Storm’s Fans Invaluable the Last 10 Years

10th Anniversary Night Gallery
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Kevin Pelton, | August 3, 2009
As the Seattle Storm celebrated its 10th Anniversary Saturday at KeyArena during an overtime win against the San Antonio Silver Stars, there were plenty of stars from the first decade of Storm basketball. At halftime, a Storm All-Decade Team which features four current players was honored at center court. They were joined by the driving force behind bringing the Storm to Seattle, inaugural Chairman Ginger Ackerley; the four women of Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. who ensured the team's future in Seattle by purchasing it last year; and the team's business leader for the last decade, CEO Karen Bryant.

"Iíve been to all of the arenas, Iíve coached in four or five different places and thereís no comparison."
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images
Yet ultimately, none of the people on the court took center stage. That honor was deserved for the thousands of loyal Storm fans who flocked to KeyArena Saturday night just as they have for the last 10 years. The Storm concluded the halftime ceremony by raising to the banners a commemorative No. 6 jersey banner for the fans, and - after the crowd helped carry the Storm to victory - Head Coach Brian Agler (quoted by Q of Rethinking Basketball) described the honor as fitting.

"Raising the banner there for the fans, thatís very worthy," he said. "You know, because we have probably the best fans in the league. Iíve been to all of the arenas, Iíve coached in four or five different places and thereís no comparison. No comparison."

During Friday night's All-Decade Team event at Sport Restaurant and Bar, all 10 current and former players in attendance described what Storm fans had meant to them. Sue Bird used the opportunity to recall her fondest memory of Storm fans - their loyalty in the wake of a heartbreaking loss to the Houston Comets in the 2005 postseason. Seattle Times columnist Jerry Brewer made the anecdote the lede for his column on the Storm's fanbase.

They're a huge part of (the 10th Anniversary celebration)," said Bird later. "Just to have a WNBA team here in Seattle, I know they had to sell a certain amount of season tickets. There had to be a fanbase already in place, which there was. It's just continued to be there, continued to grow. Obviously we have Force 10 Hoops, who kept us here, and there's been many players along the way, many coaches. The fans are the constant - and they're just as much a part of it as we are."

When she was interviewed by Storm play-by-play broadcaster Dick Fain after Saturday's win, Bird also made reference to the strength of the Storm's home-court advantage at KeyArena. The numbers bear out just how tough the Storm has been to beat with fans on their side.

Going back to 2000, the Storm's inaugural season, the team has won 65.0 percent of its home games, good for fifth in the WNBA (see table below). But that includes the first two seasons, when the Storm won a combined 16 games while gaining its footing as an expansion franchise. In Bird's rookie campaign, 2002, the Storm was nearly as successful on the road as at home. It was at the end of that season that the Storm really established the Key as a very difficult place for opponents to win. Starting in 2003, the Storm has won home games at a 75.9 percent clip, far and away the best in the league (see table below).

Team Wins Win%
Los Angeles 115 .747
Sacramento 114 .717
Houston 105 .700
Connecticut 75 .670
Seattle 104 .650
SINCE 2003
Team Wins Win%
Seattle 85 .759
Sacramento 79 .712
Indiana 80 .708
Detroit 76 .691
Los Angeles 72 .679

Across town, the NFL's Seattle Seahawks are known for the strength of their fans, celebrated by the team as the "12th Man." The Seahawks' strong home numbers are in fact remarkably similar to the Storm's. In the 2000s, the Seahawks have won 65.3 percent of their home games, just barely ahead of the Storm's 65.0 percent. Since 2003 - when new CEO Tod Leiweke began the tradition of having a celebrity raise the 12th Man flag before each home game - the Seahawks are 35-13 (.729) at home, as compared to the Storm's .759 home winning percentage in that span.

Team Total Avg.
Seattle 50 5.0
Sacramento 50 5.0
Houston 40 4.4
Indiana 43 4.3
Phoenix 42 4.2
New York 36 3.6
San Antonio 23 3.3
Los Angeles 31 3.1
Minnesota 31 3.1
Detroit 28 2.8
Washington 26 2.6
Connecticut 14 2.0

Perhaps the best way to define home-court advantage from a statistical perspective is to compare teams' home and road records. Pro-rating 2009's results to a full season, the Storm has 50 more wins at home than on the road in the decade. That's tied with the Sacramento Monarchs, whose fans are also highly passionate, for the best mark in the WNBA.

On average, WNBA teams tend to win about three and a half more games at home per season. Therefore, the Storm has derived about a win and a half from its home-court advantage at KeyArena.

Again, starting in 2003 only strengthens the case for Storm fans. From 2000-02, the team was a combined five games better at home than on the road. Since then, the Storm has only had one season (the anomalous 2006, going an identical 9-8 both at home and on the road) where its home-court advantage has not been at least six wins. Last year's 10-win difference (16-1 at home, 6-11 on the road) was the largest for any WNBA team in the decade.

"It's not surprising," said Bird, having heard the numbers. "For whatever reason, KeyArena - the energy, the fans, our comfort level - we really like to play there. We don't lose much. With that said, look at the two overtime wins this year - we've got to come to play."

That will be the case Tuesday, when the Storm hosts the Phoenix Mercury (7:00 p.m., 1150-AM KKNW, ) in a matchup of the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Mercury is 6-4 on the road this season, the league's most wins away from home. However, they've yet to venture to KeyArena and face the league's best fans.

"We'd like to think (it's an advantage) just because our fans are so great," said Bird.

They've got the banner and the numbers to prove it.