From Kobe Bryant, to now adding LeBron James, the Los Angeles Lakers have never been short on players who could bring a crowd on their own. But when you add the name recognition of players like those two to a team with as many fans all over the world as the Lakers have, it’s a recipe for one thing: Road sellouts.
Lakers tickets are going to be hard enough to get at home — where the lowest price for two season tickets on StubHub is $3,800 and climbs upwards of $100,000 as of this writing — but if historical precedent is to be believed, Lakers tickets won’t be any easier to get on the road, either.
According to numbers compiled by the team at Versus Reviews, James has already increased attendance at road arenas throughout his career by an average of 8.23 percent, a rate unseen by any solitary superstar besides Michael Jordan, whose presence raised road attendance by 16.86 percent throughout his career.
James’ average is also more than Kobe Bryant by himself (8.06 percent), although Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal combined to have the highest effect on road attendance of anyone measured by Versus Reviews, as the Lakers teams featuring the pair saw an average attendance increase of 16.9 percent on the road.
That Bryant and Shaq number might be more indicative of the Lakers’ potential with James, especially given all the other big names on the team.
Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo are obviously not superstars on the level of Shaq — or James’ Heatles teammates of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who saw a 10.8 percent attendance increase on the road — but they are players that fans have strong feelings about one way or the other, recognizable names playing for one of the most high-profile franchises in the history of professional sports.
When you combine that with the Lakers’ endless fanbase always seeming to draw well on the road and the intrigue about James’ latest decision, it would appear to be a recipe for an increase upon his career percentage of road attendance growth.
However, the thing those Shaq and Kobe Lakers teams, and Michael Jordan’s Bulls teams, had going for them was simple: They were really good. The Lakers will need to prove they’re at least going to live up to expectations if they’re going to maintain the traveling circus vibes their early games will give off.
If the Lakers are good, then their young core will get a taste of the playoff atmosphere that awaits them as enthusiastic Lakers fans clash with road crowds treating each game like their own version of the NBA Finals. But if they struggle early, then the Lakers may not have the resonance to get people to fork over their hard-earned money to enthusiastically cheer or boo in what will surely be pricey games regardless.