With Massive Money On Line, Ticket Brokers Watch LeBron’s Points Record Closely
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There's a game within a game going on with the countdown to LeBron James breaking the all-time NBA points record — and it has to do with secondary markets for tickets.
Tickets brokers are trying to figure out how to maximize their dollars in what will be the most valuable regular season game in a long while.
News that James would be playing at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night after sitting out in Brooklyn had brokers whipping out their calculators again, trying to project exactly which game fans would be buying to see James make history.
If James doesn't sit out at all from now until the end of February — and he averages his 27.2 points per game — he'll likely break the record in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at home at Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 9.
"It would make so much sense for LeBron to beat Kareem's scoring record against the team he came into the league with," said Patrick Ryan of Eventellect, a leading market maker in secondary ticket sales.
Asked if LeBron would do what he could to plan it that way, Ryan replied, "LeBron's not oblivious. He's very much CEO of LeBron Inc."
The problem for physical ticket brokers, who have bought up much of the market for the Lakers' contests against the Oklahoma City Thunder (2/7) and the Bucks, is that there's still a lot of mystery.
"It's really a zero sum game if it misses," Ryan said. "If LeBron breaks it in the game after, the game before is worthless."
Harris Rosner's VIP Tickets has sold more Lakers tickets on the secondary market over the past four decades than any outfit. With as much as $1 million on the line, Rosner has been playing the LeBron speculation game, too.
"Sitting out in Brooklyn caught me off guard," Rosner admitted. "I thought he'd rest in Indiana coming up."
Rosner's best guess right now has James breaking the record against the Thunder, but he's not willing to act on it at the moment.
"I'd like to be able to take half the money off the table, but in order to have people buy them now, they'd have to be under market price," Rosner said. "And even if I did that, the end user isn't buying them, it's other brokers. I'd rather hold than try to lay off the risk and play the upside even if goes south on me."
The last "stat" game that drove NBA fans nuts was in Dec. 2021, when Steph Curry came to Madison Square Garden to break the all-time three-point record. The get-in for that game on game night was $565.
It's too early to tell what the LeBron record breaker will sell for. Much of the market depends on how clear it will be that he will break the points record that night.
Rosner says LeBron's record breaking game will almost assuredly generate big time interest from the wealthy who like to sit courtside.
"I've gotten the calls already," said Rosner, who said prices on the high end could wind up being equivalent ticket deep into the playoffs.
Rosner says he at least has comfort in not being blindsided, with the stats right in front of his eyes.
This Monday was the 27th anniversary of Magic Johnson returning to the NBA after retiring following his positive HIV test.
"I remember a guy called me up a couple days before and asked for a pair to the game," Rosner recalls. "He then called back and said he needed six. On the third call, when he wanted another six, I realized something bigger was happening. Sure enough, someone had tipped him off that Magic was coming back and their game against the Warriors became huge that night."
There wasn't a secondary market for tickets when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record in April 1984. The NBA was in a totally different state and it was an accomplishment that the Utah Jazz were able to sell out the final 4,000 tickets on the day of the game, which was one of 11 games the Jazz played that year in Las Vegas in order to make more money.
That's a stark difference to now, where the get-in price to Lakers vs. Knicks on Tuesday night surpassed $300 on the secondary market.