Have you actually looked at the attendance for NBA games this season? Yes, I know that the official rolls involve some level of positivism -- you have to believe in the greater franchise good when announcing huge numbers of fans when there are so many empty seats at tip off. But beyond that there are some really interesting nuggets of information if you dig a little below the surface. Before we go any farther, we're using the data from ESPN which comes from the NBA, and we're assuming that the NBA's data is legit (despite how many empty seats we see during games). It's about tickets sold, I guess; and not about how loud the fans really are.
Now then, did you know that NBA teams fall into a few groups. There are some teams that kill it at home, but no one cares about when they go out on the road. There are other teams that are draws at home and on the road. The opposite also exists, teams that aren't popular anywhere. But the crazy group that I'm seeing this season are teams that aren't popular at home, but still draw in lots of fans on the road. For the sake of simplicity I've divided this into Conferences.
- Top five (HOME): Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat
- Top five (ROAD): Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, and Atlanta Hawks
- Bottom (HOME): Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons, and Atlanta Hawks
- Bottom five (ROAD): Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat
So, clearly if you have a star or a big stadium you are going to fill that up. Some teams aren't popular at home, or on the road. But that's normal. I lived in Detroit for years, people don't really want to drive up the I-75 for an hour and a half in the snow to watch them play. I get that. The funny group here are the teams that are bigger draws on the road than at home. What's up with them?
- Top five (HOME): Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers
- Top five (ROAD): Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs
- Bottom (HOME): Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns
- Bottom five (ROAD): Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves
Once again we see the teams with huge arenas (DAL, GSW) at the top. The best teams, teams with stars also show up. But for CERTAIN we see some small market "counting" where the Jazz and Blazers are Top 5 here. I don't know how true that is in terms of 'butts in the seats', but hey, I can get with it. We also see huge draws from the teams with the biggest followings or stars. What's fun here is that the Pellies are like the Hornets in the East -- no one cares at home, but people want to see them play when they are on the road.
We're going to need to check out the change between home reported attendance and road attendance.
Home Attendance Bias:
This is just showing the difference between reported home attendance and road attendance. What's insane is that you find 15 teams, half the league, with more fans showing up on the road than at home.
Okay, wow. So the big teams that are hedging on home attendance (Chicago with their huge stadium, some small market teams like UTA and POR) we see a huge home attendance bias. On the other side of things we see the Los Angeles Lakers draw more fans ON THE ROAD than at home in LA. Some of the worst teams, Nuggets, Nets, 76ers, are among the bottom five in Home Attendance bias. But some solid teams are there too, like the Milwaukee Bucks. That's a surprise. Something that's not is seeing the Pistons and Hawks on the wrong side -- they've both had fans not really care about them, even at their peaks.
Some funny stuff here when you look at the reported data. Of course, I don't think the reported data, mainly based upon tickets sold if nothing else, fits in light with actual attendance. But that's just me being a bad guy here.