LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For the past 15 years the NBA’s Summer League has given rookies and other players a chance to put on a show at the Thomas and Mack Center. The league features all 30 NBA teams, plus the national teams from China and Croatia.
For players, Summer League is often the first taste of NBA play. For fans, it’s about access.
“You see LeBron and Anthony Davis just sitting on the bench. You’re walking right behind them. I mean, it’s a who’s who," said Pat Christenson, President of Las Vegas Events.
“I wanted to watch the Cavs play, I wanted to get close to the players, I wanted to watch basketball and this is a great place to do it," said one fan, who traveled to Vegas from Toledo, Ohio.
Las Vegas has been home to the summer league since it started in 2004. Back then, it was a much different ball game.
“The first year there were six teams and they weren’t even wearing the same uniforms. It was like a practice," said Christenson.
He says the growth of this event stuns even him.
“The last four years I’ve walked in on that opening night, you just. It’s sold out! 17,500 for summer league, something that doesn’t lead to a championship.”
Fans don’t seem to mind the games their watching aren’t going to lead to a championship. Starting with just 5,000 fans in 2004, Summer League attendance has been on the rise, with new total attendance records set the last two years. And with two sell-outs in the first five days of play this year, the league is on pace for another winner.
But all those fans aren’t just here for basketball. They’re here for Vegas too.
“Las Vegas is the place where we can do two things at one time. Exciting time and extreme fun and also get a chance to really get close to the players.”
So could the success of NBA Summer League in Vegas pave the way for a future NBA team? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently said the league had no plans to bring a team to Las Vegas in the near future. But fans are hopeful.
NBA Summer League continues through July 15.