The Allure of Outdoor Hoops

Last weekend, the NHL hosted two outdoor games in Lake Tahoe. The success of “Outdoors Saturday” begs a question the NBA hasn’t answered in 11 years: would the league consider hosting outdoor games again?

The WNBA held outdoor games in New York and Los Angeles in 2008 and 2010, respectively. The New York contest drew over 19,000 fans, nearly double the average attendance for a WNBA game.

The Phoenix Suns also experimented with outdoor games, hosting three preseason matchups at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California over a decade ago.

  • 2008: The Nuggets defeated the Suns 77-72 on a night Shaq described as “colder than a motherf—–.”
  • 2009: The Warriors beat the Suns 104-101 on a night with temperatures “mostly in the 70s.” There were an impressive 14,979 fans in attendance and the game gave a $3 million boost to the local Indian Wells economy.
  • 2010: The Suns took down the Mavericks 98-90 on another warm evening.

The Celtics discussed an outdoor game at Fenway Park in 2016, but the NBA hasn’t scheduled another outdoor game since the Indian Wells exhibitions, citing weather as a major obstacle.

The idea might be worth revisiting given the circumstances of playing amid a pandemic, and outdoor games present a financial opportunity.

The five most-attended games in NHL history were outdoors, and last week’s Flyers-Bruins game at Lake Tahoe drew one million viewers — the most-watched regular-season NHL game in NBCSN history.