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NBA G League Opening Weekend Marked by Solid Home Debuts

Rio Grande Valley Vipers Bert Ogden Arena

The NBA Gatorade League‘s 2018-19 season got a fast start over the weekend, as solid attendance numbers at three home debuts highlighted the slate. 

The NBA G League opening weekend began on Friday with a slate of games, including the debut of the Stockton Kings at Stockton Arena. Formerly known as the Reno Bighorns, the Kings relocated to Stockton, CA prior to this season to be closer to their NBA parent, the Sacramento Kings, who purchased a controlling interest in the then Bighorns in 2016. The club’s regular-season debut in Stockton came on Friday with a contest against the Oklahoma City Blue.

Stockton Arena originally opened in 2005, but the Kings are the first G League team to use the venue. While Stockton was defeated 124-89 in Friday’s opener, an announced crowd of 5,000 was on hand to welcome the Kings to their new home. More from

A boisterous crowd of 5,000 shared their enthusiasm.

Before the game, the lines to buy Stockton Kings merchandise were lengthy. Santiago Rios of Stockton was sporting a Chicago Bulls jersey as he waited to purchase some Kings gear.

“I was born and raised in Stockton, but I grew up in the (Michael) Jordan era,” Rios said. “But I want to represent the local team. When this town has these kind of events, you have to support them.”

Saturday’s action was marked by two notable contests. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers played their first regular-season game at Bert Ogden Arena (shown above), a new venue in Edinberg, TX that opened in August of this year. It was a successful debut for the Vipers, as a reported crowd of 7,826 was on hand to watch the home team defeat the Memphis Hustle 119-103.

In Washington, DC, the Capital City Go-Go played its first regular-season game at the new Entertainment and Sports Arena—a venue that has opened as part of a redevelopment of the former St. Elizabeths Hospital’s east campus. With NBA commissioner Adam Silver among those in attendance, the Go-Go played a tight contest against the Greensboro Swarm. The game ended in a 107-105 overtime victory for the Swarm, but the expansion Go-Go’s debut at the new arena was still a highlight for the reported crowd of 2,383. More from the Washington Post:

Keith Dyson appreciates a good game of basketball. Even more, he loves the little guys. That’s why Dyson showed up at the Entertainment and Sports Arena box office early Saturday afternoon. He picked two seats on the back row of Section 105, for himself and his son, ahead of the inaugural Capital City Go-Go game.

“I wanted to check out the G League team,” Dyson said, explaining his early-bird purchase. “And also, I like underdogs.”

Minor-league basketball in Ward 8 on a perfectly good Saturday night? For Dyson and the announced crowd of 2,383 — including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver courtside — that would be a yes, please. Fans grooved in their brand-new seats to the go-go rhythms played during timeouts and, in the fourth quarter when the DJ spun a snippet of Junk Yard Band, even after the music stopped, the refrain “Sardines! Hey! And pork and beans!” was sung a cappella throughout the arena.

There is one more arena opening on the docket for the 2018-19 G League season. On January 4, the Delaware Blue Coats will play their first game at the new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington. The 161,000-square-foot space features a 2,500-seat arena for the Blue Coats, part of a multi-purpose sports complex and youth training center.

Image courtesy Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

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