It’s cliche to call some high-interest event the “hottest ticket in town,” but in the case of Wednesday’s Duke-North Carolina men’s basketball game, it’s fair to describe it as the hottest — and priciest — ticket in sports right now. The cost of gaining admission to Cameron Indoor Stadium, at least on the secondary market, has reached Super Bowl levels.
A quick glance at several prominent sites Tuesday showed that the lowest price for any ticket to the game was approximately $3,300. By comparison, reports a day before the Super Bowl this month at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium listed the “get-in” price for the cheapest seats as around $2,900.
Of course, part of that dynamic, as TickPick official Kyle Zorn noted to ESPN, is “a limited supply of inventory,” given that Duke’s 9,314-seat arena has “13 percent the seating capacity of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.” He added, “When you factor in that the floor seating is reserved for students, you’re left with a short supply — and massive demand.”
Fueling that demand is Blue Devils freshman sensation Zion Williamson, who arguably has become the most exciting NBA prospect since LeBron James. He and Duke’s other first-year stars, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones, have led the program to a 23-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll, while the No. 8 Tar Heels have more than held their own by going 20-5.
UNC has a freshman standout of its own in Coby White and another major contributor in Nassir Little, but the Tar Heels also rely heavily on a pair of seniors, Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye. Williamson, meanwhile, has quickly attained superstar status not only by combining stunning athletic ability with a physique that, at a listed 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, would be eye-popping for an NFL player, but also by showing off impressive court vision and ballhandling skills.
“Zion’s a different bird, there’s no question about that,” North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said Monday (via the AP). “We tried to recruit him very hard. He’s got a combination of skill set that I’ve never seen before and there is a lot of attention, but he deserves it. He’s backed it up.”
Williamson’s aura as a unique athlete — his listed weight is greater than that of every NBA player apart from the 76ers’ lumbering, 7-3 center, Boban Marjanovic (290 pounds) — has some more than willing to back up the proverbial Brink’s truck to see him take on Duke’s archrival in a frenzied home atmosphere.
“A select few individual superstars can impact tickets,” Stephen Spiewak of Vivid Seats told Forbes this month. “There have been freshman phenoms in college basketball before, but Zion Williamson grew up in the Instagram age. Fans had not only heard of Zion before this year; they had probably already seen his unrivaled résumé of dunks. Before his first game, fans already knew he was the most entertaining player in college basketball. That has certainly manifested in demand for tickets.”
On StubHub, as of Tuesday evening, the best seat available was being hawked for nearly $8,000, and at TickPick it was almost $9,500. “As far as Duke this year, I haven’t seen anything like this,” Zorn said.
The good news for fans who want to save a buck or two thousand while still managing to see Williamson take on the Tar Heels is that Duke will square off with its nemesis again March 9. Tickets for that game, at UNC’s Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, start at a more manageable $500 or so — for now.
Read more from The Post: