With one quarter of the season in the books, we can tell who the fans are buying into by who is showing up to the games in epic numbers. The myth is that teams have to be good to draw big. No. No. No. They just have to be interesting. The worst thing in the NBA is to be a bore of a team so no one in the city wants to show up on a Friday night. There is no buzz. Of course, the contenders exceptional play sells tickets. The bad teams are selling a) rebuilding, b) rookies, c) a dream.
But the reality is every team has to have an identity that they P.R. to death. But that isn’t enough to get standing room only, full capacity. Nine teams, almost a third of the league, draw full capacity, 100% or more. On the opposite end, five teams draw 84% of a full house or less. Nobody wants to come. Fan disinterest makes the team vulnerable for relocation.
Here are the fan faves and the fan losers ( full house is 100%).
The Necessary Nine
Dallas Mavericks, 102%. The Mavs haven’t been playoff relevant since they won the the title in 2011 but fans in the Big D keep on coming in thanks to Mark Cuban’s passion and desire. The Mavs have young talent but have 6 wins on the season. But in Dirk’s last season, they are going to show up to pay homage. Last Year: 2nd in home attendance.
Philadelphia 76ers, 101%. The Process has converted the cynical, the skeptic, and the hater. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have passed the eye test and everyone is on board and in love. The Sixers will probably, barring injury, make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Last Year: 22nd in home attendance.
Sacramento Kings, 101%. Fans don’t care the Kings are the worst team in the West. The team is fan friendly, the ticket is cheap and the Kings get an A+ at making the fans feel like they are family, even without a star to promote. The Kings promote Sacramento and the community. The fans buy in. Last Year: 6th in home attendance.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 100%. Duh. LeBron. That’s all you need to know. Cleveland is such a depressing sports town they have to ride the LeBron bandwagon as long as he is pulling into Qucken Loans. Last Year: Tied for 7th (Thunder, Warriors) in home attendance
Toronto Raptors, 100%. The Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan show keeps pulling them in. The big secret is Toronto is a great basketball city. The fans are passionate, knowledgeable and intense. Being in the playoffs the last four years has brought the Maple Leaf fan into the fold. Toronto is building a culture. Last Year: tied for 4th (Heat) in home attendance.
Miami Heat, 100%. The Big Three left town and the fans keep on coming. They are buying into their superstar, Erik Spoelstra. They support the team Riles has built after their title run. Last Year: tied for 4th (Raptors) in home attendance.
Golden State Warriors, 100%. They are about to ditch Oakland for San Francisco and jack prices way up. But here is the thing to know about the Warriors. Even when they were bad and had no Steph and company, they still were at capacity. Great, great fans in the Bay. Last Year: Tied for 7th (Cavs, Thunder)
Boston Celtics, 100%. Kyrie went from one full house arena to another. The Garden has so much history, if the C’s are anything close to a contender fans will come in droves. Only thing is you miss Tommy Points if you actually go to the game. Last season: 11th in home attendance.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 100%. No brainer. Who wouldn’t pay to see Russ? Add in Melo and Paul George to a town that loves their local players like they love their cousins and aunties and you have a packed house. Last Year: Tied for 7th (Cavs, Warriors) in home attendance.
The Not Fab Five
Atlanta Hawks, 76%: They couldn’t pay anyone to come to their games when they were good and had Iso Joe and Josh Smith. Now with a bunch of young guys and rebuiding ala the Process the arena looks similar to an empty parking lot on many a night. When it is full, fans are there to see the other team. Last Year: tied for 24th (Nets) in home attendance.
Detroit Pistons, 80%. They moved downtown and no one got the memo. You can still hear yourself yawn. Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson aren’t exactly movers and shakers when it comes to filling up the seats. It’s a shame because the Pistons are looking like a top-4 seed in the East. Last Year: 30th in home attendance forced Pistons to leave the suburbs.
Milwaukee Bucks, 82%. What? The Greek Freak can’t reel them in? Milwaukee, y’all get a straight up F. You have one of the most dynamic players in the league, the tickets are cheap and still no one is on the bandwagon? That’s shady. Last Year: 25th in home attendance.
Brooklyn Nets, 84%. Naturally. The Nets mortgaged their future and had to do whatever they could to fill out a competitive roster. But this just in. Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell are not enough to sell tickets, though Lin is out for the season and Russell is injured too. Last Year: tied for 24th (Hawks) home attendance.
Washington Wizards, 84%. You go to the Wizards game not to see the Wiz, but the other team. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter don’t matter because the District is a Redskins town. Sorry fellas. Last Year: 26th in home attendance.