In 49 states it’s just basketball. Which apparently people like in 49 other states.
On the final day of the regular season, the Pacers have the fifth best record in the NBA. That puts them in front of the Lakers, Celtics and Dallas, the reigning NBA champs. But in the home attendance rankings, Indiana fans show up to games less often than do those in Detroit, Sacramento and Bobcats, the team that will set an NBA record for futility if they don’t beat New York tonight.
In fact, the only team that the Pacers have better attendance per game than is the lowly New Jersey Nets, which have lost more than 75% of their games, are about to wave goodbye to their only marquee player and will relocate to Brooklyn in six months. With all those deterrents to anyone wanting to support the Nets, only 207 fewer people showed up per game, in Newark, to watch a horrible, lame-duck team play than did people to games in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Sure, a lot more people live in New Jersey than Indiana, but that level of support is pathetic—especially for a state that claims to be basketball crazed.
Contrast this with a team like the Golden State Warriors.
Theirs is a fanbase routing for a team that has lost nearly 75% of its games this season. Moreover, Golden State loyalists cheer for a franchise that has won a total of five playoff games since 1994 and recently booed franchise owner Joe Lacob — during a celebration in which the Warriors retired team legend and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin’s number no less — because he recently traded away fan favorite Monta Ellis.
Yet the 23-win Warriors averaged 18,880 fans per night this season. That’s more than 4,700 more people per game than could be bothered to show up to watch the Pacers, which — oh by the way — won that same number of games just at home this year.
As Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star has reported, George Hill took to Twitter recently to encourage more “true fans” and “true fans only” to pack the house during what he hopes will be the first of many Pacers home playoff games on Saturday.
I was discussing the lack of support earlier today on Twitter, and several Pacers fans see this as a blemish on their state’s basketball resume. “I’ve never been this embarrassed to be from Indy,” wrote David, a Ball State University grad. “I have season tickets and guess I should look for real estate in Seattle.”
Other Pacers fans who have logistical problems making it to games don’t understand why more locals don’t show up. “It’s a shame when you think about guys like [me] who would die to see a Pacers a game,” tweeted cedric_A, “but living in Europe make[s] it difficult.”
And some care enough that they come to games despite having a long commute. “I tried my best,” wrote Ohio resident Ryan Trinkle on Twitter. “Went to 3 games in Indy and 1 in Detroit And I live in Cincy. I would love to be in Indy and go to more games.”
It makes you wonder why locals can’t find the time or the money, which is obviously an issue in this economy but shouldn’t cause the numbers to drop this far. “I’m a broke college student that had a full class load and works 20 hrs a week,” tweeted @KBrews_Clues. “I went to 8 games for $20 or less for each.”
Last year in the playoffs, when the Bulls came to town, we saw a similar lack of fan interest. For game four, the stands had to be, according to 8p9s reporter-in-attendance Tim Donahue, half-filled with Bulls fans. Many from Chicago acquired tickets and made the drive down to fill the seats that Pacers fans either didn’t want or wouldn’t pay for.
This year, the Pacers host a team from Orlando in the first round. So this presumably won’t happen happen again. That is quite the drive and, after all the Dwight Howard sideshows this season, I can’t imagine the Magic fan base is exactly overflowing with support for its team either.
So I guess that means the Pacers front office will just be hoping that the seats simply aren’t vacate as the team, if all goes as they hope, wins some games at home.
Like they were all year.
The 5th-place Pacers have the 2nd-worst home attendance in the NBA while the 23rd-place Warriors have the 10th-best fan support. Sad numbers for the Hoosier State.