Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Will the Spurs playing outside San Antonio affect their win?

Spurs Nation sparked an uproar over Silver & Black’s recent announcement of playing “home games” in other markets. Fans are worried this means the team may consider a future transfer from San Antonio. It is not unreasonable to think so. The WNBA’s San Antonio Silver Stars and the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage have both moved to the Las Vegas area over the past five years.

One argument that has been used to placate people is to point to teams with less success that haven’t moved yet. Take the Minnesota Timberwolves and the New Orleans Pelicans. Both teams made it to the playoffs this year but they have a history of poor performances. The thinking is that if these franchises don’t budge, then one of the winners should have nowhere to go.

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But how much does it really matter? Is leaving or staying on the team the reason for the success of the team? The real crux of the matter is presence. Presence means money, and that’s why a team stays or goes from your current market. Take for example the Chicago Bulls. The team made its first playoff appearance in five years this season, but the Bulls are always at the top of the attendance report, even in hellish winters.

Spurs’ 2021-22 season was not the best, but they have been one of the best teams for the past three decades, and there has never been talk of playing anywhere else before. So, why now? It got me thinking, we need to figure out how much appearance really matters. Whether a team’s success is a real indicator of the butt in the seats.

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I wanted to get a little more data. In this way we can see the relationship between the two variables. For this (prepare to be as stupid as really nerds), I did a very simple regression model with each team in the league, comparing wins to home game attendance. The results of which can be seen below.

Chart related to the number of wins for an NBA team versus its average attendance for the 2021–22 NBA season.

Eric Fritz for MySA

(Data from ESPN.com)

From what can be gathered from this chart, there appears to be some level of correlation between team success and team attendance. Although it is not correct. I’d point to a team like the Los Angeles Lakers because when they were 33-49 ahead and missed the playoffs, their presence was solid. The Washington Wizards, on the other hand, went 35-47, but had their worst appearance.


To get a better understanding, it helps to look at the correlation coefficient [r], For this model r is equal to 0.522, which means there is a linear trend, but it is not that strong. If r were equal to 1, it would indicate a perfect relationship between team success and attendance.

Basically it’s all just a fancy way of saying that team success affects attendance, but not very strongly. Now, this is a relatively small sample size. It’s only one season, and there’s a lot of extra noise going on with this data. While some cities are more popular than others, the celebrity status of the players also contributes, as does arena entertainment and location. So, how do we just look at San Antonio this year.

Chart showing the relationship between the number of Spurs' victories and the team's average attendance between 2003–2022.

Chart showing the relationship between the number of Spurs’ victories and the team’s average attendance between 2003–2022.

Eric Fritz for MySA

(Data from ESPN.com, excluding the 2021 season)

Does anything jump out for you here? The 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons were the only ones to lose records, obviously. There were no fans for the most part in the 2020-21 season. But what happened in 2021-22? Attendance this past season was a historically low 81.8%, the lowest ever attendance at the AT&T center. That is not a problem.

So, what happens when you run the correlation numbers? The r value on this data is 0.524, which is roughly the same as the league data for 2021-22, so it is not a good indicator. Granted this data is probably noisier than the league data. First, because ESPN’s attendance percentage only goes back to 2003, and the Spurs had a no-losing season until 2020. So, you can’t really say that it’s a good predictor for attendance because we don’t know how the fan base reacts to losing seasons over time. It’s not a big enough data set to make a real prediction, but we can say that attendance is great, at least when the team performs well. We don’t know how different the support will be when the team doesn’t perform.

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) drives into the basket against Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III (25) in the first half of the play-in game on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 in New Orleans.

Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) drives into the basket against Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III (25) in the first half of the play-in game on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 in New Orleans.

Gerald Herbert, STF / The Associated Press

For example in 2019-20 the team won 32 games and the average attendance was 18,350. In the last championship year, 2014, the team won 62 games and had an average attendance of 18,415. Therefore it is difficult to find a definite trend.

Nation World News Desk
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