They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for Duke’s upcoming game against North Carolina, a ticket is worth nearly $75,000.
Next Saturday’s rematch between Duke and North Carolina will have a singular focus. Mike Krzyzewski’s career will be celebrated throughout the night, even forcing the basketball side of things to take a backseat.
What’s making this ticket one of the hottest commodities in the entire world of sports? Well, this game is no typical game. It is the game of many “lasts.”
For starters, it is the last regular-season game of Krzyzewski’s illustrious career. It is also his last game in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Coach K Court—there was a 50-50 shot of those two events lining up and Duke fans lucked out that Krzyzewski chose a year where Duke is the host of the final game.
Additionally, it is the last regular-season (and possibly final) installment of one of the most storied rivalries in sports with Krzyzewski at the helm. That will make it an extremely emotional evening.
“I think it’ll be intensely emotional, and he’ll do his best to manage it and keep it away from the players, but it’ll be inescapable,” ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said on The Rich Eisen Show last week.
But what about those who show up to take in the spectacle? Cameron Indoor Stadium will be filled to the brim with undergraduates, graduate students, former players and the general public, each of whom will be attending a game that is quite the tough ticket.
Some, including season-ticket holder David Lees, Fuqua ‘90, are well-versed in all things Cameron Indoor.
“We’ve been season-ticket holders probably for five years now. I’ve been going to games dating back to 1990. I graduated in 1990 and they had not won a championship, so it took me to leave for them to get their first,” Lees told The Chronicle.
Lees, whose son graduated from Duke last fall, made the trip from his hometown of Philadelphia for endless amounts of Blue Devil home games in recent seasons.
Despite the constant travel, it was well worth it.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey, throughout the years,” Lees said. “To be able to experience it, and have Coach K, who I think is kind of the GOAT of GOATs not only on the court but off, be part of our lives for so long has been a gift.”
Lees will not be alone Saturday, as 9,313 others will venture to Durham for the latest installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry.
But assuredly not without challenges. As of right now, the cheapest ticket, which gives you one seat in Section 12 of the Upper Level, is currently going for $3,000 on StubHub, with the most expensive being a mind-boggling $75,000.
The average ticket price on TickPick is currently over $5,000, per Front Office Sports. That is the highest average price for a basketball game—college or pro—on the site since at least 2019, ahead of two other Duke-North Carolina matchups and two NBA Finals games.
Just for reference, over three years ago, when the top-ranked Blue Devils—featuring the exhilirating quartet of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones—hosted the eighth-ranked Tar Heels, the cheapest ticket was $2,990 and the most expensive ticket was $10,652.
Hopefully for Duke, Saturday will go a little smoother than that fateful night in 2019.
“That was quite an experience for a very short period of time, and then it was probably sort of the biggest high to low that I’ve experienced in a college basketball game,” Lees said of Williamson's shoe breaking in the first minute that night.
Anticipation has also played a large role in boosting ticket demand. With no fans in attendance for the 2021 Blue Devil-Tar Heel clash, the last packed-house matchup between the two programs in Cameron was in March 2020. That’s a long time to withhold this sacred event from fans.
“This is the equivalent of a major, major artist playing a show in a 200-person venue,” SeatGeek executive Chris Leyden told Yahoo Sports last week. “There’s an extreme imbalance of supply and demand.”
Many tickets are given to family members of players and staff on both teams, higher-ups at Duke and special invitees. Season-ticket holders grab another large portion of the available seats.
But getting a single game ticket as a fan is like finding the golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, except with an all-time historic game on the other side of the gates.
“People are paying Super Bowl because they know it will be a special atmosphere,” Leyden said.
Generally, men’s college basketball typically doesn't draw crowds like Duke-North Carolina games do. Past years have seen celebrities like former president Barack Obama, Spike Lee and Ken Griffey Jr. The more high profile the event, the more high profile the celebrities. It will be a mystery which of them show up on game day, but one can speculate that Cameron Indoor Stadium will see its fair share of celebrities.
“There’ll be probably a hundred former players and who knows how many dignitaries of the like,” Bilas said in that same interview last week.
As is routine in this rivalry, Saturday will deliver a classic—whether the contest comes down to the wire or not—solely due to the stakes. There is no telling how the game truly shakes out, but one thing is obvious.
Those in attendance, no matter where they are traveling from, are expecting a show.
“There’s never been a connection between students, and the team, the coach and the crowd like there is at Cameron, there’s just nothing like it. Every time we go, it’s just energizing,” Lees said.
Editor's note: This article is part of The Chronicle's Coach K Commemorative edition. Please click here for more content.
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Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.