7/16/19 By: Jon Castagnino
Let’s go back to 2004, Year One of the Vegas Summer League. Only six teams participated (Boston, Denver, Phoenix, Washington, Orlando, Cleveland), games were only played in Cox Pavilion and former Rebel Marcus Banks drew the loudest cheers. Steve Blake, Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard (!!!) were the main attractions.
Fresh out of UNLV and struggling to find my first “real job” in journalism, I heard someone was searching for interns help this fledgling attempt to bring the NBA to our city. I was all in.
However, the crowds weren’t as keen to this concept of pro basketball in Las Vegas. You could roll a bowling bowl through Cox and not hit anyone, except for maybe one of the interns.
Thankfully co-founders Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall were all in, and stayed in.
Six teams turned into 16 teams in 2005. The NBA signed on in 2007; and since 2018, all 32 teams call Vegas home for the summer.
When you think about the people that made major-league sports in Vegas possible, opening the door to the Golden Knights and Raiders, LeGarie and Hall (and the interns) should be on the list of “Thank You” cards that need to be written.
15 years later, Las Vegas is the only place that matters for basketball in the summer. The League, paired with USA Basketball training camp, draws over 130,000 fans to the UNLV campus and many of the most influential names in major-league sports.
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies faced off in the championship game of the 2019 Summer League. Grayson Allen made just one of his first six shots, but finished with 17 points and Brandon McCoy sat on the bench for the T’Wolves. The crowd of about 8,000 was energized to see young draft picks and prospects roam the floor for the affordable price of $35. Memphis would win the title, 95-92, but a champion is only a footnote after 11 days of basketball.
Did we envision this back in 2004? No way. Not because Las Vegas couldn’t host it, but because many outsiders didn’t believe our city was worthy of it.
LeGarie and Hall (and don’t forget about the interns!) believed, and now we’re blessed to call Las Vegas the sports capital of the world, in part because of the vision they had to bring summer basketball to southern Nevada.