LaVar Ball, the blustery face of the Big Baller Brand, seems to be stretching the axiom “all publicity is good publicity” to its breaking point.
When Ball originally introduced the idea of his “Junior Basketball Association,” basketball fans couldn’t hold back their snickering.
While the idea of a semi-pro league that offers young players a paid alternative to college and international hoops sounds good in theory, it would take a savvy businessman who cares more about the product on the court than his personal brand to succeed.
In other words, not LaVar Ball.
And that truth has become painfully, almost comically, apparent as the JBA begins to embark on its maiden voyage.
The biggest question surrounding the JBA was how Ball would get people to pay premium ticket prices to watch sub-par basketball players. The answer, apparently, is that Ball can’t.
Frankly, it shouldn’t be a surprise. LaVar’s youngest son, LaMelo, is the only top-150 prospect that will be featured in the league. A cynic might make the observation that the JBA will be a glorified LaMelo showcase against lower-tier competition.
Either way, the actual quality of the basketball will assuredly be abysmal.
But even if the JBA consisted of only top-150 prospects, Ball’s propensity to overcharge for the sake of overcharging rears its ugly head. A quick glance at Ticketmaster shows that JBA tickets range from about $35 to $95. It goes without saying that those prices are ridiculous.
Compare that to the NBA’s developmental G League. Those tickets typically run about $10 and offer significantly better basketball quality.
While there was always the slimmest of chances that LaVar Ball’s cult of personality could goose ticket sales, the grim reality is that people just aren’t interested in paying way too much for bad basketball. And the proof is in the pudding.
That is the seating chart available at Ticketmaster for the JBA’s season-opening game in Ontario, California, on June 21. Note that the upper decks are not available.
All of those blue dots are unsold seats. The JBA’s inaugural game is going to be played in a morgue.
Things only get worse when the venue moves away from the Ball’s home state of California and heads to Chicago.
That game takes place just days after the season-opener, on June 26, in Chicago’s Wintrust Arena. Again, the upper decks are not available, and blue dots denote unsold seats.
In another world, there may have been a way for Ball to launch a successful JBA. Lower ticket prices, smaller gyms and better diligence in recruiting higher-ranked talent could’ve made for an interesting semi-pro league.
But in our world, Ball has done none of those things. And basketball fans are letting their wallets do the talking.
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