Which NBA Teams Offer the Most Affordable Home Games?

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For many families, attending sports games has become a luxury due to the increasing costs associated with the live game experience. With the 2013-14 NBA season having just begun, it’s important for basketball fans to know how they can cut the escalating costs of attending a game. To address this, we asked the following questions as we analyzed the costs of attending a home game for each of the 30 NBA teams:

1. How much do various items commonly purchased at sporting events – tickets, beer, soda, hot dogs and parking – cost at every NBA arena?

We looked at median 2013-14 ticket prices on the resale market for each team, along with average prices of 16 oz. of beer, 16 oz. of soda, a hot dog, and parking.
 

2. How much does the average home game experience cost for a family of four for each of the 30 teams?

We calculated a “Total Family Cost” (TFC) for each team to assess the cost for a family of four to attend a home game for each team: the total price of four tickets purchased on the secondary market, two 16 oz. beers, two 16 oz. sodas, four hot dogs and one parking space.
 

3. How can a family of four effectively and reasonably cut costs when going to an NBA game?

We reviewed the relative costs for each of the 30 teams to explore where families can take advantage of certain prices and where they should avoid certain costs.
 

A family of four can expect to pay an average of nearly half a grand to attend an NBA game this season. That includes an average median resale ticket price of $96.57. The resale market offers a more accurate representation of the demand for a team’s tickets, so ticket prices will fluctuate throughout the season based on team performance and the opponent’s strength. Families looking to take in an NBA game in their city will be able to hunt for value tickets on the secondary market throughout the season.

Analysis reveals that the Cleveland Cavaliers are the most affordable NBA team to watch, whereas the New York Knicks are at the other end of the spectrum as the most expensive team to root for. In fact, the Total Family Cost for the Knicks is nearly four times that of the Cavaliers and the median ticket price for games at Madison Square Garden is nearly five times as much. A basketball fan in New York could purchase a $100 Amtrak ticket to Cleveland along with an average-priced ticket to a Cavaliers game and still pay less than he would for most Knicks tickets.

Check out the complete list of all 30 NBA teams in order of lowest Total Family Cost to highest and click on your favorite team to read more about how it stacks up against the rest of the league in terms of affordability.

Rank Team Median Resale Ticket Price 16oz. Beer 16oz. Soda Hot Dog Parking Total Family Cost (TFC)
1 Cleveland Cavaliers $42.00 $9.33 $4.50 $5.50 $5.00 $222.67
2 Indiana Pacers $55.00 $6.00 $3.25 $4.00 $8.00 $262.50
3 Dallas Mavericks $52.00 $5.33 $4.00 $4.00 $20.00 $262.67
4 Memphis Grizzlies $55.00 $7.50 $3.20 $5.00 $15.00 $276.40
5 San Antonio Spurs $59.00 $5.00 $2.50 $4.75 $8.00 $278.00
6 Denver Nuggets $60.00 $4.17 $4.25 $4.50 $16.00 $290.83
7 New Orleans Pelicans $60.00 $5.60 $5.33 $4.00 $15.00 $292.87
8 Milwaukee Bucks $60.00 $6.50 $5.50 $4.00 $18.00 $298.00
9 Washington Wizards $64.00 $5.33 $5.00 $5.50 $20.00 $318.67
10 Minnesota Timberwolves $65.00 $9.33 $4.33 $5.50 $15.00 $324.33
11 Detroit Pistons $74.00 $4.67 $2.80 $3.00 $10.00 $332.93
12 Utah Jazz $76.00 $6.00 $2.55 $3.50 $10.00 $345.09
13 Sacramento Kings $75.00 $5.60 $4.75 $4.00 $10.00 $346.70
14 Philadelphia 76ers $81.00 $10.33 $3.00 $4.50 $12.00 $380.67
15 Charlotte Bobcats $89.00 $6.50 $3.27 $4.50 $5.00 $398.55
16 Boston Celtics $85.00 $8.00 $4.57 $4.75 $34.00 $418.14
17 Phoenix Suns $95.00 $6.00 $2.73 $3.00 $13.00 $422.45
18 Orlando Magic $95.00 $5.25 $3.50 $4.00 $10.00 $423.50
19 Portland Trail Blazers $92.00 $7.00 $5.00 $6.00 $13.00 $429.00
20 Golden State Warriors $95.00 $6.00 $4.00 $5.75 $18.00 $441.00
21 Atlanta Hawks $111.00 $7.00 $2.86 $4.75 $10.00 $492.71
22 Toronto Raptors $110.00 $7.29 $4.99 $5.44 $19.44 $505.77
23 Houston Rockets $120.00 $7.25 $3.09 $6.00 $15.00 $539.68
24 Brooklyn Nets $127.00 $7.75 $4.00 $5.75 $17.00 $571.50
25 Los Angeles Clippers $130.00 $10.00 $3.60 $5.75 $15.00 $585.20
26 Miami Heat $155.00 $5.33 $3.33 $6.00 $35.00 $696.33
27 Oklahoma City Thunder $170.00 $5.00 $3.75 $4.00 $5.00 $718.50
28 Chicago Bulls $165.00 $7.50 $4.20 $5.75 $20.00 $726.40
29 Los Angeles Lakers $180.00 $12.00 $3.60 $5.75 $15.00 $789.20
30 New York Knicks $200.00 $9.00 $3.60 $5.75 $30.00 $878.20
NBA AVERAGE $96.57 $6.92 $3.84 $4.82 $15.21 $442.28

1.    Cleveland Cavaliers

Finally beginning to recover from the void left by Lebron James’ departure in 2010, the Cavaliers offer the cheapest live game experience for families with a TFC of $223. Cavs ticket prices on the resale market are the lowest in the entire league. Fans can also take advantage of the $5 parking costs, among the cheapest of all teams. For a squad expected to be greatly improved and contend for a playoff spot this season with young superstar Kyrie Irving leading the way, families can definitely find great value with Cavs games.

2.    Indiana Pacers  

After pushing the reigning champions Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, the Pacers have gotten off to the best start in the NBA thus far into the young 2013-14 season, aided by the emergence of star forward Paul George. Even so, the Pacers have the second lowest TFC in the entire league at less than $263, making them perhaps the best value in the NBA from a cost-quality standpoint. Tickets on the resale market are third lowest of all teams, and beer, soda, hot dog and parking prices are all lower than average. Families should definitely take advantage of the undervalued resale tickets before the team’s success causes a dramatic increase in prices.

3.    Dallas Mavericks  

After enjoying a run as one of the most successful NBA teams of the past decade, the Mavericks failed to qualify the playoffs last season for the first time in 12 years. That, along with the decline of aging Dirk Nowitzki, has caused a dip in ticket prices, resulting in the third lowest TFC of all teams at $263. Resale ticket prices are second lowest in the league and beer and hot dog prices are among the ten lowest. However, given the affordability of every other amenity at American Airlines Center, fans may be surprised by the sky-high cost of parking, which is tied for third most expensive at $20.

4.    Memphis Grizzlies  

With the fourth lowest TFC ($276), the Grizzlies present a great value for their fans. The franchise is coming off of its first appearance in the Western Conference Finals last season and should be a lock for another postseason berth this year. Therefore, the team’s median ticket price of $55, about $40 less than the league average, should come as a bit of a pleasant surprise to fans. Families hoping to attend games at the FedExForum this year will enjoy below-average prices on soda and parking in addition to the relatively cheap tickets on the resale market.

5.    San Antonio Spurs  

Over the last 15 years, the Spurs have been one of the most successful franchises in all of sports, winning four NBA championships in that period and barely losing to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals. Luckily for Spurs fans, the team continues to somehow be underrated in favor of larger-market teams, resulting in the fifth lowest TFC in the league at $278. Median ticket prices are just $59 and other costs are significantly lower than league averages – the Spurs offer the cheapest soda in the NBA at $2.50 for 16 oz. These low prices, along with the Spurs’ history of excellence on the court, make the team one of the best values in the NBA for families.

6.    Denver Nuggets  

Coming off a long stretch of regular season success, the Nuggets are entering a new era. Ticket prices have decreased dramatically from last year, resulting in a TFC of $291. Fans in Colorado (home to several major breweries) can especially take advantage of the lowest beer prices in the NBA – 16 oz. of beer at a Nuggets home game cost about a third of the price one would pay at a Lakers game.

7.    New Orleans Pelicans  

Formerly known as the Hornets, the Pelicans are looking to build their franchise through a new team name, new ownership and a young roster. The team may not have enough experience to make the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference this year, but families in New Orleans can take in a live home game with this talented team for a relatively low price – the Pelicans’ TFC of $293 is seventh lowest in the league. Although soda is more expensive at New Orleans Arena than almost any other NBA arena, beer and hot dogs cost less than average.

8.    Milwaukee Bucks  

The Bucks haven’t tasted playoff success in many years and are in the midst of a transition period as they hope to build a team that can compete.  Families in Milwaukee can enjoy the eighth lowest costs in the NBA – the Bucks’ TFC of $298 is $144 below the league average. Parking costs are among the ten most expensive, but beer prices are at the league-wide average and hot dog prices are tied for third cheapest. However, soda at BMO Harris Bradley Center is the most expensive of all 30 teams.

9.    Washington Wizards  

The Wizards are one of many teams in the Eastern Conference hoping to make the leap to earning a playoff spot this year. The team’s TFC of $319 is only the ninth lowest in the league, making them a very reasonable value. Although ticket prices should increase if Washington legitimately threatens to make the postseason as the year progresses, fans should be able to find good deals on tickets on the resale market depending on the matchup. Beer prices at Verizon Center are lower than average, but families should avoid most other costs, including parking, for which the Wizards charge the fourth highest figure in the NBA.

10.   Minnesota Timberwolves  

The Timberwolves are expected to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and have gotten off to a strong start this season behind the efforts of their star player, Kevin Love. Still, ticket prices on the resale market for Wolves’ home games are much lower than average and the team’s TFC of $324 is tenth lowest. Families should take advantage of undervalued tickets on the resale market before the team’s success drives prices up, but they may want to do their best to avoid spending on food and drinks at games – beer, soda, and hot dog prices at Target Center are all higher than average.

11.   Detroit Pistons  

The Pistons rank 11th in the league with a TFC of $333. Median ticket prices for the team, which is expected to compete for a playoff spot this season, are near the middle of the pack. However, beer, soda, hot dog and parking prices are all among the six lowest of the 30 teams in their respective categories, meaning families can get great value for the entire package if they can find good deals on resale tickets.

12.   Utah Jazz  

The Jazz let go of a couple veteran players this offseason and are hoping to rebuild through the development of several young and talented players on the roster. However, a rebuilding year typically means a team will lose many games and the Jazz has gone winless through two weeks of the 2013-14 season. The team’s TFC of $345 is 12th lowest among all the teams. However, families who want to attend games at EnergySolutions Arena can expect resale ticket prices to decrease throughout the season, at which point they can take advantage of cheap games, as well as the NBA’s second lowest and third lowest prices for soda and hot dogs, respectively.

13.   Sacramento Kings  

Sacramento almost lost its NBA team this past year when a possible relocation to Seattle was ultimately rejected. With new ownership (who paid an NBA record $535 million to acquire the team) and renewed spirits, the franchise looks to rebuild towards success. The Kings’ TFC of $347 is 13th lowest in the league and is about $100 less than the NBA average. Moreover, beer, hot dog and parking costs are all lower than average so Sacramento families can definitely optimize their live game experience by hunting for value tickets on the resale market throughout the season.

14.   Philadelphia 76ers  

The 76ers entered the 2013-14 season with a roster thought to be largely devoid of any major talent, leading to many projections that the team would be the worst in the NBA. However, Philadelphia has started the season in strong fashion and has surprised many fans. The team’s TFC of $381 is below the league average, but isn’t low enough to reflect the “worst-in-the-league” level expected of their performance this year. As the season develops, expect ticket prices to continue dropping, meaning families can likely find very cheap tickets on the resale market if the team begins to lose a few games in a row. However, beer should probably be avoided at Wells Fargo Center, where the 76ers charge the second highest price in the NBA.

15.   Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats have only made the postseason once in the team’s nine year existence and are perennially among the league’s worst teams. Therefore, it’s a bit surprising to see the team in the middle of the pack with a TFC of $399. Charlotte has upgraded their roster this season and could surprise some teams, so families can take advantage by finding some discount home tickets on the resale market and enjoying $5 parking costs, tied for the lowest of all 30 teams.

16.   Boston Celtics  

The good news for Celtics fans is that the franchise, historically one of the best in the entire league in terms of championship success, has seen a decrease in ticket prices for the 2013-14 season. The bad news, however, is the reason for this decrease – the team is projected to be one of the worst in the NBA this year as it looks to rebuild after the end of the “Big 3” era. Boston’s TFC of $85 is right in the middle of the league. TD Garden’s beer and soda prices are among the most expensive, and parking is especially pricey at $34. Families would be wise to hunt for discount tickets on the secondary market and commute to Celtics games this season.

17.   Phoenix Suns  

The Suns, another team projected by most to be among the worst in the NBA this season, have also been a surprise by starting the 2013-14 season on a tear. With a new General Manager, a rookie Head Coach and a roster filled with young, inexperienced talent, Phoenix is clearly rebuilding for the future but has somehow exceeded almost everyone’s expectations thus far. The Suns’ TFC of $422 is just below the league average with the 13th highest median ticket prices of 30 teams. Although those ticket prices may change based on the team’s performance throughout the season, families can definitely take advantage of below-average prices on beer, soda and parking, as well as the cheapest hot dog in the NBA.

18.   Orlando Magic  

The Magic is currently in the midst of a rebuilding period with a roster full of young, talented, but mostly unproven players. However, their ticket prices don’t really reflect this, as the median price on the secondary market of $95 is tied for 10th highest of all teams. The Magic’s TFC of $424 is only just below the league average. The Magic is Orlando’s only major sports team, so a demand exists even for a subpar team. Families can find cheaper tickets throughout the course of the season on the resale market and take advantage of the below-average food, drink and parking costs.

19.   Portland Trail Blazers  

The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping to use the talents of reigning Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, to fight for a playoff spot this season.  Expectations are higher this year than last and they are reflected in increased ticket prices for the 2013-14 season. The Blazers’ $429 TFC is 12th highest in the NBA. Ticket, beer and parking prices are all at about the NBA average but hot dogs at home games are tied for most expensive in the league.

20.   Golden State Warriors  

After a surprisingly successful 2012-13 season, the Warriors are expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference this year with one of the league’s most electrifying young stars in Stephen Curry. Reflecting this, ticket prices on the secondary market increased greatly, leaving Golden State with the eleventh highest TFC in the league at $441. All the categorical prices for Golden State are near or above the league averages, including parking costs, which fans can avoid by taking BART to Oracle Arena.

21.   Atlanta Hawks  

The Hawks’ TFC of $493 has them as the tenth most expensive team for families. The team has made the playoffs for six straight years and even with a new Coach and General Manager at the helm this year, Atlanta’s median ticket prices are among the ten most expensive. Families hoping to catch a few games at Philips Arena do have an advantage in parking prices, where they can find a spot for $10, among the ten lowest parking costs of all 30 teams.

22.   Toronto Raptors  

As the only NBA team located outside of the U.S., the Raptors have a unique local fan base. Even though the team has never quite achieved much success since its inception in 1995 and is now a borderline contender for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the team has the ninth highest TFC in the NBA at $506. The team charges higher than average prices in every category included in the methodology. Canadian families who want to attend an NBA game don’t really have many choices so accepting these costs to watch an average team this season is a choice they have to make.

23.   Houston Rockets  

After the emergence of James Harden last year and the offseason signing of Dwight Howard, the Rockets have entered the 2013-14 season with very high expectations. Their TFC of $540 is 8th in the NBA and nearly $100 higher than the league-wide average. Beer and parking costs are near the league average and soda prices are relatively low, but families hoping to enjoy hot dogs during games will have to pay more than fans of 27 other teams.

24.   Brooklyn Nets  

Barclays Center is the newest and most expensive NBA arena ever built, so it’s not a surprise to see the Nets rank among the ten most expensive teams for beer, hot dogs and parking. The team is also projected to be a contender in the Eastern Conference this season and boasts a roster full of recognizable faces, which has definitely been reflected in Brooklyn’s TFC of $572, the seventh highest of all teams. Families hoping to catch a Nets game this year will definitely have to reach deep into their wallets.

25.   Los Angeles Clippers  

Long considered to be an afterthought in the LA basketball scene, the Clippers have finally become a consistent playoff contender. Expectations are high this season, as are ticket prices. The team has the sixth most expensive tickets on the resale market, resulting in the sixth highest TFC of all teams at $585. Playing in the same arena as the rival Lakers, the Clippers will prove to be the better value between the two teams this season from a fan cost perspective.

26.   Miami Heat  

The Miami Heat are coming off of two straight NBA championships and are the favorites to win it all again in the 2013-14 season. It should come as no surprise that Heat home games are among the most expensive in the league. The team’s TFC of $696 is the fourth highest in the league and its median ticket price of $155 is fifth most expensive. For the best team in the league two straight years and the best player in Lebron James, that’s not necessarily bad value. However, families hoping to enjoy a game at American Airlines Arena should try to avoid certain costs, such as the most expensive hot dog ($6) and parking ($35) in the NBA.

27.   Oklahoma City Thunder  

Behind young superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder is now one of the best teams in the NBA year in and year out. Although the team is in a relatively small market, it is the only major professional sports team in the state and its TFC of $719 is the fourth highest in the league. Ticket prices on the resale marker are the third highest of all teams, only costing less than Knicks and Lakers games. The good news? Parking costs are the lowest in the NBA and beer prices are tied for third lowest.

28.   Chicago Bulls  

Bulls tickets for the 2013-14 season have seen a solid increase in price on the resale market due to the return of superstar Derrick Rose, who missed all of last season to recover from a knee injury. Now, the Bulls, who have consistently enjoyed a large fan base since the Michael Jordan years, are the third-most expensive team to watch live, with a TFC of $726. Tickets prices are fourth highest and beer, soda, hot dog and parking costs are all on the more expensive side.

29.   Los Angeles Lakers  

The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in NBA history and are a brand unto themselves. However, the team is projected by most to have a disappointing season as star Kobe Bryant recovers from an Achilles injury. Even in a down year with lower ticket prices, the Lakers’ TFC of $789 is the second highest in the NBA. Soda price is the only category where the Lakers fans can enjoy a below-average cost. If families want to attend a Lakers game at Staples Center regardless of team quality, this is most likely the season to do so due to relatively lower prices, but they will still be paying a premium for the Laker brand.

30.   New York Knicks  

Knicks games are by far the most expensive to attend of all 30 teams in the NBA. The team’s 2013-14 TFC of $878 is the highest in the league, nearly $100 more than the second most expensive team, the Lakers, and almost twice as much as the league-wide average of $442. Knicks tickets are the most expensive on the retail market with a median price of $200 and the team ranks among the six most expensive in the NBA for beer, hot dogs and parking. Madison Square Garden is one of the most famous and recognizable stadiums in the world and the Knicks franchise is regularly listed as one of the most valuable in sports, so the fact that the team is a playoff contender will only make it more difficult for families to fit attending games into their budgets.

 

Median resale ticket prices were obtained from Vivid Seats. Beer, soda, hot dog and parking prices were obtained from Team Marketing Report.

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  • Cropw

    Using median resale is a questionable choice. How many seats are sold this way will vary greatly by market and I’d assume most people pay directly.

    • http://www.nerdwallet.com/ NerdWallet

      Hi Cropw,

      Thanks for your input. We used median prices on the resale market because we believe they more accurately represent the demand for a team’s tickets than the box office ticket prices. Secondary market ticket prices will fluctuate throughout the season based on team performance. Therefore, the quality of the product on the court factors into these prices, whereas box office ticket prices aren’t truly reflective of this. Moreover, we used median prices to minimize the effect that a few, extremely high-priced seats have on the overall figure. In this case, the median is a much more accurate representation of the true average than the mean would be.

      • Cropw

        Thanks for the reply. We have different perspectives though.

  • dcbra

    The Pistons are selling 10 game packages for $76. Your median price on the secondary market of $74 makes me think there is a disconnect there somewhere.