: Over the last few months, basketball fans cast more than 5 million ballots to determine the starting players for the 2004 NBA All-Star game.
They voted from arenas and sneaker stores. They voted online and over their cell phones.
But when Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and the other players they selected take the court at Staples Center on Sunday evening, it appears that few everyday fans will be in attendance.
The NBA controls 80% of the approximately 18,000 available seats and will use them to entertain sponsors, television partners and others with whom they do business, said sources familiar with the arrangement who insisted on anonymity.
The remaining 3,700 seats, the sources added, were divided among the Lakers, Clippers and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the arena.
Although the influx of out-of-town businesspeople means a boost for the local economy, there were no tickets for sale to the public. That has left fans scrambling to ticket brokers and the EBay website, where seats listed for $300 to $1,600 a week before the game. Staples Center spokesman Michael Roth said the event has generated some of the highest demand in the arena's history.
All of this came as a surprise to some Laker season-ticket holders who assumed they would have a greater opportunity to buy tickets.
"Some of them thought they were going to get their own seats," said Michelle Vogel, a season-ticket representative for the team. "We sent out a letter explaining that the NBA saves it for their sponsors and people involved with the league and we were lucky to get any tickets because this isn't a Laker event."
Los Angeles isn't the first city to learn this lesson. After the 2002 NBA All-Star game in Philadelphia, 76er chairman Ed Snider told the Philadelphia Inquirer that he would never again be host of the event.
"Basically, it's not worth it to me to disappoint our fans," he said. "It's obviously wonderful for the city but, to me, our first obligation is to the fans who support us."
Mike Bass, vice president of public relations for the NBA, said the game has always been "an event to bring in and take care of the league's relationships."
"We play our championship series and playoffs in the home arenas of the teams that make it," he said. "That's where we take care of the most-dedicated fans."
The league has provided ancillary events with tickets made available to the public.
Cleveland Cavalier guard LeBron James and Denver Nugget forward Carmelo Anthony highlight the rookie game Friday night, which quickly sold out.
There is also Jam Session, a 350,000-square-foot attraction with interactive games, merchandise booths and celebrity appearances open Thursday through Monday at the adjacent Convention Center.
"We know there's a great demand from fans," Staples Center spokesman Roth said. "Everybody's looking for an All-Star connection."
The Lakers received approximately 1,100 seats, some of which were distributed to their sponsors and celebrities. The rest were spread among 13,500 season-ticket holders by lottery.
While the vast majority of fans did not get a chance to buy the $200 upper-level seats, Vogel said the team was able to offer everyone tickets to at least one NBA event this weekend.
That included seats for the dunk and three-point shooting contests Saturday night â€” another event for which tickets were not put on sale to the general public.
"Most [fans] were very understanding," Vogel said.
The Clippers declined to comment other than to say they held a similar lottery for their 1,100 seats.
At Staples Center, even luxury-suite holders got the boot. The league took over 30 of the 160 suites, with the arena selling the rest on a one-time basis for between $18,500 and $25,000.
That revenue will go toward covering the $500,000 fee that Staples Center paid to the league to play host to the event.
Roth said he had not heard many complaints, in part because suite and season-ticket holders were informed at the time of purchase that the All-Star game and several other events were not included in the deal.
Next to the 2000 Democratic National Convention, he said, the All-Star game ranks with Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony as the most-ambitious productions held at the arena.
The proximity of the events means that as the Grammy crews clear out today, the NBA will be moving in.
"There are probably going to be 100 parties around town this week," Roth said. "A lot of players are doing parties. Maxim magazine (:man13:) is doing a party. A lot of people are coming in."
That might not be great for fans, but it's a boon for the city.
"If it's a local show ... nobody stays in hotels, nobody rents cars," Schloessman said. "And this is a corporate event like the Super Bowl, so everybody entertains. That's to our benefit."
"It's important to bring international events to downtown Los Angeles," Roth said. "It's important for the stature of the city."