The NFL Draft has gone from strength to strength since 2015 when they took their show on the road, visiting football cities across the country. Could the NBA take a leaf from the NFL’s playbook in the future and move their draft out of the Barclays Center?
The NBA took their Draft Lottery out of New York and to Chicago this year for the first time since 2018. The Draft, however, has remained at the Brooklyn-based arena for the last 10 years.
For anyone who is called up to shake the commissioner’s hand on draft night, it’s a life-changing moment. So why not take this life-changing event around the country to showcase the reach the NBA has on its millions of fans?
It’s easier said than done. There are many considerations to factor in on draft night: The cost of venues, live television crews, location availability, space for fans and families, sponsorship deals, accessibility, and much more.
The NFL has shown it’s possible, they moved the event from New York – where it was hosted for 50 years – to Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in 2015.
After the Super Bowl, the draft is the biggest event on the NFL calendar with seven rounds over three days of entertainment. While the NBA Draft lasts one day, there could be scope for extending the event into a multiple-day festival celebrating the league.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced the No.1 pick, Myles Garrett, from the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2017. The following year, the league brought its roadshow to Dallas’ AT&T Arena, boosting the local economy with more than 200,000 fans in attendance. The draft generated $74 million over three days. In 2019, a whopping 600,000 fans attended the draft in Nashville, generating $132.8 million for the economy. Since then, Cleveland and Las Vegas have played host to the off-season bonanza.
“The whole idea when we moved it on the road was to give this to the fans and each of the communities,” Goodell said. “It’s just evolved every year, the next city takes it, they try to put their signature on it and they try to make it bigger, better, and more impactful which is great. I see the fans’ reaction to this and I can’t imagine an off-season event that has this kind of magnitude and this kind of impact.”
Using iconic settings and festivals to enhance the draft’s profile, the NFL has been able to boost crowd sizes and the economic impact dramatically by taking to the road. Their goal of reaching more fans in different cities has certainly been achieved. This year’s venue, Kansas City’s National World War I Museum and Union Station provided a historic backdrop for the 300,000 fans attending over the weekend.
An economic boon of $100 million for the city over the three days was predicted by Forbes.
The NBA was contacted for comment for this article.