July 29, 2017

G-League Logo Rank, Part 1

Now that I'm done with re-ranking the NBA logos for the third straight summer, let's tackle the minor league shall we?

I started writing this post months ago, knowing full well that I'd need to find something to kill the time this summer on this blog. I planned to make it a two-parter so that I wouldn't be tackling all 22 D-League (at the time) logos in one massive post. I figured I could reasonably tackle 11 each in two consecutive posts. I made a list from 1 to 22 and left it as a draft.

Since the time I started thinking about writing about the kids table league logos, there's been a lot of change. The Developmental League name is gone and replaced with corporate sponsored name Gatorade League. Gone too are the Los Angeles D-Fenders (reimagined as the South Bay Lakers) and the Iowa Energy (now the Iowa Wolves which is a tragedy of sorts). Of course the Lakers and Wolves (yawn! names) have revamped their logos but so have some other teams, and not all for the better. Finally, there are no longer 22 teams; there are 26. And all of a sudden two posts of 13 each doesn't sound so appealing to me.

So, with all that said, let's do this in three parts. And here's Part 1, which of course is the worst stuff in the G-League (I shudder every time I type that). Strap yourself in for some truly just not very good logos. It gets better. A couple of weeks from now when I roll out Part 3, your faith in logo designing will be restored because, in addition to some pretty terrible derivative logos, there are some gems in the G-League (shudder...that's the last time I'll write that out in this post).

26. Oklahoma City Blue
If you had challenged me to take the Oklahoma City Thunder's logo and make it worse, I'm not sure I could have done a better job than the team itself did when it rolled out its shot at branding their minor league team, the Blue (worst name in the league by the way). The parent team's logo, which features a triangle with bulging sides and some curved sort of markings behind, I believe is intended to reference the native Americans who called and call Oklahoma home. The overall effect, however, is underwhelming.

Two things about the Blue's logo (shown at the top of this post) here: (1) I'm not sure why anyone would want to copy the Thunder logo and (2) if you do actually like the logo, why make it simpler? Part of the problem with the Thunder logo to me is that it's too simple. Who knows, maybe I'm just looking for someone to add something to distract me from how bad this logo is. In the NBA, the Thunder are saved from the bottom spot because the Los Angeles Clippers rolled out a logo package a couple of years ago that is truly pathetic. There's nobody to save the Blue here.

25. Wisconsin Herd
A couple of years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks introduced a new branding that made their deer-centric logo package a little more abstract. Other than the fact that their primary logo looks like a deer head mounted on a wall, I generally love it as an improvement over their former look. It seems bold and modern and I love map based logos like the state of Wisconsin secondary logo. I don't love what the Bucks have done with that logo package as they have applied it to their minor league franchise.

First let me say that I like the alternate logo which is a stylized basketball with the letter W on it. But what is going on with the three-headed deer look? To me, this is either a deer with two smaller partial deer heads growing out of its shoulders or three deer about to do something very mean to the whomever they are staring at but the two deer in the back only have a single antler each. It looks like something out of a cheap deer-centric horror movie and represents the second logo of many in the G-League which are just manipulating the name and look of the parent franchise in a non-productive way.

24. Lakeland Magic
The Lakeland Magic have two official logos: one which is not sponsored and one which is. I don't like either of them but I especially don't like the sponsored one, which is the exact same as the non-sponsored one but with HomeValue.com at the bottom. I get that it's a way to make more money. I just don't get why anyone would want their branding to be this way.

As for the logo itself, I think the Magic got ripped off by someone putting a summer intern on their project. Seriously? A basketball surrounded by a black ring with some stars on it? I'm assuming this thing was a rush job and that they didn't pay much for it. I'd feel worse if they did. The Magic are the first team in this countdown who just named their G-League team after their NBA franchise. Predictably, I don't like this either; it's completely unimaginative. I know this list isn't about ranking team names but I had to mention that anyway.

23. Westchester Knicks
If the Westchester Knicks had just stuck to their guns here with their original logo when they entered the League, they'd finish a lot higher in this ranking. That's because their original logo was based on the old old New York Knicks logo that the home team (one of only two original franchises still in the location where they started) that featured Father Knickerbocker with a basketball.

To demonstrate how awesome their former logo was, I've included both the new and the old above. The current logo (on the left) is pretty much exactly the same as their parent team's logo except with "Westchester" in place of "New York". Boring. Yet, somehow in my mind better than the Blue, the mutated deer and a sponsored logo. Go figure. Supreme mediocrity somehow gets you 23rd out of 26 here. Who thinks James Dolan paid someone to come up with this logo? For the record, I do.

22. South Bay Lakers
Speaking of unimaginative retreads of an already-extant logo...let's talk about the South Bay Lakers (or the team formerly known as the Los Angeles D-Fenders). The Lakers haven't applied quite the same level of non-thought as the Knicks had, but it's pretty close.

The Los Angeles Lakers logo features a Lakers name apparently in fast motion forwards (or to the right on the logo) behind a gold basketball. The South Bay Lakers logo seems a bit more chill. Gone are the movement lines from the original perhaps because the junior Lakers and former D-Fenders have never won an NBDL (or whatever else you want to call it) title. But if the logo's come to a dead stop, the golden basketball has also transformed into a sun with an ocean below reflecting the sun's rays. How beach-y for a team that plays in El Segundo. The arena's not on the ocean but it's nor far off. The Lakers beat the Knicks here. Barely, but they do it. For the record, I like their secondary logo better.

21. Texas Legends
The logos that someone came up with for the Legends are not great but they show some imagination and that counts for something. I mean, look at the competition to this point for crying out loud. Let's take a look at their secondary logo first which is shown on the right above (the awkwardly fonted "TL" over a strangely patterned basketball graphic). I'll just say this sort of jumbo font logo isn't good and let's just move on. Some G-League teams haven't even bothered with an alternate look. The Legends shouldn't have either.

It's their primary branding that gets them some credit here. Yes, I know that the unevenly pointed star is a proportional nightmare; I assume it's intended to echo the star in the Lone Star State's flag. But honestly, I have to say before I started paying attention to the League's logos about six years ago (right before I made my first D-League road trip), I thought the logo was a cattle skull. So just for my mis-read which is I am sure the intended double entendre (or is it double voir?) the Legends get a win here. It's not elegant but it's effective.

20. Windy City Bulls
I know what you are thinking here. For the past three years (or for forever since I started publishing blog posts about logos over the last three summers) I've ranked the Chicago Bulls logo number one in the NBA. And the Windy City Bulls logo is pretty much the exact same thing, only with a kick ass map-based (which everyone knows I love) secondary logo to make the overall package even better. 

Well...yes and no. Pretty much the exact same thing and the actual exact same thing are different. And the WC Bulls' logo is beefier (pun intended) and less elegant than the original. The scowl is meaner, it's missing the red tipped horns from the original plus it's truncated. Don't get me wrong. The logo's not THAT bad and the secondary logo is awesome but the Bulls just get put down this logo because the whole primary logo just lacks any sort of originality whatsoever. Don't be derivative is the message for anyone trying to impress me with logos.

19. Greensboro Swarm
I love the Charlotte Hornets reintroduction into the NBA. I think the franchise's name is the best in the league; by and large I love their logo redesign over the old cartoon hornet from the original Charlotte Hornets franchise; and their honeycomb designed court is just terrific. I don't feel the same way about the Greensboro Swarm's copycat logos.

First of all, as I've already stated I hate all these logos that are just the initials of the team or city in large font therefore the "GS" logo just sucks to me. I feel the same way about the Legends' "TL" logo and I'll feel the same way about the Grand Rapids Drive's "GR" logo. They are simplistic and unoriginal.

But honestly, the primary Swarm logo isn't that great either. It's the same sort of hornet font that the big boys used to write the team's name and they have placed that name atop a hornet's butt. Not impressed. Two thumbs down.

So that's the bottom. There are 26 teams in the league so I've elected to do two eight team posts so I can have a top 10. Discuss what you hate about my opinions amongst yourselves (actually, nobody is going to do this and I know it). The next eight are up next week.

July 25, 2017

NBA Logo Rank 2017 Update

OK, so the regular season is over, the playoffs are done, we made it through the draft and free agency and Summer League. Now what do we do? Well if you are me, you spend your summer weeks writing about useless drivel like NBA team logos and mascots and names. Hey I gotta do something with my time between the end of Summer League and the announcement of the next season's schedule in early or mid-August. So let's go.

No mascot or team name rankings this summer because there have been no mascot or name changes in the NBA that I can see (although there have been in the D-League or I guess what is now the G-League). But there are plenty of logos to rank this summer. Let's start with the big boys and then let's tackle the G-League, shall we?

30. Los Angeles Clippers
Just like I said last year, unless the Clippers abandon their rebrand of two years ago or some other team rebrands with a worse package of logos (which quite honestly I can't imagine that anyone can do), they are going to be stuck in dead last for a while. Even Chris Paul got tired of wearing these logos and got himself traded to Houston. Still the worst look in basketball.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder
Still super boring and uncreative. Still saved from last by the Clippers.

28. Denver Nuggets
About a mile better (or maybe more accurately 4,000 feet higher) than OKC's drabness but still mired in the 28 spot. Sorry, Denver. Heed the call other teams have been hearing and go the throwback route. It's worked wonders for the Sixers, Warriors, Hawks (until they screwed it up by lack of self-restraint) and Wizards. It can work for you too. If done right.

27. Dallas Mavericks
Last year I wrote of the Mavs' 26 spot in this countdown that the only reason that they were that high was that the Piston screwed up so badly. This year, the Pistons (mostly) corrected their error. That drops the bland and unexciting Mavericks logos down to 27.

26. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers have added a new secondary logo to their family of logos. It's a shield. I thought knights used shields, not cavaliers. Cleveland drops a spot in this year's ranking not because of their shield necessarily but because in my opinion 25 other franchises have a better look.

25. Orlando Magic
For me, it's all about the font. The M and the A having one square corner drives me nuts. These two letters are symmetrical; they shouldn't have rounded corners on one side and a square on one the other. Plus the middle leg of the M not dropping all the way down like the outside ones do just sucks all my focus up when I look at this logo. Other than that, I don't think the Magic's logo is that bad.

24. Phoenix Suns
Every time I see the Phoenix Suns' streaking sun logo combined with the capital S I cringe. It looks like someone took an already not attractive font and just and threw it against a wall which caused a some how uniform and singularly unattractive shattered effect. Can't stand this one. It's pulling the Suns way down.

23. Houston Rockets
An R made out of rockets. Not exciting. Not exciting at all. Now that the Rockets are up for sale, maybe they'll get a new logo look, once the new owner realizes he or she has paid north of $2 billion for a basketball team, that is.

22. Brooklyn Nets
Once upon at time in Brooklyn, Jay-Z was a part owner. An owner of a super super super super small part of the team but an owner nonetheless. He allegedly had something to do with the design of the team's image when the Nets up and moved to Brooklyn. Now he's no longer an owner. There's no need to keep most of this branding around either. Not sure what the solution here necessarily is because I don't love any of the Nets' historical logos (except maybe the Jetsons-like ball on shield in hoop logo from the last Jersey days) but something needs to change.

21. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are the first of many teams in my ranking who have recently looked to the past for inspiration for stuff to put on their swag. Bringing back the Pac-Man logo was great. Then they added a whole series of weird secondary logos in mostly neon yellow. Head scratcher. Hawks at 21 this year.

20. Los Angeles Lakers
By all rights, the Lakers should be one of the lowest ranked teams on this list. I mean their logo is not really that creative and it looks a little dated (I know, some would say classic; I say dated). But to the Lakers' credit, they have not gone and gummed up the works by inventing a bunch of really awful secondary logos. Their awful primary logo gets them just inside the top 2/3 of the league.

19. Sacramento Kings
As much as I love the idea of ditching the old Kings' crossed lances logo, the dusting off of the old Kansas City Kings' look is not aging well. And it's only been a year. I think it's the clumsy font and the very very simplistic crown. I have a feeling this isn't going to survive the test of time.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are the only team to undergo a complete branding transformation this offseason. No more giant wolf head staring out over a line of coniferous trees. This new package of logos is a bit of an upgrade for me.

Like many teams over the last five years or so, the Wolves have gone with a circular logo as their primary look. Their main logo isn't that much different from the one used over the past 10 years or so: it's basically a mirror image with the white and the trees gone and the North Star added in the basketball patterned sky. It's cleaner and darker. The wolf in this version is howling beneath a starry sky and not the unseen moon of the pre-2017 look.

The strength for me in this new look is the North Star and the simplicity. The alternate logos follow this theme, with a simple basketball-and-star as their best secondary logo (at the top of this post). Minnesota kept it simple here. And it works for me.

17. Toronto Raptors
Here's my annual plea for the Toronto franchise to change its name permanently to the Huskies, who played just one year in the BAA, which was the forerunner of the current league. The Raps have celebrated that old name with a throwback night or two recently and there's a website advocating the exact same thing I pull for every summer. Until the team decides to do that, they continue to get credit for eliminating the Barney logo a couple of years ago. They sit at 17 this year, dropping two spots due to the Pacers and Pistons trying something different.

16. Indiana Pacers
Earlier this year, Larry Bird delivered the Pacers' bid for the 2021 (!!) NBA All-Star Game to the NBA's offices in New York City. Bird delivered the envelope to HQ that day in an Indy Car, complete with NYPD motorcade, featuring what appeared to be a new secondary Pacers logo (shown above).  I love this thing. It's geography based (I LOVE maps!) and features a star right where Indianapolis is, making it place specific to the city that hosts the team with the state's name. High praise for the Pacers from me for this simple but super effective secondary logo.

But here's the problem: I'm just not sure if it IS a secondary logo or if it's just an All-Star logo in the event the city wins the '21 game. I can't find it on the Pacers' website as a logo at all that will be used in circulation. For the purposes of this post, knowing the answer here is huge and there's no definitive direction, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to guess and give the Pacers partial credit. I'm moving them ahead of the Raptors this year. If it's not official this time next summer, they are at risk of moving backwards. 

15. Milwaukee Bucks
Still can't get the image of a deer mounted on a wall as a hunting trophy out of my mind. As much as I like the Bucks' rebranding as an upgrade over their prior look, that still bugs me. Also the font is just terrible. If it turns out the Pacers' new secondary logo is legit, I'm moving them ahead of the Bucks next year.

14. New Orleans Pelicans
Logos! Logos! Logos! The Pels still lead the league in number and variety of logos. And most of them are pretty good. Except the one that they use the most. While that one is totally New Orleans, it's still too dated for my taste.

13. Philadelphia 76ers
With the exception of the Charlotte Hornets at 9, the Memphis Grizzlies at 4 and to some extent the Washington Wizards at 3, the top 13 spots in my ranking are occupied by teams that have either (a) found something a long time ago that worked and are sticking with it or (b) have figured out what they had a while ago worked really well and have brought the old logos back. The Sixers resurrected their old look (mostly) but are the sitting a the 13 spot because they couldn't leave well enough alone and invented a Ben Franklin dribbling a basketball logo which just doesn't work for me.

12. Detroit Pistons
Last year the Pistons were 27th in my ranking. This year they are 12th. Something big happened here. And what happened was the Pistons looked to their competition for inspiration.

In 1979, the Detroit Pistons unveiled what I consider to be their classic logo, a stylized red basketball inside a blue circle with the words "Detroit Pistons" in simple block letters in the center of the ball. It was a variant of a logo that went all the way back to their move to the motor city. It was simple, it was clean, it was effective. 

Then in 1996 they decided that awesome look wasn't good enough so they switched their logo to some kind of flaming horse with tailpipes and accented the whole thing in some sort of dark aqua. They also switched their font to some sort of thing that has some letters with pointed ends now and then. Terrible stuff. Unbelievably, it lasted nine seasons before they switched it back to a red, white and blue basketball logo, albeit with the terrible font intact. That basketball though was rotated from the old logo and the words were curved.

So now things have come full circle and the Pistons are back close to the 1979-1996 look. Mostly. The font is still a bit different and there's silver border around the whole thing. I'll take it. I actually like the silver lining and the font's not that objectionable when the letters are small.

In case you are wondering why the Pistons (and all these other teams that are adopting something close to their past branding) don't just go back to what they had, they can't. All the retired logos belong to the NBA's Hardwood Classics brand and they don't let teams reappropriate them once they give them up the first time. That's why the Pistons, Hawks and Sixers all have logos that are 95-99% (but not 100%) identical to past logos.

11. Utah Jazz
Speaking of awesome reinventions of the past, I love the Jazz logos. I just don't love them at all in Utah. Please find another name for this team.

10. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have one of the most unusual logos in professional sports. It's an abstract representation of a five on five basketball game that could only have been cooked up in the late 1960s or early 1970s. And I love it. The Blazers have tweaked the original version a couple of times and they have done it again this offseason. Gone are the tapered ends to the swirl lines (I just made that term up) which is an upgrade for me. Also gone is the lines dying into the other side of the swirl. Not sure that change works better or worse for me. Still one of my favorite logos out there. Just got good enough to move them inside number 10 this year.

9. Charlotte Hornets
8. Miami Heat
7. Golden State Warriors
6. San Antonio Spurs
5. New York Knicks
4. Memphis Grizzlies
3. Washington Wizards
2. Boston Celtics
1. Chicago Bulls

So the top nine in my ranking last year did something smart: they didn't change a thing, although the Knicks did roll out a 70th anniversary logo that is super sharp. And that means that this year's top nine is the same as last year's. I still think the Hornets and Dubs have too many choices in their logos but honestly the secondary logos are in many ways better than their primaries. I still hate the fact that the Heat are in the top nine and my growing distaste for the Celtics had me for a minute considering sliding my beloved Wiz ahead of them before realizing I have absolutely no good reason for doing so.

The Bulls are still number one. If there's message about the value in never changing, it's the Bulls consistently being in the top spot. 52 years, one logo. 'Nuff said.

G-League logos up next. What a mess that collection is!

July 16, 2017

The Quest (Updated)

Nothing like starting a Wizards blog post with a picture of my bus passenger view from the TMZ Celebrity Tour of Los Angeles I took on a Wizards road trip. Tip for the unsuspecting: this tour is a laugh riot. I'd go if you have the time.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post on this blog detailing my plan to make it to all 29 NBA arenas and see a game live, hopefully with a focus on the Wizards as the road opponent. At the time I wrote that post, I'd sat in attendance at an NBA game at 15 of the 29 buildings (the Lakers and Clippers play in the same building; hence 30 teams but just 29 arenas). I've made some progress in the last 30 months or so. I figure it's time for a little update and then maybe some hopes for road trips in the current season.

Before we get to all that, let me say that a goal of attending an NBA game at every current arena in the Association is a little bit of a moving target. Buildings get replaced. I've seen an NBA game live in Charlotte, NC but in the old Charlotte Coliseum (which no longer exists) not the new-ish Spectrum Center downtown so I still need to get to Charlotte sometime. Keeping my results current could require me to take a trip each year a new spot opens if I really wanted to be obsessive about this. Not like someone with a blog devoted solely to being a Washington Wizards fan would ever get obsessed with this sort of a thing.

To hedge my bets a little here over the past couple of years, I've deliberately stayed away from attending Wizards road games against teams expecting a new building. That means I'm not making any extraordinary efforts to visit Oakland for a Warriors game any time soon; I'll just wait for them to move to San Francisco in a couple of years. Here's where I stand as of right now.

The East
Honestly, there's not a whole lot of change here. Since December of 2014, I've attended just one Wizards roadie against an Eastern Conference opponent when I saw them take on and beat the almost hopeless New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. But since I had seen a few Knicks games at the Garden way back when with my dad, I'm not actually adding a new arena, just checking the "Wizards Game" in my tracking sheets (shown above).

I did make some progress here in the non-Wizards category though. That progress is also shown in the tracking graphic above. I managed to take in most of the 2015 All-Star Weekend events in New York City, including the Rising Stars Challenge and All-Star Saturday Night at the Brooklyn Nets' Barclays Center. That means I've now seen NBA events in all five current arenas in the Atlantic Division. Add that number to the seven other current buildings I've visited in the East and I'm standing pretty good with 12 of the 15 covered. Still need to make it to Brooklyn for a Wizards game but I can check the box on the arena for now.

The West
When I wrote my first blog about this subject, my claims on conquering the West were pretty pathetic. I had only visited three of the NBA arenas (Dallas, Minnesota and Phoenix) in that conference and I'd only seen a Wizards game in one of those three (Minnesota). I've concentrated a bit more on getting this goal advanced since then.

In the Southwest Division, I've added the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans based on a trip to see the Wizards take on the hometown Pelicans in December 2015. I've also checked the box with the Los Angeles Clippers (twice) and Lakers with a quick weekend getaway in 2016 and a strategically timed work assignment this past spring. That gets my buildings total up to five and my "Wizards Game" total up from one to four. I'm showing my tracking sheet for the Southwest above and the Pacific below. I'm feeling pretty good about my progress here while acknowledging there's still a lot of work to do west and just a little bit east of the Mississippi River.

So what's next? Well, one of the most anticipated events in the NBA season for me is the annual schedule release. That's the day I get to see which road games are real possibilities for me to get on a plane and go see a new city or re-visit one I've already seen but just this time with a Wizards game on the agenda. The schedule matters because I'm much more inclined to get out of town for a road game on a weekend rather than mid-week. I'll take a Friday game every now and then but am not likely watching a Wednesday game in Utah. Here's my top five destinations this year.

1. Detroit
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for Detroit. I visited or drove through there a few times in the late 1980s when I was a student at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor, just about 45 miles to the west of the city. At that time, Detroit was ravaged by a combination of one of the worst pockets of the nation's crack cocaine epidemic combined with the flight of pretty much any kind of business from downtown. It made parts of the city into a dangerous and spooky wasteland and it was a place not to be visited unless you absolutely had to.

About the same time I was in school out in Michigan, the Detroit Pistons moved into the Palace of Auburn Hills, an arena more than 30 miles from the city the team was named after. This fall, the Pistons are back in Detroit in the brand new Little Caesars Arena. So too, apparently, is downtown Detroit. Since I left Michigan in 1990 the Detroit Tigers have built a new ballpark, the Lions have moved back to the city and the whole town has been generally revived. I'd love to see how much. Detroit is my number one hoops destination right now.

2. Memphis
I love Memphis. I was there 10 years ago and would love to go back. Any place that has live music playing at a whole bunch of clubs at once every night of the week is a great place to visit in my book. The FedEx Forum is within walking distance of Beale Street so staying downtown and moving straight from a Wizards win (see what a game 7 in the second round does to my optimism?) to some good blues is about a 10 minute walk. I've actually already been inside the Forum when I was there last. The team (which at that time was just miserable) hosted an open house to drum up new season ticket holders so they allowed you to walk around the locker rooms and weight rooms and play some hoops on the court. Not looking to do that again but I'd love to see a game in the Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock and Roll.

Taking in some live music in some New Orleans club on my 2015 Wizards road trip. Memphis up next?
3. Denver
If I'm making my conquest of the Western Conference a priority, I gotta have some cities west of the Mississippi on my list (Memphis is not; only just not, but not). I picked Denver for two simple reasons: it's easy to get to nonstop from both Dulles and National airports and I've been to both Denver and Houston (one other city that is easy to get to) and I like it better than Houston.  Denver's downtown is walkable, you can get to the Pepsi Center on foot or using public transportation and they have a ton of microbreweries there. Hey, what's a road trip without a little beer. As far as the West goes, Denver seems like the most fun low hanging fruit there is.

Of course now that I've dissed Houston, the odds are the only weekend game the Wizards will have in the central or mountain time zone will be Houston and I'll end up going.

4. Charlotte
The Queen City is on this list because it's the last place that I haven't seen a Wizards game in the Southeast Division and checking that box would mean that I've finally seen a Wizards game in all five arenas in one of the NBA's divisions. Yes, that's the division that I only have to make four trips (since the Wizards are one of the five teams) but it would still be nice to get that one completed. I like getting things completed. I have no idea what I'd do as a side trip in Charlotte, maybe hit the NASCAR Hall of Fame and find some BBQ joint? I'll figure something out if it comes to that.

Pecan Lodge, Dallas. Part of my 2013 D-League BBQ tour. Would be nice to get some in Charlotte too.
5. Sacramento
Just like Detroit, Sacramento's got a brand spanking new arena to play hoops in. And just like Detroit, I'd been holding off visiting until their new digs were complete which they were at the beginning of the 2016-2017 NBA season. However, very unlike Detroit, it's just not convenient to get to Sacto. It's going to be a long flight with then either a second flight or some driving. I'd consider Sacramento a long shot on this list unless there's (a) nothing else available on weekends (totally unlikely) or (b) I really feel like I need to make it to a game in Reno before the Kings pull their G-League affiliate closer to home base (also totally unlikely). Can't imagine I'm headed to Sacramento realistically until Golden State's new arena opens and I can visit both on one trip. Still, a guy can always dream.

I'm dying to make a dent in the quest. Can't wait for the schedule to be announced and the season to start. The schedule should drop in the first half of August and the season starts early this year on October 17. I'm hoping for an early or late season trip and I'm hoping one of the spots above is available. If not, I'll figure something else out. There's always plenty of G-League traveling to do...

July 13, 2017

Season Tickets vs. StubHub? 2017 Report

One of the most important non-basketball aspects of being a Wizards season ticket holder for me is getting some sort of understanding of how much the tickets I pay for every year are worth on the open market. Plain and simple, I want to know if I'm paying too much. To that end, for the past three seasons I've tracked the cost of tickets approximately equivalent to mine on one or two secondary market sellers. A little late, maybe, but welcome to year number four of the same series.

Let's start with a recap of the conditions of this experiment. Firstly, I have two sets of Wizards season tickets at Verizon Center: a pair of seats in the lower corner in Section 109 and another pair a little higher up but almost directly behind those 109 seats up in Section 415. My lower level seats are in row E; my uppers are in row C. Both, in other words, are in the lower portion of each section. This is important because my price comparisons here are based on section and row, not just section.

As an aside (feeling ADD today...) I've been asked over the years a bunch of times why I have two sets of season tickets. I started this years ago so I could bring someone to a game now and then without my friend Mike (with whom I share the bounty that is being a Wizards season ticket holder) missing a single minute of home hoops action over at 601 F Street. Nowadays, it helps give me some flexibility in managing the total cost of my season ticket experience while still attending (hopefully) every game. Until it gets just too darned expensive, I'll keep this arrangement for a while.

Back to the controls. In checking the cost of the secondary market, I'm looking for seats that are close to or better than my season tickets. That means to me in the center five sections of the arena and in the lower 10 rows and lower 7 rows of lower and upper sections respectively. I came up with 10 rows downstairs by doubling the distance from the hockey boards (where row A is) figuring those seats are about equivalent below that level; I came with 7 rows upstairs because row G is the last row short row formed by the exits to the concourse. It's a bit random, I know.

In past years, I checked both StubHub and Ticketmaster as sources for pricing. This year, I didn't and of course it's Ticketmaster's fault. I found their site so clunky and awkward to deal with at the beginning of the season that I just abandoned any input from their resale site.

Finally, the timing of a purchase on the secondary market could affect pricing drastically. Buy too early and you'll be dealing with folks that are willing to part with their tickets only for exorbitant prices. Buy really close to the event and you may find prices dropping as sellers try to unload inventory rather than taking a total loss. Buy really really close to the event and you'll find not much inventory at all and be at the mercy of the limited supply. This year, I checked prices once per month towards the beginning of the month but usually about a week before the first day. I'm sure there were bargains later as well as price spikes later.

How much is a ticket to a Wizards game again? Flex pricing makes it hard to tell.
So what gives this year? Let's get right to the big picture results. As I've done in past years, I'm comparing the average resale prices to the per game price for season ticket holders based on the total cost of a season ticket averaged over 41 regular season games. That means the cost of preseason games (which have pretty much no value to me) gets added to a typical game. I did not do research on preseason games on StubHub. If I could delete the preseason games from my package I happily would.
  • Purchasing Section 109, Row E seats for the entire 2016-2017 season cost me $3,400. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $4,070. Season tickets are 26% cheaper. Last year the same study revealed season tickets were 29% cheaper. For the second straight year (the year before it was 46%), the gap between season ticket cost and secondary market cost has gotten smaller for these seats. That's not a good trend.
  • Purchasing Section 415, Row C seats for the entire 2016-2017 season cost me $1,275. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $1,566. Season tickets are 19% cheaper. Last year the same study revealed season tickets were 17% cheaper. A larger gap is better here. That's encouraging (except that the Wizards upped the price of these seats next year).
On an absolute dollar basis (it's difficult to understand pricing trends using percentages of changing baselines, or the team increasing the season ticket cost year over year in this case), the value of a resold Wizards ticket last year was higher than the prior year, after a one year (non-playoff year) dip. Over the last three seasons (starting with the 2014-2015 season) the cost of a 100 level ticket like my season tickets has trended from $109 per game to $96 per game to $99 per game. In the 400 level those three year numbers are $38 then $35 and back to $38 this year. People pay to see winning teams is the message here.

As always, the devil is in the details. First, the numbers above are what the prospective customer would pay for a ticket on the secondary market, not what the seller would receive. So all you fans (or non-fans) looking to invest in a whole boatload of Wizards season tickets for a guaranteed profit need to remember that the ticket selling site takes a significant commission on these things. You won't make money using the numbers I'm reporting here.

Trend-wise this past season there was one really noticeable one: tickets re-sold better at the end of the season than in the beginning of the season. The Wizards 2-8 start had a lot to do with this; they didn't even hit .500 again until New Year's Eve eve. But another part of this has to do with the NFL, oddly enough. My data's always shown that ticket resale values remain lower while football is being played, especially if Washington's football team is still in playoff contention.

If you were to purchase tickets to Wizards home games before NFL Conference Championship weekend, you'd be paying an average of $76 per game for tickets comparable to mine downstairs at Verizon Center and $27 per game for a 400 level seat. That's cheaper per game than I paid for a whole season. Buy all the games after that time and your per game price on StubHub would be at $132 and $54 per game. Pretty big jump. And yes the Golden State game was in the latter part of the year as was a Cleveland game but there was a Cavs game in November too. D.C. is a football town; what else can I say?

If you were looking for bargains this past season, you could find them. Particularly against less popular teams on weeknights. The lowest prices on my list were mid-week games against the Charlotte Hornets and Phoenix Suns ($31 in the lower level and $12 upstairs). And yes, both those games were during football season. Want to buy just the Golden State game? Well, your per game price is going to skyrocket vs. a season ticket holder but (a) you are not shelling out money for the whole season and (b) you can probably afford a higher per game price if you are only buying one game. That's why there's a season ticket holder discount for buying in bulk. That same season ticket holder will be paying more for that early December Phoenix game.

Finally this year, the Wizards made their return to the playoffs so I have some playoff data to report here.

Now, you would think that playoff reselling would be a sure fire bull market, right? Not so much. Two years ago, I bought extra tickets to the second round series vs. the Atlanta Hawks thinking the same thing. I priced them high and kept them there as the Wizards took game one on the road in Georgia. But the market crashed after John Wall broke his wrist and the Wiz lost game two. Consumer confidence in the Washington Wizards secondary market is fragile. I actually lost money on the extra tickets I bought.

This year, Wizards season ticket holders looking to sell playoff tickets probably made out pretty well. Except for the fact that the whole point of buying season tickets is so you can get guaranteed playoff tickets that is; sure you can make some money, but you probably don't want to miss these games. Why suffer through an 82 game regular season to just make a quick buck when the action heats up?

The results in the postseason? I paid an average of $106 per game for my lower level seats over six playoff games (all wins by the way!!!). My StubHub data suggests that someone looking on the secondary market would pay almost double that or $206 per game. The results upstairs were similar. I coughed up an average of $41 per game. The secondary market price looked about 2.5 times that number at $106 per contest. Pretty good returns if you are willing to skip everything meaningful about the NBA season.

If I'm predicting the future (and I've been historically awful about that), I'm thinking next year the resale market will be a lot more robust, primarily because the Wizards elected to keep season ticket holder pricing the same in a lot of locations in Verizon Center. But if there are lessons to be learned here it's that the team needs to play well in order for the resale market to be hot and the casual fan would get better value for money before the end of January. I'm still upset at the price hike upstairs. I'm interested as to how that will compare with the resale market.

July 5, 2017

Feeling Guilty?

One of the saddest parts to the end of the 2016-2017 Washington Wizards season was the announcement that Phil Chenier would not be returning as the on air television analyst for the team along side play-by-play man Steve Buckhantz. The move was stunning. I can't name one Wizards fan out there who was in favor of this change. Even Phil didn't seem to be in favor of the move when I talked to him after his last broadcast in the second round series against Boston. I told him I wished he could stay on and he responded with a "So do I."

So what gives? Phil wants to stay. The fans want Phil to stay. I'm assuming Steve Buckhantz wants Phil to stay given the smooch on the head he laid on Phil during one of their last broadcasts together. Who the heck wants to get rid of Phil? 

Well, turns out the brass at the Wizards do. Maybe they've got some ringer in mind to replace ol' 45. If they have, they are not saying right now and it (along with what ugly advertising patch is going to adorn the Wizards' unis this coming campaign) is becoming one of the great mysteries of the offseason for me.

Right after the announcement, there were some nice statements from Monumental Sports and Entertainment about Phil staying with the Monumental family and providing expertise in the studio and things like that but in my mind, we've never really received a good explanation for this move. And it's still stinging in early July even after the NBA Draft and into Summer League. It just feels like Ted Leonsis and company are putting one of the best things about the Wizards out to pasture, so to speak.

Look, I've been a Washington Wizards season ticket holder since the 2000-2001 season and these last 17 seasons as a fan for me have been tough. Very little regular season and playoff success with just a single division title (this past season) and nothing beyond the second round in the postseason. I think I've suffered for this team but I got nothing on Phil Chenier. Phil's been calling games for the Wiz since any station started broadcasting a full season on television. This was way back in 1984. That's 33 seasons!!! I can't imagine the pain he's endured watching his old team try and fail year after year and sticking with it anyway. If anyone deserves to say when enough is enough, I think it's Phil Chenier.

So it's about a month and half after the end of the Wizards second round series with the Boston Celtics and I'm at my first Mystics game of the year wandering around the 100 level concourse and lo and behold I find a brand spanking new display on the north side of Verizon Center dedicated to Phil Chenier. And I got to say something about this.

First of all, what is the story here? Was this planned for months and months or was it some sort of compensation move after Phil's departure didn't sit well with fans? I'd love to think it was the former but the initial news was broken so quietly and with so little tribute that I'm thinking there's some serious guilt trip stuff happening over at 601 F Street NW. It's probably too late to change course now (especially now they've rolled out this new piece at VC) but I'd love it if they did and I could get Phil back on the air for a few more seasons. Let him enjoy some team success for a change please.

Who knows, maybe Phil's OK with all this. I'm clearly having difficulty adjusting. In my 17 years in the D.C. area, I've never heard anyone call Wizards games on a regular basis other than Buck and Phil. I love Dave Johnson as much as the next guy and I listen to Dave during the preseason when CSN is broadcasting another team's feed but during the regular season (and to avoid the annoying time delay between radio and television) I'm a Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier guy. Always have been but now I'm forced to make a change. And I'm not particularly happy about it. I'll get over it, but I don't have to like it.

When the Wizards tip off again this fall, stop by the concourse outside Section 112 and check out the tribute to Phil Chenier. I assume it will stick and is not some sort of rotating display through various Wizards alumni or something like that. If there's a guy that deserves this sort of a tribute, it's Phil. And it's nice. It's well done. It's professional. It's polished. There are Chenier model Nikes in there (who knew there was such a thing?). And above all, it's well deserved. If anyone has earned a tribute like this it's Phil. I'd just rather have the real thing.