NBA Summer League Has Become a Profitable Cash Cow


One of the best ways for an NBA prospect to increase their chances of landing a coveted NBA contract is to have that all “All Eyes On Me” approach (in my Tupac Shakur voice).


Impacts Player Visibility/Branding

More eyes on a player creates more hype which greatly increases their chances to land that deal.

The Las Vegas and Sacramento Summer League sessions do just this by congregating young NBA talent in one location for all NBA, G-League and foreign teams to scout.

The Summer League became a thing in 2002 to serve as a bridge between the NBA Draft and preseason. It assimilates young draftees with their new team’s culture and aids in the transition to professional basketball.

For second year players and those overseas, it gives them a chance to demonstrate how they have developed and confirm that they belong.  Summer League squads are coached by the assistant coaches of the affiliate NBA teams.

This helps provide these assistant coaches with some experience, while learning the duties of a leading coach; calling plays, managing minutes in the game, also teaching in practice and on the sideline.


Impacts Cultivation, Analyzing Talent 

The ultimate goal of the Summer League is, first and foremost, to improve the abilities of the young first and second year draftees on each roster. Many of these players may not get a lot of playing time with their teams during the regular season.

How players perform in these extremely small sample sizes of 4-8 games, often against inferior competition, generally inspires wild overreactions from media and fans alike.



Even though most people know to take NBA Summer League with a grain of salt, in typical shock value fashion many folks still jump to over-the-top conclusions about prospects after one quarter of play.

The social and TV media moshpit did it to Zion Williams who was a bit out of shape and hadn’t played in months entering his first NBA Summmer League stint. He actually got hurt in the first game and everyone started labeling him a bust. It was crazy.


Impacts The Revenue Stream 

Outside of player performance, the Summer Leagues have also turned into profitable business ventures, especially at the Vegas site. You know the old saying, “What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas.”

It’s also an opportunity for the League to showcase its fresh talent and start building a fanbase for future stars — while charging fans for the experience.


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Attendance has increased from a few thousand at the old venue (2,500) to over (120,000) over a few days at the new 17,293 (Thomas and Mack Center). You can get an all-day nine hour viewing pass for around $50 which is fairly cheap in “Sin City.”

Additionally, all games are broadcast on ESPN or NBA TV and the ratings continue to rise. Because Las Vegas does not have an NBA team, although they do have a WNBA franchise (Las Vegas Aces), this is one of the only opportunities for the locals to see NBA talent live.


Impacts The Players

Summer League also has a financial impact on the players. Prospects are coming to Las Vegas from all around the globe, often times just finishing up seasons in Europe and Asia.

While they are provided a round trip flight, the flight times are often less than ideal since they are chosen by the team, and often times many have their departure planned for the night of their final game.

Outside of their plane ticket, food and hotel, players are not paid. They are given a “per diem” of $100-150 for their three daily meals.

For those players not on contract by the official teams, they’ll often eat fast food meals to save some of their allowance as a form of payment for their time.

Finally, it’s nothing to see established NBA players and executives visit Vegas to watch the younger players on their team, as it can be a source of interaction between players agents, and team executives.


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