While predicting that the Miami Heat will win tonight, and laying praise on LeBron James, professional loudmouth Charles Barkley took a swipe at Miami fans this morning on a D.C. sports radio
show by claiming that the Heat don't have "real fans" and that we're only "front-runners."
"I wish [LeBron] had stayed in Cleveland, because those fans in Cleveland, man, they're fantastic," Barkley said on 106.7 The Fan. "They don't even have real fans here in Miami, they're front-runners."
Seriously though Chuck, shut the Fuck up.
So, lets look at Barkley's claim that Cleveland fans are "fantastic" while Miami fans are "front-runners." We're not sure how Barkley defines a "real fan," but lets look at something we can mathematically compare: average home attendance.
For their first ten and a half seasons the Miami Heat played in the 15,200 capacity Miami Arena. According to numbers from ABPR.org
, during those seasons the Heat's average attendance never dipped below 14,604, and peaked above 15,000 for half their time there. Pretty damn respectable.
After moving in to the 19,600 capacity American Airlines Arena, the Heat had trouble filing up the arena in their first few seasons there (average attendance was in the 15,000s between 2001 and 2004, but still up from seasons in the Pink Elephant). However, Average attendance was consistently above 19,000 during the Shaq-Wade era. It even stayed above 19,000 during the 2007-08 season, during which the Heat racked up the worst record in the NBA. It dipped off after, hitting a low of 17,70 on average in 2009-10. Which isn't exactly bad, and, not to equivocate, but its worth reminding people Miami's economy was in the doldrums at the time. Of course, LeBron came to town and average attendance is now well above 19,000 once again.
Lets look at the Cavaliers. Since 1994 they've played in the 20,562 capacity Quicken Loans Arena. Between 1998 and 2003, Cleveland Cavaliers attendance averages were consistently below that of the Miami Heat's. In the few years before they weren't pulling that much more than the Heat, despite playing in a much larger arena at the time.
In fact, in the 2002-03 season they were averaging 11,496 a game. The arena was barely half full. Of course, they drafted LeBron James the next year. Average attendance shot to 18,287, and eventually peaked in the 20,000s during LeBron's best time with the team. After LeBron left in 2010-11, attendance, to defiant Clevelander's credit remained above 20,000, but plummeted to just 15,926 this year.
So, wait, which team's fans are front-runners? Which city only cares about their team when they're winning? Whose attendance has historically dropped more during bad seasons?
Who has "fantastic" fans?
It sure doesn't seem like its Cleveland.