The Rockets are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the league and are always being discussed in the national media. There’s never any shortage of Rockets coverage nationally. What about locally?
Among Western Conference teams, the Rockets have come the closest to defeating the superteam Golden State Warriors. They have also made the playoffs in the past seven consecutive seasons, even prior to adding stars such as Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in different eras. The Rockets also haven’t missed the playoffs in any of the seasons they’ve had James Harden.
So why are the attendance numbers down? This past season, the Rockets finished 16th in the league in both total home attendance and average attendance. They also finished the same during the 2017-2018 season. By comparison, the Houston Texans finished 11th in each of the last two seasons in fan attendance themselves, while the Houston Astros are currently sitting at 10th in attendance at the midway point in the season. The Astros ranked 8th in attendance last season, which was actually better than the year before, when they won the World Series (15th). So the Rockets ranked lower in attendance than both the Astros and the Texans?
This actually doesn’t make sense to me as this is a team with an MVP and one of the best scorers the league has ever seen. Not to mention one of the best General Managers in the entire league playing in the fourth largest city in America. And I would argue the Rockets are closer to being a championship-caliber team than the Texans are.
So what could be the reason for this? Sure, there is a possibility that there are fans that could be upset with the ownership but that would seem strange because the Rockets have finished each of the last 2 seasons as legitimate contenders with realistic expectations of beating the Warriors in both seasons. And there’s always the notion that it’s much more enjoyable watching a game at home on the big screen or at a bar, but that hasn’t seemed to hurt the Astros and the Texans as much as its hurt the Rockets.
Then, there’s the argument that Houston is in native football land, but that also wouldn’t explain why the Astros have better attendance numbers than the Texans do. I personally attributed it to the fact that Houston is a blue collar city with many young business professionals, but that argument doesn’t stick considering how the Astros finished 8th just last season compared to the Rockets finishing 17th in the same year.
What’s even more embarrassing to me is the fact that the Miami Heat and the Portland Trailblazers have better fan attendance than the Rockets! Seriously? The Heat haven’t been relevant since LeBron James left them in 2014! And personally I don’t believe Portland would beat these Rockets in a 7 game series. On top of that, both of those cities are much smaller than the city of Houston.
So I really don’t understand but this is quite disappointing as the Rockets deserve better in my opinion. Hopefully this will change because a player like James Harden only comes around once in a generation. We have to appreciate him while he’s in his prime!