The Bulls may have grabbed their first winning streak of the season last night, but not many fans were there to see it.
Attendance at the United Center was announced as 15,071 yesterday, and – in case you’re unaware – the arena’s capacity is set at 23,500. According to The Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw, that marks the Bulls’ worst attended game since December 2004. OUCH.
#Bulls official attendance tonight is 15,017. Based on my quick research, that's the smallest announced crowd since Dec. 16, 2004, when they drew 14,403 vs. Bucks.
That was right around when the great Skiles' turnaround of 2004-05 began.
— Mike McGraw (@McGrawDHBulls) December 5, 2019
I know many want to wag their fist in the air and yell “no (a word I probably shouldn’t type but rhythms with pit)!! This team sucks, and no one should be attending games until [insert whoever you want to be fired here].” And while there is validity in that rage, I think we still have to take some time to recognize this as a pretty big deal – at least insofar as it’s the beginning of a trend.
Because despite the Bulls frustrating past several years, the team has still remained right at the top of the league’s attendance report (via ESPN). Take a look at where Chicago ranked in average nightly attendance on the NBA leaderboards over the last decade:
- 2019 – 2nd (20,084)
- 2018 – 1st (20,776)
- 2017 – 1st (21,680)
- 2016 – 1st (21,820)
- 2015 – 1st (21,343)
- 2014 – 1st (21,716)
- 2013 – 1st (21, 876)
- 2012 – 1st (22,161)
- 2011 – 1st (21,791)
- 2010 – 1st (20,725)
Okay, so I totally could have just told you they were in 1st place from 2010-2018, but seeing it listed serves to drive the points home. The last time the Bulls didn’t finish in top-two for average nightly attendance was in 2004 when they finished third overall.
The city of Chicago loves its basketball, but they’re also growing impatient. After dropping to 2nd place for the first time in nearly a decade, the Bulls have started this season 6th in average attendance and 4th in total attendance through 11 home games. Chances are winning just nine games at the United Center last season left the sort of gross aftertaste that lingers on the mouth.
In other words, the Bulls have the same effect on people as a shot of Malort. You decide to pour one out for the sake of tradition, but then you go ahead and regret it almost instantly. Yuck! You said this would be fun!? Someone get me a beer!
If you ask Jim Boylen though, he doesn’t seem too concerned about the Bulls attendance issues.
Jim Boylen discusses the low attendance at the United Center last night (15,017) (1/3) pic.twitter.com/LthcfaqsBZ
— Tony Gill (@thetonygill) December 5, 2019
“We have to bring our own energy … we have the best fans in the league,” Boylen said. “They’ve been very supportive. They don’t give me the ticket numbers. I don’t ask for the ticket numbers. I’m focused on coaching the team. I feel very supported by the fans, and I think the team does too.”
Eh, maybe the latter.
In all fairness, I don’t think it is Boylen’s place to be worrying about the attendance, so I understand that response. However, the fact is, this looks bad for him and the organization. Fans aren’t coming out to see the product he’s putting together (at least not yet), and ticket sales ultimately help pay his bills. We know NBA owners like money and if this trend continues, the Bulls are going to have to adjust accordingly. We’re not there yet, but it’s important to keep in mind.
Bulls fans have waited around long enough to see if any monumental change would be made within this organization. The city isn’t seeing what it wants, so they’re hitting the Bulls where it hurts the most – the wallet.