NBA sets attendance record for second straight year

NEW YORK -- The NBA set an attendance record for the second
straight year, announcing Thursday that it averaged 17,558 fans for
its games this season.

With the league's arenas filled to 91.4 percent capacity, the
league bettered last season's average of 17,314. Before that, the
previous mark had been 17,252 in 1995-96.

Commissioner David Stern said in a phone interview that he
wasn't surprised by the figures.

"Our teams are getting to be so intent on using the most
impressive professional techniques for engaging their fans," he
said, "for making the consumer experience so good, that we saw
very early on that renewals were going well and that fans were
responding in a positive way."

The league does not release individual team totals, but
according to ESPN.com, Detroit led the way with an average of more
than 22,000 for its games at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Chicago
and Dallas also drew more than 20,000 per game, with Miami and
Cleveland rounding out the top five.

The league's total attendance figure of 21,595,804 also was a
record, surpassing the 21,296,497 of last season. A highlight was
the performance of the New Orleans Hornets, who were barely outside
the top 10 while playing in four different cities.

Not surprisingly, some of the worst figures came from the
Northwest. Portland, which had the NBA's worst record, was last
with just over 15,000 fans per game. Seattle was 23rd.

Both teams say they are losing money, and Trail Blazers owner
Paul Allen has said he may sell the team. The SuperSonics could
move out of Seattle when their lease expires in 2010 if they don't
get a better arena deal.

"There's an ebb and flow of building issues in any sports
league and we just happen to be in the ebb," Stern said.
"Hopefully the flow will pick up, and these things really do have
a way of either working themselves out one way or the other."

The NBA also announced that numbers were up in merchandising,
sponsorships, visits to NBA.com and television viewership. Much of
that business has been overseen by Adam Silver, who was appointed
as the league's new deputy commissioner Wednesday.

"We have to be in front of our fans however they consume us and
the methodology for consuming us is changing," Stern said.