQuiz – a little something different from Sporcle


Meet OctoQuiz.

What the heck is this you say?

OctoQuiz is a new quiz platform from Sporcle Labs that is intended to be a bit more personal. Where Sporcle is all about mentally stimulating diversions, OctoQuiz is about the lighter side of trivia. OctoQuiz offers multiple choice question formats as well as personality quizzes (with more quiz types to come).

OctoQuizzes are fun, bite sized, very shareable quizzes that now anyone with a Sporcle account can create. Just login using your Sporcle credentials (or create a new account on Sporcle) and you’re off and running.

The quizzes are easy to play (on your desktop or mobile device) and only take a minute of your time, so give em a whirl.

And now for your questions:

Why would you do this?

We thought this was fun and figured you would too. Add pictures, create silliness, search your soul. Trivia is educational but fun, go with it.

Why not just add all this to Sporcle?

If you recall, a little over a year ago, we tried to put a similar type format on Sporcle itself, and it just didn’t quite take. We learned that these quizzes needed a home of their own.

Does this mean that multiple choice questions will never come to Sporcle?

Well, never say never. This is certainly something we may do in time, but it would have to have its own Sporcle slant to it.

Whatever happened to American Idol’s Brian Dunkleman?


Who is that guy standing with Kelly Clarkson and Ryan Seacrest?

That would be Brian Dunkleman. “Who,” you might ask, “is Brian Dunkleman?” Well, he could have been as well known as Ryan Seacrest, he could have been on TV and radio for years, he could have been crazy rich… he could have been a lot of things.

The first season of “American Idol” premiered in June of 2002. It was won by Kelly Clarkson and was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. When “American Idol” premiered in January of 2003, Seacrest was the lone host and the juggernaut of reality TV has never looked back.

Winners would come and go, judges have shuffled through, but one thing has remained constant. Ryan Seacrest has appeared in every episode of “Idol” and now hosts about every other special on the planet.

Brian Dunkleman, on the other hand, left the show after the first season ended and faded into relative obscurity.

He has since admitted that leaving “Idol” in its early days was not his smartest move, but he really wanted to be a comedian and actor.

“Listen, I’d like to say I was just young and stupid, but the truth is, I really wasn’t that young,” he said. “I mean listen, I was a comedian and an actor. What I wanted to do with my life is be an actor and that’s going great (gives a thumbs up).”

Since leaving “Idol” Dunkleman has had small guest roles in “Ghost Whisperer” and “NYPD Blue”, as shown here:


He also left because he found it hard to watch the contestants get criticized and demoralized. The environment was toxic, to say the least, and it is hard to blame the guy for wanting to get out of a situation affecting his mental health. He’s also in good company. Ellen DeGeneres left the program after one season for basically the same reasons.

History is a cruel mistress and hindsight is always so clear, so Dunkleman gets the dubious distinction of joining the ranks of obscure founding members like Pete Best of The Beatles and Ronald Wayne of Apple, Inc.

But at the end of the day, there are worse fates than leaving “American Idol”. He had his “fifteen minutes” and hasn’t come out on top of the entertainment world, but these days Brian Dunkleman is a loving husband, committed father, and  an actor who continues to tour and take guest spots on a variety of shows. It isn’t “American Idol”, but it certainly isn’t bad.

As a refresher, here is a quiz on all the greats (and not-so-greats) who have come and gone from “Idol’s” stage:

What If Every State’s Population Matched Its Physical Size?

Alaska, by land mass, is the largest state in the US but ranked 47th by population. It seems a touch unfair that the largest states with such small populations get so much space for such few people. Reddit user “alexthedinosaur” has created this map of the United States to show what it would look like if we gave the biggest states by physical size to the states with the largest population.

In this Bizarro version of the United States, Hawaii becomes Alaska, Alaska becomes California, New York becomes Iowa and so on. Missouri, Mississippi and Texas are the only states that would remain in their current positions on the map.

So check it out, here is what the map of the United States would look like if the population matched its physical size:

(Click the map to open a larger version in a new window)

It all kind of makes you wonder what the original thirteen colonies would have looked like. As a reminder, here is a quiz to refresh your memory.