MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Now that the NBA season is finally over, the time has come to look back and reflect.
On the court, the Miami Heat season was disappointing.
That wasn’t the case off the court.
Even without a playoff-bound team and no LeBron James jerseys to sell anymore, the Heat remained a huge draw at the box office, on television and in stores. The Heat sold more merchandise at home games than any other team in the NBA, were fourth in regional TV ratings and saw attendance remain basically the same compared to last season.
Crowd size dipped, but barely — just 69 people per game, on average. The Heat played home games at 100.9 percent of the arena’s capacity in 2013-14; they played at 100.6 percent of capacity this season, ranking again among the league’s elite.
“You never know what’s going to happen, particularly in a town like this that sort of has a reputation for having flighty fans when there’s a major change in the lineup,” Heat Business Operations President Eric Woolworth said. “This is about as proud a year as we’ve ever had. Fans could have easily stepped aside and not come, and they didn’t.”
There’s signs that the buzz isn’t going away, either. Heat officials said they had more than 90 percent of their expiring season-ticket holders renew, many of those on two-year deals. And the team’s “Heat Nation” campaign that was born almost accidentally when players started including the phrase in social media commentary last summer was a booming success across South Florida.
And while the Miami fan base across all sports has a reputation of not arriving on time, selling tickets wasn’t an issue for the Heat.
“The building’s going to be full again next year every night,” Woolworth said. “We don’t see any end in the foreseeable future to what has become a really rabid, really engaged basketball community in South Florida. It’s really fantastic.”
Heat guard Dwyane Wade said players noticed the loyalty factor.
“We have a great fan base,” Wade said. “It’s easy for anyone to be here during the good times. But when you’re not as good, you’re a middle-of-the-pack team, you’re at the bottom of the barrel, how good is your support? Our support has been amazing.”
He said he understands why fans kept coming out. After all, Wade is a Chicago Bears fan, and hasn’t enjoyed a Super Bowl win in 30 years.
“I go into every year questioning it,” Wade said. “But I stick.”
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