We’re about halfway through the 2008-09 season and after 42 games, Oklahoma City has notched just eight wins on its belt. But while we can dissect midseason stats of this kind and that kind, let’s look at something that the Thunder are actually one of the tops in the league in — attendance.
Back in 2005, OKC fans were tagged for being incredible. And deservedly so. People were shocked at the support thrown at the displaced Hornets. Then when the team returned another year, the support continued. The Hornets left with our hearts in their pockets, but the NBA returned to Oklahoma City — and the support has been stronger. After 23 games at home, the Thunder are averaging 18,617 fans a night, just seven people behind what defending champion Boston averages. The Thunder have completely sold out nine games on the season and on average, there’s a butt in 97.3 percent of the Ford Center’s seats. (And no, Jim Traber’s butt doesn’t count as two.)
Doug from dougdawg.blogspot.com has kept up with OKC’s attendance in easily accesible spreadsheet form. And as much praise as OKC got for supporting the Hornets, right now, we’re outdoing ourselves. Have a look:
The Thunder rank ahead of the Spurs, the Rockets, the Magic, the Hawks, the Nuggets, the Hornets, the Suns and the Heat. Granted, a couple of those team’s seating capacity doesn’t match the Ford Center, but regardless, OKC is putting more fans in the stands than them. And on top of that, one Knicks’ beat writer said the Ford Center was, “The loudest NBA arena I’ve ever been in.” And we only had 18,487 there for that one. But thanks anyway.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Talk to me in four years if the team is still 8-34 halfway through the season. You’re excited now. It’s the first season. You better fill the house. Of course, attendance numbers are high partially due to the fact that this is the inaugural season and people are excited. But look at other inaugural seasons around the league in recent years. The Grizzlies relocated from Vancouver in 2001 and for the 2001-02 season, the Grizz averaged just 14,390 fans per game, good for 25th in the league. In their first season in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Hornets finished 19th in the league in 2002-03 averaging 15,650 per game. The Charlotte Bobcats averaged just 14,431 their first season back in Charlotte, which ranked 29th. And some may say, “Well those teams were pretty bad though.” Ahem. Please. We’re talking about the Thunder here folks.
Can you even begin to imagine what the Ford Center will look like when the team is 27-15 at this point? It will be insanity. Add in the fact that the team is freaking fun to watch play and you might be able to get a Super Bowl ticket easier than you can a Thunder/Timberwolves ticket. OK, that’s probably a major exaggeration, but you get the point.
A couple things do work in OKC’s advantage: 1) The downturn in the economy really hasn’t hurt OKC. Forbes called Oklahoma City the most recession proof city in the country. 2) The Excitement Factor and 3) The team is dang fun to watch. So what that the Thunder is in the smallest market in the country. The market may be small, but the support is big-time. This fan base is rabid and that’s only going to push the team to play better and for ownership to keep a competitive roster. And the more OKC continues to support the team, more stories about Loud City fans being “the loudest in the league” will keep popping up and we can hopefully get away from the black mark that was the Seattle situation.
So why do OKC fans like to bring up attendance? Is it to fluff our ego and puff out our chests? Heck yes it is. We’re dang proud of the way we support this team. It’s something we hang our hat and no matter what the win-loss column says, the Ford Center will always be rocking. Does it really matter? No. But when you’ve spent the last three years telling everyone how awesome you are, you need to back it up. And we have. So we’re going to let you know.