With just eighteen teams, it's safe to say the NBA D-League isn't the most traditional of minor leagues in professional sports. Plenty of the big league teams on the outside looking in remain hungry for more involvement.
Still, in that respect, there's no denying the league continues to grow. As the D-League continues to become more prevalent across the board, its impact on NBA competition continues to be realized. Over 30% of NBA players have graced the minor league hardwood. Approximately forty coaches in the NBA have D-League experience, as do over 100 front office executives. What's more, all referees hired since 2002 have started in the D-League.
While some wait for expansion opportunities, the D-League has worked hard to ensure that its eighteen-team league soars to new heights, becoming more and more relevant with fans and NBA personnel alike, all the while boasting the best talent it has in a very long time. From rule changes, different policies, sponsorships, promotions, and jerseys, the minor league is utilized for different experiments in hopes of making the NBA a better place as well.
"We're creating core values in the product itself. We want to create a really strong development platform for the game of basketball, our NBA teams, and their owners. By any measure, you've not only seen a growth in the talent base of the league, but also the interaction and integration between our development teams and NBA teams/owners," first-year President Malcolm Turner explained in a recent conversation with RidiculousUpside.com. It's clear he's passionate about the potential for positive change and advancement.
Pointing to some of the league's most recent victories, President Turner said, "As we have focused on building this platform, we're also creating value for the broader market place. To the extent that we've been successful there, we've been able to grow into national media opportunities with ESPN. We believe we're at a point where we can grow our national revenue base at the league level. It really starts with the core product on the court. The more successful we are there, the more we'll be able to facilitate growth in other opportunities around the core product going forward."
There's certainly plenty to be excited about when it comes to the D-League, but much of that intrigue and anticipation comes from those who have followed and been invested in the league for a quite a while. It's rewarding to see the progress and promising to ponder what lies ahead.
But even for a newcomer like Turner, who joined forces with the D-League via the Wasserman Media Group, the opportunity to play a role in the league's continued rise was an exciting and intriguing one.
"When I look at things that I've done over the course of my career, I've really enjoyed growth opportunities. Blank sheet of paper type opportunities. Let's take a brand, property, or opportunity from A to Z," the President said. "I come from a consulting background. I helped start a business called OnSport. We went on to become a leading consulting practice in the space. We were acquired by Wasserman Media Group. "
President Turner continued, "Even within Wasserman, I was able to launch a number of different initiatives under that umbrella. What I saw in the NBA Development League was, what I thought is, a very unique growth opportunity with the game and our industry. It's a young league; we're only in our fourteenth season, but I think it's in a very interesting point in its own development. That's what was compelling for me. I thought this was one of the more unique and compelling growth opportunities overall. That's what was attractive for me. I've paid attention to the D-League over time, and while it's a young league, it's certainly undergone a fair share of changes. I think it has great prospects going forward."
And make no mistake; the league's new President understands the ins and outs of his latest venture, complete with some of the more impressive bullet-points. Talking rather enthusiastically, Turner concluded by alluding to some of the more impressive numbers pertaining to the D-League's progress. These were good ones to know --- after all, they support his belief that there's plenty of room and potential for continued growth, rather well.
"We have an all-time high of eighteen teams --- seventeen of which have a single affiliation. Sixteen of those have been created within the last four years. Eleven of those within the last three years," he said. "Taking a look at NBA call-ups and assignments, it's very clear that we have great momentum in NBA owner involvement in our league. That's well documented."
There are more than a handful of reasons to be excited about the direction the D-League is headed in, and Turner's presence appears to be a rather bright one itself.