Bucksketball Podcast

BREAKING: Not many people attend Milwaukee Bucks games

| December 18, 2012

Category: Sad and Unpopular

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So, despite a 12-10 record that has surprised many and a spot among the Central Division leaders, the Milwaukee Bucks are currently 28th in attendance in the NBA.

My first instinct is to be disappointed. To chide all Milwaukeeans for not turning out to support their basketball team.

My second instinct is to applaud.

I applaud Milwaukee for not falling for the current iteration of the Milwaukee Bucks. I’ve been saying for quite some time that my preferred path for this franchise is one that involves quite a bit of rebuilding. Without a star, there’s little hope in Milwaukee. Sure, it’s not so simple as to declare “IT IS TIME TO REBUILD” and have a star fall into your lap, but certainly there is more the Bucks could have done over the past few years to get a star. There has been no effort made to take steps necessary to secure a top level talent for the Bucks since the 2009 draft. Instead, the organization has been steadfast in its quest for a first round exit from the playoffs for the past three seasons.

I don’t know exactly the reasoning behind the drive for mediocrity, but logic would indicate that the risk of blowing up a team would be too great. Fans would stay away while the Bucks rebuilt themselves over a three or four years period. Shooting for the playoffs in theory would be a more noble cause. One that fans could get behind.

But fans are not getting behind these Milwaukee Bucks, regardless of their cause. The attendance numbers speak for themselves. Sure, the Bucks are sixth in the Eastern Conference as of today, but their resume is fraudulent. They’re a house built on a shoddy frame, one that can’t really survive the wear and tear of time and it appears the fans are aware of it.

Superstars are fun to watch. (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s not like the citizens of Milwaukee don’t enjoy basketball though. I see people all over the city in Celtics shirts and Derrick Rose jerseys. Plenty of those in attendance for Milwaukee’s game against the Clippers last Saturday were passionate in their support of … Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. One young man had a life size cut out of Griffin and was toting it about in the Courtside Club after the game. I didn’t see an Ersan Ilyasova one anywhere though.

People like the NBA in Milwaukee. They just don’t like the Bucks. At least not right now. .

We’ve seen a passionate embrace happen before though. When Milwaukee caught lightning in a bottle and watched Andrew Bogut play like one of the NBA’s top 15 players, the fans turned out. That was a team that had some hope. It wasn’t just about making the playoffs that year, it seemed like that could have been a good group. There was the hope of a star with Bogut. It’s the star that’s important in a five-on-five sport like the NBA. One player can make so much of a difference.

Instead, the Bucks are 12 deep with average to above average players.

This isn’t a high-flying, enjoyable team that the city is embracing. It’s a fast paced, erratic group, stuck behind two quasi-stars who haven’t been able to perform consistently all season. If the majority of fans can see that, why bother continuing this charade? Why not get started on rebuilding the franchise now and not after the season?

Questions that will remain unanswered and ultimately, irrelevant.

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About the Author ()

Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball. He founded it in January of 2009 because he hated his job. It’s like basketball, but with Bucks instead of basket. I know ... I’m sorry. He might come off as a bit negative, but I'm really not so bad. He just wants the Bucks to succeed, so he points out areas where they are coming up short. Someone has got to do it and he's ornery and opinionated enough to take on that task. He isn't sure if this should be in third person or not. Contact him at Jeremy@Bucksketball.com if you must use e-mail.

Comments (48)

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  1. Matt says:

    If I still lived in Wisconsin I would be at every home game. And I would probably bring a friend or two, so there’s an additional 82-123 ticket sales they are missing out on.

    It would be nice to see a superstar in bucks green and red but that isn’t going to happen in todays NBA unless they get lucky in the draft. And constantly fighting for the 8th playoff spot, whether they get it or not, means being in NBA Hell.

    Hey I’m a person and I read your article! I enjoyed it.

  2. Ben says:

    I think the reason management doesn’t blow it up and rebuild is because they want to stay relevant enough to get a new arena. Nobody is going to agree to a new arena if the Bucks are a terrible rebuilding team. They probably figure the best way to get fan support for a new arena is to make the playoffs even if that means being swept in the first round.

  3. Bizzucks says:

    I know that there are about 500 circumstances as to why this doesn’t happen every year, but it seems like every season, when hammond makes a trade and gets rid of a bad contract, and picks up a player or two that look good on paper, all the pundits write the same thing: The Bucks may be a player in the free agent market, they have the cap space, and every year, it’s the same mediocrity. Why do I get my hopes up that they could land a “big” free agent? I’m not saying they were in the hunt for Lebron or Howard, but it’s been hard to deal with. Is Monta the extent of player we can get here? I “cut my teeth” watching the Bucks back in the day, Big Dog and Ray and Sam and that whole thing. It was fun to watch, and I could complain that the Bucks never got calls because they were small market. I loved watching them compete with the good teams, maybe win a few, and beat up on the bad ones. Worried more about playoff position then making the playoffs. It’s the frustration of hope every year that gets me. I hope they can play beyond their means, but end up frustrated that they can’t. I used to go to a couple games a year with friends (i’m from appleton). But now it’s too expensive for the product.

    • JavonRuggs says:

      I understand your frustration with the product being too expensive. You sound like a practical individual to me. Having said that, please don’t let these naysayers who think because we don’t have LeBron, Durant, or even Rondo that we aren’t worth breathing on leave any black mark on your belief in the Bucks. Rome wasn’t built in a day. As long as these guys play with the heart they’ve shown so far in the season, they’ll be a player in the East. The 80′s version, with Jack Sikma, Terry Cummings, and Don Nelson as coach were nothing like Jordan’s Bulls. Still they were still a playoff contender who filled the old Mecca and later the Bradley Center. Before u know it, FEAR THE DEER will be the call of the wild once again. Have faith.

  4. Stephen says:

    As an NBA fan for probably 40 years (my dad was a season ticket holder since the Bucks arrived in Milwaukee in 1968 but didn’t renew this year), I can say that professional basketball has lost much of it’s shine. The game took a turn for the worse when Alan Iverson and his tats arrived. NBA players are more concerned with furs, fancy cars, and having an entourage than working hard. There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the players fit this mold.

    The Miami heat ruined it for me. Can’t stand that a team can put together an uber lineup just because they have the $$$ to do so. No other sport has such a thing. Sure, there are marquis players that have an impact in the NFL and MLB, but not like in basketball, where there are only five player on the court at a time.

    It’s sad to see 1/2 of the NBA arenas nearly empty EVERY night. We love basketball in the US (watch a Louisville, KY, Indiana, Duke, NC or Syracuse college game). The NBA puts a pretty inferior product on the court except in maybe 8 or 10 cities. Sad.

    • Ben says:

      I completely agree with you the NBA is more about its superstars and entertainment than actual team basketball. Look at Blake Griffin, he’s one of the most popular players in the NBA and all he does is dunk it and rebound. He can’t even defend anyone with his superior athleticism, he can’t shoot, and he’s terrible at free throws. It’s sad that the only way you can win is if you have a superstar on your team. If the NBA were more like the college game I think more people would show up to games.

      • Jeremy Schmidt says:

        Factually, you’re incorrect.

        Blake Griffin shoots 41% from 16-23 feet.

        But you only see him dunk the ball. He’s also a gifted passer. Also, teams that win the NCAA championship are typically teams with the best players. Much like the NBA. Sure there are exceptions (Butler’s runner up team is a team people would reference here, but even they had Shelvin Mack and a very capable Matt Howard, good, but not great players), but for the most part, stars win everywhere.

        You say the NBA isn’t about “actual team basketball.” Are you saying that the Heat don’t play good team basketball? What are you saying? If you don’t like stars playing together, that’s fine, but don’t say that the Heat don’t play well together as a team. They all fill roles so well and work together seamlessly very often.

        Also, no one has a problem when stars come together in college. Where is the outrage when Kentucky signs four top recruits? I don’t understand.

        So many biases.

        • Ben says:

          I’m not saying that the Heat don’t play team basketball because they do play good team basketball but you look at the Lakers and some other teams and they have a few good players but their bench is just terrible. You don’t see many teams that are good from top to bottom. It seems like you either have a few really good players with no bench or you have lots of depth with no really good players. There are fewer teams that have a chance of winning it all in the NBA each year than say the NFL or MLB. I think there just isn’t enough talent in the NBA to go around that in the NBA the only way to win is with really good players. It’s really unlikely that a team with inferior talent but is solid in every aspect will win the championship.

        • Ben says:

          Another point about the Heat I don’t really like stars playing together. If it were me I’d rather beat the other stars than join them but that’s just me and I’m not an NBA player. I guess I just like seeing the underdog win like the Cinderella teams in college and you don’t really ever see that happening in the NBA because in the playoffs they are 7 game series so the best team usually wins. In college when star players come together I don’t really care for that either but again that’s just me.

    • Jeremy Schmidt says:

      I responded to this on Facebook, but I’ll do it here too so people can see. Thanks for the comment buy the way Stephen.

      I’d argue that the worst Bucks game I’ve seen this year – probably Bucks-Kings – was vastly superior to the Marquette-Wisconsin game I watched a few weeks back. There was one string of four turnovers on consecutive possessions in that game. Sloppy, sloppy play. But the fans are what make those games. There’s more atmosphere and every game means more.

      I think if the NBA went to 40 games in the regular season, the passion would be 10 fold of what the NCAA has. Meaning would match the skill level.

      • Ben says:

        I agree with you there Jeremy. College games to me are more exicting to watch because the crowd is more into it, every game means more, and the players are going at it 100% all the time because every game means more. I think we’d see more of that if the NBA shortened it’s schedule which I wish they would do but likely won’t happen.

        • Patti says:

          Shortened schedule would help getting players back on the court after injury. It would help by giving these teams more practice/coaching time instead of always traveling and competing. It would help attendance by creating more demand. It’s difficult to afford season tickets when a season is 40 games…$50…$2,000 per person. The large market teams have enough population to generate sell out crowds all season long, not so in a City like Milwaukee. Maybe they should have the large market teams play 80 games and the small market play 40? I’m being sarcastic.
          We criticize the players for bad games and lack of effort, when we expect them to put out a tremendous amount of physical play night after night. What other sport gets as much out of each and every player?

  5. Mark says:

    I don’t really believe they need much for rebuilding. They have secured some decent top level talent in the form of Monta Ellis, & Brandon Jennings. They make for a good combination at the guard position, and Jennings is a good play maker. I believe this years Bucks team could have a good run in the play offs if Monta Ellis starts getting a little more consistent with his play.

    • Jamal says:

      Jennings has to get way more consistent too. Monte has been playin better for da most part. This nigga Jennings does not even look like he wants to be out there some nights.

    • Norman says:

      The Bucks do need to rebuild right now, because they have no true center for the future, Jennings and Ellis are too inconsistent and nothing more than average or above average players at this point, while history has shown that Jennings and Ellis don’t run a team well when given the key. And both players would be hard pressed to start or get as much minutes that they do with the Bucks on a good elite team in the NBA.

      • sillybilly says:

        @Norman

        Sanders is a good center for the future, big and can move well enough for a small line up. He’s not top 10 now but could be eventually

    • sillybilly says:

      obviously you havent watched them play

  6. NOBEL0303 says:

    When you guys say rebuild,do you mean move the team out of the city? I love this team and I want them to stay in Milwaukee. I guess my question is “What can make the team stay here besides the stadium?”

  7. Mike says:

    The Bucks in the first month of the season were in the top 3 in assists. Now, with Udrih and Dunleavy out, their assist numbers continue to drop, and their play continues to get worse. I would assert that those two people out make a big difference in ball movement and more consistent play. Yes, they do not start, but Dunleavy plays heavy minutes and is there at the end of ball games. Udrih was having a much better year this season before the injury.

    • sillybilly says:

      Udrih should get a chance to start. He might be more steady to run things and bj3 might be better off the bench

  8. Justin says:

    It’s that time of the season where we have that discussion, eh? I will say now the same thing I have said before.. Tanking for draft picks doesn’t guarantee anything.. not even draft position.. For every team built through the draft there are 5 examples of a team failing to put it all together.. still believe that there are moveable pieces here that we can use to improve.. but hey if you think Shabazz or Nerlens are future saviors take a shot.. That being said JABARI PARKER IS A FUTURE STAR!!

    How does the San Diego Chicos sound as a team name?

  9. duke says:

    “Rebuilding” otherwise known as tanking is, to put it bluntly, a lame strategy. People aren’t showing up this season because they’ve seen it before, Bucks look like a winning team then they win 1 out of 10 and are suddenly fighting for that last playoff spot.

    Them not showing up isn’t Milwaukee showing they want the Bucks to tank and rebuild, it’s a Milwaukee that isn’t going to get sucked in only to be disappointed. What the Bucks need to do is create a consistent winner even if their ceiling is a 2nd/3rd round exit. A losing culture and a city with a bad reputation among free agents isn’t going to create a contending team — these superstars aren’t going to stick around long enough to see it through. Even an average player like Jennings is ready to leave.

    I like the Bucks current strategy of win-now, contend later.

    • Jeremy Schmidt says:

      The win now part hasn’t really worked out so well.

      • sillybilly says:

        Its not necessarily about winning even. Kyrie Irving isnt winning too many games but fans are still coming to see him. If you can win in addition to having a bona-fide face of the franchis then you’ll really be selling tickets.

        People just dont buy-in to Monta or Jennings as the face of the franchise, especially not in an area like Wisconsin. Niether of them seem like strong or legitimate leaders which I think stops people from being engaged.

        You look at the most famous Athletes, both in the NBA or otherwise, and their is a strong determined mentality about them as well as an unquestioned ability to lead their teammates. The bucks absolutely lack a player like that.

  10. Lionel Trains says:

    I know that their are more than one reason why the Bucks don’t get fans to show up to their home games, but the biggest reason in my opinion why the Bucks don’t get the support of fans comes from the decisions from Hammond and Kohl. Herb Kohl is probably among the most incompetent professional sports owner that I could think of, I mean Kohl just doesn’t seem to care much about the Bucks or he just clearly doesn’t know how to run the Bucks properly. While Hammond and to a certain degree Skiles can only do so much because of the Bucks lack of revenue, but Hammond has made some bone headed moves already for example “Drew Gooden’s contract” that no other team would of signed him for and bringing Stephen Jackson and especially Maggette. If the Bucks really want a consistent good team that will have the support of its fans than it really does come from the top on down.

  11. Norman says:

    Trading both Ellis and Jennings for hopefully someone serviceable should be among the Bucks biggest priorities right now, because both those players will not be with the Bucks next season and losing both players for nothing would be stupid. Also getting into a bidding war for Jennings would be stupid too, because he will likely get a contract that is overpaid like 99% of other NBA players today. I’ve seen enough of Jennings and Ellis already to say that both players are nothing more than above average players at this point. Not to say that both players are not good NBA players in their own ways, but both of these players are not cornerstone NBA players that a team like the Bucks can build around for the future and contend consistently.

    • sillybilly says:

      Agree Agree Agree

    • Patti says:

      We don’t need to get rid of our talented players, we need to add talent. A lot of teams would be happy to have Jennings, Ellis & Ersan. The problem is getting these teams to give up their better player with reasonable contract in a trade. These guys are team players and we have had our share of ‘it’s all about me’ players in the recent past.

      I’m just saying be careful what you wish for.

      • Sillybilly says:

        No Patti, you watch the games and should know better. We need to get rid of Jennings and Ellis. I would rather watch Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb in the backcourt. Im wishing hard.

  12. Johnny says:

    Jeremy –

    I agree. The Bucks need a superstar and the only way we are going to get one is to get lucky in the draft. And to do that, we need to be picking a bit higher than the 10-19 range that we usually are stuck in after barely missing the playoffs. The only way out of this “NBA hell” is to get rid of guys like jennings and ellis (who are just too inconsistent and “quasi-stars”), keep our young guys like henson, sanders, harris playing, and start trying to get higher draft picks or other rising young guys for jennings/ellis. Really looks like our only way out of this mediocrity is from the bottom. We should probably get started now rather than trying again and again to make the playoffs. Im with ya on this article – we’ve got to do something.

    • sillybilly says:

      Tony Parker wasn’t a high draft pick, there are examples out there of late-round stars so you cant say getting a high draft pick is the “only way”

  13. Alex says:

    Can the NBA or Stern do something so bad to the bucks that they Have to give them the number one pick, aka what happened in NO. It seems if the NBA wants a small market team to be good, it has its ways, as for the Bucks, well, no one cares outside of WI and Stern might not know where that is on a map, so I will not be holding my breath. Also Stern is probably getting really excited to decide where the bobcats and bucks end up in the next few years.

  14. Adam says:

    I think another reason no one shows up to games is how expensive the seats are. Supply & Demand People! No one wants to pay $25 to sit in the upper deck behind the hoop, especially with the crappy seating at the BC. My biggest decision on game night is, well are there any lower level seats for $25 or less, or anything under $10 upper level that has a decent view. Otherwise I’m perfectly satisfied not walking over to the game and sitting on my couch with my big screen HD tv. Oh and $15-$20 just to park anywhere near the stadium doesn’t help either (for those that do have to drive). The Bradley Center is still quite serviceable though, a new stadium is not the answer. They need to actual renovate the seating area, instead of all the lobbies and atriums, which are appealing but don’t do much for me when I’m trying to watch a game, shins bashing the seat in front of me, and some guy I don’t know next to me that I’m bumping arms with.

    That being said, I disagree with pretty much everyone here on blowing up the team. The Bucks play good basketball and with a young roster, you’re going to have inconsistencies. They get open looks, and sooner or later, they are going to fall. With Beno and Dunleavy out the ball movement has gotten more stagnant, no doubt this will improve with their return. But Hammond is not the problem, sure he’s made some mistakes (and I will never know why this team does not have Brook Lopez), but he has made some great moves too. Udrih, Sanders are a great defensive frontcourt, and Henson only adds to that. Ersan, was probably not worth what we paid him, but his bench role has allowed him to regain confidence.

    In my mind, the problem is Skiles. He’s a solid coach, but not for this group of guys. Tobias Harris looked like a beast in preseason and at the start, a few bad games, he doesn’t play at all anymore. Henson, same story. No doubt Doron Lamb will disappear once Beno Dunleavy are back. Skiles all too often puts young guys in his dog house. The fans will come to see those guys! Henson a UNC star and Lamb from the national champs? Lamb, true, has been as inconsistent as anyone shooting. I really think Skiles needs to up the tempo with this young group though. Anytime they get stuck in a half court game, they fall to pieces. Then they force a few turnovers, block a few shots, and that leads to 20 points in 3 mins. Skiles is too conservative to ever let them gamble on those plays consistently though.

  15. Joe from Chicago says:

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to a Bucks game, and also seldom have the opportunity to watch them on TV. Sometime this season I have plans to attend a Bucks game, though.

  16. Ben says:

    Another reason why fans may not be showing up to the games is because the Bucks lack a “franchise player”. Everyone thought that was Jennings but he isn’t consistant enough and he really a leader who makes guys better on the court. The Bucks need a franchise player someone who when the team steps on the court you know it’s his team. He doesn’t even have to be a superstar, still needs to be a very good player, but just someone who can be a leader and be the voice for the team. I don’t see anyone like that on the Bucks and the fans want to come out and see that one guy.

    • Patti says:

      Age of Bucks:
      Jennings 23
      Lamb 21
      Henson 21
      Sanders 24
      Udoh 25
      Ilyasova 25
      Moute 26
      Ellis 27

      Jennings is still pretty young…just saying.

      • Bill says:

        Have to agree with Patti. I mean Jennings needs Ersan to survive. Ersan is no Kevin Durant, however, He can atleast shoot with the same efficiency as last year same numbers, hell even 11ppg grabbing boards but same shooting efficiency. Bucks would have 2-3 wins back. Bucks are DEEP. Our mid level playoff run will pay off, when talent has time to develop. Are you expecting Jennings to be CP3 instantly? He is not cp3 but he is like a Chauncey Billups. Give this team time to gain CHEMISTRY, to learn the ins and outs of the nba. Look at sanders past years.. everyone thought he was a bum a waste of a pick, now everyones like HES A BEAST OMG! He still fouls a lot, so did Ben Wallace. He learned his game. Star killing teams are like the Pistons for those 2 years.

        • Sillybilly says:

          Jennings is no Chauncey Billups, and doesn’t belong in the same sentence with CP3. After 3.25 82 game seasons of professional basketball, experience in Europe, and a childhood filled with hoops, Jennings is what he is, he’s not going to improve much.

          Larry Sanders is 7 feet tall with 20 foot arms and a 100 inch vertical so all he had to do to vastly improve was gain a sense of how an interior player is supposed to play. He didn’t start playing bball until late highschool so his exponential improvement is an anomaly that you wont see out of someone who’s been playing for 20 years like bj3.

  17. Bill says:

    Sadly, if a few relatives and I lived in in MK we’d gladly go to games, two of us would show to every home game possible. Aww man, it’s corny but like opening up NBA 2k12.

    Basketball is my favorite sport
    I like the way they dribble up and down the court
    Just like I’m the King on the microphone so is Dr. J and Moses Malone
    I like Slam dunks take me to the hoop
    My favorite play is the alley oop
    I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go,
    Cause it’s Basketball, uh, Mister Kurtis Blow,

    It’s epic if you love the sport, and well you lay down after a long day kick up the hairy feet, light into some pipe weed, seeing these high flyers, defenses, plays, chemistry. It’s like hours of drama. I never will change my allegiances from the Bucks. We had many let downs, dumb trades in our past. Allowing Ray Ray to go. Even though the Dirk trade was really a dagger in my Bucks loving heart. Letting Glenn Robinson go, Terry Porter was the Bucks coach 5-6 years too late, given Ray Ray, Big Dogg, Vin/Sammy/ yada yada. He would have utilized Ray and Glenn better, much better. George Karl gets a pass because his medical past. But he nearly committed career suicide in Milwaukee. And to THIS day, Ernie Grunfield and George Karls roster mis-handling effects the Bucks today. Mocking Dirk style, Ray Ray style trades. Missing key talents. We will regret letting Joe Alexander go, didn’t he win a d-league award? Idk.. off track…bye

  18. Matthew says:

    This goes along with the attendance issue, but I just want to throw out there that (perhaps the sad thing about this is) it’s really no fault by BMO Bradley Center (other than being old). Opening night, IF (only IF) you called the ticket office you got 2 upper level seats (my favorite section is 423/422, center court) for $30, 2 retro-Bucks t-shirts, and the other goodies they gave away (lanyard/calendar & rally towel). Another night I went, I called up a day or two before & they gave the same deal, same seats, & threw two Miller Lite Vouchers (no shirts, but still!!!) in my Will Call envelope. 2 beers is like $15!!!! Those folks who work in the sales department TRULY, TRULY are trying to get you to come there. I am co-hosting a bachelor party for my friend in February and you can bet I am calling them!! Hoping they’ll throw in a Guys Night Out like deal! I am willing to bet you they will too!!!

    I’m from Madison…but I am an exception, I have been die-hard since I was 8. However, that does reflect the previous comments about people wont come unless you’re putting a good product on the court. Even if they’re practically giving tickets away in goodies/vouchers/a chance to cop-a-feel with an Energee! girl (kidding), etc.

  19. Mark says:

    I completely disagree with this post. As a former Milwaukeean now living in Cali, I unfortunately don’t get to go to any of the games. However, if you follow Wisconsin sports on TV, it should be clear as day what’s going on — Milwaukee is a football and baseball town FIRST. It doesn’t mean it won’t support a WINNING basketball team, but it won’t support a losing one. Other cities that are basketball towns FIRST, will support their team regardless of the product on the court. Just look at other cities that are basketball towns first, but still don’t have great teams or superstar players (such as Portland, Toronto, Orlando, etc.), and their attendance is all in the top 10-15 in the league (especially Portland, which is 4th in attendance despite having a crappy team and crappy players).

    This is similar to how the Packers always sell out (regardless of record), and why the Brewers are always in the top 10 of attendance (regardless of record). It’s because those are the top 2 sports that Milwaukee fans go for. It’s a culture issue, plain and simple.

    Look, any city will support a winning team, so saying the Bucks need to get good to get fans to come is like saying I’ll go to a restaurant if they serve me prime rib at a hamburger price. The real test of whether your fan base will support a certain team and sport is do they show when things are mediocre or bad. The answer in Milwaukee with regards to basketball is clearly no (and I don’t buy the anecdotal story of people walking around in other teams’ jerseys — people there just don’t care as much about basketball as they do football and baseball).