NBA to Shut Down G-League Ignite Team


Highlights The NBA created the G-League Ignite to compete with NCAA but shut it down after struggling to keep up with NIL opportunities.
NCAA offered players NIL deals generating high-six to low-seven figures, overshadowing Ignite’s salary range, and resulting in program termination.
Despite some high draft picks coming from Ignite, NCAA’s brand recognition and favorable viewer accessibility caused Ignite’s downfall.
In 2020, the NBA introduced a radical new program, the G-League Ignite team. This single G-League team would mostly be made up of top prospects who wanted to avoid the traditional year in college before declaring for the NBA Draft.
Players on the Ignite would be able to face G-League competition, which is generally better than the opponents they would face at the NCAA level. They would also get paid a salary ranging between $40,500 to $1 million, although as professionals, they would be able to sell their image to make even more money.
On Thursday, it was announced that the NBA will shut down the program at the end of the season.
The NBA Can’t Compete With the NCAA
NIL opportunities have made playing in college just as profitable
The NBA devised the Ignite to compete directly with college basketball and had some success. Top prospects wanted to spend a year sharpening their skills against quality talent and get paid to do so. Every year, top players committed to the Ignite over the NCAA, which drew some ire from hoops traditionalists.
In September of 2021, the NCAA backpedaled on decades of rulings and announced that players of all sports could sell their name, image, and likeness (NIL) and make money off their talents, although universities could not directly pay them. The NCAA also adjusted its transfer rules that demanded that transfer students sit out for an entire year at their new school.
Overall, the NCAA had become a lot more friendly to players and adjusted to be in line with the times.
The NBA offered a baseline salary for players, which the NCAA did not, but nationally-televised games on ESPN, CBS, TBS, and TrueTV allowed players to capitalize on NIL deals in college. Per Yahoo!, Bronny James made over $5 million in NIL deals, with several other players making high-six to low-seven figures.
In short, the NBA couldn’t keep up with just one team and has cut the program.
The Ignite was not a total failure. Some high draft aspects in this year’s draft hail from the G-League, and top prospects in drafts past took the same route to the NBA.
Top-10 Draft Picks Who Played for the Ignite Player Year Drafted Pick Jalen Green 2021 2 Jonathan Kuminga 2021 7 Dyson Daniels 2022 8 Scoot Henderson 2023 3
While NCAA basketball is broadcast all over the country and generally is easy to watch, the Ignite was available to watch on the NBA app, which simply is not accessible by a wide range of audiences. The NCAA has also been around for decades and has brand recognition beyond just NBA prospects, so it should come as no surprise that college hoops were able to overcome the Ignite, which was seen as little more than an obstacle.


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