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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.

Kobe Bryant said he traveled by helicopter to spend more time with kids

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Kobe Bryant was such a superstar, his method of transportation to and from practice – helicopter – became a sensation.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday. In an old interview, he described why he traveled by helicopter.

Kobe Bryant on The Corp:

Traffic started getting really, really bad. Right? And I was sitting in traffic, and I wound up missing a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. And these things just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. And so that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started. So, my routine was always the same. Weights early in the morning, kids to school, fly down, practice like crazy, do my extra work, media, everything I needed to do, fly back, get back in the carpool line, pick the kids up. And my wife was like, “Listen, I can pick them up.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to do that.” Because you have road trips and times where you’re not – you don’t see your kids, you know? So, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.

The irony and tragedy of Bryant and his daughter dying in a helicopter crash is just gut-wrenching.

Grizzlies call up Josh Jackson from minor league

Josh Jackson
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A few months ago, the Grizzlies thought so little of Josh Jackson, they didn’t even bring him to training camp. He remained on an NBA contract. Memphis gained no roster or salary-cap flexibility. The Grizzlies planned to send him to their minor-league affiliate, but the Hustle hadn’t yet opened their training camp. There was nowhere else for Jackson to be. The Grizzlies just didn’t want him around.

Now, Jackson will get his chance on the parent club.

Grizzlies:

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Jackson still has a lot to prove with his maturity, professionalism and production.

But this is an opportunity – for Memphis to showcase him before next week’s trade deadline and for Jackson to showcase himself before unrestricted free agency next summer.

Grayson Allen is injured. Jae Crowder is also banged up. Jackson could actually receive playing time.

Kobe Bryant’s death a unique tragedy

Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.

More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.

Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.

Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?

The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.

Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.

Bryant was only 41.

Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.

Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.

There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.

Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.

Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.

Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.

Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:

Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:

Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.

There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.

The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Young wore No. 8.

Other tributes popped up around the world. Bryant was a global icon.

He was also a loving father. As incredibly wide as this tragedy lands, it also cuts unimaginably deep. Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the helicopter crash.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018, Bryant just lit up when discussing her:

Bryant’s death is devastating – for those touched closely and, because of its unparalleled nature, even those not. Nobody was ready for this.

It’s a punch in the gut. The basketball world – which expanded far larger than imaginable in 1991, when Johnson made his announcement, because of people like Bryant – remains in a daze.

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.