After a long wait and tons of speculation, LeBron James has officially joined the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Akron native released a story on Sports Illustrated to announce the news, a step down from an hour-long television special on ESPN. James’ addition instantly makes the Cavs the favorite in the Eastern Conference, while all but assuring a breakdown of the Heat with Chris Bosh likely headed to the Houston Rockets.
The news should also lead to large ticket price increases on the secondary market for Cleveland. The last time James was on the team, Cavaliers tickets were one of the most expensive in the league. They plummeted in the four years James was in Miami. According to TiqIQ, in James’ final season with Cleveland, home games on the Cavaliers schedule had an average price of $195.70 on the secondary market, then when he left prices dropped way down to $51.87. Last year those numbers were raised only a little to $68.17. Meanwhile the Heat, who doesn’t play in a particularly attentive market, averaged $234.36 a ticket.
That paints part of the picture of how appealing James is to the masses. Even on the road Heat tickets tend to be near the top of league. In Cleveland they were burning his jersey when he left, but ticket prices exceeded $200 in James first game back. The Heat’s first game in Cleveland in 2011 averaged $251.95 for a 386 percent premium, and last season the Heat’s first game in Cleveland averaged $202.74.
Expect that $200 mark to be the threshold for Cavs tickets next season. In fact, it wouldn’t be shocking if Cavs tickets become the most expensive in the league, a distinction the New York Knicks held last season with a $236.78 average. At the very least the Cavs would likely become the most expensive game on the Knicks schedule at Madison Square Garden, and every other team in the league – even the ones that already have high ticket prices.
James is joining a young and talented roster in Cleveland. In addition to young star point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland just drafted Andrew Wiggins with the top pick in the NBA Draft. Wiggins is already expected to be a premier perimeter defender, and has the athleticism and shooting ability to turn into a star on the offensive end as well. The Cavs are also rumored to be pursuing a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves superstar, Kevin Love. Even without a trade, it’s clear the Cavs have become a top contender in the East, if not the team to beat.
After a long championship drought for Cleveland, things could be turning around for the city that now finds itself at the center of the sports universe. Games on the 2014 Browns schedule have already seen a boost in ticket price after drafting Johnny Manziel in May. Even prices across the Indians schedule have ben more expensive following their trip to the playoffs last season. There’s little doubt that demand for Cavaliers tickets will be as high as any team in the NBA and that the Cavs will be the hottest ticket in Cleveland.