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The Wizards are near the bottom in attendance to start the 2021-22 NBA season

Despite a start well above .500 and lax entry requirements, people still aren’t interested in watching Wizards games.

Indiana Pacers v Washington Wizards
The Washington Wizards are starting better than expected, but fans are still not heading to the arena.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A couple seasons ago, I wrote a piece titled, “The Wizards have the NBA’s second worst home attendance rate.” That was because fans, at least here on this site and social media, were cautiously optimistic about them.

But they also had the second-lowest rate of fan attendance league-wide at 76.9 percent capacity through Dec. 2019 according to ESPN. They ultimately finished the 2019-20 season with an attendance rate of 80.8 percent capacity, good for third-lowest in the league, or 16,646 people, good for 23rd based on the number of people in the league.

After a pandemic-affected 2020-21 NBA season, the return of full capacity and loose entry requirements relative to the rest of the NBA, you would think the Washington Wizards would have better attendance, relative to the rest of the league, especially since they started out the season 5-1 (and are 5-3 now).

You’re wrong.

The Wizards average 14,602 people per game, the fourth-lowest in the NBA in terms of average numbers. That figure translates to an average of 70.9 percent capacity, third-lowest in the league. All figures come from ESPN.

Here is a picture of the crowd during the middle of the first quarter of Washington’s game against the Toronto Raptors last Wednesday. This is not shootaround. This is the middle of the first quarter!

Why could this be? Here are some possible reasons based on your tweets, which I linked:

  • Lack of star power: This is a perennial issue with Washington. They have an All-NBA player in Bradley Beal, but he isn’t as popular as Giannis Antetokounmpo or even fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Furthermore, there are no other players of Beal’s caliber on the roster, even if the team is deeper.
  • A combination of a weekday night AND liberal work-from-home policies are keeping suburban fans at home: Weekday night games have often not brought in as many fans to Capital One Arena as weekend games, especially for team with attendance issues like the Wizards. Liberal work-from-home policies may be a contributing factor if someone is coming from an exurb like ... Purcellville, VA or Leonardtown, MD. But these same policies could allow workers to get out of work and travel to the arena more easily.
  • Metro issuesThere was a derailment last month that has caused delays for those looking to get to Downtown D.C. by subway. Delays will go on through Nov. 15.

And here are two more possible reasons that are keeping fans from going to the arena for Wizards games:

  • Fans are skeptical about watching a Wizards game until they KNOW the team is a possible championship-contender — That 5-1 start was good and may have brought some people to get on the fence to watching last Wednesday’s game against the Raptors. But after even one loss last Monday to the Hawks last Monday, that’s enough for people to think, “Same old Wizards!” The Raptors loss was another nail in that coffin. I’m going to share SBN Reacts results this weekend and I bet you the confidence figure will drop a god bit from 89 percent last week.
  • The Washington Capitals are selling out — While this area has a lot of disposable income due to the average education and the high paying jobs in the nation’s capital, people’s budgets and time are not unlimited. The Capitals have sold out all of their games this season despite facing the same issues the Wizards do: Metro, lots of people working from home, etc. It doesn’t hurt that they have earned a point (two points for a win, one for a overtime loss) in all but one of their ten games so far this season. If someone was a bandwagoner and wanted to see a win, they are more likely to watch a Caps game than Wizards one. That won’t be changing for awhile.

Hopefully Wizards fan attendance improves, not just in absolute terms, but also relative to the NBA.