In several respects, the 2016-17 season has been one of milestones from the NBA Development League (D-League). While the circuit has made strides toward expansion and seen increased interest from NBA clubs, it has also secured a sponsorship with Gatorade that will make it the NBA G-League starting next season.
Another encouraging development this year has been the success of D-League games at NBA arenas. Several D-League franchises have played regular season games at the homes of their NBA parent clubs, with some even setting attendance records. That trend will be covered in our latest edition of Promotions Watch.
The first game this season to set a high mark for single-game D-League attendance was played on December 20, when Raptors 905 squared off against the Grand Rapids Drive at the Air Canada Centre—home of the Toronto Raptors. That game drew 15,011 fans, surpassing the previous record for D-League attendance that was set at 12,727 in March 2016, when the Oklahoma City Blue played a game at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
That record ultimately lasted for a matter of weeks before it was broken by the Santa Cruz Warriors in their contest at Oracle Arena. On February 12, a game between the Warriors and OKC Blue drew a reported attendance figure of 17,497, marking a major crowd for the Warriors’ first game at the home of the Golden State Warriors.
The record set by the Warriors, however, has already been surpassed. For a March 8 game, the Oklahoma City Blue announced a crowd of 17,695 fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena. That record-setting crowd turned to see the Blue defeat the Long Island Nets on the home court of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
— Oklahoma City Blue (@okcblue) March 8, 2017
The games in Toronto, Oakland, and Oklahoma City have been among the highlights for the D-League this season, but there have been other D-League games to be played at NBA venues, and more are scheduled for the remaining weeks of the 2016-17 campaign.
The Reno Bighorns have played two games at the Golden 1 Center, which opened this season for the Sacramento Kings. The first of those contests was played on February 24, with the second taking place on March 3. In 2016, the Kings purchased the controlling interest in the Bighorns, and have utilized the games in Sacramento to help strengthen the ties between the teams.
For their contest on March 9 against the Delaware 87ers, the Austin Spurs will head to San Antonio’s AT&T Center. Austin last traveled to the home of the San Antonio Spurs in December 2015, when they defeated the Warriors.
Raptors 905 is slated to make one more appearance in Toronto this season. On March 13, the team will face Austin in a 12:00 p.m. start at the Air Canada Centre.
Overall, this has been a strong year for the appearance of the D-League at NBA venues, including one notable aside in the Long Island Nets, who have played this season at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center but are slated to move into a renovated Nassau Veterans Coliseum in the fall. The fact that attendance records were set this year, combined with the trend of closer geographical proximity between NBA and D-League teams, means that NBA venues may continue to be called into action in the future.
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