Ticket sales reflect a brighter outlook for a league on the rise.
Posted by Matt Moore
When in doubt, follow the money.
After posting losses claimed by the owners of up to $400 million in the past few years, the NBA is set for record growth in at least one area, even in the midst of a continuingly disappointing economy. The South Florida Business Journal reports that the NBA will begin the season with over $100 million in new revenue, including a 40% increase in season-ticket sales. The big winners are about who you'd expect, teams in big markets with vastly improved teams thanks to the most insane free agency period in the history of sports.
Chicago. New York. That one team in South Florida. the Orlando Magic featuring a new arena. And then? The Oklahoma City Thunder.
But it's not just the biggies. The Grizzlies, the Kings, and the Bobcats have all sold over 1,000 new season tickets. All in all, 21 teams sold over 1,000 new season tickets versus 11 last year. That's pretty tremendous growth.
Ken Berger told you this evening how the Miami Heat have helped take league interest to new levels. The NBA is usually absent, and fans are usually reluctant to take notice until football season is over. Not this year. This year people are talking about LeBron's attention obsession (even as they pay attention to him), Melo's Melodrama, the Thunder's rise, the Lakers' sustained dominance, the Celtics reloaded, the Magic refocused, the Bulls retooled, and hey, the Knicks might not suck!
It's an excitement that's being reflected in ticket sales, the bread and butter of sports, the barometer for popularity. And while many of those season ticket holders will be trying to give those seats away as their teams flow to the wayside, some will love their experience. They'll take their kids, growing a new generation of fans. The game will grow, which is good for the entire league. Those big market teams being good again? It's undeniably good for the league, helps to put them in the spotlight. But those small market teams? They may be better for the health of the league. It's those teams that are going to grow the game itself, making their fans care about tuning into those Thursday night battles, those Friday night fights (the theoretical kind, Ron-Ron's a different man now), those Christmas day rumbles. They'll want to size up the elite just as middle-of-the-road NFL team fans want to see Peyton vs. Brady to see how their team measures up to the elite.
That's the kind of attention the league needs from America. Not just from LA and Boston, but from America, a legion of fans who care about the game. It'll never be more than a fraction of the NFL for various reasons, but that doesn't mean it can't be a strong product that belongs in the water cooler conversation, in the bar-side debates, that has parents excited to share the game with their kids.
Consider now how many superpowers we have. In a league that in past years was too often criticized for being watered down, we have the Lakers who feature Lamar Odom, a fantastic player, as their sixth man. Sixth! The Triad are redefining superstar-laden. The Celtics don't just have the Big 3, they added more firepower to a team that won the East last year. The Magic cannot be expected to take a step back, in the least. The Bulls are now well-rounded and set to contend. The Thunder will only improve. The league is stacked from top to bottom with teams to feature on those national contests, and Blake Griffin might even be good!
Is part of this preseason excitement, based on the painful withdrawal of four months without real NBA ball (FIBA's fine, but it ain't the same)? Absolutely. It's the same bright-eyed optimism that has players tweeting about working hard in training camp and being excited to start their season. It doesn't mean it's not on point, though. NBA fans have every reason to be hopeful right now. To be excited, intrigued, and ready to start their season.
Except in Cleveland. Where mighty Casey has left for a nicer contract in another city with his friends. Bummer.
But for the rest of the NBA? It's party time. Hope springs eternal. Except it's fall. I'm confused. Anyway, go NBA.