Everybody loves a winner, even during troubled economic times.
The Lakers season-ticket holders renewed at a 99% rate for the upcoming season, an impressive percentage during robust financial periods, but much more so given the current slowdown.
The Lakers were within two victories of winning an NBA championship last season, and their fans have followed, hoping for a continued uptick in the franchise's fortunes. The Lakers are preseason favorites to win the NBA championship in the eyes of many prognosticators.
Season-ticket renewal averages across the league this season were about 79%. Some NBA teams have even had trouble collecting from fans.
The Lakers, however, had no such issues when money was collected over the off-season, despite across-the-board price increases, a relatively unsurprising action after the team paid almost $5 million in luxury taxes on last season's payroll and faced a larger tax hit this season.
Courtside seats, think Jack Nicholson, were raised from $2,300 to $2,500 per game, an 8.7% increase, and seats in six lower-level sections between the baskets were raised from $230 to $245, a 6.5% hike.
Still, season-ticket holders expressed resounding interest in the Lakers' upcoming season, which begins Oct. 28 at home against Portland.
"Any time you're knocking on the door of a championship, you have to believe that our core customers are happy with the product," said Tim Harris, senior vice president of business operations and chief marketing officer for the Lakers. "There's a relationship that they've built with this team."
Along those lines, single-game tickets that went on sale over the weekend for seven "premium" home games were immediately sold out. Those games include a game against Boston on Christmas Day and a game against Cleveland on Martin Luther King Day.
Lakers season-ticket holders renewed at a 93% rate before last season, a drop attributed to the Lakers' not winning a playoff series at the time since 2004.
Season-ticket holders are of vital importance to a franchise valued at more than $550 million. In fact, Lakers owner Jerry Buss took the unusual step of sending a letter to some of them in June 2007, three weeks after Kobe Bryant demanded to be traded and two weeks after ticket-renewal forms were mailed.
"You want to win. We want to win," Buss said in the letter. "I believe that we have always shown a willingness to do what needs to be done and spend what needs to be spent to deliver you championship-caliber basketball. We remain committed to that philosophy."
Apparently, many Lakers fans do too.
The Lakers begin exhibition play tonight against Utah in Anaheim. Bryant and Pau Gasol, who are being eased into the exhibition season after a busy summer of international play, are expected to play limited minutes. Sasha Vujacic (sprained ankle) and Luke Walton (off-season ankle surgery) are listed as doubtful for the game.