The NBA’s relationship with Las Vegas was already growing quickly, but it’s about to take a giant step forward — with perhaps even bigger moves to follow.
The league will stage the semifinals and finals of the inaugural In-Season Tournament at Sin City’s T-Mobile Arena. The games mark an acceleration of the league’s presence in the sports boomtown following the existing NBA Summer League, the 2007 All-Star Game, and exhibition games played in recent years.
Actively hyped since this past summer, even on the Sphere, the end of the NBA In-Season Tournament also marks the latest major sports event to hit Las Vegas.
“What Vegas brings to professional sports right now is pretty obvious to all these leagues, including the NBA,” said Steve Hill, CEO and chair of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“There’s no place like Las Vegas now. What we’re trying to accomplish is to create further separation so they think about Las Vegas, and [then] everything else.”
The rising presence in Las Vegas, of course, begs the question of when the city will gain an expansion team, a subject that continues to dominate chatter around the league.
Stars such as LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal have both publicly announced their intent to own a team there, while the Oak View Group hopes to lead a $10 billion development with an NBA arena as its centerpiece.
“The owners are all smart men and women,” Oscar Goodman, former Las Vegas mayor and husband of current mayor Carolyn Goodman, told NBA.com. “They know this is a very fertile area. Just a matter of time. It’s when, not if.”