With the National Basketball Association season tipping off next week, StubHub sees ticket sales up nearly 60% compared to last year, with the Los Angeles Lakers returning to the top of the list as the most in-demand team.
The ticket exchange’s annual NBA preview breaks down the company’s projections for the upcoming basketball season based on years of data, according to spokesperson Adam Budelli. The season kicks off Oct. 24.
Across the board, Budelli told CNBC that all teams are seeing an encouraging rise in demand this season, with international interest surging. Fans from 92 countries — up 24 from last season — are flocking to North American games, he said. Those international sales will be up 120% from last season, StubHub predicted, with the most popular countries attending NBA games including Australia, the United Kingdom and Brazil.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one specific factor, but I would say across live events as a whole, we certainly have seen cross-border travel for live events increased and rebound to a higher point than when it was pre-pandemic,” Budelli said.
The NBA has been increasingly dominated by international stars such as the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokić, the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and San Antonio Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama. The league’s international reach, likewise, will likely factor into its upcoming media rights negotiations.
Budelli said the Lakers, which features superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, have been the top team in StubHub’s projections four times since 2017. One notable absence in the list, however, is last season’s NBA champion the Denver Nuggets, which Budelli said the company is monitoring and expects to rise in popularity as the season progresses.
He also noted that ticket sales more than doubled after Damian Lillard was traded to the already-potent Milwaukee Bucks on Sept. 27, with the team’s home opener expected to be the highest selling game of the season. Budelli said Lillard’s trade is likely “the biggest mover” of the season, pushing the team up six spots on the list compared to last year.
On the road, the Golden State Warriors, who added star guard Chris Paul to their high-scoring lineup, have the highest average ticket price for their away game schedule, StubHub said.
Budelli said the Knicks host five of the projected top 10 most popular games, more than any other team, as they just barely inch behind the Lakers as the top team. The Knicks have outpaced their sales from last season by 80%, according to StubHub.
Still, Budelli said the projections are subject to change, and StubHub is excited to monitor how the teams — and players — shake out as the season progresses.
“It definitely has the usual suspects on top, but as it goes, that can fluctuate and move throughout the season,” Budelli said. “And there’s star players that break out and rookies and things like that, but it’s all there, and I think those trends speak for themselves.”