The Los Angeles Sparks are on fire, and Angelenos couldn't care less.

Just weeks after throngs of delirious purple-and-gold-draped fans packed downtown streets to cheer their World Champion Lakers, across town at the Great Western Forum, the Sparks are putting on an equally impressive on-court performance in a near-empty arena.

As the team heads into the Women's National Basketball Association playoffs on Aug. 11, with a regular-season record that's tops in the league and the best ever posted by the franchise, home-game attendance is at an all-time low.

Last week, team president Johnny Buss looked around at halftime at the Great Western Forum and took a guess at the turnout as his Sparks were beating the Orlando Miracle.

"Somewhere between 5,500 and 6,000," he estimated. "Maybe a bit more."

Final tally: 6,462, slightly less than the team's average draw this season of 6,570 fans.

With the team playing its final regular-season home game late last week, it is guaranteed to finish with the lowest attendance in its four-year history, despite posting its best record ever.

Along the way, the team has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million in each of its first three years, and Buss expects to lose "a little more than half of that" this year.

And while the Lakers are responsible for covering the Sparks' operating expenses, including staff and arena rent, don't expect the NBA champs to contribute much more even though Johnny Buss' father, Jerry, is principal owner of the Lakers.

Since the Lakers won the NBA championship in June, little has been done to link the Sparks to that success. There have been no Shaquille O'Neal or Kobe Bryant commercials urging on the Sparks, nothing to try and build on the excitement of the Lakers bringing L.A. its first professional sports championship in 12 years, although both O'Neal and Bryant have gone to a number of games to support their female counterparts.

"Wouldn't it be nice to get the world champion Lakers all here (at the Forum), or do a commercial with

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