It’s tough to understand Summer League if you’ve never been.
The Warriors are still brushing off the confetti from their parade in Oakland, and yet they’re already back preparing for next season and playing games. The summer came up quick for Golden State, as the organization hadn’t played a season that deep into June since 1975.
These exhibition games during the summer months might not mean much on the grand scale of the NBA landscape, but they do offer fans the opportunity to see the youngest and brightest prospects in action, all for a relatively cheap price. With daily passes starting at $15 for children and seniors and $25 for everyone else, this is the best bargain the NBA has to offer.
“The one thing that we’re most proud of about the league is it is as close to a real NBA game-like experience that you’re ever going to find outside of going to a regular-season NBA game,” William LeGarie, the San Francisco-based NBA coach agent who oversees operations in Las Vegas for the NBA, told Bleacher Report last year. “For $25 for parents, $15 for kids, up to eight games a day, there’s nothing like it. You’re walking elbow to elbow next to players. It really resonates. It’s what we’re really proud of. It’s made the game, as I first saw at Loyola Marymount, extremely accessible and it gives everybody the ability to dream.”
The change to a tournament format two years ago allowed for greater competition and added incentive for all involved. Instead of fruitless results, teams now strive to be the best of the summer, and at 24 teams the level of competition never disappoints.
“We couldn’t be happier with the [tournament] format for one reason — the summer matters,” LeGarie told the Las Vegas Review Journal last year. “These teams are trying to win. And as a result, the quality of play has really improved, particularly on the final weekend. My fear is that if we went beyond 24, we’d be hurting the quality of play and we don’t want to do that. And for the tournament portion of summer league, 24 is he ideal number.”
Warriors’ fans easily trumped Kings fans at Thomas & Mack on Monday, with most of the lower bowl of the arena filled. At the first stoppage, the PA announcer clamored for Golden State fans to get loud for their team, and for just a second, the arena sounded like a mini version of Oracle Arena.
“We’re still celebrating the championship, absolutely,” said Keith Johnson, a San Mateo native who’s in town with family and has made Las Vegas an annual trip. “We always make it a plan to head to Summer League because regular games are so expensive. It’s a fun, laid back environment here.”
The Warriors have had plenty to cheer for lately, but Johnson was just one of many who continued to support their throughout Monday’s 90-71 loss. The opposite could be said for Sacramento, who is having a tumultuous offseason complete with front office dissension, an unhappy superstar and a maladroit owner.
“It’s been rough for us lately,” joked Joshua Walsh, a Sacramento resident who is looking for any hope at the moment. “We still have DeMarcus [Cousins], which is great. I’m not sure how long we’ll have him though. Willie Cauley-Stein also was a nice pick. I’m just hoping for the best.”
The vibes are loose bit the itch for basketball stays skintight. With the rise of social media comes increased awareness, and the NBA welcomes this new millennial mindset more than any other league. Young stars are more present than ever, and Summer League gives fans a fantastic opportunity enhance that access.