Seattle thought it was getting its Sonics back — for a moment, anyway — until a group led by rich Seattlites Chris Hansen (not the pedophile catcher) and Microsoft bigwig Steve Ballmer was totally c-blocked by a vote of the NBA’s ownership. The decision was not a vote against Seattle, per se, but a vote for small-market Sacramento and a way to stick it to the douchebag Maloof brothers as they attempted to sell the Kings.
However, not all hope is lost for Sonics fans.
Commissioner David Stern’s future replacement, Adam Silver, indicated he is open to the possibility of expansion when the league’s current TV contracts expire following the 2015-16 season.
“We want to wait and see what happens in our next national television negotiation, but we’re very appreciative of the fans in Seattle,” Silver said in the Seattle Times. “We’ve regretted having to leave the market the last time, and we fully expect we’ll return there one day.”
If the league does go the expansion route in Seattle four years or so from now, it would leave the NBA with 31 teams. And as we all know, no one likes odd numbers. So if the NBA decides to make it an even 32 teams, which city should come into the fold along with Seattle?
Here’s a look at the pros and cons of some viable candidates:
St. Louis: The largest media market without a team is the place the Hawks called home from 1955-68. They won the franchise’s only title there in 1958 led by one of the NBA’s all-time greats in Bob Pettit. The city also had an ABA presence with the Spirits of St. Louis, but there always seem to be questions as to whether St. Louis is quite big enough to be a four-sport town. It would also take away my only comeback to Cardinals fans, which is, “How’s your basketball team this year?”
Pittsburgh: It’s never been a pro basketball town, outside of a few attempts at ABA teams and the movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” (I can’t possibly urge you enough to watch this clip). The Steelers own the city until at least January — halfway through the NBA season — and the Penguins have a pretty good hold on things after the Steelers are done. A group on Facebook, “Bring the NBA to Pittsburgh,” only has 69 likes. You don’t get the idea that demand is overwhelming.
Kansas City: The Sprint Center is a nice, shiny new arena with no professional tenant. It was built with the hopes of attracting an NBA or NHL team, but so far KC has come up short. Kansas City has had a shot at the NBA before — it was the Kings’ most recent home before moving to Sacramento. Basketball is big in Missouri and Kansas, so you’d think there would be enough fan interest to get behind a potential franchise.
Columbus: A basketball team most people don’t know exists would be a fine counterpart to Columbus’ hockey team most people don’t know exists. Seriously, though, with Ohio State’s domination of this market I’m pretty sure Columbus is meant to be a one-team town — and it’s barely been capable of doing even that.
Louisville: A basketball city in a basketball state. The Kentucky Colonels were a franchise for all nine seasons of the ABA, but did not make the cut when the NBA agreed to merge four teams into its fold after the 1976 season. Some would argue NBA crowds are at their best when it is the only game in town — Oklahoma City, Memphis, Salt Lake City and Sacramento (when the Kings are actually good) all lend credence to that theory.
The only argument against a Louisville team would be the concern that the NBA would struggle to compete for entertainment dollars against U of L and UK. But again, the University of Memphis and the Grizzlies both seem to be doing fine.
Las Vegas: I don’t think I need to explain what makes Vegas awesome. But every pro league has an aversion to putting a team in a city with legalized sports gambling available. Would the NBA be willing to be the first to make a dip into that pool? Seems like this is a disaster waiting to happen. In the Internet Age tales of wild parties on road trips to Sin City could be a serious embarrassment to the league.
Virginia Beach: The third-largest metropolitan area without a team in the Big Four sports (Vegas and Hartford being the others) was one of the cities the Kings were rumored to be considering last year when the Maloofs first looked into selling the team. There’s no major college in the city, so residents are likely hungering for any kind of sporting entertainment.
That said, there is nothing about Virginia Beach that screams excitement to potential free agents. Of course, the same thing could be said about a few places on this list.