The Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves were going at it inside Cox Pavilion on Sunday, and the stands were three-quarters full.
It might have been the best testament to the success of the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. A game with little marquee value managed to attract a couple of thousand people on a weekend afternoon.
Through 10 days of what seemed like nonstop basketball, the fans kept turning out. Maybe they wanted to get out of the triple-digit heat for a couple of hours.
Perhaps their curiosity was piqued by the opportunity to see nine of the top 10 picks from last month's draft, including Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 1 overall pick.
Or maybe the town, realizing that an NBA team of its own is a long way off, has adopted the Summer League.
Year Six concluded Sunday as the Summer League set an attendance record and further entrenched itself in Las Vegas' sports culture. Through nine days, the 2009 Summer League drew 39,304, an average of 4,367 per session (the final totals won't be available until today). The previous record, set in 2008, was 40,368, an average of 4,036 per session for the 10 days.
"We're obviously pleased, especially given the economy," said Warren LeGarie, the league's founder and executive director. "We weren't sure what to expect. But the people of Las Vegas spoke with their wallets and their pocketbooks, and it's further evidence that they have taken ownership of this. They have embraced the Summer League as their own."
It didn't hurt that NBA commissioner David Stern gave his blessing and endorsement while in town last Monday to watch Griffin's Summer League debut.
"We're thrilled with the success the Summer League has had in Las Vegas, and we don't see it going anywhere," Stern said. "Las Vegas has become the place for summer basketball, and it's like our own hot stove league with everyone here."
LeGarie, who runs the league for the NBA, said Stern's endorsement makes it easier for him to put on a successful event.
"It's almost like having your dad say he's proud of you." LeGarie said of Stern. "It validates all the hard work we've put in."
LeGarie said bringing in a team of players from the NBA Development League worked out well, as did having Griffin -- named the Summer League's Most Valuable Player -- and the other lottery picks.
"In a way, they exemplify what this league is all about," LeGarie said of the D-Leaguers, who went 3-2. "I hope we'll have them back, but that's the NBA's decision. They control the D-League."
LeGarie said the plan for now is to remain at 22 teams playing over a 10-day span. He's reluctant to expand, though he said there might be different teams participating in 2010.
"We'll look at it, but you don't want to compromise the quality," he said. "We think it works well the way it is, and the fans seem to think so, too."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.