GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The NBA G League, Denver Nuggets and Grand Rapids Drive today announced that the teams have entered into a single affiliation “hybrid” partnership beginning with the 2021-22 season. The initial deal is for a three-year agreement.
As hybrid affiliates, the Nuggets will control the Drive’s basketball operations and existing local ownership in Grand Rapids, led by Steve Jbara and a team of investors, will oversee the franchise’s business operations and community engagement.
"We've been talking to Denver for close to a year now," said Jbara. "Getting everything officially signed is a big relief. I'm excited for the city of Grand Rapids, Denver is going to be an excellent partner and they're very interested in continuing and growing this relationship."
Grand Rapids, which will announce a new name and identity in the coming weeks, was previously the hybrid affiliate of the Detroit Pistons. Co-owner Ben Wallace will remain in that same role with the new affiliate.
Back in 2019, the Detroit Pistons announced that they would be seeking to have their own G-League team in Detroit, effectively ending their partnership with Grand Rapids at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 season.
Even prior to that announcement, Jbara knew the Pistons wanted to do their own thing and so he started the process of finding a way to keep a team in Grand Rapids. The Nuggets have never had their own G-League team so it seemed like a natural fit to Jbara.
"The Nuggets really like the Sioux Falls-Miami Heat model. They like the idea of being able to send guys to the G-League for a week, two weeks at a time and really focus on development. So the distance from Grand Rapids to Denver won't be an issue."
The Nuggets were the only NBA team that the Drive reached out to once they found out that they'd need a new league affiliate.
It was important to Jbara to find a way to keep basketball in Grand Rapids, instead of moving the Drive to Detroit or another city.
"I can't ever repay what Grand Rapids has done for me and my career, so we were going to do whatever we could to ensure that Grand Rapids had a team and this was going to be sustainable for many years to come, and Denver was the right answer."