Mapping NBA Fan Costs

NBA, Fan, Map, Knicks, Beer, Tickets
All NBA games are not created equally, or at least-you can’t get into all NBA games for an equal price. The folks at Team Marketing Report put together yearly reports on the cost of being a fan-aptly named the Fan Cost Index. It includes four average priced tickets, two cheap draft beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, one parking pass, two programs, and two least cost fan-hats. It’s meant to be a comprehensive report on what a fan might pay to go to a game and the disparity is amazing.

Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire are getting paid a lot of money. And to see them at Madison Square Garden, you’ll pay a fortune. Maybe it’s the legacy of basketball at MSG, maybe it’s Spike Lee’s presence, maybe it’s just J.R. Smith trying to untie someone’s shoes. In any case, the fans are still paying, so James Dolan will keep charging.

The other highest cost fan cities aren’t surprising- Miami, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Brooklyn- big cities, high cost of living, high-paid free agents. Looking at the map, these are the darkest (highest-cost areas).

Across the country-there’s one other significant geographic trend. The Mid-Atlantic and Southeast together (less Florida) form the lowest cost area for being an NBA fan with all of the lowest priced teams forming a contiguous grouping. After that, the middle priced teams are scattered throughout the mid-West through to the Pacific Northwest. Chalk it up to the Southeast being football country or having lower median incomes, whatever the reason, it’s cheapest to be an NBA fan there.

One of the other most stark trends-the cost of being a fan is heavily concentrated near the bottom of the spectrum, with 23 of 30 teams falling into the three lowest price ranges (out of 9). New York sits in the highest and then has three full price ranges in between them and the next highest team.

Does this mean it’s an unbelievable bargain to be a Pacers’ fan this year? To see Paul George and Roy Hibbert dominate the court (which they’ve been struggling with lately)? While they still lead the East, they’re near the bottom of the list in Fan Cost. Perhaps. You’re not necessarily paying for success as a fan-though if a team is too terrible, the fan base will disappear. Maybe high fan cost is indicative of arena quality, dining options, availability of mass transit-all the things that cost a team money to provide but have no relation to actual game play.

All in all our takeaways are:

  • It’s ridiculously expensive to see the Knicks play basketball
  • By far, the teams are concentrated near the low end of the cost spectrum
  • The Mid-Atlantic and Southeast have all the cheapest teams to be a fan of.
  • As expected, you’ll pay a hefty fee to see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the defending champion Heat
    Data courtesy Team Marketing Report
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