Bulls’ poor attendance numbers could cause dramatic changes

Arturas Karnisovas, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Arturas Karnisovas, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Although it feels like basketball has only just returned, the Chicago Bulls are nearly 20% of the way through their schedule and off to a horrid 5-10 start. As a result, they’ve slipped all the way down to 12th place in the Eastern Conference, already 6.5 games behind the first-place Boston Celtics, and 3.5 games back from guaranteed playoff position.

If this year’s attendance stats are anything to by, it seems the fans have finally had enough of this mediocrity. Through 10 home games this season, the Bulls are packing in 19,355 fans per game, approximately 92.5% of the United Center’s capacity. This might seem like a great number at face value, but it ranks 25th among all NBA teams in attendance percentage, an extremely subpar number of tickets sold for the Bulls’ high standards.

With Chicago’s payroll already teetering on the edge of paying the luxury tax, these will be seen as unacceptable results from a penny-pinching owner like Jerry Reinsdorf. If history is anything to go by, this could mean the Bulls are in for big changes if the team doesn’t flip the narrative on this season soon.

Chicago’s poor attendance stats just might force Jerry Reinsdorf to make wide-sweeping changes to the Bulls’ roster, coaching staff, and front office.

In fact, these are the some of lowest attendance numbers the Bulls have posted in the entire 21st century. Looking back, here’s how the Bulls have ranked in average game attendance over the two last decades.

  • 2024: 8th
  • 2023: 1st
  • 2022: 1st
  • 2021: 7th (COVID-impacted season)
  • 2020: 11th (COVID-impacted season)
  • 2019: 2nd
  • 2018: 1st
  • 2017: 1st
  • 2016: 1st
  • 2015: 1st
  • 2014: 1st
  • 2013: 1st
  • 2012: 1st
  • 2011: 1st
  • 2010: 1st
  • 2009: 2nd
  • 2008: 2nd
  • 2007: 1st
  • 2006: 2nd
  • 2005: 2nd

As you can see, we clearly have a problem on our hands here. The Chicago Bulls are historically great ticket sellers. Whether it be Michael Jordan’s legacy, Benny the Bull’s iconic antics, or excellent commentary crews raising the team up, Chicago has cultivated an experience that fans have proven to be willing to pay to see over the years, even when the team isn’t great.

And yet, the money is beginning to dry up. Without this consistent revenue stream, change could be on the horizon for the Bulls sooner than expected.

The only other time the Bulls’ attendance has dropped over the last 20 years is when Chicago was struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, I wouldn’t place the sole blame for the drop in sales on the coronavirus. As you might recall, 2020 was the year the Bulls fired not only former head coach Jim Boylen, but also notorious front office duo John Paxson and Gar Forman.

If things continue at the pace they are headed now, I wouldn’t be surprised to see fans calling for the heads of Billy Donovan, Arturas Karnisovas, and Marc Eversley very soon as well. And why shouldn’t they? This franchise is in a sorry state, and Reinsdorf has already shown us that money talks. If we treat tickets as endorsement votes for this current regime, then keeping our wallets in our pockets just might be enough to help the Bulls get back on track sooner rather than later.

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