Connect with us



NBA Summer League Vice President Albert Hall

Wade Vandervort

Crews set up for the NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, July 5, 2023.

Summer basketball exhibitions are not supposed to be glamorous.

At any level, from the under-12 circuit to the pros, the logistics of securing a gym, prepping it for dozens of games, attracting teams and executing a byzantine schedule is usually hard, thankless work.

And there was a time when the Las Vegas NBA Summer League could be described as such. Co-founder Albert Hall certainly remembers the early days of the event, when he was tasked with all kinds of down-and-dirty, behind-the-scenes labor in order to make sure all the games tipped off on time.

Now in its 17th year, the Las Vegas event has transcended that. It’s still a lot of work, of course — the summer league crew has spent the past week transforming the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. But Hall’s workload is a bit different these days; instead of hanging banners, he’s busy coordinating courtside seats for celebrities.

If LeBron James wants to watch his Lakers summer squad, Hall has to make sure there’s available seating for the King. And that goes for the long line of glitzy celebs and basketball royalty who will be in attendance beginning today when the Summer League tips off.

It’s just one of Hall’s new responsibilities, but he’s glad to do it, considering it a sign of the event’s success.

“When we first envisioned it, we just wanted to run a good league,” Hall said. “Now it has become more of a celebrity-driven hot spot. It’s Las Vegas — there’s a lot of sizzle behind it.”

Indeed, the Las Vegas Summer League remains the king of the NBA offseason. Tickets for today’s games are sold out, and Hall reported that Saturday and Sunday are not far behind. Last year, the event drew more than 130,000 spectators, mostly from Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The 2023 event will run for 11 days, culminating with a championship game July 17. All 82 games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or NBA TV.

Hall, who co-founded the event in 2004 with longtime NBA agent Warren LeGarie, credits the continued strength of the summer league to their efforts to connect with the Las Vegas community.

“Even though we’re an event, we do kind of consider ourselves to be that 31st franchise,” Hall said. “We’ve been in Las Vegas now for 20 years, and we’ve developed really good relationships. We’re not just here for a weekend. We have an office here and we’re working throughout the year. And we have all our theme nights. You’re talking about Noche Latina honoring Hispanic heritage, coaches appreciation, teacher appreciation, first responders, military appreciation. Throughout the week we honor a lot of people.”

The league has also become the main offseason hub for NBA executives, as well as young professionals eager to make connections and get their foot in the
front-office door. It would not be unusual for a fan walking the concourse between the Mack and Cox Pavilion to cross paths with a fleet of NBA general managers and decision makers.

The other main driver of the excitement level, obviously, is a chance to see the newest crop of NBA rookies from last month’s draft. All 30 NBA teams will have a squad in Las Vegas, making it a one-stop shop to witness the next big thing.

This year is among the most anticipated in the history of the Vegas summer league, headlined by the San Antonio Spurs and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. At 7-foot-3, Wembanyama stands out even among his peers, and the 19-year-old is widely viewed as a game-changing superstar in the making.

The Thomas & Mack Center figures to be decked out tonight when “Wemby” makes his debut against the Charlotte Hornets and No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller.

“There’s a buzz,” Hall said. “Everyone wants to see these guys, and especially him.”

Of course, there’s no guarantee of how much court time Wembanyama and his fellow lottery picks will receive. “Load management” has swept through the NBA, and it has even crept into the summer league in recent years, with some teams restricting how many minutes their players are allowed to log.

The Spurs are scheduled to play at least five games in Las Vegas, but there’s virtually no chance Wembanyama suits up in all of them. More likely, he’ll see action in one or two contests before San Antonio shuts him down to protect against injury or fatigue.

Hall isn’t worried by the trend of star players sitting out, as he believes the summer league environment will create compelling basketball either way.

“Every year there are stars. Regardless of if it’s the No. 1 pick or a second-round pick that takes over center stage, every year there’s stories about somebody having a moment and they become a star. Whether they come into it as a star or not, there’s always someone each year.

“If we’re able to get a game or two from the top picks, we’re very fortunate and we’re happy with that,” Hall continued. “On the other side of that, players are excited to play here. This is where they get their start. This is where their career is launched, and they’re excited to be here because there’s always good energy. There’s always more stars that develop here than just the top headliners.”

Hall’s job description may have changed as the Summer League has exploded in popularity, but at some point during the next 11 days, he’s hoping to find a moment where he can sit in the stands, his work done for the moment, and relax and enjoy a game.

Like the old days.

“The demand for tickets and access and coordinating all the different activities we have going on, it’s been pretty hectic,” he said. “At the end of the day, basketball is the primary focus. Sure there’s a lot of bells and whistles going on and a lot of hospitality, but this is all about basketball and we’ve never lost sight of that.

“It all starts with the game on the court, and I really love watching it.”

Article written by #LasVegasSun