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.