The NBA just signed a $24 billion TV deal, which means you won’t have a tough time finding LeBron, Kobe and the league’s other stars on any of your screens. But if you want to see them in person, you’ll need a good chunk of money yourself. The entire game experience—tickets, drinks, food and more—can now cost a family of four upward of $1,500.
With the 2014-15 regular season set to begin in a few days, NerdWallet looked at just how big a hole going to an NBA game will leave in your wallet.
- Breaking the bank: A family of four would spend, on average, about $650 to get the live game experience.
- Timing matters: Although ticket prices on the resale market can be quite high, especially before the season begins, you can generally find great value on tickets to certain matchups or seats if you wait until closer to day of the game.
- The LeBron Factor: Since the news in July that LeBron James was “coming home,” the Cleveland Cavaliers have seen a 204% jump in their average resale ticket price over last season, while home game tickets for James’ former team, the Miami Heat, are 25% lower this year.
In analyzing the cost of attending a home game for each of the NBA’s 30 teams, we asked the following questions:
1. How much do various items commonly purchased at sporting events—tickets, beer, soda, hot dogs and parking—cost at each arena?
We looked at median 2014-15 ticket prices on the resale market for each team (from TiqIQ), along with average prices of a 16-ounce beer, a 16-ounce soda, a hot dog and parking.
2. How much does the average home game experience at each of the 30 arenas cost for a family of four?
We calculated a “Total Family Cost” (TFC) for each team to assess the cost for a family of four to attend a home game: the total price of four tickets purchased on the secondary market, beers for Mom and Dad, sodas for the kids, four hot dogs and one parking space.
We used median resale ticket prices because the secondary market offers a more accurate representation of the demand for a team’s tickets. Ticket prices will fluctuate throughout the season based on team performance and the draw of that night’s opponent. 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.
By the numbers
The average cost for a family of four to attend an NBA game is $654.09. That breaks down as follows:
- $596.56 for four resale tickets at a median price of $149.14 each
- $13.66 for two 16-ounce beers at the NBA average price of $6.83 each
- $7.59 for two 16-ounce sodas at $3.79 each
- $19.91 for four hot dogs at $4.98 each
- $16.37 for one parking space
Nowhere will the NBA game experience be more expensive this season than in Cleveland—$1,504.89 for a family of four to see the King.
Just how much is LeBron James worth to a team? It’s hard to pin an exact number on the value of the NBA’s best player, but here’s one telling figure: The median resale ticket price for a Cavs home game is 204% higher than it was one year ago—by far the biggest jump among the league’s teams.
Meanwhile, the team LeBron left behind, the Miami Heat, saw the biggest decrease in secondary-market ticket prices. The average Heat home game now costs 25% less than it did at the beginning of last season.
And James’ impact is indirect as well. The most affordable outing to an NBA game this season will be in Minnesota, where the Timberwolves aren’t expected to be too good. Why not? They lost their best player, Kevin Love, to Cleveland so that he could play alongside James.
Check out the complete list of all 30 NBA teams, ranked from highest Total Family Cost to lowest, and click on your favorite team to read more about how it stacks up against the rest of the league.
|Rank||Team||2011-2012 median resale ticket||2012-2013 median resale ticket||2013-2014 median resale ticket||2014-2015 median resale ticket||16 oz. beer||16 oz. soda||Hot dog||Parking||Total Family Cost (TFC)|
|2||New York Knicks||$322.94||$287.93||$320.92||$283.70||$11.67||$3.33||$6.00||$30.00||$1,218.80|
|4||Los Angeles Lakers||$319.70||$361.97||$284.84||$227.96||$6.80||$4.00||$6.00||$25.00||$982.44|
|7||Los Angeles Clippers||$220.73||$122.57||$163.42||$194.04||$6.80||$4.00||$6.00||$25.00||$846.76|
|10||Oklahoma City Thunder||$185.97||$163.95||$187.16||$165.50||$5.00||$3.00||$3.50||$10.00||$702.00|
|12||San Antonio Spurs||$101.72||$94.05||$111.69||$147.44||$5.00||$3.25||$3.00||$15.00||$633.26|
|13||Golden State Warriors||$136.02||$100.96||$149.69||$135.64||$9.33||$4.00||$6.00||$25.00||$618.23|
|17||Portland Trail Blazers||$130.20||$87.79||$92.78||$111.66||$7.00||$5.00||$6.00||$13.00||$507.64|
|21||New Orleans Pelicans||$81.08||$80.15||$89.17||$95.52||$5.60||$5.33||$4.00||$15.00||$434.95|
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are a Miami fan in denial, you’ve heard that LeBron James has taken his talents back to northeast Ohio. This has led to a huge spike in the average ticket price on the secondary market for a game at Quicken Loans Arena. After enjoying relatively low ticket prices the last few years (albeit for a pretty bad team), a family of four might now have to put up the equivalent of a few months of mortgage payments to see the James-Love-Kyrie Irving show. Some good news for fans’ wallets is that hot dog and parking costs for Cavs games are some of the lowest in the league.
2. New York Knicks
While the Cavs’ resale ticket prices reflect the immense desire to witness LeBron’s super-team, the Knicks have proven over the years that the demand for their games is inelastic to the team’s on-court success. Despite missing the playoffs last season in a historically weak conference, the Knicks have the advantage of playing in a world-famous arena (Madison Square Garden) in the biggest market in the U.S. The average 2014-15 TFC for a Knicks game is more than $1,200, nearly twice the league average and about half a month’s rent for an apartment in the Big Apple. Contributing to the cost is the highest price for beer of any team—nearly $12 for a pint.
3. Chicago Bulls
Fans are giddy for the return of Derrick Rose from his injury a year ago and the offseason addition of Pau Gasol, and many around the league expect the Bulls to be one of the top teams in the NBA this season. The Bulls perennially rank as one of the most expensive NBA experiences, thanks to the big Chicago market and a strong fan base (which can be linked to some guy named Michael Jordan).
4. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are one of the flagship franchises of the NBA, and so even when they’re expected to be among the lesser teams in the league, their home game experience will be the fourth-most expensive, with an average TFC of $982. If families want to attend a Lakers game at Staples Center regardless of how good the team is, this is a great year to do so. They’ll still be paying a premium for the Laker brand, but prices are lower than in recent seasons, and deals on tickets will surely be found on the resale market as the season progresses.
5. Miami Heat
It remains to be seen just how much the Heat will suffer from losing LeBron, but we can already tell they’re going to miss him in more ways than one. The median resale ticket price for 2014-15 games at American Airlines Arena is 25% lower than it was at this time last year. The overall TFC of $910 is still quite high, about $256 more than the NBA average, and families hoping to catch a Heat game this season should try to avoid certain costs, such as the most expensive hot dog ($7) and parking ($35) in the NBA.
6. Brooklyn Nets
Ever since the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center—the most expensive NBA arena ever built—ticket prices on the secondary market have been high. The Nets are again expected to be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference, so fans will continue to pay a Big Apple markup. Beer, soda, hot dog and parking costs are all on the more expensive side of the league. Families can perhaps take solace in the fact that between the two New York teams, Nets games are more affordable than Knicks outings.
7. Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers should be among the best teams in the Western Conference, and significantly better than the Lakers, with whom they share Staples Center. Still, the average TFC for a Clippers game is $136 less than for a Lakers game. This is due to decades of the Lakers being the superior franchise, of course, but with disgraced former owner Donald Sterling gone and the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer, the Clippers believe they have the brighter future. For now, families wanting to get the live NBA experience in L.A. are better off going to a Clippers game, where they’ll see better play for less money.
8. Toronto Raptors
The only NBA team located outside the U.S. enjoys a loyal fan base. Although the Raptors haven’t achieved any level of consistent success since joining the league in 1995, they made the playoffs last season, and will likely return to the postseason this year. This is reflected in the median ticket price for the upcoming season, which is 30% higher than it was a year ago.
9. Houston Rockets
The Rockets boast two superstars in James Harden and Dwight Howard and play an entertaining style of up-tempo basketball, so fan demand is high. Their TFC of $744 is about a hundred bucks higher than the NBA average. The Toyota Center offers below-average costs for soda and parking, but the second-highest hot dog price of all arenas.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder
Ever since moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, the Thunder have enjoyed immense success and are a perennial contender. They also enjoy a loud and loyal fan base. However, ticket prices on the resale market fell after news broke that their star, and the reigning league MVP, Kevin Durant will miss the first two months of the season with an injury. The average home game this season currently costs 12% less than it did one year ago, but that number will rise once Durant returns. Beer, soda, hot dog and parking costs at Chesapeake Energy Arena are all well below average prices.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Last season, the artists formerly known as the Bobcats made the postseason for just the second time in their 10-year existence. They are a talented young squad expected to be a playoff team again this year, and the secondary ticket market reflects this, as the median ticket price for a Hornets game is 27% higher than at the beginning of last season. However, beer, soda and hot dog costs are all below league averages, and the average parking price is the lowest of all teams.
12. San Antonio Spurs
The reigning NBA champions and most successful franchise of late, having won five titles since 1999, the Spurs are a middle-of-the-pack team when it comes to fan costs. Their TFC of $633 is slightly less than the league average, and in typical Spurs fashion, their median resale ticket price is the closest of all 30 teams to the NBA average of $149—even after a 32% increase in median price over last year. AT&T Center also offers the cheapest beer and hot dogs in the NBA. This mix of success and affordability makes the Spurs one of the best values for spectators.
13. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are another strong team with a slightly below average TFC. Led by one of the most entertaining players in the league in Steph Curry, Golden State has been to the playoffs two straight years, and should go again this season. Families making a trip to Oracle Arena may want to avoid buying beer, as it’s the third-most expensive in the league.
14. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have been fairly successful over the last decade, making the playoffs ten straight times before last season. They should be in the mix for a playoff spot this season, so their mid-table standing in terms of TFC makes sense. However, Pepsi Center’s beer is the fourth-most expensive in the NBA, which makes little sense given that Colorado is one the nation’s top states in terms of beer production and sales.
15. Boston Celtics
The Celtics are one of the NBA’s storied franchises, with 17 championships to date—the most of any team. However, the current squad is in rebuilding mode and will likely miss the playoffs for the second season in a row. Most other young teams with low expectations would rank lower on this list, but Celtics fans are loyal and so demand remains relatively high. Beer, soda, hot dog and parking costs are all higher than average at TD Garden, contributing to a TFC of $595.
16. Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks made the playoffs last season, and after acquiring Chandler Parsons and Tyson Chandler to flank franchise star Dirk Nowitzki, they should make more noise this season. Thus it’s a bit surprising that the team isn’t higher on this list—their TFC of $537 is well below the NBA average. Dallas fans also can find the league’s fourth-cheapest beer at Mavs games.
17. Portland Trail Blazers
After an entertaining run to the Western Conference semifinals last season, the Blazers have seen a 20% jump in their median ticket price on the resale market. However, the TFC of $507 is still $131 less than the league average, which means fans in Portland are getting pretty good value compared to the rest of the league.
18. Washington Wizards
The Wizards are another young team that emerged from futility last season, thanks to young star John Wall, and they’re now hoping to keep building. After an 8% increase in the median resale ticket price, the TFC of a Wizards game is $498. Verizon Center’s average 16-ounce beer price of $5.33 is among the lowest in the league.
19. Phoenix Suns
Expectations were extremely low this time a year ago, but the Suns surprised almost everyone by winning 48 games and nearly making the playoffs. As a result, the average ticket price on the secondary market is up 8%. Still, Suns fans can watch an exciting young team for less than the league average. Beer, soda and parking costs at US Airways Center are all affordable as well.
20. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers are busy rebuilding (or tanking, cynics say), and they could well challenge the NBA record they tied last season losing 26 games in a row. Therefore, it’s hard to fathom why they aren’t much, much lower on this list. The Sixers’ TFC of $453 is well below the league average, but that still seems like a high price for a family of four to pay to see this team lose. The avid Philly fan base can expect to pay about the league average for beer, soda or hot dogs.
21. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans missed the playoffs last year, but they have the one of the best young players in the league in Anthony Davis. Fans expect to see an improvement in their team’s record, so ticket prices are 7% higher than last year. A pint of beer at $5.60 is cheaper than the NBA average, but soda is more expensive at Smoothie King Center than anywhere else in the league at $5.33 for 16 ounces.
22. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have made the playoffs each of the last four seasons, going as far as the Western Conference finals two years ago. This means that their TFC of $415—ninth lowest in the league, $224 less than the average—should be great news for fans. Beer prices are slightly above average, but soda, hot dog and parking costs at FedEx Forum are all below NBA average.
23. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have made the Eastern Conference finals the last two seasons, but hopes have dimmed because star Paul George will likely miss the entire season after a brutal injury he suffered playing for the U.S. national team this summer. Ticket prices were surprisingly low last year, and after a modest 5% jump, the Pacers’ TFC is still the eighth-lowest in the NBA at $406. Beer, soda and parking costs are all well below average at Pacers home games.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were the worst team in the NBA last season, but their median resale ticket price is up 16% for this season. Why? Fans are perhaps excited to see rookie Jabari Parker, one of the best college players in the country last year before the Bucks selected him with the second overall pick in the NBA draft. The TFC for a game at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is the seventh-lowest of all teams, but beer, soda, hot dog and parking costs are all around league averages.
25. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks have been a playoff team for seven years running, but it’s interesting that the median resale ticket price at the beginning of each season has steadily decreased for four straight years. It’s been an ugly offseason for the franchise, and owner Bruce Levenson is in the process of selling his stake in the team. But the Hawks should find themselves back in the playoffs, and their fans can catch a home game for the sixth-lowest TFC in the league.
26. Orlando Magic
The Magic have been rebuilding since they traded Dwight Howard two years ago, and expectations are again low for this young and inexperienced squad. The Magic’s TFC of $399 is fifth-lowest in the NBA and $239 less than the league average.
27. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have had eight straight losing seasons, and it’s hard to see them turning that around this year. Their median resale ticket price has stayed at almost the same mark for three years. Beer, hot dog and parking prices at Sleep Train Arena are all below average.
28. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since 2009 but hope to find their way back this year. After a miserable 2013-14 campaign, the Pistons can offer fans the third-most affordable home game experience in the NBA with a TFC of $377.
29. Utah Jazz
Even after a 12% jump in median resale ticket price, the Jazz have the second-most affordable home games in the league. They also offer the lowest soda price of all 30 teams, while beer, hot dog and parking costs are also lower than NBA averages.
30. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves entered rebuilding mode when they traded star Kevin Love to Cleveland. In return they got several players, including the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Andrew Wiggins, and their home tickets are the cheapest on the secondary market. With a $350 TFC—more than $300 less than the league average—the Wolves are the most affordable NBA game experience.