By: Zachary Bigger
Now entering its 13th season, the NBA Development League has gone through its growing pains, learned many lessons, and made great strides to become the best minor league basketball league in the world. What initially began as a vision of NBA Commissioner David Stern is becoming more and more of a reality as time progresses. However, many things have changed in the brief history of the league, some more surprising than others. Here are five things you may not know about the NBA Development League:
1.) The League Hired the First Female Assistant and Head Coach in Men’s Professional Basketball
In the league’s first season in 2001, Stephanie Ready served as an assistant on the first ever NBA Development league championship team, the Greensville Groove. Originally an assistant for Division I men’s collegiate basketball at Coppin State, she also was the second female coach to achieve that distinction. Bernadette Maddox broke the Division I men’s collegiate coaching barrier in 1990 under former University of Kentucky coach Rick Pitino. Ready is now a TV host and reporter for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats.
The first female head coach of a men’s professional basketball team is Nancy Lieberman, who coached the Texas Legends to a 24-26 in their inaugural 2010 campaign and became just the third expansion team to make the playoffs in their first season. For the past two seasons, she has been the assistant general manager for the Legends.
2.) The NBA Development League Originally Began in the Southeast
When the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) was formed in 2001, there were eight original franchises, all located in the southeastern region of the United States: the Asheville Attitude, Columbus Riverdragons, Fayetteville Patriots, Greensville Groove, Huntsville Flight, Mobile Revelers, and Roanoke Dazzle.
Today, there are no teams located in the southeastern area, all 17 teams are located throughout every major geographical region except the southwest and southeast. All of the original eight having either been moved or folded, with Asheville (Tulsa 66ers) and Columbus (Austin Toros) still operating in the league today.
3.) The 2012-2013 Season Marked the Last NBA Team to Send a Player Down on Assignment
Last year with the Indiana Pacers sending Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson to Fort Wayne for D-League assignment meant that all 30 NBA teams have sent a player on assignment since the league began instituting the assignment system prior to the 2005-2006 season. It was a major step towards seeing ever NBA team investing into the system, which will be essential to D-League President Dan Reed’s long term vision of a full 30 team minor league down the road.
4.) Several NBA D-League Teams Have Built Their Own Arena
What originally was a rarity in minor league basketball is beginning to become a trend, especially in the D-League. Santa Cruz (Kaiser Permanente Arena), Sioux Falls (Sanford Sports Pentagon) and Bakersfield (Dignity Health Center) all constructing their own arenas in the past four years. This is important because it gives hope to mid-level markets who may not have a professional sports arena to obtain a D-League team already in place or may be chosen for expansion in the future.
5.) The NBA D-League Games Were Originally Broadcast on ESPN2 & Fox Sports Net South
When the league began play in 2001, it signed two different TV contracts: the first on January 3, 2001 with ESPN for a 24 game package beginning with opening night and continuing through the regular season. The second with Fox Sports Net South on July 25, 2001 was for a multi-year agreement that would broadcast 19 games in the inaugural season. Fast forwarding to today, the league games are now simulcast online on YouTube and NBA Center Court app and on TV with CBS Sports Network and NBA TV.