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Will Las Vegas Get its Own NBA Franchise?

Las Vegas was chosen as the host for the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament Championship series this year. As the city looks to reinvent itself as the Sports Capital of the World, could it soon become home to a new NBA franchise? Only in the last few years, Las Vegas acquired a new NHL franchise in the Las Vegas Golden Knights. In addition, the introduction of a new F1 circuit have helped make the city a major destination for sports fans from around the world.

(Photo by Marius Christensen on Unsplash)

One of the advantages that Las Vegas offers for sports fans is the close proximity of legal sports betting. Of course, many other states now offer the same. For example, Virginia online sports betting has been legal for a number of years. Still, Las Vegas seems like the perfect place for a new NBA team, and LeBron James is one major figure who has publicly expressed his interest in launching his own franchise in the team.

Sporting Expansion in Las Vegas

The hosting of the NBA’s Championship series for its inaugural in-season tournament was just part of a series of sports events that have featured in Las Vegas. It’s clear that the city is looking to expand its tourism industry by attracting sports fans from around the world. According to Steve Hill, the CEO and chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas offers a lot of opportunities to major sports leagues and organisations.

Just ten years ago, Las Vegas wasn’t considered a major sporting destination at all. However, the NFL franchise the Oakland Raiders moved to the city in 2017. Just a few years later, the formation of the Las Vegas Golden Knights helped add an NHL team to the appeal for sports fans. In addition, college basketball and football games are regularly held in Las Vegas.

Formula 1 racing is one of the biggest and most exciting sports in the world, with a huge international fanbase. In 2023, Las Vegas hosted its first F1 race, with projections showing that it would bring in around $1.3 billion to the local economy. The race has also helped advertise the sporting ambitions of Las Vegas to the rest of the world, potentially leading to bigger events in the future.  

LeBron James and Las Vegas Basketball

LeBron James is the biggest star in the NBA right now and a legend of the sport. After recently breaking the NBA all-time scoring record, James added to his accolades by helping the LA Lakers win the first NBA in-season tournament. He’s just one of the major figures that has shown an interest in helping start the Las Vegas NBA franchise.

“I would love to bring a team here at some point, that would be amazing,” he said in October 2022 after playing at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “It’s the best fan base in the world and I would love to bring a team here… I want a team here Adam, thank you.”

After winning the in-season tournament, the league’s commissioner Adam Silver joked that LeBron’s MVP award doesn’t come with a franchise. However, with the NBA growing and the city of Las Vegas showing enormous potential, it’s never made more sense.

Recently, the plans for a potential $1 billion arena in Las Vegas were announced which could prove the perfect home for a newly founded NBA franchise. The 20,000 seater arena would be part of a larger complex that includes plans for a new casino resort on the south end of the Strip.The plans are made by the Oak View Group, which have previously had success with a similar plan which saw the Seattle Kraken formed in the NHL. Whether LeBron James is involved or not, a Las Vegas franchise seems likely to happen in the next few seasons.  

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