How one event can legitimize the G League and WNBA

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James jokes around during the overtime period of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday, Feb. 8, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 119-112 in overtime. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

In recent years, the popularity of the NBA has exploded. Stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry have fueled the league’s meteoric rise. As popular as the NBA has become, they’ve struggled to boost the status of their adjacent leagues, the WNBA and NBA G League. Both have been something of a laughing stock within the sports world for what feels like forever, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If the NBA wants to bring extra fans to their periphery leagues, they can do exactly that in one event. This event isn’t one that would happen more than twice a season, if that often. However, it would bring all three leagues together in a way that would be beneficial for the organizations, the fans and the cities involved. What is this event? I’m so glad you asked. In essence, it’s a music festival for basketball.

The crux of this hypothetical basketball festival is three games. The G League, WNBA and NBA would all play on the same day, in that order. Interested fans would be able to purchase an all-day admission pass allowing them to attend all three games. In doing so, fans looking to get their money’s worth would be in the stands for two games they might not otherwise watch. After watching these games, it’s likely that a number of fans would have their interest in their local G League or WNBA team significantly increased. Maybe they go to a playoff game that season. Maybe they bring their kids to another regular season, after all, that festival game was pretty fun. Soon enough, they find themselves and their families actively rooting for teams they might not ever have watched.

Another key point of this proposal is the non-basketball content. When this event comes to a city, the NBA team brings in things like food trucks, outdoor entertainment, anything and everything to keep even the most casual fan entertained. Before, after, even in between games, fans can hang out outside the arena, becoming more familiar with burgeoning downtown areas across the nation.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, if this is such a good idea, why hasn’t the NBA done it yet? That’s a great question, and it’s got a good answer, too — the NBA isn’t in position to make this happen quite yet. As of 2021, there aren’t enough G League and WNBA teams to be able to host this event in every NBA city once per calendar year. The G League is awfully close, as they currently have 29 teams to the NBA’s 30. The WNBA, however, only has 12. Adding 18 teams to any league is a tall task, and would take significant time. Once done with a mass WNBA expansion, the NBA would be ready for full on basketball festivals. Another potential issue is scheduling, but even that isn’t so hard as it seems.

At the time the NBA could do something like this, there would be 30 teams in each of the three participating leagues. Each of those 30 teams in the periphery leagues would have an NBA affiliate. When it was their city’s turn to host this event, they’d all play home games on that day. The teams having to travel would host games the following season. Again, this wouldn’t be something that happens more than once per season in any given city. They’d likely all happen on the same weekend, driving NBA engagement through the roof.

An occasion of this magnitude could do wonders for the NBA’s affiliate leagues, as well as NBA cities. All it takes is a little outside-the-box thinking to add thousands of fans in a weekend. Adam Silver, if you’re reading this, call me. Let’s talk.