By ALAN SNEL
The 11-day NBA Summer League with 24 teams ended Monday with a Los Angeles Lakers celebration for winning the summer league championship trophy and with record-setting attendance at Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion.
The NBA Summer League, the biggest of the summer leagues, set an attendance record with 127,843 fans from July 7-17, including a record championship game attendance of 10,304 Monday when the Lakers defeated Portland to win the summer league title.
The buzz around Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball sparked a steady stream of Lakers fans booking flights for Vegas and driving I-15 through the desert to follow their team to Las Vegas.
“We’re looking for hope and Lakers fans travel well,” said LA’s Marco Parra, wearing a Wilt Chamberlain number 13 Lakers jersey.
Parra drove Thursday to Vegas and has been attending the Lakers games since.
Lakers fan Justin Frerichs said he has seen at least 20 of his friends from LA at Lakers games in Vegas. Frerichs said he’s opening a sports agency in LA, so he’s in Vegas as both a Lakers fan but also someone networking for his new business.
“Half are rooting for Ball and the other half want to see him look bad,” Frerichs said.
While Ball is drawing lots of media attention, Vegas Summer League founder and Executive Director Warren Legarie said the summer league is drawing well this year because it’s an affordable NBA product that attracts fans of all teams. This year, 24 out of 30 NBA teams participated and doing well in Las Vegas can be a springboard to a successful season for a club.
LeGarie, who represents several NBA coaches, noted every year brings new young budding stars to the NBA Summer League. It could be a Chris Paul one year, or a Steph Curry another
Attendance has been strong, with a sellout of 17,500 on July 8 and other strong crowds (15,243 on July 10; 14,295 on July 7, the first day; 13,912 on Saturday; and 12,099 on July 9.)
The affordability of the NBA Summer League games in Las Vegas is a big draw, said Dale Eeles, vice president of Event Development for Las Vegas Events, the event promotions arm of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).
“This is affordable entertainment. We all want to go to NBA games,” Eeles said. “But we all know they’re expensive. These games cost $30 for the whole day.”
Indeed, LVSportsBiz.com saw fathers walking hand-in-hand with their young sons on the Thomas & Mack concourse before Sunday’s Lakers game.
Eddie Harel, 50, of Los Angeles, was strolling along with his son, Yoni, 11, in the arena to see the Lakers game. Harel said he saw the Lakers’ Saturday game and was a half-hour away from watching Sunday’s LA game, too. But even though the Lakers beat the Mavericks to play Portland in the summer league’s championship game Monday, Harrell won’t be there.
“It’s Monday and I got to work,” he said.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com