What Brings in the Fans?
Let's start somewhere simple, the NBA is the best league of basketball in the world, good, we agree with this. But I want to look at fan support of different leagues under the microscope and determine what brings them in. Fans are the single most important factor in the success of a league. So, yea, they're pretty important. As a fan, what games do we choose to go to and watch? Let me start you off with an example I gave my good friend. Assuming all things are the same (travel cost, ticket cost, parking) what would be the order in which you would choose your attendance for the following games? think about your answers
-Pistons vs. low-level NBA team
-Grand Rapids Drive (Pistons G-League team) against whomever
-Local high school rivalry (we both have no affiliation with either high school)
-Notre Dame vs. Louisville women's basketball
-Michigan vs. Michigan State
-Western Michigan vs. Bowling Green
Now, I realize that fan's game attendance is in no way the only way that fans show their support for a team or league, but for this article, it is the example I am going to use.
The Minnesota Timberwolves currently have the lowest average attendance at 14,755 fans per game. However, using last year's numbers, the Kentucky Wildcats of the NCAA averaged 21,695 fans per game. Wait for a second here, how does that work? shouldn't the better team, the more talented team get more fans, always? No, of course not. Think about the local small-town rivalry game when you were in high school. Some of those old arenas would back in 5 to 7 thousand fans, nearly half of that of the Timberwolves. If the talent level of the players and league were the only factor that would suggest that your small-town high school rivalry was full of players half as good as the Minnesota Timberwolves. There must be another reason why fans come. The truth is, its a huge mixture of things (all costs being the same): talent, atmosphere, competition, rivalry, etc. Why do I say this all, why do I write all this? Because for any of you basketball players looking to play overseas, when you get that call to play in Thailand, just because you've never heard of the Mono Vampires and because they certainly would get destroyed by any NBA team, doesn't mean the fandom isn't there; and the fandom is what makes playing worth it.
The MPBL in the Philippines is a perfect example, it is a newer league lower than their main basketball league PBA, and yet they fill gyms and arenas because of the atmosphere, the teams represent cities instead of just a company like the PBA, and because of this cities come out in droves to represent their community. The talent in the MPBL is not even the highest in the Philippines and yet it brings in a significant crowd, because of all of those other factors.
So, back to the list what is my, real and honest order? Here it is with some rationale:
1. Michigan vs. Michigan State (if at Michigan) - the atmosphere in rivalry college basketball is too much to pass up
2. Pistons - the atmosphere is not the best, but the talent level makes up for it
3. Local high school rivalry - competition, knowing how much it means to the players and being able to see that in how they leave it all on the court, not to mention the atmosphere of a rivalry high school basketball game
4. Notre Dame vs. Louisville - competition, the atmosphere is not the same
5. Western vs. Bowling Green - talent level is probably the highest point for this one, but not high enough
6. Grand Rapids Drive - again, the talent level is probably the highest, but the rest are far too low