Junior Bridgeman is not bringing the Toronto Raptors to town. Not even temporarily. The 67-year-old entrepreneur, who built an empire worth an estimated $600 million following a distinguished basketball career, said Thursday “the time has passed” for his pursuit of an NBA franchise for Louisville.
Before Milwaukee officials and the Bucks struck a funding agreement to build the arena, the NBA threatened to buy the franchise and sell it to one of two ownership groups, one in Las Vegas and the other Seattle, citing the aging BMO Harris Bradley Center where the Bucks played between 1988 and 2018. “I’m the co-owner of the Bucks and we love being in Milwaukee,” Wes Edens said. “If we had been forced to move the team, which we had not, Las Vegas was definitely one of the places that was on the list that we would have seriously considered.”
Former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren has been teasing the idea of an NBA team in Las Vegas for years, and T-Mobile Arena was built with housing both an NHL team and an NBA team in mind. Indeed, the 20,000-seat arena was constructed with separate locker rooms for both sports. “To me it’s a question of when, not if, there will be an NBA team in that arena,” Edens said. “It’s just such a tremendous market. The success of the other teams really bodes well for what could be a potential success of an NBA team.”
The former CEO of MGM Resorts International expects Las Vegas will get a National Basketball Association franchise within the next few years. Speaking today at an online Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance event, Jim Murren said the Las Vegas area’s relationship with the NBA, through hosting Summer League games and the Las Vegas Aces WNBA franchise, help make it an attractive option.
Louisville is the NBA's perpetual bridesmaid. The decades-long dance between the basketball-crazed city and the world's preeminent basketball league began in the mid-1970s. The ABA's Kentucky Colonels, one of the league's most decorated and financially successful franchises, were poised to make the jump into the NBA when the two leagues merged, but owner John Y. Brown decided to cash out by selling star players to other franchises and accepting a $3 million buyout to fold his team. Decades later, Louisville had the then-Vancouver Grizzlies in hand in 2001. "We fumbled on the one-yard line," Steve Higdon, chairman of NBA2LOU, tells CBS Sports. A combination of local politics and the inability to raise funds for a new arena killed the deal, and the Grizzlies landed in Memphis. A year later, Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville exerted their own influence to keep the then-Charlotte Hornets out of Kentucky. Toss in a failed bid at the Houston Rockets, and the home of the 1975 ABA champions had grown sick of losing out on professional basketball.
Whether Kentuckians would throw their dollars behind a professional basketball team remains to be seen, but they already devote a fair bit of time to the NBA. Louisville routinely draws strong television ratings, particularly when it comes to the NBA Draft. It led all cities with a 5.3 rating on the 2017 NBA Draft, per Sports Media Watch, and that devotion to the game is something Issel still sees regularly. "To this day, I have people in their 50s and 60s that come up to me and say 'We really loved the Colonels. My dad used to take me to all of the games,'" he recalls. Nostalgia, in itself, does not support a billion-dollar enterprise, but it doesn't hurt in a region with a fairly low population. Only New Orleans and Memphis are smaller among NBA markets, but neither came with the sort of built-in market share that a Kentucky basketball team would have based purely on history.
Louisville had the then-Vancouver Grizzlies in hand in 2001. "We fumbled on the one-yard line," Steve Higdon, chairman of NBA2LOU, tells CBS Sports. A combination of local politics and the inability to raise funds for a new arena killed the deal, and the Grizzlies landed in Memphis. A year later, Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville exerted their own influence to keep the then-Charlotte Hornets out of Kentucky. Toss in a failed bid at the Houston Rockets, and the home of the 1975 ABA champions had grown sick of losing out on professional basketball.
The KFC Yum! Center now sits on the Louisville waterfront with all of the bells and whistles of a typical NBA arena, but no professional tenant. The trouble, as former Colonels legend and current NBA2LOU president Dan Issel explains, was a lack of interest on the NBA's part. "As we got into it, we found out that expansion really wasn't anything, it wasn't as inevitable as everybody felt," Issel said. "In fact, I called the commissioner and he said 'Dan I really appreciate it, but I'm not even taking any meetings on expansion.'" This has been the NBA's official stance for over a decade. The league has not expanded since welcoming the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, giving it an even 30 teams.
As COVID-19 takes its toll on professional sports, as money grows tight and certainty scarce, the possibility of NBA expansion or relocation becomes increasingly plausible. “The quickest way for the owners to make up any shortfall in revenue is expansion,” said Dan Issel, president of NBA2LOU. “Those expansion fees would be sizable and they don’t have to split that with the players.”
That the situation is fluid “is more true now than it’s been in decades,” says J. Bruce Miller, Louisville’s long-time NBA point man. Granted, Louisville still looks like a long shot. The University of Louisville continues to control the most significant revenue streams at the KFC Yum Center and is poorly positioned to start making concessions to an NBA owner amid layoffs and budget cuts. Meanwhile, modern arenas in Vegas and Kansas City are unencumbered by leases that could cause conflict with an NBA tenant.
So long as there is more money to be made in another market, though, rumors will persist. In addition to the Grizzlies, the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs have all been subject to recent relocation speculation. “There might be some teams looking at moving,” Dan Issel said. “All I know is that the people that I’ve talked to who have had knowledge of those situations have promised me that I’ll get a call when it’s appropriate."
@Brian M. As you know, I would LOVE for the NBA to go back to Seattle. What I was told by owners well before the pandemic was that it was unlikely there'd be much support for expansion until at least the next TV deal (which is set to expire in 2024) is done. So I'm not holding out much hope at present for a groundswell of support for new teams. If this season were, for some reason, ultimately cancelled, maybe some feelings would change.
Though it is just a reported possibility, Granger said he wants to be prepared if it ever did gain some traction, saying it could help prove Louisville would be a good future home for a permanent team. "We're trying just to make sure the experience is second to none for the NBA,” Granger said. "This would be an opportunity for us to showcase to the NBA what we're capable of doing."
“Winning that championship with the Colonels in Louisville is why I’m involved with our present endeavor, to get the NBA back to Louisville,” Dan Issel told the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce audience. “Remembering that championship, how special it was, and what a great feeling everybody in Kentucky had about having a championship team was terrific,” Issel said. “That’s something I would like to see duplicated.”
Louisville can’t just ask for an NBA team. “The frustrating part is that there is nothing we can do to make the NBA go any faster,” Issel said. “Their position is that expansion is not on the table. That will be their position until the day they decide to start taking applications.”
Louisville Business First reported in November that the group has pledges of at least $3 million for startup costs. They are working to attract an owner or majority investors to generate an estimated $1.4 billion to start the franchise. “I don’t know if we will ever have professional basketball here, but it won’t be from lack of trying,” Issel said. “We have a tremendous group of people who
Will an NBA team call Seattle home within the next five years? "I sure hope so. If there's one thing that I could wish for our league structurally, I think it would be to get a team back to Seattle," Warriors president Rick Welts told NBC Sports' Tom Haberstroh on the "Habershow" podcast. "It's obviously a really personal issue for me. I know what that team meant to that city -- bringing the first professional championship to Seattle. It's an amazing market. A lot of the future of the world is being envisioned there. It's got a vibrant community that would really support an NBA team coming back."
He, more than anybody, knows the NBA belongs in Seattle. "But the path is problematic," he said. "The good news is the NBA's business is really successful right now, and that means we have 30 teams operating without anyone feeling like they're in a market where they can't support NBA basketball. And the owners -- I would say probably to their credit -- have shown no interest. And the league hasn't really promoted any expansion agenda. So how do you get a team there?”
Rick Welts: “I don't think I'm going out on a limb to make the prediction that the next team -- the next new market in the NBA -- will be Seattle. But the path on how we get there is pretty murky right now."
Prior to the game, a “Vancouver wants the NBA back” rally took place outside the arena. That movement, led by Finding Big Country filmmaker Kat Jayme, appeared to spread inside Rogers Arena as well. Late in the game, a “We want Grizzlies” chant filled the arena.
Mexico City, Las Vegas and, of course, Seattle have all been mentioned regularly in recent years as potential destinations for expansion — or franchise relocation should any current team move. Vancouver, Louisville and Kansas City are three more cities vying for consideration. I can’t put them all in a firm order beyond listing Seattle at No. 1
Dan Issel spent the end of this past week in Springfield, Mass. The Kentucky Wildcats basketball icon traveled north to see his former Denver Nuggets teammate, Bobby Jones, inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While hobnobbing with fellow hoops Hall of Famers, Issel planned to do some lobbying designed to bring attention to the effort he heads to bring an NBA expansion franchise to the city of Louisville. “I plan to talk to everybody I can about NBA to Lou,” Issel said Friday. “I’ve really been encouraged in my two days in Springfield (by) how many people around professional basketball know about our efforts to bring a team (to Louisville).”
Issel, 70, said the uncertainty over when/if the NBA will add teams is “a little frustrating in the fact we don’t have a timetable. We think the NBA is going to expand. We think there are a couple of reasons why they will. But we don’t have a timetable to work with.” Exclusive access for NBA owners to a large pool of money is the primary factor that will eventually compel the league to add teams, Issel said. “The owners have to split all of the Basketball Related Income, the BRI, which is ticket sales, television (rights fees), all of that stuff, 50-50 with the players,” Issel said, referencing the league’s collective-bargaining agreement. “Expansion fees are not BRI, so the expansion fees the owners would collect would go directly to the owners’ pocketbooks.”
Chris Hansen’s bid for a new NBA arena in Seattle continued recently, after he bought up a pair of properties in the city’s SoDo neighborhood. His real estate adviser told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the entrepreneur has not given up on hopes of building an arena for a men’s pro basketball team. According to property records, Hansen bought two parcels of land in SoDo for almost $5 million. Any potential arena would still require Seattle’s City Council to sell him part of Occidental Avenue.
Las Vegas might eventually land an NBA team, but expansion or relocation aren’t in the current plans, commissioner Adam Silver said. He will be in Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League, which begins Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. Various league meetings also will take place, including one involving the Board of Governors in which significant decisions are made. The first two days of the Summer League are sold out. “While we, of course, don’t have an NBA team in Las Vegas, this seems like the next best thing,” Silver said Thursday. “For roughly two weeks of the calendar in July, enormous attention is on the NBA. I believe we account for roughly 30,000 room nights during that two-week period that we’re there.
“While we, of course, don’t have an NBA team in Las Vegas, this seems like the next best thing,” Silver said. “For roughly two weeks of the calendar in July, enormous attention is on the NBA. I believe we account for roughly 30,000 room nights during that two-week period that we’re there. Everybody is seemingly in town both to enjoy the basketball and to enjoy the city.”
Mason Plumlee: It’s time for the NBA to take the next step in its international expansion and bring the NBA to Mexico City. Not for an occasional game. Not for a G-League franchise. But for the full NBA experience. Give tens of millions of fans a rooting interest. Create new opportunities for our players and the local economy. Make a global statement.
Mason Plumlee: I realize Canada has different economic conditions than Mexico, but the Raptors have proven that an NBA franchise is a solid investment. The Raptors are the most valuable pro sports team in Canada (worth around $2B), more than the Maple Leafs and Blue Jays. My guess is that with the right partner, solid infrastructure and a long-term commitment, a Mexico City franchise could be a giant. Some logistics related to taxes, customs and immigration would need to be sorted out with the government, but maybe that could be part of Trump’s secret tariff deal.
The long shot is finding a team. Either one of the leagues would have to expand or an owner would have to move a team to Kansas City. A city spokesperson said Kansas City is not soliciting professional teams, but that it would be happy to land an NBA or NHL team, if the city was approached.
Ryan Wolstat: Grange asks Silver about Canadian expansion: “my answer is the same as it has been for other U.S. cities: we’re just not in expansion mode.” Says at some point will turn back to expansion but not at this time.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is thrilled with the growth of basketball in Canada, and left the door open for a potential return to Vancouver. Speaking from the NBA’s league headquarters in New York with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on the Sunday edition of the National, Silver spoke in depth about Vancouver — a city he has visited and knows well.
Unlike David Stern, who said “I don’t think we can go back” to Vancouver 10 years ago, Silver provided hope for local hoops fans. “In retrospect, I wish we had a team in Vancouver right now. I think Canada could handle two NBA teams,” said Silver. “I share David’s sentiment that we do have regret. I think we were a bit ahead of our time. There was a moment in the league where prospects seemed down in terms of the team. Attendance was down, ratings were down. I understood from an economic standpoint why the then-team owner (Michael Heisley) wanted to move the team.”
As the league continues to extend its reach across the world going forward, Charlotte Hornets guard Tony Parker envisions a future in which the NBA has teams playing in Europe, whether as part of the current league structure or in a system that would allow successful overseas clubs to qualify for competition against their American counterparts. “Hopefully the discussion will go forward with the NBA. Maybe one day we will have an NBA Europe. Or something like that,” he said in a recent interview with Forbes. “Maybe not a European team playing in the NBA but maybe an NBA Europe where you’ll have an own division and then the winners can play in the U.S. I think that in the NBA they are very interested in the prospect of doing something in Europe. Basketball in Europe is growing every year and is getting better and better.”
Dan Issel has now come full circle with this effort to bring professional basketball back to Louisville where his career began with the Colonels. “We are fighting the perception that Louisville and Kentucky cannot support a professional basketball team,” Issel said. “We have reams of data that proves Louisville, Kentucky, can support a professional basketball team.”
He added that Louisville would have gotten the original Charlotte Hornets team before they ultimately relocated to New Orleans if it hadn’t been for opposition from the former leadership at UofL.
“Bringing an NBA team to Kentucky could heavily stimulate the economy across the entire commonwealth,” organizers say. “The creation of new jobs, potential to attract outside dollars and additional income tax dollars would benefit the entire state of Kentucky — not just the city in which the NBA team is hosted.”
Do you think there’s scope for more games in London, perhaps an All-Star in the future? Bradley Beal: Probably, I wouldn’t even be surprised if they had a team eventually over here. It’d be crazy – I definitely hope it will happen one day. So why not, that’s my opinion!
In an interview with the St. Louis Business Journal last week, Chaifetz doubled down on a statement he made in September and a recent Twitter post regarding a possible NBA franchise in St. Louis. “I'd love to be involved with a team in St. Louis in the NBA. It’d be great for the city," Chaifetz said. Ten years ago, Chaifetz’ dream of an NBA franchise in St. Louis would have brought forth laughter. But the Rams relocated to Los Angeles and the NBA is now being touted as the American sports league most in touch with younger fans, social media and minority television audiences.
In a wide ranging interview Sunday with the Business Journal, Richard Chaifetz affirmed the sentiment that he thinks St. Louis is an NBA city. Would he be interesting in owning a local NBA team or helping to bring the league to St. Louis? “I’d love to be involved with a team in St. Louis in the NBA. It’d be great for the city,” he said.
Yet after 42 years of tilting at windmills in pursuit of a professional basketball franchise, the 78-year-old attorney J. Bruce Miller remains disinclined to abandon his incomplete quest. Miller still believes there is a billionaire “out there” who can be convinced to bring the NBA to Louisville, and he continues to chase that oft-dashed dream despite his advancing age and amid perceptions of his diminishing influence.
Six months since his acrimonious exit from the NBA2LOU organization, Miller has not stopped working the phones or cultivating potential owners. Previously on record that the NBA2LOU effort cannot survive league scrutiny because of financial issues associated with Signature CEO Joe Steier, Miller is now operating independently and, again, optimistically. “It hasn’t been a lost cause in the sense that it was hopeless,” he said. “We darn near had it two or three times.”
“What I’m looking for is somebody who would do something for Louisville what Danny Thomas did for Memphis,” Miller said. “And I’m not talking, necessarily, about a movie star. What he did with (St. Jude Children’s) hospital changed Memphis, Tennessee. That place is just breathtaking. That’s exactly what I’m looking for: somebody coming in and doing something like what Danny Thomas did for Memphis’ reputation. I think that person is out there.”
If you've lived in Louisville for any amount of time, you know this city goes wild for its basketball: high school and, of course, college. "It's just time for that next step," NBA Hall of Famer Dan Issel said. He's leading the charge to bring an NBA team to town. The former UK Wildcat, Denver Nugget and executive updated the public on his dream at a lunch for entrepreneurs Wednesday afternoon. "There have been discussions for years about bringing the NBA to Louisville, but we think the timing is right now," Issel said.
He knows his plan isn't a slam dunk. The price tag is hefty. It would take more than $1 billion to bring a team here and another $400 million to get the franchise up and running. "You'd be surprised by how many people, how many groups can write that kind of check," he told the crowd. He knows his plan isn't a slam dunk. The price tag is hefty. It would take more than $1 billion to bring a team here and another $400 million to get the franchise up and running. "You'd be surprised by how many people, how many groups can write that kind of check," he told the crowd.
“It was just awful to me,” he continued. “I still remember granting the expansion franchise (and) I was so thrilled that we had a franchise in Vancouver. “It was never managed to great success.” Stern also believes there’s a chance the NBA might one day return to Canada’s west coast. “I would never say never about anything,” he said. “I’m an observer, so I’m watching from afar as they build a (US)$700-million building in Seattle. Vancouver still has a great building that it had when we were there.”
Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is a rich man, but an NBA franchise looks like it might be out of his price range. At least for now. The billionaire, who grew up in East Vancouver and owns both the Canucks and Rogers Arena, spoke about the possibility of bringing an NBA team to Vancouver in an interview with Sportsnet 650 on Thursday. “There’s been some discussions on [bringing an NBA franchise to Vancouver],” Aquilini said. “It’s obvious because we’ve got a building, it’s plug and play. We still have the hoops. We still have the floor. Everything’s there. The locker room and everything is there. We’ve discussed it.”
A Quebec group wants to bring an NBA team to Montreal even though the league has no current plans to expand. The business group is led by former federal cabinet minister and senator Michael Fortier. He said Wednesday he has spoken with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, saying his group has "taken the decision to prepare for when expansion does take place." The group has been meeting with potential Canadian and foreign investors
The words unsurprisingly drew applause from the partisan crowd. At halftime, Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman presented Lakers president of basketball operations and luminary Magic Johnson with the keys to the city on “Magic Johnson Day.” When Johnson spoke on the microphone, he shared a dream. “I hope one day Las Vegas gets an NBA team,” Johnson said to roaring applause. Will that happen? “They’re building the stadiums to get ready for it. With the hockey team and WNBA team that is here and Raiders coming in soon, they’re setting themselves up to have an NBA team,” James said. “But I don’t know if it’s now or 10 years from now.”
The NBA does not have any imminent plans to expand its 30-league team or allow a team to relocate. Instead, Commissioner Adam Silver considers it a priority to ensure competitive balance in the league. “It seems like a logical spot in the future,” Kerr said. “But I know there’s a lot more that goes into it.”
The group said that while there is no appetite for adding Montreal or any other city at the moment, their goal is “to be ready the day that opportunity comes along.” They’ve also informed NBA commissioner Adam Silver that while they recognize “Montreal isn’t on anybody’s short list,” they don’t mind being Plan B for now.
A group in Montreal on Wednesday outlined its plan to pursue an NBA franchise. Michael Fortier, former Conservative minister of international trade, and Michel Leblanc, president and CEO of Montreal's Chamber of Commerce, spoke to reporters about how they hope to land a team in pro basketball's top league.
Fortier said that while NBA commissioner Adam Silver told his group the league has no plans to expand, he's confident it will happen in the future. Fortier also said that Stéphan Crétier, president and chief executive officer of GardaWorld, would buy a 10 per cent stake in any potential NBA franchise.
The man leading an effort to bring the NBA to Louisville said he’s not concerned about a recent report that says NBA expansion may not be considered until 2025. Naismith Hall-of-Famer and former Denver Nuggets coach Dan Issel, now president of the Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group, dismissed an ESPN report last week that cited league sources saying expansion isn’t a concern for the NBA right now.
The local group has been working without any certainty of an expansion timeline. Issel said it could be three years, five years or 12 years before expansion talks heat up. “I’m not going by any unidentified source,” he said. “... We’ll keep doing what we are doing.” Issel did have a hunch, though, that expansion may take longer than he originally anticipated
The Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group is working now to attract a majority investor and owner who could help generate at least $1.4 billion to start an NBA franchise in Louisville. The organization, known locally as NBA to Louisville, has pledges of at least $3 million for startup costs.
Upstart political party Vancouver 1st released their platform Saturday, and it’s sure to make diehard fans of local sports very happy. “Vancouver 1st is bringing back the NBA,” the party said in a news release.
The party stopped short of promising to negotiate the Grizzlies’ return from Memphis. But they did announce plans to build a world-class NBA stadium in south Vancouver, if elected, which it said “will start a surge of strategic building aimed at establishing a new second core of density designed around principles of transit access, inclusivity, affordability and sustainability.”
The NBA doesn't have expansion anywhere on its timeline, and Seattle's arena developments weren't discussed for a moment at the fall board of governors meeting two weeks ago, league sources said. Some prospective ownership groups that have met with NBA officials have been told expansion may not happen until 2025 at the earliest, when a new TV deal can be negotiated, sources said.
Other than expansion, the wild card for Seattle would be for a current NBA team to relocate. Several prospective ownership groups are watching the Memphis Grizzlies. The city of Memphis has some protections built into the Grizzlies' long-term lease with FedEx Forum, however lawyers who have reviewed the lease believe there is a possible window for the team to leave in 2021, multiple league sources said.
However, Grizzlies owner Robert Pera would have to sell the team in order to move it under the terms of the lease, and Pera has given no indication he plans to do so. Quite the opposite, actually. Earlier this year, Pera agreed to buy out some of his minority owners at a price that valued the team at nearly $1.3 billion, league sources said. At the time, Pera told season-ticket holders in a statement that "I am committed to Memphis as an NBA market and as the home of the Grizzlies."
Oak View is planning an ambitious engineering feat, which Leiweke is quick to point out is not a renovation but a new structure. The issue is that the arena's iconic roof has been designated a national historic landmark and can't be altered. The arena is also built into the side of a hill in a neighborhood that has turned more residential in the past decade with more than 40 former parking and vacant lots turned into housing as it sits near Amazon's world headquarters. So to expand the outdated arena, Oak View is planning to dig down and around the roof and several exterior glass walls to gut and expand the building's footprint. First pegged as a $600 million project, Leiweke told ESPN the price tag is now projected at $750 million.
The Houston Rockets take on the Memphis Grizzlies right here in the Magic City for the first NBA game in Birmingham in 12 years. But before the game tomorrow, people around Birmingham have began talking about the future of Birmingham having their own NBA team. Mayor Randall Woodfin tells CBS 42, "I think we can support anything we want. It's what we want to be committed to. What we're willing to put our resources around."
Dan Issel has followed the money far enough to believe there are buyers. What he doesn’t know, and won’t predict, is when there might be a pro basketball team to buy. The president of NBA2LOU expressed confidence Wednesday night in Louisville’s ability to fund an expansion team, but he conceded that his timetable has grown longer. “Not the least of my worries, but one of my lesser concerns is that when the time comes we’ll find somebody to write the check,” Issel said. “That person is out there. ... The challenge we’re going to have is the NBA being ready for us.”
A group of local investors committed to bringing an NBA franchise to Louisville held its first pep rally Wednesday night as talks continue with as many as five investor groups interested in partnering on the movement. The Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group, also known as NBA to Louisville, held the rally at the Falls City Brewing Co. taproom on East Liberty Street, where members took questions and provided updates to several dozen supporters.
The Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group is a collective of Louisville investors who are working to attract a majority investor and owner who could help generate at least $1.4 billion to start an NBA franchise in Louisville. The organization has pledges of at least $3 million for startup costs. This was the first official rally for the grassroots movement, but the group plans to host similar events in Lexington and other parts of the state in an effort to build a groundswell of fan support ahead of a possible NBA expansion.
Raptors guard Norman Powell took it one step further, bringing up the idea of returning an NBA franchise returning to Vancouver, something this city hasn’t had since the Grizzlies left for Memphis 2001. “The fans here are just as adamant as they are in Toronto. Sold out crowd, they’re really into it. I really think they should bring an NBA team back here.”
Some around the league see expansion as inevitable, no matter how many times Silver says there are no looming plans for adding teams, since the expansion fee involved would almost certainly cross the $1 billion threshold given current franchise values and the way league revenue, TV ratings and various other metrics tied to general interest in the N.B.A. all continue to trend upward. But maintaining a 30-team league and moving a struggling franchise to Seattle within the next decade might prove to be the easier course.
The movement to bring an NBA franchise to Louisville has added the former head of the city's chamber of commerce to its board of directors. The group announced Tuesday the addition of Steve Higdon, the former CEO of Greater Louisville Inc. and current chief development officer at Louisville-based Private Client Services.
The board now consists of five members: Higdon, basketball Hall of Famer Dan Issel, Signature Health CEO and president Joe Steier, Dianne Timmering and Sherm Henderson. Steier serves as the group chairman, while Issel serves as its president.
“They’ve got hockey here, and they’ve got WNBA here, the NFL will be here in a couple of years,” Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder said. “I think Vegas is built for an NBA team. I think they should be here. It has everything. It’s easy access from the airport down to the Strip. I don’t see why not.”
“Even just from adding an NHL team, they’re doing great things,” reigning NBA MVP James Harden of the Houston Rockets said. “It’s built for it. Obviously, the money is there, but I think the fan support is there as well. We saw that in hockey.”
”I think players like coming here,” Durant said. “I’m sure whatever team they put together would be successful here because of so much support and so many great resources, and it would add on another level of excitement for the NBA, for the game of basketball, so I’m all for it.”
Ben Golliver: Adam Silver: “Expansion is not on our agenda right now... I’m very focused on creating a competitive 30-team league right now... [Our focus is]: What is it we can do system-wise, training-wise to create more competition within this league?”
The National Basketball Association may be returning to the state of Missouri for the first time in over three decades. An anonymous league executive spoke with Jarrett Sutton of SEC Network on Friday and discussed the possibility of the NBA expanding to Kansas City. “Going to be real honest with you, Kansas City will get an NBA team at some point,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s a real thing I’ve heard from multiple sources. Just a matter of time. Seattle and KC to me are [the] most valuable markets for league expansion when it makes sense.”
Speaking at a company analyst and investor day event Thursday, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said he expects the NBA to come to Las Vegas in a few years. Murren sees an NBA team relocating like the NFL’s Oakland Raiders' pending 2020 move to Las Vegas, and not an expansion team being added, like in the case of the NHL’s Golden Knights.
“I think it’s highly likely that a team, or multiple teams, will be looking to move over the next three years,” Murren said. “We know who they are, that’s why I think it’s highly likely. I would expect that Las Vegas will have an NBA team within the next five years, if not sooner. That team would likely play at T-Mobile (Arena).”
If an NBA franchise does make the move to Las Vegas, Murren said don’t expect the casino giant to have any ownership in the team like it does with the Aces. “We’re not going to be an NBA owner,” he said. “Even if we could, we’re not investing your (investors’) capital that way.”
Speaking at a company analyst and investor day event Thursday, MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren said he expects the NBA to come to Las Vegas in a few years. Murren sees an NBA team relocating like the NFL’s Oakland Raiders' pending 2020 move to Las Vegas, and not an expansion team being added, like in the case of the NHL’s Golden Knights. “I think it’s highly likely that a team, or multiple teams, will be looking to move over the next three years,” Murren said. “We know who they are, that’s why I think it’s highly likely. I would expect that Las Vegas will have an NBA team within the next five years, if not sooner. That team would likely play at T-Mobile (Arena).”
During a discussion hosted by the Louisville Forum on Wednesday, WHAS 840 radio host Terry Meiners pointed to the "Bluff City" as "the perfect example" of how two teams could share the KFC Yum Center in Louisville. In Memphis, the NBA's Grizzlies and the University of Memphis Tigers both play home games at the 18,100-seat FedEx Forum.
Dan Issel said taxpayers won't have to do any lifting to bring an NBA franchise to Louisville, a sentiment that echoed what Mayor Greg Fischer and state officials recently said regarding the need for private investment to fund the venture.
Issel, who is serving as the president of the "NBA 2 Louisville" initiative, made his comments at the Louisville Forum on Wednesday, stating that "he doesn't envision" a scenario where public financing would play a role in luring a team to Kentucky. "We're not looking for a handout," said Issel.
He said it would cost an estimated $1.4 billion for fees and startup costs to buy into the league, and that the average ticket price would be $46. He said the goal is to raise the money within the next 18 months. So far, the small group of local investors has raised $750,000 for startup costs and NBA league fees and has commitments of up to $3 million, if necessary.
Once upon a time, David Stern's vision was to expand into Europe, Asia and Africa and make the game global. Now, the next horizon looks as clear and vibrant as a 4K screen: one of Silver's missions is to bring the game to every fan's fingertips via smartphones, consoles and computers and reach every corner of the planet as easily as Giannis Antetokounmpo reaches the rim in one stride from the free throw line. The NBA isn't ready to start a franchise in Europe knowing how international travel would negatively impact players' rest and health.
David Locke: Is Mexico City a viable NBA city? Adam Silver: Mexico City, I believe, can be a viable NBA city. We've played several regular-season games there mid-season. They have a beautiful arena there in Mexico City, obviously a huge, growing fan base—a city of 22 million. It would open up, arguably, a whole country to us in the way Toronto has done for Canada. So it's something we continue to look at. It would need to be bargained with the players. It's not about to happen in the next two to three years, but over time, I could see it as a great market to potentially expand to.
Efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville, long seen as a longshot, may finally be shortening the distance to the goal. It’s not yet a layup — far from it — but the percentages should be more promising after Wednesday’s announcement that Dan Issel has joined some of the city’s deepest pockets in pursuit of a professional basketball team.
The Louisville Basketball Investment and Support Group — which includes Brown-Forman chairman George Garvin Brown IV and Matthew Barzun, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom — has announced the commitment of $750,000 in seed money to chase a dream that has remained out of reach since the Kentucky Colonels folded in 1976.
“Commissioner Silver said the NBA would be flattered that Louisville wanted a team,” Issel said. “He said right now there is no timetable for expansion. That will be their stance until they start accepting applications. ... What we want is to be ready to go. If and when they accept applications, we want to be on the top of the pile.”
Does last week’s Seattle City Council vote to approve renovation of Key Arena, or the NHL’s announcement Thursday that Seattle could apply for an expansion team for an expansion fee of $650 million, do anything to accelerate the return of the NBA to the Emerald City? Short answer: probably not. But it isn’t a step backward either.
The NHL confirmed what had been rumored for months at its Board of Governors meeting -- Seattle is a definite target for hockey, which has 31 teams and needs a 32nd to balance out both its conferences and its schedules. The NHL will allow members of the Oak View Group, which successfully lobbied the Seattle City Council to approve its plan to spend $660 million to renovate both the Arena and the nearby Seattle Center, to begin a season ticket drive for the potential expansion team. Hockey’s timetable for expansion is thus clearly and substantially ahead of the NBA’s.
Though NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this year that he believes expansion is “inevitable,” there is no indication among league owners and other sources that there’s any current appetite among NBA owners to add one or two new teams. The obvious reason why is there is no appetite among them to further split the $24 billion from the new national TV deal, which runs through 2024. (As ever, in the interests of full disclosure: Turner Sports, one of the NBA’s national television partners along with ESPN/ABC, runs NBA.com.) “I don’t see expansion,” one owner said this weekend. “A move is the only way.”
However, longtime Seattle sport columnist Art Thiel wrote last week that a source “with knowledge of the league’s long-range thinking” believes the NBA could expand when the current TV deal expires, meaning 2025 at the absolute earliest. Several owners told me a few weeks ago: that while there is strong support for Seattle, there’s just no desire to expand. Thiel’s source said that Seattle and Mexico City were the two current favorites among owners, and the league has done nothing to dissuade the idea that it’s zeroed in on Mexico City as a potential expansion target.
But another said Sunday that talk of adding anyone to the current 30-team mix is premature. Owners remain unenthusiastic when there are still several teams who are losing money in their current markets, even with significant increases in revenues, a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that ensures labor peace through at least 2023 (2024 if neither the players nor owners opt out) and enhanced revenue sharing. “We haven’t discussed expansion,” the owner said. “However, Seattle is a market that I believe the majority of owners would want to be in.”