The NBA has released its official 2008-2009 attendance figures, and with an average of 17,520 fans per game, the year ranks third all-time. Total fan attendance was 21,549,238, an increase of 153,662 over the 2007-08 regular season. The 2006-07 season ranked first all-time in average attendance with 17,757, while the 2005-06 season was second with 17,558.

For the sixth time in the past seven seasons, the Detroit Pistons were the attendance champs, drawing 896,971 through the turnstiles, averaging 21,877 a game. Still, that figure is down from 2007-08, when 905,116 (average 22,076) fans entered The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Making this year’s playoffs did not guarantee making headlines in average attendance. Although the San Antonio Spurs were ranked 14th (total attendance: 749,048 / average attendance: 18,269) and the Miami Heat 15th (729,178 / 18,229), the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers all were under the 17,520 league average.

“The league is pretty darn healthy, considering what the alternatives are out there,” NBA commissioner David Stern told the Times-Call newspaper in Colorado, adding that ratings are up on all three networks (ABC, TNT and ESPN) that broadcast NBA games.

Second in total attendance this year were the Chicago Bulls – 847,903, averaging 21,197 – with third place held down by the Portland Trail Blazers, who tallied 841,499 / 20,524. The Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers rounded out the top five, at 821,723 / 20,042 and 820,439 / 20,010 respectively, with the Utah Jazz sixth. Notching up 816,042 / 19,903, the Jazz were the last of the teams to draw more than 800,000.

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The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors rounded out the top 10. The Boston Celtics ranked 12th in average (18,624) but were 11th in total (763,584).

Doing well were the new Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Supersonics), which drew 747,732 and averaged 18,693.

In terms of percent of capacity, no one can challenge the Mavericks. The Dallas ballers played to 104.4 percent of capacity, outscoring the Trail Blazers’ 102.7. Utah, Boston and the Phoenix Suns all reported 100 percent. The additional percentage points above 100 account for standing-room-only tickets.