Alibi V.23 No.8 • Feb 20-26, 2014 

Book Review

(Almost) Never Buy Beforehand

Beating the NBA: Tales From a Frugal Fan


Motez Bishara wants to share his tips for seeing National Basketball Association games in person. Normally, this would simply involve grabbing the lowest-priced tickets available. He doesn't want be a cheapskate, though; he wants us to enjoy the good seats at the best deal possible.

In his self-released book, Beating the NBA: Tales From a Frugal Fan, Bishara writes enthusiastically about his quest to see all 30 NBA teams from a great vantage point without paying an exorbitant price. His writing is full of adjectives and sloppy similes, as any first-time author would be, but it always rings authentic.

His voyage through the NBA takes just under two years, beginning in January 2011 and finally concluding in October of 2012. For serious NBA fans, this is a noteworthy time, as it covers both the NBA lockout-shortened season of 2011-2012, as well as the first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals for LeBron James and the Miami Heat. James, one of the best-known players in the Association, is on top of Bishara's list of players in the league worth the price of admission on his own.

The Frugal Fan in action
The Frugal Fan in action
Courtesy of the author

However, one of the best things about the book is that it's not all basketball all the time. Some of the more interesting side trips Bishara takes the reader down are the anniversary of the Egyptian uprising in Tahrir Square and his own personal reunion with the Tulane Green Wave.

Readers are also treated to brief interludes, like an interview with a national scalper that reveals firsthand information about how excess tickets are disposed of. Bishara approaches the topic like an economist, which isn't surprising given his profession as a manager of an international stock portfolio.

Another interlude presents the basic theme that teams need to reevaluate their prices far more frequently so as to move as many units as possible. Bishara interviews Barry Kahn, whose company Qcue is making strides in the area of dynamic pricing.

The book doesn't contain many solid tips for online scouring other than to avoid TicketMaster at almost all costs and to comb StubHub and relative newcomer SeatGeek for the good deals. It thrives, though, when Bishara gets to dig into the personal details—like in the epilogue, where he lists the best and worst bars near the arenas—and goes over approaching scalpers like people as opposed to criminals who are always out to rip you off. It's a refreshing look at a time-honored tradition: saving money while getting to enjoy something that you truly love.