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Is the NBA Becoming the Fourth Professional Sport?

January 10th, 2014 at 4:55 AM
By Sean Melia

Attendance isn't the only way to measure a sport's popularity. However, it can explain how many people are willing spend money to see you sport live on a nightly basis.

Right now, it seems like the NHL is surpassing the NBA in attendance across the league. Anyone that turns on an NBA game can see a lot of the expensive seats vacant behind the team benches. 

On Monday an article by Nick Falcone of CSNChicago highlighted some of the facts behind this shift in game attendance.

Behind the Number: NHL Attendance Surpassing NBA

'Seats #4' photo (c) 2007, peterrieke - license:

According to the Falcone the NBA has half as many teams that are averaging at least 100 percent attendance. The NHL has 15 teams (half the league), and the NBA has eight teams. 

The NHL just filled the Big House in Ann Arbor with 105,000 rabid fans. What if the NBA went to Austin or Miami and tried an outdoor game in a massive college football stadium? Would they fill it? Probably not.

If we take this idea and focus on Boston, the Bruins are beating the Celtics in percentage of attendance. The Celtics are averaging 95.7. The Boston Bruins are averaging 100% this season. They have done so since the 2009-10 season. The Celtics had three straight years of perfect attendance before this year. In 2010 they did not reach 100% for the season. 

Boston is obviously a sports crazy city. However, basketball is slowly getting more and more taxing to go to in many cases. Games are taking a little bit longer. Time-outs and the craziness that happens on the court during those time-outs can wear on some fans (Whoooo wants a T-shirt!). All the time-outs kills the momentum of the game. 

Hockey, in a live format, can be much more entertaining. The stoppages are less frequent, there is a physical aspect that people like. It is also now becoming the "cool" thing to do. Hockey players are also much less egotistical than the NBA players. They present themselves as more down to earth, and NHL has exposed that characteristic through shows like 24/7 in HBO leading up to the Winter Classic. 

The NBA might have to do something in order to make their game more amenable to a live audience. Shorten the games. Lessen the time-outs. Allow for the excitement of a game to wash over the crowd instead of rushing a guy out to shoot a half-court shot. 

This should be something on Nate Silver's desk his first day on the job: How do we get more people into stadiums to watch basketball. It's OK to think outside of the box on this one. 

Tags: Basketball, Boston, boston bruins, Boston Celtics, Hockey, Nate Silver, NBA, NHL

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