Louis Grasse/Getty Images
The NBA’s first In-Season Tournament during the 2023-24 season may also dictate the potential future of basketball in the city of Las Vegas.
Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported Wednesday that “multiple front office executives” believe the In-Season Tournament games hosted in Las Vegas will serve as a “preview for an eventual expansion team to come to the city.”
He added that those executives believe “having those games will give the league a chance for a true market test run to see how the city would perform if it gets an NBA team.”
The NBA and Las Vegas already have a relationship dating back to 2004 with the Summer League. The G League Showcase is also held in Sin City, the WNBA has the Aces located in the city and the 2023 WNBA All-Star Game was held in Vegas.
No market is hotter in North American professional sports than Las Vegas. Alongside the Aces (added in 2018), the city became host to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 and are scheduled to become the new home of MLB’s Oakland Athletics in 2025.
In July, NBA commissioner Adam Silver told reporters that the league was considering Las Vegas as a potential site for expansion, alongside Seattle:
“We will look at this market [Las Vegas]. There’s no doubt there’s enormous interest in Seattle. That’s not a secret. There are other markets that have indicated interest. For the people who hear or read about this interview, we are not engaged in that process now. We’re not taking meetings right now with any potential groups. What we’re saying to everyone, privately is the same thing I’m saying publicly that there’ll be a very open process at the time already to consider expansion. But that’s not yet. That’s not yet now.”
Granted, finalizing new media deals—the current crop of television rights expires after the ends after the 2024-25 season—is the NBA’s first priority.
“We will turn to expansion once those new media deals are done,” Silver said at the time. “It’s not a sure thing but, as I’ve said before, I think it’s natural that organizations grow over time.”
The obsession with Las Vegas might seem somewhat curious, given that it’s only the 40th largest media market in professional sports. But it is also a huge tourism destination, is loaded with hotels, casinos and entertainment venues that make it appealing as a host for major events and is the spiritual capital of gambling at a time when professional sports has cozied up to sports wagering.
And it appears the NBA doesn’t want to be left out of the party.