Miami Heat attendance at its highest since the LeBron James years

Shandel Richardson

Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler has played a role in the team returning to the top half of the Eastern Conference.

He's also helped bring more fans to AmericanAirlines Arena this season. The Heat have the fourth-highest attendance in the league at 19,694 fans per game. It is the first time they have ranked in the top four since 2014. That year they averaged 19,781 fans in the final season of the LeBron James era.

The increase can somewhat be attributed to the arrival of Butler. He has led the Heat to a 31-14 record entering Monday's game against the Orlando Magic. They hold the No. 2 spot in the East and are a league-best 20-2 at home. The only teams with higher attendance are the Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks and the defending champion Toronto Raptors.

Last year the Heat finished fifth in attendance, largely because it was the final years for guard Dwyane Wade. He retired after 16 seasons and drew fans with his farewell tour. 

The Heat have become a main draw this season because of the success. Butler's presence has also played a factor. He brought instant star power once he was acquired in a trade from the 76ers last July. His name and the emergence of young players Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have added to the appeal.  

The Heat could have many as seven participants at NBA All-Star Weekend next month in Chicago. Butler and Adebayo are expected to be named All-Star reserves Thursday while Herro and Nunn are locks for the Rising Stars Challenge. Forward Derrick Jones Jr. has already accepted an invite for the slam dunk contest while Duncan Robinson is a candidate for the 3-point contest. If the Heat hold the No. 2 spot, coach Erik Spoelstra will represent the East. 

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