More random thoughts on the Miami Heat’s big free agency coup, in no particular order:
+ The LeBron effect: In Cleveland, LeBron James made the perennial cellar dweller Cavaliers relevant. The arena sold out. The team had the NBA’s best regular season last year. Television ratings about quadrupled since before his arrival.
While the impact of James playing alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is immeasurable at this point, it’s clear it can’t be quite as dramatic as what occurred in Cleveland. Cleveland had much farther to rise. Although the Heat didn’t sell out last season, attendance was at 90 percent of arena capacity and the team did go to the first round of the playoffs.
+ Since most people didn’t think it was possible James would join the Heat, the price of Heat season tickets on the secondary market remained fairly steady for the first week of free agency. The day after James announced? The price went up 2.5 times, according to ticket search engine FanSnap.com, which reported sales rose from $3,238.61 on Thursday to $8,249.99 on Friday. Check out FanSnap.com’s chart showing season ticket package prices from July 1-9.
+ Joe Johnson is getting the maximum. The trio isn’t.
+ The Heat’s decision to halt season ticket sales on Thursday was a strategic one. Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth said it helped that the team had the history of trading for Shaquille O’Neal in July 2004. The trade had an instant impact, including selling out season tickets.
“We learned a lot of lessons both good and bad,” Woolworth said. “We certainly enjoyed the status of having the most season tickets in the league, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the best thing we could do. The more season tickets you have the more you have to service, the more you have to renew every year. Certain locations are great locations but not great season ticket locations.”
Woolworth said that means team staff has to spend time working to renew season ticket holders in the least expensive seats.
That’s part of the reason for deciding to hold back a quarter to a third of AmericanAirlines Arena’s 19,600 seats – including all of the 400 level – to sell in the future in season ticket mini-plans and to groups and individual game ticket buyers. Woolworth said the team also wants to have inventory so more fans can attend games.
“There is community aspect to it,” he said. “When you sell out almost of all of your season tickets, you start playing to almost an exclusive audience. There aren’t as many people in the community who can see games. We want to make sure there are tickets available to every game.”
+ With all this talk of Pat Riley impressing free agents with his championship rings, I share some insight he gave me about using the rings as motivation. This comes from a story about championship rings I wrote in 2004, just as the Marlins were to receive their 2003 World Series championship rings, and two years before Riley’s Miami Heat picked up their first rings in 2006. Here’s the beginning of that story:
Pat Riley keeps five of his championship rings in a small velvet bag and occasionally as a coach he'd bring them to practice and jingle them in his pocket.
The Heat president wears only his sixth ring -- commemorating the historic 1985 Los Angeles Lakers victory over the Boston Celtics in Boston Garden. He had that ring altered to make it a more manageable size like a class ring, but the others he uses to remind players of sports' holy grail.
"I'd let players wear them for like a week just because it's what we all play for. It's a symbol of absolute professional significance. The worst thing as a player is to retire and know they never won a championship." said Riley, who won two as a player and four as coach of the "Showtime" Lakers. "It's a very, very significant achievement, despite all of the negative things we read about professional sports ... This is what it's all about, when you're part of a team and win a championship, it's something that really matters and counts."
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