The Washington Wizards Deserve More Local Attention


Michael Wilbon recently took Washington sports fans and media to the woodshed, something it seems like he enjoys doing. Michael Wilbon was furious that Washington area fans and media have been slow to give the Washington Wizards the attention they deserve, especially when he surmised that the lack of attention is based on the focus on “the dog football team”. Scott Allen surmised Michael Wilbon’s comments here for the DC Sports Bog, but did point out that while attendance is slightly down on average, that ratings were up.

The comment that attendance was down triggered some discussion on the topic with fellow Wiz of Awes writer Nithin Kuchibhotla, and I decided to look into that a little further. Why would attendance be down while ratings are up and the team is off to a great start? Full disclosure, I’m a season ticket holder. I usually attend ten or so games a year, split some with family, and sell of the rest. I try to avoid going to weekday games unless the opponent is someone I really want to see.

I mean lets be real, is it comfortable staying in your work clothes for an extra five or so hours? Frankly, I want to untuck my shirt and throw on flip flops at 3:00, but this is the world we live in. I’ve been to four games this year and I thought the crowds were larger and more engaged this year, so the average attendance confused me.

The Washington Wizards have played 15 homes games this year and I decided to compare that to the first 15 homes games they played last year. The first thing I noticed is that average attendance through the first 15 games is actually up from where it was last year.

  • 2013-2014 season average attendance through 15 home games – 16,465 (I rounded up in-case the other one -tenth of a person decided to come)
  • 2014-2015 season average attendance through 15 home games – 16,882

Okay, so average attendance through the same amount of home games is up 378 per game (2.3 percent). That’s nothing to write home about or hang on the refrigerator (although I’m in no way qualified to analyze attendance).

The next thing I noticed was out of the first 15 home games last season, ten games were on weekends (Friday – Sunday). This season that figure is down to seven home games. What’s the average attendance for last year’s weekend games versus this year’s you ask? Here you go:

  • 2013-2014 average attendance for weekend home games (10 games) – 17,115
  • 2014-2015 average attendance for weekend home games (7 games) – 18,163

Now we’re talking. That’s a 1,048 increase from last year’s figures (6.1 percent). How does weekday attendance compare you ask?

  • 2013-2014 average attendance for weekday home games (5 games) – 15,164
  • 2014-2015 average attendance for weekday home games (8 games) – 15,760 (This time I rounded down since eight-tenths of a person stayed home)

So the increase on weekdays is not as sizeable as weekends, but that’s still an increase on average of 596 per night (3.9 percent). Scheduling also provided some good comparative samples (did I really write comparative samples when talking basketball? My 13 year-old self would not be happy with me right now). The Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Los Angeles Lakers each came in early in the last two seasons similarly on weekdays or weekends as they did last season.

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(all attendance numbers are via ESPN)

Outside of the Lakers visit, attendance is up from 661 to 1,019 for the other three games. The Lakers attendance was down, which I’m frankly surprised about given Kobe Bryant’s presence this year and it potentially being one of his final visits to Verizon Center.

So what does this all tell us? It shows that things are moving in the right direction and the Washington Wizards are in a better place in terms of attendance than they were last year.

It’s fair to assume that once football season is finished and the Wizards move towards the second half of the schedule that the attendance will continue to rise, especially if the Wizards remain near the top of the Eastern Conference. This is also an event town, so as the Wizards move forward and play in more marquee, meaningful matchups, that should also have a corresponding impact on attendance.

Does that mean Michael Wilbon was wrong in what he said. No, I think he was right. The Wizards do deserve more media attention and attention from fans. As Wilbon said, “they’re really, I think, one of the four or five most appealing teams in the entire league, in terms of the way they play, the chemistry they have on the court, the personalities. They seem to be just the nicest people. And I have now been around them for a couple of weeks over a period of time to just sort of observe, and listen and have discussion, and they are a delight the Wizards are”.

Road fans have taken note of the Wizards. The Wizards are fifth in the NBA in average road attendance, up 20 spots from 25th last season. On average, road attendance for the Wizards is up 5.4 percent and they are top 12 in terms of average NBA away game ticket prices per TickPick.

This is a football town, but this is also a town in dire need of a winner, and the Washington Wizards seem to be on track to become just that. That basketball history at the local level in this area is very rich and this has always been a hotbed for high school basketball talent.

After years of apathy (or as I like to refer to it as Charles Jones era), unfulfilled potential (the Chris Webber/Juwan Howard era), and embarrassment (GunGate), it’s fair to be cautious. However, with all signs pointing in the right direction for the Washington Wizards, it might be time for more people to start trusting what their eyes are seeing and make a trip to 601 F Street.

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