The transcript from the inevitable David Stern press conference to discuss putrid NBA attendance:
DAVID STERN: While we’re certainly concerned with flagging attendance levels, I’d like to remind you that the season is still very early. I know the press likes to make a big story out of this, but if you review our attendance figures from years past, you’ll notice that our attendance levels tend to increase as the year progresses and fan interest improves.
REPORTER: While that may be true, the early levels have never been this low. Shouldn’t the creation of all these new buildings be a buffer against the current economic downturn?
DS: Well, just look at the numbers in Portland, in Atlanta, in Toronto, or in Cleveland, where you have teams playing before near sell-outs every night. I think that’s a testament to what happens when our superior marketing and innovativeness are given an opportunity to grow and prosper.
REPORTER: But what about Sacramento, where your team is barely beating Arena League numbers? Doesn’t that concern you?
DS: Well, with a new mayor in Sacramento committed to keeping the team in that city, I think you’ll see an improvement in the team’s fortunes in the near future.
REPORTER: You mean, when they get a new building?
DS: Yes, that’s correct.
REPORTER: You mean, like the new building in Memphis, where they average 11,706 fans a night?
DS: Well, Memphis is a unique situation …
REPORTER: Or in Philadelphia, where they attract only 62% of capacity with a playoff-caliber team in a sports-mad city?
DS: Now you’re just picking out random cities out to augment your point, but I think if …
REPORTER: Or in Charlotte, where a brand-new stadium and a brand-new team with a Hall of Fame coach and world-famous general manager have lead to less than 70% capacity? Or in Indiana? New Jersey? Minnesota? Miami?
DS: I think that if you look closely, you’ll see that nearly all of those situations involve teams which are struggling on the court, and that in almost all situations involving teams which are successful, the fans inevitably flock to the games. You can almost guarantee it.
REPORTER: So what you’re saying is that the buildings you extort cities to build while their police departments, educational systems, and infrastructure erode have less impact on attendance than the on-court product? That on-court success is more important than $300 million arenas? That a winning Sonic team in Seattle in an “old” building would draw more than a losing Grizzlies’ team in Memphis with a “new” building?
DS: Now you’re just putting words in my mouth.
REPORTER: That’s not the only thing I’d like to put in there.