The NBA preseason and global games sees teams play in some exotic locations. From the Raptors and Clippers playing in Honolulu to the global games in London and Mexico City during the regular season, the world’s premier basketball competition stretches to every corner of the globe.
With the season not yet under way, the inevitable question of expansion hovers in the minds of NBA strategists. So let’s ponder what could be and what teams could arise in cities once blessed with an NBA team and those still waiting for a franchise.
Nearly every city in America and the surrounding area could be listed, but here’s a range of locations that could best persuade NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his cabinet.
Seattle may be the most obvious choice considering they were the last city to be released from NBA duties with the Sonics moving to Oklahoma as the Oklahoma City Thunder. SuperSonics fans are still mourning the loss of their team and it probably doesn’t make it any easier to see who the Thunder have brought in this offseason in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Seattle enjoyed 41 years of SuperSonics basketball with notable players such as Gary ‘The Glove’ Payton and Shawn ‘Reign Man’ Kemp, whose unbelievable dunks can be seen above.
Seattle seems a natural choice if the NBA were to expand tomorrow as the infrastructure for a team is already present. Logos, jerseys and the arena under the SuperSonics brand could be reborn immediately. For NBA 2K fans, under the league expansion option in MyLeague in NBA 2K 18, you can add the Seattle SuperSonics historic logo and recreate the buzz as I did recently; it’s great fun.
Let's face it: who wouldn’t want to see the green and yellow back in the league?
The city of Louisville may not scream basketball in the world of the NBA but to any college basketball fans, the state of Kentucky breeds stars. The Kentucky Wildcats, based in the second largest city behind Louisville in Lexington, have produced NBA talent such as DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony-Towns, to mention a few, in the last seven years alone. The state is primed for a professional team once again, but how would it look?
Under the ABA, before the merger to make the NBA as we know it today, the Kentucky Colonels ruled the roost in the state. But since the 1970s, the land has been bereft of a professional basketball team. Names are up for debate, though most have suggested a return to the Colonels when the city was short-listed in 2010 for the relocation of the then Charlotte Hornets. There is even an arena in the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville and a Facebook page with 15,000 fans supporting the return.
The main drawback of a team in Louisville would be the city size, creating another mid-size market team. It may also detract from the massively popular college following. However, it would mean another historic franchise making a comeback in a city ready built for an NBA expansion team.
Canadian basketball was in a sorry state for a long time until recently. The Grizzles left Vancouver for Memphis in 2001, while the introduction of the Toronto Raptors in 1996 didn’t initially make a particularly big splash. Vince Carter put the Raptors on the map in the early 2000s but then left for the New Jersey Nets in 2004. Canadian basketball under the Raptors went into hiding until 2013 when they ended a five-year playoff drought. Now the Raptors are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference with a ferocious following. Maybe this is the time to capitalise on the Toronto franchise's recent success and welcome another team from north of the border.
Vancouver is another city that used to have an NBA franchise, but unlike the Seattle SuperSonics and the Kentucky Colonels, the Grizzles name is taken. Could the Vancouver Mounties or Vipers be an option?
Vancouver has the infrastructure already in place to host a team. The Rogers Arena is still in use by the Vancouver Canucks and could still host a Vancouver basketball team. I’m sure there are still Vancouver Grizzlies fans that would come out of the woodwork should an expansion team be announced.
Home to over 20 million people, Mexico City is massive. I live in London and thought London was big, yet it only boasts around half of Mexico City's population. The potential following for an NBA expansion team is obvious statistically.
It seems as if the NBA has been testing the waters in the last of couple of years, including this season when we'll see the first regular season games being played south of the border. There has never been an NBA team in Mexico unlike the cities mentioned above, which gives us more scope to experiment. How about the Mexico City Matadors? Or the Mexico City Aztecs? NBA 2K comes in handy here to create your own best Mexico City team. I’m going for the Aztecs myself.
We’ll have to see how the global games are received in the regular season in order to determine how realistic a Mexican team would be. Regardless, the global appeal of the NBA would suggest it is a real consideration for Silver and his compadres.
Inevitability vs. possibility
An expansion team may not be next on the to-do list in the NBA head office, but the topic is nonetheless important. In order to take the league to new frontiers and promote the game of basketball in general, an expansion team must be on the horizon. Maybe the SuperSonics will make a comeback, or maybe it'll be a city not even mentioned here. Either way, expansion will be part of the NBA's future.
What city should the NBA expand into next? What name should they have? Comment below!
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