The former CEO of MGM Resorts International expects Las Vegas will get a National Basketball Association franchise within the next few years.
Speaking today at an online Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance event, Jim Murren said the Las Vegas area’s relationship with the NBA, through hosting Summer League games and the Las Vegas Aces WNBA franchise, help make it an attractive option.
“The NBA loves Las Vegas,” Murren said. “I expect an NBA team over the next few years.”
The former longtime MGM executive left his post at the gaming company in March. He was then tapped by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak to head the state’s COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force.
While at MGM, Murren was instrumental in helping the city land the Aces in 2018. The team, formerly the San Antonio Stars, is owned by MGM.
Murren also helped convince NHL officials, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, that Las Vegas would be a viable option for an expansion franchise, which turned out to be the Vegas Golden Knights.
MGM is part owner of T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights play their home games.
“When I moved here 22 years ago, we were scoffed at as a sports desert,” Murren said. “Professional leagues said they would never host a team here. We had to do a lot of convincing to a lot of people that we could not only host professional sports but do better than anyone else.”
While Las Vegas and the state continue to grapple with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic — effects are widely expected to last into 2021 and possibly beyond — Murren said he thinks the NBA might not be the only pro sports league to land here in the in the coming years.
“The (WNBA) has done well (in Las Vegas),” Murren said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to also see more efforts around bringing a Major League Soccer team here. I think baseball is a ways away.”
A future Las Vegas NBA franchise could come via expansion or the relocation of an existing team.
Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor recently announced his interest in selling the team, though he’s said he’s only interested in selling to buyers who plan to keep the team in Minneapolis.