NBA Offseason: Can the League Ride the Wave of Hype to Record Profits?

Zach McDonieContributor IJuly 23, 2010

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This summer has been a rollercoaster ride for basketball fans all across the country. The continuous media coverage on all things LeBron is sure to rest in the minds of the majority of fans as we crawl towards the start of the regular season.

The entire league does, no doubt, adore the multitude of build up and attention swirling around it through these summer months. The offseason has stolen away headlines from Wimbledon, the MLB all star break, and the largest worldwide sports phenomenon: the World Cup.

As a fan, you have to look at this and think how great it is going to be for the league from an entertainment standpoint. I mean come on, LeBron and D-Wade running up and down the same floor together every night? The largest microscope in the league will fall on South Beach, where the nation will observe every dribble, pass and dunk.  

While the NBA has been perceived as a player’s league this offseason, the fact of the matter is that it is still a business and the organizations are what keep the train rolling.

So let’s step back and take a look at how this offseason will not only pave new roads from an entertainment standpoint, but also a business one.

For awhile there it looked as if everyone was going to head into fall disappointed. It appeared as if the hype was unwarranted. With Wade believed to be staying, Cleveland rumored to be leading for LeBron, Rudy Gay resigning, and Bosh being shipped to LA in a sign and trade, NBA fans were kicking themselves for putting so much emotional involvement into this hoopla.

Then, one domino fell after another and the face of the league was changed within one fateful week. After the dust settled, NBA organizations really began to notice the gears shifting in a business operations sense.

As a whole, ticket sales were skyrocketing all over the league. Teams were selling out left and right. TV partners were also drooling at the thought of just how marketable their various packages were going to be when October rolls around. The dollar signs were beginning to swirl around in all of the executive’s heads.

With the league believed to be declining (losing $370 million last year) this alteration was a breath of fresh air.

The largest beneficiary on the bottom line was probably the Miami Heat, who has already sold out all available season tickets. The buzz from South Beach can be heard coast to coast. Heck, the buzz all around the country can be heard. According to Sports Business Journal, even the Charlotte Bobcats have seen a 1,000 ticket increase in season ticket sales.

Aside from corporate sales, merchandising may be the area achieving the largest increase. With all of the personnel shifts, jerseys and team apparel are flying off of the shelves. Fans are scrambling to land the new LeBron number six jersey, or the Amar’e Knicks shirt.

The NBA has an image of a little brother when it comes to business compared to the NFL. However, the league execs are banking on this offseason wave to carry them closer to the level of power the NFL has earned.

The NBA is expected to “ride the hot hand” so to speak, so get used to seeing the Miami Heat everywhere you go. Chances are, if there is a game on, it’s going to be them. But come on, can you blame them? This is the biggest happening in the history of the league, and with all of the uncertainty over the future after the collective bargaining negotiations, the league plans to milk this for everything it is worth.

The NBA still needs a lot of work in various aspects of their business, but this may be the first time that the anticipation for the start of the season rivals that of the NFL. This can only mean good things for a league that has been struggling to stay afloat this decade.