12,447. On average, that’s the number of people in attendance for a Denver Nuggets home game this season.
If that trend were to hold true for the remainder of the season, only the 2007-2008 Indiana Pacers, headlined by Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, and the Ricky Davis-led Cleveland Cavaliers of 2002-2003, would have drawn fewer fans to their home games over the last thirteen years.
Not only is that more than 2,000 fewer fans per game less than the next closest team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it’s also only 65% of the Pepsi Center’s capacity. No other team in the league is drawing fewer than 72% of their arena’s capacity to their games.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the numbers reflected here are based on the number of tickets sold; not who actually shows up to the game. For a recent Monday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers, you’d have a hard time convincing me there were more than 7,000 or 8,000 people who actually made it to the arena.
This is a disturbing trend that is emerging in Denver, and one that is a little hard to digest. Hell, even in 2002-2003, which was one of the most historically putrid seasons in NBA history, the Nuggets managed to draw nearly 15,000 people on a nightly basis. This, for a team whose fourth leading scorer was Shammond Williams, so there’s no denying that Denver is a great sports town, willing to support even the most mediocre of teams under the right circumstances.
But, those circumstances don’t currently exist.
To understand why this may be occurring, I encourage everyone reading this to recall a painful breakup from your past. It doesn’t have to be the loss of your first love. It doesn’t even have to be among your most painful memories. In fact, for this exercise, it would probably be more appropriate to think about a girl, or boy, with whom you were serious, but for whom you never developed a life-altering connection with.
Let’s also assume this breakup resulted directly from a loss of trust; from a betrayal of some sort, because make no mistake about it, Nuggets fans are most certainly reeling from a lack of faith in this organization based on how the past two seasons have unfolded. That is invariably the central culprit for the fans’ disappearing act.
Ok, now that you have that picture in your head, I ask you this: What was it that allowed you to begin the process of overcoming that distrust? What did you do to start your recovery from that heartbreak?
For most, I imagine it involved at least one, but most likely a series of romantically mischievous encounters with less than exemplary—and certainly unpredictable—partners. It was this whirlwind; this vortex of volatile yet vociferously entertaining misconduct that provided that needed distraction. It allowed you to escape the throes of depression. It allowed you to become inundated with the intensity of the present, and to consciously neglect the pain of the past. But, most importantly, it ultimately allowed you to understand more about what you were, and weren’t, looking for in your next meaningful relationship.
And that is exactly why the impending roller-coaster ride the Nuggets are about to take their fans on will be so important to the healing process.
We all understand that this Nuggets team won’t be contending for a championship this season, or any upcoming season for that matter. They have some young pieces in place, but it’s also hard to believe this is a team built for the long-run. They aren’t “life partner” material to continue extending the breakup metaphor.
But, what they do possess, that the teams of the past two years haven’t, is a unique blend of youth, energy, intensity and fun. They are athletic; they demonstrate consistent effort (Suns game notwithstanding); they seem like they actually care about each other and about the outcome of the game; and they have shown they can play a really fun brand of basketball.
Oh, and we also know they are extremely inconsistent, which will continue for the remainder of the season. Don’t be surprised if they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road one night, but lose to the Philadelphia 76ers at home two nights later. That will be the ebb and flow of this season.
It will be exciting, it will be frustrating, but most importantly it will be different. The 2015-2016 Denver Nuggets are this city’s “rebound relationship”, and I for one am excited to wipe the vomitous taste of that venomous vixen out of our mouths.