February 25, 2015

I Love Ebay

Last weekend's All-Star Game in New York was absolutely one of the best experiences I have ever had as an NBA fan. I can't imagine a better city more steeped in hoops history, whether it be amateur or professional ball, than New York. It was absolutely the dream matchup in terms of aligning a city with an All-Star experience. The funny thing was, though, it was never supposed to happen that way. Here's why.

A couple of years ago, I decided it was about time I attended an NBA All-Star Game. While I've never been a huge All-Star guy, I figured after becoming a slightly more than moderately NBA obsessed fan I owed it to myself and to the league to do it once. I decided I would bite the bullet, plunk down a couple of thousand bucks through the NBA Events website and go sit in the upper deck of some NBA arena somewhere in the United States or Canada and watch the All-Star Game and All-Star Saturday Night in person. Once. Definitely only once. Probably.

When I made the decision to make it to an All-Star Game, I decided I wanted to go to one that featured the participation of at least one Washington Wizards player. Last year, the Wizards' John Wall made it to the All-Star Game as a reserve and also won the Slam Dunk Contest and Bradley Beal finished second in the Three Point Shooting Contest. It seemed to me that I better get a little more serious about making All-Star plans before the window closed on these Wizards being good. Aren't I ever the optimist about my team's chances long term?

Since I was pretty high on the Wizards after last year's All-Star Game, I started checking into options for future contests. As of last February, the only venues selected for All-Star Weekend were New York this year and Toronto in 2016. My initial thought was there's no way that I was going to spend the kind of money required to go to the New York version but instead I should set my sights on Toronto the next year. I started squirreling away money right away, knowing that this would be the most expensive basketball game I would ever attend in my life. That was that.

Then ebay happened. I first began using ebay in the fall of 2012, when I started on the slippery slope of collecting basketball cards. Ebay, in my opinion, is the absolute best place to shop for basketball cards to assemble a team specific collection. It's also a great place to buy iPod covers, shoehorns and Blackberry batteries (yes, I still have one) but that's sort of beside the point. During the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 NBA seasons, I collected a lot of basketball cards. So I was on the site a lot.

Then in April of last year, I noticed an announcement on ebay for an auction sponsored by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to raise funds for the museum. Ever being a sucker for signed collectibles, I thought I should take a look to see what they were selling off. Maybe there would be some Wizards items. There weren't. But one of the items in the auction really caught my eye: two tickets to the 2015 NBA All-Star Weekend, which included accommodations for four nights plus two tickets to the Rising Stars Challenge, All-Star Saturday Night and the All-Star Game itself. Estimated value $7,500; minimum bid $3,250. Pre-qualification required.

Seriously? I wasn't up for paying over seven grand for a long weekend in New York but I was budgeting a couple of thousand bucks to go to Toronto in 2016 for my ticket alone without hotel. I preregistered for the auction and waited and watched. Maybe if the bidding stayed low enough, I had a shot at picking this up. Probably a pipe dream but it was probably worth watching.

Then something funny happened. Or didn't happen. Nobody was bidding on the item. Like nobody. Not a single person. It got to two days before the bidding was scheduled to end and I thought I should start considering the possibility of me winning this thing. So I asked a question about where the seats were located. I was told the exact locations were not known but that "our seats are always located in the lower level sidelines between the baskets." OK, good to know.

April 12, 2014. Bid day. Still no bids. My experience on ebay buying basketball cards is that the way to win an auction on the site is to wait until the last minute and then outbid whomever is leading the bidding with about five seconds left in the auction period. That was going to be my approach to winning this auction except that I had to be at a Wizards game that night when the bidding was scheduled to end. And I'm not missing a home game for an auction I'm not likely to win. I placed my bid at an upper limit of $4,250 and hopped on the Metro bound for Verizon Center. Whatever happens, happens.

So it turned out that I was the only one who bid on this item and I ended up with it for the low, low price of $3,250. I still can't believe it even now. I'm thinking three things got me this win. First, there was a prequalification required (which honestly involved filling out a form with no substantive information) that prevented last minute impulse buyers from getting involved. Second, the item being auctioned was an experience that wouldn't happen for ten months and most people have difficulty planning that far out. And third, it was pretty expensive if you ignored the actual value. Whatever the reason, nobody but me took a shot here.

I'm not sure how the folks at the Basketball Hall of Fame got a value of $7,500 here by the way. Packages similar to the one I won on the NBA-Events.com site were about $4,500 per person for tickets only. In my books that makes what I won at auction worth $9,000 without hotel (which is probably another $1,000). Whatever. I wouldn't have had this experience without seeing this item on ebay, at least not in New York, because I wasn't prepared to pay for it in New York. And it truly was the best place to see the NBA All-Star Game.  It was a weekend I'll never forget.

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