The signing yesterday of Allen Iverson may not yet help the 76ers in the standings, but it definitely caused the team to do brisk business at the box office.
"What I didn't expect today was the overwhelming response from the fans," said Peter Luukko, the president and chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, owners of the Sixers, in a phone interview last night.
"The fans were so positive and there were relatively few negative calls and they are buying tickets."
How many tickets?
The Sixers have a policy of not releasing exact numbers, but Lara Price, the team's senior vice president of business operations, said that more tickets were sold yesterday than on Oct. 10, the day the team put individual tickets on sale for the entire season.
Price said that the big seller was for Monday's 7 p.m. game at the Wachovia Center against the Denver Nuggets, when Iverson is expected to make his debut with his new and former team.
Price also said that the traffic for the team's Web site tripled over the same period from last week, stating that an additional 35,000 people visited the site.
Iverson will wear No. 3, according to Price - and she added that the jersey will be available in the Sixers' team store at the Wachovia Center for Monday's game. She also said that tickets remained available for Monday's contest.
Apparently the fans appear interested in seeing Iverson well beyond his debut.
"Monday has been the big one - but we have sold full and partial season tickets [yesterday] also," Price said. "The phones have been ringing off the hook for the sales staff."
She said the staff normally leaves at 5 p.m., but they were working well past that time last night.
The Sixers entered last night 29th in the NBA in home attendance, averaging 11,965 in eight games. In those eight games, the Sixers were filling the Wachovia Center at just 58.9 percent capacity, which was last in the NBA.
During the height of his 10-plus seasons with the Sixers, Iverson and the team were a hot ticket. From the 2000-01 season through 2002-03, the Sixers averaged more than 19,000 per game in those three years.
At least for one day, those in the Sixers offices could feel some of the old excitement, albeit with a team that entered last night having lost 13 of its first 18 games.
"This has been such an exciting day, and it's why I love the business," Luukko said. "You just never know what's going to happen."
On Saturday, Reebok is re-releasing Iverson's first shoe, the Question, at Foot Locker.
By Monday, the financial answers will be on the table.