In any other season, tickets to watch a team languishing in 13th place in the Western Conference of the NBA would not be too difficult to come by.
However, even as the Los Angeles Lakers’ on-court failures continued on Saturday with defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans, LeBron James’ quest to become the NBA’s all-time leading scorer means Lakers games are no longer ordinary events.
With another 27 points in that loss to the Pelicans, James is now only 36 points from surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s total of 38,387.
The 38-year-old will now likely break the record against either the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday or the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, meaning ticket sales for the Lakers’ next two home matches have gone through the roof.
According to ticket resale company StubHub, the Lakers have been the best-selling NBA team on the company’s website over the last two weeks and have sold as many ticket as the next three teams - the Knicks, Warriors and Celtics - combined.
The Lakers’ games against the Thunder and the Bucks are the two top-selling NBA matches of the week, StubHub said.
Ticket prices for the Thunder game are on average 50% higher than the Lakers’ season average, StubHub said ahead of Saturday’s loss to the Pelicans, while tickets for the Bucks game are 70% higher.
“The anticipation of a sports icon accomplishing a historical milestone often dramatically boosts ticket sales so real fans can say: ‘I was there when,’” Adam Budelli, a spokesperson for StubHub, said.
“With LeBron James closing in on the NBA’s all-time regular-season scoring record, the Lakers are the hottest ticket in the NBA – their games against the Thunder and Bucks are the two best-selling NBA games of the week.”
Ticket prices are starting at $144 for the Lakers game against the Thunder - down from $284 last week as fans perhaps don’t anticipate a 36-point game from James - and $630 against the Bucks, up from $495 last week.
On Viagogo, another resale company, prices of tickets for Lakers vs. Thunder start at $188 and at $156 for Lakers vs. Bucks, while on Ticketmaster they start at $194 and $599 respectively.
The NBA scoring record is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in sport.
Abdul-Jabbar has held the crown for 39 years, setting the final total in the year of his retirement 34 years ago. It’s a record that has changed hands just once since 1966, when Abdul-Jabbar passed Wilt Chamberlain on April 5, 1984. That was before James was even born.
Given James is averaging exactly 30 points per game for the season – and 27.2 per game for his career – it’s almost certain he will break the record this week.
“It was never a goal. It was never a journey,” the four-time NBA champion said on ESPN’s NBA Today. “The stressful part for me is competing every single day to try to bring home the Larry O’Brien Trophy [NBA championship].”
However, James is surprised to be on verge of breaking the scoring record and be in the top five on the all-time assists list.
“That’s insane for one individual to be on the brink of being the all-time scorer in the NBA history and also top five all-time in assists and he’s not a point guard.
“It’s truly remarkable for that to be accomplished, but it makes it weird for me when I think that it’s actually me that’s doing it.”
Lakers’ upcoming schedule
Feb 7: Thunder at Lakers, 10pET on TNT
Feb 9: Bucks at Lakers, 10pET on TNT
Feb 11: Lakers at Warriors, 830pET on ABC
Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.