BUSINESS
12/07/2011 06:20 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2011

NBA Ticket Sales Put Price Gougers In Midseason Form

If the business being conducted by ticket resellers and brokers is any sign, the NBA will bounce back quickly from its lockout. Ticket sales were brisk on Wednesday, the day after the NBA announced its shortened 66-game schedule.

The economic funk and resentment over the struggle between owners and players didn't seem to matter. A look at resale and broker sites showed that popular teams were still commanding prices above already expensive face value.

"Fans were in a position where pro basketball was going to be taken away from them and now they're happy," said David Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University. "It's coming back on Christmas, which is the greatest marketing ploy ever."

Some asking prices were on the outrageous side, too. The marquee opening-day game on Christmas, a finals rematch between the Miami Heat against the champion Dallas Mavericks, had price-gougers in midseason form. Seats behind the courtside seats at the American Airlines Center in Dallas were listed for $5,259 apiece on StubHub at one point. Tickets for the same seats normally cost $270, according to the Mavericks' website. Actual courtside seats were going for as much as $3,750. The game will be on national television (ABC). Most Americans can watch for free, replays and fridge access included.

The craziness extended beyond the holiday. Late Wednesday, fanatics who don't mind missing a mortgage payment or three could plunk down $10,499 apiece for tickets to see the Heat host the Celtics on December 27, courtesy of TicketsNow.com.

"People are overly optimistic," StubHub spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer said. "I would expect that prices would come down. Right now we have the fans setting their opportunity cost."

The next few days are critical for those shooting for nothing but net -- as in profit. Season ticket holders and scalpers who purchased tickets from the holders know which tickets they will have. They can sell the promise of those tickets to secondary platforms like StubHub or to brokers. Most teams do not sell individual game tickets until Dec. 10 or beyond, so the public's options are limited for the time being. That creates somewhat of a seller's market. Ferrer said the NBA trailed college football bowl games in ticket sales Wednesday, but were solid given the short supply.

The Los Angeles Lakers' tickets for their opener against the Chicago Bulls were going for a minimum of $184 Wednesday afternoon. Nosebleed Knicks tickets against the Celtics at the newly renovated Madison Square Garden were listed for $198.

Even at the low end for lesser games, Lakers tickets for the bulk of the season were asking well above face value. Seats that normally cost between $12 and $37 against weaker opponents appeared on StubHub in the $34 to $55 range. Marquee visits from the Celtics on March 5 and Heat on March 12 already put opportunistic fans on their game: $200 for the cheapest seat in the house.

But the Mavericks' momentum from winning their first NBA championship didn't appear to translate into routine matchups, which were fetching between $20 and $49 in the rafters.

It's all relative, though. Sellers were unloading New Jersey Nets tickets for $5 late Wednesday, even for the team's home opener on Dec. 27. The Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats had tickets consistently available in the $11 to $17 range.

At least one of the league's unfortunates showed hope. Ferrer recalled how Cleveland Cavaliers fans flooded StubHub with $1 tickets after LeBron James left to play for the Miami Heat last season. But on this day, many tickets popped up with reasonable markups.

The asking price isn't always the getting price, but with opening day coming and fans waiting, the Cavaliers could enjoy one day above face value.

CONVERSATIONS