As the closest competition ever in the National Basketball League draws towards its thrilling climax, some big crowds have been flocking to NBL games in recent weeks, with a season high of almost 7,000 people at a recent Adelaide 36ers home game and the Gold Coast Blaze drawing their second-biggest crowd ever on Friday night.
21,620 fans attended the six games in the penultimate Round 19 of competition last week, with several teams recording season highs in attendance.
The NBL is also currently enjoying a 7% increase in average attendance at games over last season. The NBL averaged 3,342 people per game last season but that figure has grown on the back of increased community activity from clubs and a thrilling on-court title race to 3,563 through the end of round 19.
The second largest NBL crowd ever recorded at the Gold Coast Convention Centre was on hand Friday night as 4,588 people saw the Gold Coast Blaze score an 86-73 victory over the Perth Wildcats in a top-of-the-table clash. The attendance was only marginally short of the largest crowd ever at a Blaze game (4,612 on 8 February 2008).
The Blaze have been strong performers all season in the attendance stakes, enjoying a whopping 30% increase in their average attendance this season. In 2008/09 the Blaze averaged 2,572 people per game, but this season have grown that figure to 3,261.
The OAMPS Melbourne Tigers also had a season-high crowd of 3,368 at ‘The Cage’ on Saturday to see their clash with the ladder leading Perth Wildcats. The crowd topped their previous best this season of 3,351 achieved on 19 December against the New Zealand Breakers.
The Wollongong ahm Hawks had their third biggest crowd of the season on Saturday night when 3,620 people packed the WIN Entertainment Centre to witness the Hawks score a 100-88 upset over the Gold Coast Blaze. The Hawks have been big improvers this year in terms of attendance, with the new community backed team averaging 3,383 people per game at ‘The Sandpit’, which is a remarkable 46% increase on their average crowd last season
The Townsville McDonald’s Crocodiles attracted their second largest crowd of their season thus far on Saturday night when 4,313 people flocked to ‘The Swamp’ to see the home team take on archrivals, the Cairns Taipans.
The Hood Sweeney Adelaide 36ers also attracted a mammoth crowd of 6,991 to the Brett Maher Court at The Dome in Round 18 to see the Sixers take on the Townsville Crocodiles in a double-header with the Adelaide Lightning Women’s National Basketball League team.
The 2009/10 NBL season enters its final round of home-and-away play this week and five of the eight teams are still in the title race. Only Perth have secured a guaranteed trip to the 2010 NBL Finals, with Townsville, Gold Coast, Wollongong and New Zealand all battling it out for the remaining three berths.
The 2009/10 season is officially on track to be the closest ever in the NBL’s 31-year history, with the differential between first and last in the current season being the closest ever on record. The league is also on track for the minor premiers to have the lowest winning percentage in history, and the wooden spooners to have the highest winning percentage ever.
“This season has been like no other, with more upsets and more twists and turns than a Tarantino movie,” said NBL General Manager Chuck Harmison. “We’ve had no clear cut favourite all season and picking who is going to win each game has been almost impossible. The public is clearly enjoying the unpredictability of the season and we have been very pleased with how they have responded, coming to games in increasing numbers.”