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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.

Report: NBA eying in mid-July 2021 NBA Finals in advance of Olympics

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The NBA plans to rush through the 2020 offseason and begin the 2020-21 season Dec. 1… just to rush through the 2020-21 season.

Frank Isola of The Athletic:

The NBA Finals normally begin 226 days after the regular-season opener with an 18-day window to play the best-of-seven series. So, based on a typical timeline, a Dec. 1 opener would mean the Finals would be held July 15 – Aug. 1., 2021.

The Tokyo Olympics are slated to begin July 23, 2021.

So, something must give.

It probably won’t be regular-season games. As much as the NBA would like its players to get exposure in the Olympics, owners will be extremely reluctant to surrender direct revenue. Likewise, the many NBA players not headed to the Olympics should share similar financial concerns.

More likely, the league will reduce the number of rest days during the 2020-21 season. That seems risky given the drastic disruptions already affecting conditioning entering the season.

It’s also possible players whose NBA teams advance deep enough in the playoffs just won’t be able to play in the Olympics (or Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, which are scheduled for June and July 2021).

Like with many things affected by coronavirus, there are no good answers – just hard decisions on what to compromise.

Details leak on life inside Orlando bubble: Daily testing, 1,600 people, 2K crowd noise at games

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Players do not report to the Walt Dinsey World campus in Orlando for another month to restart the NBA season — and it will be weeks after that before games start on July 31 — but we’re beginning to learn more about life inside that bubble.

A bubble the players from a couple of teams could be in for more than three months.

On a Friday conference call, representatives of the National Basketball Players Association backed the 22-team return-to-play format.  Out of that call, we learned some more details about what life will be like in the bubble, courtesy Shams Charania of The Athletic. Among his notes:

– 1,600 maximum people on campus
– Coronavirus testing every day; minimum seven days of quarantine for a player who tests positive
– There could be crowd noise via NBA 2K video game sounds, but the NBA and NBPA is still discussing creative opportunities

That 1,600 people in the bubble/campus includes players and staffs from teams (about 770 people) plus referees, league personnel, broadcasters, and more. It fills up quickly, which is why family members — likely just three per player — will not be allowed until after at least the second round of the playoffs when a number of teams have cleared out (an issue for players).

Players were asked once in the bubble not to leave, and the same applied to their families when they arrive. This is not a summer vacation at Disney World. While there are no armed guards or security to keep players and staff on the campus, the goal was to create a safe environment and people heading out into greater Orlando, for whatever reason, sets that goal back.

The daily testing will be done by the NBPA and will involve mouth or light nasal swabs, not the invasive ones. Also, there will be no antibody testing, and no blood tests.

Teams will get a three-hour practice window during training camp and on off-days, which will include time in the provided wight room. After that, the equipment will be sanitized before the next team uses the courts.

Crowd noise — as seen on the Bundesliga soccer broadcasts from Germany seen here in the USA — is controversial. While the league is talking to the makers of the NBA 2K video game about piped-in crowd noise, that is definitely a topic still up for discussion.

As Keith Smith discussed on the ProBasketballTalk Podcast this week, games in Orlando are expected to be played sort of like at Summer League, with some starting at noon (or early afternoon) and alternating on courts all day. East Coast teams will likely have the earlier slots while there could be some 10 p.m. Eastern start times for a couple of West Coast teams (where it would still be just 7 p.m.).

We previously knew players would be allowed to golf and eat at outdoor restaurants at the Disney resort, so long as they followed social distancing guidelines.

For everything we know about life in the bubble, there are far more questions left unanswered. In the next month we will learn a lot more.

 

NBA players’ union approves 22-team format restart of season

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It’s not perfect and there are still details to be worked out — including exactly when next season will start — but the NBA players are on board with 22-team restart plan for the NBA season in Orlando.

Friday the National Basketball Players Association, with 28 team representatives on the conference call, voted to approve the 22-team plan. Here is the official statement from the union:

“The Board of Player Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) has approved further negotiations with the NBA on a 22-team return to play scenario to restart the 2019-20 NBA season. Various details remain to be negotiated and the acceptance of the scenario would still require that all parties reach agreement on all issues relevant to resuming play.”

This was expected. NBA Commissioner has worked closely with players union president Chris Paul of the Thunder and executive director Michelle Roberts throughout the process. There were no big surprises in the plan by the time it came up for a vote. Nobody got everything they wanted but everyone got a plan they could live with.

The issues still to be negotiated include some of the health and safety procedures — although players were informed on Friday’s call there will be daily testing and were asked not to leave the Orlando bubble — as well as the timing of the off-season and the start date of next season.

The biggest issue to be figured out still, of course, will be money.

It’s money that ultimately got owners and players to come together behind the 22-team format. It plays regular-season games — called “seeding games” — that can be broadcast on regional sports networks (helping those teams) plus a full playoffs with seven-game series broadcast on ESPN/ABC and TNT. Exactly what the financial picture for the league will be next season is still murky, but the sides are talking.

In terms of pure player safety, the league could have done better going straight to the 16-game postseason, but this was the balance of risk and financial reward the league settled upon.

The details of the format continue to leak out, and some of that is still to be negotiated, but with the player vote all sides have come together behind a plan.

The question becomes, can they pull it off?

Michael Jordan, Jordan Brand pledge $100 million to racial equality

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Black lives matter. This isn’t a controversial statement.

It isn’t. But for the legendarily apolitical Michael Jordan, it is a departure.

Jordan and the Jordan Brand jumped into the ongoing and intense national discussion of race and systemic racism Friday by announcing a $100 million donation over the next 10 years to racial equality and social justice causes. And Jordan linked himself to the black lives matter movement.

Jordan, during his playing career and after, has been cautious politically, rarely commenting on social issues. The “Republicans buy shoes, too” comment stuck to him, but as Roland Lazenby points out in his biography “Michael Jordan: The Life,” Jordan’s “keep your head down and don’t draw attention” political outlook was passed down as a family demeanor used to survive in rural North Carolina. It was how his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents viewed the world.

Jordan had already made a personal statement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Now Jordan has put his money where his mouth is.