And by showdown, I mean the battle for more ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery.
One scalper told me he sold six tickets for a total of $5. Yes, that was for all six tickets to watch the clash between the Sixers and Magic, two teams with a combined one All-Star (Jrue Holiday) between them sitting in 10th and 14th place, respectively, in the Eastern Conference. StubHub! listed prices for the game on its website for as low as $1.50 per ticket, which means the shipping charges cost more than the price of admission itself.
In comparison, tickets to see the Delaware high school basketball state finals Saturday, March 9 were $5. Fundraising tournaments benefiting charities charge more for admission to games than some fans paid in Orlando on Sunday night. Then again, it can be argued that fans having to suffer through a game between two of the worst teams in the NBA should be able to write the admission price off their taxes as a charitable contribution.
At this point in the season, I can't imagine there are many fans other than season-ticket holders paying full price for tickets in places like Charlotte, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia and other cities housing teams already trying to figure out what lucky charm to take to the lottery.
And my guess is even season-ticket holders in those cities are offering friends and family members their tickets at severely discounted prices, or in some cases, even for free: "Look, dad, you can have the ticket and I'll pay for parking and your beer if you'll just go to the game so I feel better about my tickets being used."
Based on the number of tickets available online from secondary sources, not many fans are even buying them at drastically reduced prices. StubHub! prices for the March 11 Sixers game against the Brooklyn Nets start at less than a dollar, and there are hundreds of tickets available for less than $5. And that's for a game against a playoff-bound team whose North Jersey fans could drive to the opponent's arena in less than an hour. For the Sixers' seven remaining home games after tonight, only Wednesday's game against the Heat is commanding a double-digit price on StubHub!, and there are hundreds of those available for less than $30.
In cities like Philadelphia, attendance will only get worse once the Phillies return north from Clearwater, the weather turns warm and golf courses turn green, and parents have to decide between watching 5-year-olds play T-ball and professionals play a sub-par brand of NBA basketball. At least at the T-ball game parents will not see a loss since most leagues don't keep score.
But these struggling franchises can help themselves down the stretch when it comes to filling their arenas and balancing their budgets. Is it completely unreasonable to suggest that the NBA's basement-dwellers should offer free admission to games for the rest of the season?
If marketed correctly, by offering free admission, even if it's just in the upper level, Philadelphia could fill the Wells Fargo Center seats at remaining home games and it won't cost the team a dime. In fact, the Sixers will make more money than they would otherwise because a fan attending for free still pays for parking, inevitably will buy concessions, and is more likely to buy souvenirs since the ticket cost is zero.
Fans coming to watch the Sixers these days are witnessing a below-average brand of professional basketball from their team, and empty seats and online ticket prices are reflecting exactly that.
The saying goes that you get what you pay for. Tonight in Philadelphia, and most likely for the rest of the season, fans paying less than $5 for a seat will finally get their money's worth.
Jon Buzby is an award-winning sportswriter from Delaware and has followed the Sixers since 1976. He contributes regularly to multiple newspapers, magazines and websites. Follow him @JonBuzby on Twitter.