Jay Caspian Kang wonders.
These Finals, played by two teams in relatively small television markets, have seen some of the biggest ratings in the history of the league. Localism and its effect on a team has been diluted to the point where there are probably more Kevin Durant fans in Los Angeles than there are total people in all of Oklahoma City. Attendance numbers no longer matter as much to the financial health of a franchise as television deals and whether or not you can fit 500 people into the brewery you build next to the arena. The old methods of fan protest, which mostly involved not buying tickets, have lost much of their power. Even at an event like a rally to bring the Sonics back to Seattle, the focus, at least politically, was on getting people to register their support through social media. The NBA has evolved into an open-access, floating world. Its fans, both domestic and international, have never had more access to the game. A franchise’s ties to its local community and economy have never meant less.
It’s true that more than any other sport, basketball builds fan bases around specific players regardless of geography. But because I was a James Hardin fan, I became a Durant and Westbrook fan (yes, I know that’s backwards). And your town still has to fill the arena. I don’t care how many Shane Battier jerseys are flying out the window in Milford, Connecticut. Ownership’s cavalier (didn’t even mean to do that) attitude towards relocation means they’ll use anything they can to leave any city. A half-empty arena, or an arena filled with opposing fans, is not good marketing or good business.
- Jerry Brewer: As Thunder enter Finals, Seattle sulks over team’s bitter departure (sportsillustrated.cnn.com)