Los Angeles wins as superstar duos drive ticket sales, StubHub data shows

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“Staples Center is the biggest winner of the summer,” LeBron James said back on Lakers’ media day. “If you’re a fan of the game of basketball, you get an opportunity to see the Clippers one night, then you get an opportunity to see the Lakers,”

StubHub’s data backs him up.

The Lakers — with LeBron James and now Anthony Davis — remain the most in-demand ticket in the NBA for the third straight season, according to data from the world’s largest ticket marketplace, StubHub, released to NBC Sports. However, demand for Clippers tickets is up 821 percent from one year ago, a direct impact of the team landing both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, vaulting the Clippers to second on the in-demand list.

The two most in-demand NBA tickets at StubHub are opening night in Los Angeles, with the Lakers at the Clippers, and the Christmas Day clash between those same two teams.

“For a long time, the Clippers have played little brother to the Lakers, but if you look at the data of our ticket demand for the Clippers this year, it’s through the roof,” said Akshay Khanna, general manager of the NBA at StubHub. “And that’s being driven by them having acquired two of the biggest stars in the NBA. Combine that with the Lakers having two of the biggest stars of their own and you have a market that is basketball crazy, one that is ready for what could be a really historic rivalry.”

Editor’s note: Looking for tickets to see the Lakers or Clippers? Click here for the Los Angeles Lakers and click here for the Los Angeles Clippers

That star power is not just driving ticket demand in Los Angeles — superstar duos around the NBA are drawing interest from fans.

“When we look at demand for teams outside those two Los Angeles teams, it’s teams like Houston, teams like Brooklyn, teams like Philadelphia, teams that have two alpha stars, that’s a star-driven storyline as well…” Khanna said. “NBA fans are banging down the door to see these teams that made massive offseason moves… We’re seeing fans being attracted to stars, and to some extent that is a uniquely NBA thing.”

Part of that is NBA stars move around more than stars in other sports, creating a real buzz among fans, in the media, and on social media. That doesn’t happen in baseball as much, with players often getting longer contracts. In the NFL, the biggest name quarterbacks — Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Phillip Rivers — have played their entire career for one team.

A question for NBA owners has been, “how do we turn all this social media buzz into dollar signs?” Well, the teams spending the money are seeing a bump at the gate.

“When we look at our data, as stars move, demand for attendance for those games increases,” Khanna said. “And the really interesting aspect of that is it’s not limited to the United States. When we look at our international data, when we look at demand for the NBA outside the United States… [Ed. Note: for both NBA regular season and preseason games played overseas] sure enough the demand is for the big market teams that have the stars. That makes sense, fans are going to gravitate toward those teams if they haven’t grown up with an allegiance.”

There are young teams on the rise seeing a big jump in interest as well, and none as big as what Zion Williamson has brought to New Orleans, where ticket demand is up 323 percent.

“It is Zion driven, but in the Anthony Davis trade the Pelicans also acquired a really rich cast of exciting talent to pair alongside Zion…” Khanna said. “I’m sure we will see them be a big draw not just in New Orleans but in whatever cities they visit. Everyone wants to get a piece of Zion, that’s for sure.”

We know the NBA is a star’s league, and that hasn’t changed. The Warriors with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green (in their new building, which also creates ticket demand), the Celtics with Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, Miami with Jimmy Butler, are all in the top 10.

As are the Philadelphia 76ers, a team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (and with a StubHub patch on their jerseys).

“They are one of the two clear favorites to make it out of the East, and they have two very marketable stars,” Khanna said. “Embiid is one of the top five or seven players in the league and his social media presence is outsized for a guy is 7’2”. What’s interesting is both of their stars are international, so they draw an audience not just in Philadelphia but in their home countries. We’re seeing that demand reflected in our data.”

That data backs the old business adage “you have to spend money to make money.” It’s always been that way in the NBA, too. At least if you want to sell a lot of tickets. Something Steve Ballmer and the Clippers have figured out.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.