Majority of tickets locked up by league

Updated: February 15, 2004, 3:28 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Mix some of the world's most famous athletes, put them in the nation's second-largest market and make only a small percentage of tickets available to the public.

Know what you have?

One of the most expensive NBA All-Star Game tickets of all time.

Getting into a Los Angeles Lakers game at the Staples Center is hard enough, but with the NBA locking up the majority of the seats for Sunday's game, doling them out to sponsors and business partners, the All-Star ticket is a pretty tough get for fans.

Those who want to buy tickets on the secondary market from scalpers could have found a $500 nosebleed ticket wandering around near arena grounds on Saturday afternoon. For those who want to be able to see the players without binoculars, brokers are holding at a $1,000 bare minimum entry fee.

Want to see the brand names on the players' shoes? The first 10 rows on both sides around the center of the court are going for at least $7,000 apiece, with the price increasing as the seats get closer to the court.

"This is the most expensive ticket of the year, including the Super Bowl and the Grammys," said Eric Baker, president of Stubhub.com, an online secondary ticket marketplace.

The last-minute price of entry for this year's Super Bowl was about $1,700, but front-row seats came cheaper than Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.

"It's funny in that the Super Bowl is a real game and the All-Star Game is obviously an exhibition," Baker said.

As many as 80 percent of the tickets to the game are reportedly locked up by the league, though league officials won't confirm any specific percentage. Both home tenants -- the Clippers and the Lakers -- did receive 1,100 tickets each, while the building owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group, received a slightly larger allotment.

After the teams take care of their individual sponsors, season ticket holders have to turn up lucky in the lottery for a chance to buy $200 upper-level ducats to Sunday night's game.

"Combine the popularity of our game with a desirable city like Los Angeles and you have the highest demand for an All-Star ticket since New York (1998 All-Star Game)," said Andy Roeser, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Roeser wasn't complaining about the lack of tickets, unlike Philadelphia 76ers chairman Ed Snider, who after his team hosted the 2002 All-Star Game, said he would never want to bring the game back to the city again.

Snider isn't alone. The lack of seats for season ticket holders has ruffled the feathers of some owners around the league including, predictably, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who has maintained for years he will never vie for an All-Star Game for that very reason. "It's a real issue," acknowleged NBA commissioner David Stern. "One way to do it would be for us to have the game in Paris or in a non-NBA city because we need the tickets because this is our Super Bowl. We don't know a year in advance where our finals are going to be. We sometimes don't know a week in advance where our finals are going to be. So our All-Star Game has become what it has become. Our teams and their cities want the economic lift, and that's what happens with an All-Star Game, regardless of the difficulties that it has for tickets."

The 13,500 Lakers season ticket holders were able to get tickets to at least one of the three All-Star events -- Friday's Rookie Challenge, Saturday's skills competitions or Sunday's game -- but Stern admits that the All-Star Game itself isn't meant for everyday fans.

"As a business matter, we need the tickets to conduct our business," Stern said.

For everyday fans who hope to see an All-Star Game in person, without dishing out major cash, the future doesn't look great as long as the league continues to sign more and more partnerships netting more and more money. With the game in pricey Los Angeles this year, that round-trip ticket to Paris for an All-Star Game in the future looks like it would be a pretty good deal.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter