Has The Rise In NBA Attendance Impacted Secondary Market Prices For NBA Playoff Tickets?

April 16, 2015

Arenas all over the country, and Toronto, get ready to open their doors for the start of the NBA Playoffs. 16 teams will host at least two playoff games. Those arenas will certainly be packed, but that might not be too far off from regular season attendance rates. According to a Sports Business Journal report, the NBA broke its average attendance record this season, eclipsing 2006-07. The league also saw the highest year-over-year attendance increase since 1995-96, the year Michael Jordan returned from baseball.


Three teams saw their per game attendance increase by at least 10% over last season, all three in the Eastern Conference. Two of the teams finished as the top two seeds in the East, the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Atlanta saw attendance grow a league-high 21.5% as the team finished its first 60-win season in franchise history. Attendance in Cleveland rose 19.1% from 2013-14, thanks to the return of LeBron James.

Improvement in play and attendance have actually held down some price premiums on the secondary market. Hawks playoff tickets in the first round have an average price of $184.40, 13.8% above Atlanta’s regular season secondary market average. The average price of Cavaliers playoff tickets against the Boston Celtics are below Cleveland’s regular season average. The Cavaliers carries a $258 average price through the regular season, but tickets across four possible games in the first round have an average of just $198.90. Both of these prices can be attributed to a weak bottom of the bracket in the East, and a high probability both the Hawks and Cavaliers will easily advance to the second round.

Four of the top five teams in attendance increase will be in the playoffs this year. The Milwaukee Bucks pulled out a .500 season a year after finishing with just 15 wins. A youth movement in Milwaukee helped lead to a 9.7% attendance boost from last year at BMO Harris Center. The Toronto Raptors saw a huge improvement from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and a second year of above average play caused a 8.6% average attendance increase at Air Canada Centre.

The only team of the five to not make the playoffs was the Charlotte Hornets. However, the franchise stirred up some fan excitement by returning to “Hornets” nickname after 10 years of the “Bobcats.”

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Of course increases in attendance don’t tell the whole story. The Golden State Warriors were the best team in the league and Warriors playoff tickets are the most expensive of any team, but they saw a 0% increase in attendance. That is also deceiving because the Warriors have sold out Oracle Arena in both of the past two seasons.

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