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NBA Expansion: Assessing The Likely And Unlikely Destinations

Las Vegas will soon be home to NFL and NHL franchises - could an NMA team follow?
Las Vegas will soon be home to NFL and NHL franchises - could an NMA team follow?

In recent years, expanding the league has been a topic of discussion that continues to resurface in the NBA. Many cities and states deserving of a franchise continue to dream of the possibility, and in turn, continue to knock on the association’s door.

Subsequently, the pressure to add more teams to the world’s most popular basketball league is always present.

“I think it’s just a question of when the right time is to seriously start thinking about expansion,” said NBA commissioner Adam Silver during an interview with The Player’s Tribune.

Speaking to Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, Silver acknowledged that the process of increasing the league’s competitors is essentially inevitable, but which cities would be in contention?

Seattle

For starters, the first and undisputed name on the list would be Seattle. The city located in the state of Washington has long sought after a franchise after its beloved SuperSonics controversially packed up and left for Oklahoma City to become the Thunder back in 2008.

Before the heartbreaking relocation, the Sonics presented as a historical team in the NBA, boasting a championship and multiple conference titles. Furthermore, it was home to legends such as Ray Allen, Gary Payton, Spencer Haywood, Shawn Kemp and even Kevin Durant, who was drafted in 2007.

The Northwest city is a hotbed for sports due to its expressive and loyal fans. Just head to CenturyLink Field for a Seahawks (NFL) or Sounders (MLS) game to witness their adoration for their hometown teams.

Seattle’s profound appetite for sport is always admirable, which is why it’s difficult for any basketball fan to see the void left by the SuperSonics yet to be filled. But if you make enough noise, there’s always the prospect of change, and the league is listening.

“It’s inevitable at some point we’ll start looking at growth of franchises, that’s always been the case in this league, and Seattle will no doubt be on a short list of cities we’ll look at,” said Silver.

Las Vegas

Rivalling or joining the west coast city would be Las Vegas. The populous city in Nevada has long chased a major sports team to accommodate, and now they’re set for two with the Golden Knights (NHL) and the Raiders (NFL).

With the freshly built T-Mobile Arena suitable for an NBA spectacle, adding a professional basketball team would place the cherry on top and affirm the city as a major sporting location.

Mexico City

Slightly curious yet still realistic, Mexico City stands as another destination credited with a possibility.

With a huge market south of the border, Mexico’s capital city is often mentioned in the discussion having hosted NBA games previously at the Mexico City Arena. Logistically, it could prove to be challenging but it wouldn’t necessarily be drastically worse than the distances such as those between New York and Los Angeles.

London

Staying outside of the continent where the association resides, London has often been whispered due to its developing market.

Greenwich’s O2 Arena, which already stages a competitive fixture each season, has rivalled Madison Square Garden in being the world’s most popular music venue. But the formerly named Millennium Dome is also a perfect fit for basketball.

Counteracting the idea is naturally the issue of travel, which is admittedly a huge factor. However, the sport is making gigantic strides in the European market, with London the center-piece thanks to the NBA Global Games which alone could tempt investors - just don’t expect any players to be thrilled about performing with jetlag.

Louisville

Back across the Atlantic and undoubtedly more realistic, Louisville is another location expected to be on the shortlist.

Kentucky’s largest city is steeped in rich basketball history due to its passion and success in the college game. The state has provided the NBA with various gifted talents over the years, and would welcome a professional franchise with open arms.

Vancouver

Elsewhere, a viable option would be the league stretching the Toronto Raptor’s Canadian market by the addition of a team in Vancouver.

The city based in British Columbia once treasured an NBA team in the Grizzlies before they ultimately converted to Memphis. And now they could be ready to go again, possessing a fitting venue in Rogers Arena which already houses the Canucks (NHL).

Adam Silver and his colleagues will face a serious challenge in making this reality in the coming years. But an even bigger task will be completing the expansion without upsetting a few major cities and investors along the way too.

In all likelihood, there will be a few more locations with a feasible pursuit at obtaining a franchise before it’s all said and done; presumably, the destinations which offer the most logic will succeed.

Nonetheless, it will be an appealing transition for an ever-changing league. 

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