The NBA has released their attendance report for games up to the All Star break, and the winners thus far seem to be the Los Angeles Lakers, who’ve managed to fill seats to 99.9 percent of capacity over all games, with an average of 19,178 in attendance per game. The team’s impressive stats hold up in a break down of home and away games as well, with home games pulling in an average of 18,997 fans, or 99.7 percent, and away games at 19,389, or 100.2 percent.
The Cleveland Cavaliers run a close second behind the Lakers, at 99.8 percent capacity and an average audience of 19,792, just one tenth of a percent below L.A. Home games were at 100 percent capacity, with an average audience of 20,562. Away games brought in an average of 19,023 fans, or 99.5 percent.
The Dallas Mavericks led the pack for highest percentage of capacity at home games for the whole league, hitting 103.8 percent with an average of 19,938. For away games, it was the Lakers winning once again with their 100.2 percent figure.
Those with less stellar performances leading up to the break include the Philadelphia 76ers with the lowest home percentage of filled seats, at 67.4 percent and an average crowd of 13,694. The most anemic crowds away went to the Minnesota Timberwolves, with an average attendance of 15,884 and an 83.3 percentage of capacity. The 76ers took the title of smallest overall capacity crowd, at 77.5 percent and an average attendance of 15,322.
Eleven teams hit 95 percent capacity or better for home games, with only three, the Cavs, Lakers and Miami Heat, getting there for away games. Seven teams made that percentage for overall games, including the Lakers and Cavs, the Chicago Bulls, and the Boston Celtics.
Eleven teams drew crowds below 85 percent capacity at home, with only five teams, the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, L.A. Clippers, Timberwolves, and Indiana Pacers performing that poorly away. Over all games, ten teams finished the half-season below 85 percent.
The Portland Trailblazers came out on top for total number of filled seats, at 572,811 over 29 home games. Also filling over 500,000 seats were the Cavs (for 27 home games played), the New York Knicks (28 home games), the Utah Jazz (29), Lakers (29) and San Antonio Spurs (29). Lowest totals belonged to the New Jersey Nets at 314,946 (over 24 home games) and the Memphis Grizzlies at 341,242 (26), though comparisons are difficult because the Grizzlies’ venue, the FedEx Forum, seats well over 2,000 fewer fans than a venue like the Cavs’ Quicken Loans Arena.
Concerns that overall NBA attendance is down this season seem to be borne out by the numbers. Average attendance for all teams this season to date, including both home and away games, is 17,001; the same for the 2008-09 season was 17,502. The Detroit Pistons’ attendance figures seem to be particularly off track from last year, with current attendance 11.3 percent lower than last year’s end of season numbers. The Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets and 76ers all have attendance deficits in the 7 to 8 percent range. Of only six teams whose numbers are better this season, the Cavs and the Sacramento Kings lead at a 2.2 percent rise and a 1.6 percent rise, respectively.
The NBA’s drop in sales echoes similar sales decreases in other sports over recent years, with the economy certainly a major player in fans’ decisions to buy or not to buy.
And, as with other sports, the secondary ticket market has suffered as well. Cortney Storsved, Director of Operations for Ticket King, a Minnesota-based broker, has noted changes in the company’s NBA sales of late.
“We’ve definitely seen a decline in NBA ticket sales over the past few years, and this season has been slower than last year,” Storsved told TicketNews. “This is probably partially due to a decline in interest in the league and partially due to the Timberwolves not so stellar win/loss record. For most games this season, our NBA tickets have been priced at a severe discount under the face value, and we still have trouble moving NBA seats. That being said, each sport moves cyclically, so we’re hoping that fan interest picks back up over the next few years.”