Ticket demand, anticipation grows as LeBron nears Kareem
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James gestures to teammates during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2023 11:33AM EST
Courtside seats 166 and 167 at the arena where the Los Angeles Lakers play their home games are pretty much as good as it gets.
The people occupying those chairs when LeBron James breaks Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA scoring record will have an up-close view, with their feet on the very hardwood where the history-making shot happens.
History, in this case, comes with a cost.
On Monday, those seats for Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder could have been had for $75,000 — each. Total price for the two seats with Ticketmaster fees: $181,500. And there’s no guarantee James will even break the record Tuesday; in fact, at his current scoring pace, he would be just shy of the mark when the Thunder game ends.
Which is why those same seats are even pricier Thursday for the Lakers’ next game against the Milwaukee Bucks — the two teams Abdul-Jabbar played for during his Hall of Fame career. For that game: $242,000, including the fees. But history suggests prices will come down; industry experts have long said extravagantly priced tickets rarely fetch the giant number listed.
Don't be mistaken, though. The best seats will still cost plenty.
“For the game on Thursday, we did sell a pair of tickets, courtside seats, for $24,000 a ticket, $48,000 total,” said Kyle Zorn, a brand manager at the online ticket marketplace TickPick. “I feel like people are betting on the storyline that he does it against Kareem’s former team, but he could easily score 36 points Tuesday and then the market for the game Thursday could completely crash.”
Whenever the record falls — maybe Tuesday, maybe Thursday, and it’s doubtful the chase goes past that unless James isn’t playing for some reason — it will be an event.
The NBA has already changed the national television schedule for Tuesday, rearranging things to get the Lakers-Thunder game into the second slot of the usual TNT doubleheader for that night — with Commissioner Adam Silver saying the league wanted to make sure it got as many eyeballs on the record-breaking moment as possible.
The Lakers will be back on TNT against the Bucks on Thursday, plus have another national TV audience awaiting Saturday when they visit Golden State on ABC. Those were previously scheduled that way, no rearranging required.
Silver said the NBA will pay tribute when James passes Abdul-Jabbar's total of 38,387 points, with likely a larger-scale celebration of the record at All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City later this month.
“There’s no doubt we will stop that game and make sure we record for history, the ball, the basket, the uniform,” Silver said. “We’ll stop and make sure that we’ve done our jobs as the archivists of the NBA. At the same time, there’s that balance that they will be playing against a team that will very much want to win that night and not be distracted. Most likely we will do something in the moment.”
Common sense will likely prevail there: If James gets the record with a minute to go in a close game, for example, the NBA probably won’t interrupt the proceedings with a lengthy stoppage. If it happens early, a brief halting of play wouldn’t be unprecedented.
But for those who want to see it all happen in person, whether that’s from courtside seats or the upper levels of the arena, it’ll still cost a pretty penny.
Speaking Monday, and with the market likely to fluctuate until game time, Zorn said the cheapest get-in-the-door price for Tuesday’s game was around $176 — about half what it was a week ago, with most people guessing the record falls against the Bucks — and $796 for Thursday’s game.
“It’s weird how prices for the game on Tuesday have decreased so significantly, as if it’s like a guarantee that he’s breaking it on Thursday,” Zorn said.
Many price points are likely out of reach for most fans. Then again, if there’s a Thunder fan in L.A. who really wants to see their team, they might just want to wait for March 24. The Thunder will be back that night.
Cheapest ticket right now for that game — about $60.