The NBA has cultivated a lot of passionate fans and a lot of fans who, frankly, don’t care enough to come in person to cheer their team. So they stay home and watch it on t.v. And then, you have Wizard fans. Their team is good. They have an All-Star in John Wall. And still they don’t come. Last week’s home game against the Lakers with more Lakers fans in attendance than Wizards fans was an embarrassment and John Wall and Bradley Beal were not happy.
According to attendance figures (courtesy of ESPN), the most aggressive fans are not necessarily the ones who see their team win over and over again. Lakers fans are still coming through the Staples Center door without Kobe as the draw, even as the Lakers are miserable. The Bulls aren’t a good team but every single year since Michael Jordan Chicagoans drop mad cash to see what is a pretty ordinary team frustrate the fanbase. New York will be in the lottery but don’t tell the myopic Manhattanites waiting for a Phil Jackson perfect storm. The Heat have won a bunch of games in a row but are still unlikely to make the playoffs. No matter. Their fans still think Dwyane Wade is walking through the door. Mavericks are reduced to D-League players saving their season. But the fans are giddy happy.
The only rational metric is that teams in the lottery not named Lakers and Knicks don’t draw well on the road.
This is true too. Franchises can endure losing seasons if they are in a large market or if they had a superstar recently. It is addictive to watch greatness. Those first few years post-great player fans blindly come. It takes fans a five or six year window of bad talent and losing to stop plunking down cash. Dreams die slow.
The winning teams have no trouble drawing crowds. They are good. They have All-Star players. They are contenders for a title. It’s a crazy ride and the fans want to be a part of it. But what’s up with the Houston Rockets? They draw less fans than the bottom dwelling Phoenix Suns.
Arena capacity, is it full or not?, is more revealing than who draws the most fans. Oracle is packed every night but the Warriors rank 8th in attendance because their arena is smaller than most.
By capacity, home attendance figures:
Winning Matters, No Empty Seats: Cavs (100%), Raptors (100.2%), Warriors (100%), Clippers (100%), Celtics (99.4%), Spurs (99.2%)
So What Our Franchise Player is Gone: Thunder (100%), Heat (100.2%), Lakers (99.2%)
Mediocre but Still Getting Bank: Bulls (103.3%), Blazers (98.7%)
We’re A Contender? Really? Do The Fans Know?: Rockets (91.9%)
Lottery Don’t Matter: Kings (100.6%), Knicks (100%), Mavericks (102.2%)
Playoffs Hello?: Jazz (98.7%)
Lottery Does Matter: Magic (95%), Suns (93.8%), Nets (84.6%), 76ers (84.1%)
Small Market Blues: Hornets (90.8%), Pacers (91.9%), Grizzlies (90.2%), Pelicans (93.6%)
We Quit: Wizards (77.9%), Bucks (82.8%), Hawks (85.5%)
Fail Fandom: Pistons (69.7%), Timberwolves (71.9%), Nuggets (71.6%)
Best Road Attendance: Warriors (99.6%) Cavaliers (98.1%), Spurs (95.9%), Lakers (95.9%), Thunder (95.6%)
Worst Road Attendance: 76ers (85.6%), Magic (86.1%), Jazz (88.1%), Nuggets (88.9%), Kings (89%)