Exceeded expectations – that’s how the Delaware Sports Commission described the third edition of the revamped Slam Dunk to the Beach.

This year’s tournament ran December 27-29. A total of 20 teams played over the three day span at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes. Teams came from as far as Toronto (1,200 miles from Lewes) and Miami (2,200 miles away) to participate. This was the first time an international team was a part of the growing event.

Fans at Slam Dunk to the Beach 2016Organizers said attendance was up again this year with many repeat spectators mentioning there were noticeably more people in the stands throughout the games. That helped create an estimated economic impact of $1.8 million, which is nearly double the impact of each of the 2014 and 2015 tournaments.

"Sports tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism market across America, and its certainly booming in Delaware," said Linda Parkowski, Delaware Tourism Director. "Great events like Slam Dunk to the Beach show how youth sports can be an economic driver for the state. Couple the great work of DSC with new ventures coming online, like the DE Turf Sports Complex and the Delaware Sports Complex, and that's a recipe for success."

As Slam Dunk's economic impact numbers grew, so did ones for online engagement. On Twitter #SlamDunkDE had 2.6 million impressions – up more than 700,000 from 2015. The number of accounts reached also jumped – up 200,000 from 2015 to almost 850,000.

Slam Dunk also introduced another way to connect with the tournament on social media. A soft roll out of a new Snapchat filter led to nearly 600 uses and 34,000 views.

“The exposure Delaware gets from the event on social media and in traditional media is so valuable,” Parkowski said. “And in-person we hear from many, many visitors what a great impression of the state they have from coming for the tournament.”

Slam Dunk to the Beach 2016 Pre Tip OffHaving some of the best high school players in the country in Lewes once again led to a lot of excitement and buzz about Slam Dunk. Six of ESPN’s top 100 for the class of 2017 played, including Mo Bamba (#4), Nick Richards (#12), Quade Green (#22) and Jake Felton (#24). The class of 2018 also had star power from Cameron Reddish (#4 on ESPN’s top 60) and Nazreon Reid (#10).

The tournament’s best players have committed to basketball powerhouses, like Villanova, North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, Arizona, Cincinnati and Temple.

Slam Dunk to the Beach 2016_2That quality continues a longstanding tradition for Slam Dunk to the Beach. Current NBA stars, like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, played in Lewes while they were in high school.

Many attendees said the talent at the current tournament now seems to match the level it was at during Slam Dunk’s original iteration. DSC plans to put an even stronger emphasis next year on bringing in top individual players and teams.

And there’s certainly room for growth as Slam Dunk to the Beach heads into year four and beyond. Sports tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry. It was worth $9 billion across the US in 2014, according to the National Association of Sports Commissions.

For more information on opportunities to get involved in Slam Dunk to the Beach, contact Nathan Snodgrass at Nathan.Snodgrass@state.de.us.