As many as seven NBA teams are having fans in their respective home arenas as the season is underway.
The Orlando Magic will have the most fans at games to start the season with up to 4,000 in attendance. The Toronto Raptors — who will start the season with home games in Tampa, Florida, because of cross-border travel restrictions — will have up to 3,800 fans, while the Memphis Grizzlies were given approval to have up to 3,558 fans at FedEx Forum before deciding to keep games closed to fans.
The NBA in November sent a memo to teams with safety guidelines on allowing fans once a team is first given approval by local and state health officials. The league said that fans will not be allowed to sit courtside at games and must be at least 15 feet behind either team bench or 10 feet from the sideline. Any fan going to an NBA game must fill out a questionnaire about their health status and must wear a mask unless eating or drinking.
Fans with tickets within 30 feet of the court must also either return a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours prior to tipoff or pass an NBA-approved test on the day of the game. Those same fans will not be allowed to eat or drink at their seat. Testing would not be required for fans in arena suites if the suite or club were filled to 25 percent capacity or less.
While the Mavericks are not among the teams that will have fans at the arena once the season tips off on December 22, team owner Mark Cuban has predicted that the arenas will be full sooner than later, telling SiriusXM NBA Radio recently that “my personal belief is that by March, April at the latest, we’re gonna have a huge snapback where most of the people are gonna have had access to it if they wanted it, and many will have taken it. … If we can just keep everybody healthy, or as healthy as we possibly can, get us into March and April, things are going to get really fun.”
Whether you believe that is overly optimistic or not, any NBA fan would agree that it does, in fact, sound like fun.
NBA Team Fan Policies
Atlanta Hawks (State Farm Arena, capacity 16,888): Close friends and family members will be allowed to attend games. The Hawks will attempt to have 10% capacity starting January 18, approximately 1,688 fans.
Boston Celtics (TD Garden, 18,624): No fans to start the season.
Brooklyn Nets (Barclays Center, 17,732): No fans to start the season.
Charlotte Hornets (Spectrum Center, 19,077): No fans to start the season.
Chicago Bulls (United Center, 20,917): No fans to start the season.
Cleveland Cavaliers (Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, 19,432): The Cavaliers have been approved by the state government to have up to 1,944 fans at each game.
Dallas Mavericks (American Airlines Center, 19,200): No fans to start the season.
Denver Nuggets (Ball Arena, 19,520): No fans to start the season.
Detroit Pistons (Little Caesars Arena, 20,332): No fans to start the season.
Golden State Warriors (Chase Center, 18,064): Plans to have a restricted number of fans were rejected by the San Francisco Department of Health.
Houston Rockets (Toyota Center, 18,055): Up to 3,660 fans will be allowed at games.
Indiana Pacers (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 17,923): The Pacers will allow up to 1,000 fans per game through January 25 and consider gradual increases for games after that. The Marion County Health Department currently allows 25 percent capacity, roughly 4,500 attendees, for 2020-2021 home contests.
Los Angeles Clippers (Staples Center, 19,068): No fans to start the season.
Los Angeles Lakers (Staples Center, 18,977): No fans to start the season.
Memphis Grizzlies (FedEx Forum, 17,794): The Tennessee Governor enacted gathering restrictions on December 20 that would bar fans from sporting events. The Shelby County Health Directive had previously approved 20% capacity for games, which would be up to 3,558 fans.
Miami Heat (AmericanAirlines Arena, 19,600): The Heat will start admitting up to 2,000 season-ticket holders for home games beginning January 28 against the Los Angeles Clippers. Among the protocols for entry will be screening fans with COVID-detection dogs.
Milwaukee Bucks (Fiserv Forum, 17,341): No fans to start the season.
Minnesota Timberwolves (Target Center, 18,978): No fans to start the season.
New Orleans Pelicans (Smoothie King Center, 16,867): The Pelicans will have up to 750 fans at games.
New York Knicks (Madison Square Garden, 19,812): No fans to start the season.
Oklahoma City Thunder (Chesapeake Energy Arena, 18,203): Originally planned to have fans, then announced November 30 that it would not have fans to “exercise an abundance of caution to help control the spread of the virus in our community.”
Orlando Magic (Amway Center, 18,846): The Magic will allow up to 4,000 fans with season-ticket holders given first priority on tickets.
Philadelphia 76ers (Wells Fargo Center, 20,155): No fans to start the season.
Phoenix Suns (PHX Arena, 18,055): No fans to start the season.
Portland Trail Blazers (Moda Center, 19,441): No fans to start the season.
Sacramento Kings (Golden 1 Center, 17,853): No fans to start the season.
San Antonio Spurs (AT&T Center, 18,354): The team hoped to have fans in a limited capacity starting January 1, 2021, but then announced “While we are confident in the plans and protocols we have in place, we are uncomfortable hosting fans at this moment as the COVID-19 numbers and data in our community continue to trend in the wrong direction.”
Toronto Raptors (Scotiabank Arena, 19,800): The Raptors will not play games in front of fans after a recent decision. The team started the season in Tampa, Florida, because of cross-border travel restrictions with home games at Amalie Arena to be played in front of no more than 3,800 fans.
Utah Jazz (Vivint Smart Home Arena, 18,306): The Jazz will have 1,500 fans in the lower bowl with limited suite-level seating to start the regular season.
Washington Wizards (Capital One Arena, 20,362): No fans to start the season.