Portland point guard Damian Lillard is part of the great line of NBA players that grew up in Oakland (Gary Payton, Bill Russell, Paul Silas, Hall of Famer Jim Pollard). Lillard grew up going to Warriors games — his dad had season tickets for three seasons when the most games the team won was 21 — at a time a family could easily afford to go to games.
Next season, the Warriors will leave the loud confines of Oracle Arena for a new building in the city, a move up into the expensive part of town.
Lillard has heard from his friends and family in Oakland and they’re not happy about it, he told Mark Medina of the Mercury News.
“They’re upset about it. It’s one of those things where success comes and you’re going to up and move,” Lillard said. “A lot of the real Warriors fans, a lot of times they can’t go to the games. They can’t afford it. At that time, we were able to go to the games. Nowadays, a really good ticket is way more expensive to do everything. The people who are real Warriors fans aren’t able to get into the games…
“The Warriors are going to San Francisco; it’s just crazy to think about it,” Lillard said. “That’s such a big part of my childhood.”
The NBA would not be the first business to trample nostalgia in the name of profits. It will not be the last.
People struggling to afford good tickets to an NBA game is not a Warriors or Bay Area phenomenon. It’s league-wide for good teams (or when good teams come to town). While the NBA and teams work to make some tickets available at an affordable price nightly (high up in the building, behind the baskets), most tickets are far pricier. It was estimated a few seasons ago that taking a family of four to an NBA game — with average tickets, parking, hot dogs, a hat or shirt souvenir — cost $400, and for teams like the Warriors, Lakers, Knicks, and others it’s much higher. On the secondary market for struggling teams it can be more affordable, but it’s not cheap.
Why do teams charge that much? Because somebody (or somebody’s company) pays it. The NBA is a business and people are buying the product. Teams will charge what the market will bear. The Warriors sell out nightly, the Lakers sell out nightly, and… you get the idea.
The Warriors are moving into a new building in San Francisco next season that will essentially print money for the owners (which matters to them, their payroll is going to spike in the next few years). Oakland got priced out of the game.
The NBA is like a lot of American businesses in the past few decades, finding more profits but leaving nostalgia and some communities in the dust. People in Oakland will still be Warriors fans, they will still wear Stephen Curry jerseys, but it will not be the same. And the days of Lillard’s family affording season tickets to an NBA team easily are long gone. They have been for a while now.