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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

NBA’s Two Tourneys Drive Record Attendance

  • The league’s total attendance was 22,538,518 during the regular season.
  • November and March each saw their highest number of fans ever.
Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

There are two big reasons why the NBA is heading into the playoffs with yet another attendance record to gloat about: The debut of the In-Season Tournament and the evolution of the Play-In Tournament, which is entering its fifth year.

Total attendance for the 2023–24 season, which ended Sunday, was 22,538,518. That’s about 300,000 more than last season, which had already broken the season-long mark set in ’17–18. The months of November and March had record turnouts, the former largely buoyed by group-play IST games. “Usually, you see a very strong start of the schedule and then maybe you’ll see a little bit of a lull in the November and December months, before picking back up going into the finish,” Jonathan Tillman, the NBA’s executive vice president of team marketing and business operations, tells Front Office Sports.

As the season concluded, tight sprints to the finish in both conferences saw 19 of the league’s 20 playoff seeds still up for grabs as late as last week. “There’s a lot of movement there and that just creates more interest in those games across the board,” Tillman says.

Is Bigger Better?

If the scheduling tweaks have been so successful already, the NBA should surely be considering some form of expansion for those tournaments, right? Maybe. “We’re very happy with the changes that have been made over the last couple of years,” Tillman says. “And at this point, it’s a matter of just monitoring those successes, further evaluating, and then deciding from there what tweaks in the margin could be made for next season.”

Whatever the case may be, don’t expect the NBA to remain stagnant. After the first season of play-in games, in 2020, the league quickly doubled the number of participating teams. And after just one rendition of the in-season tournament, the event has already been rebranded as the Emirates NBA Cup. The format for next season’s NBA Cup hasn’t been released yet, so there remains potential for changes in Year 2.

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