As NBA revenues grow year after year, it is no surprise there are rumors of expansion in the air. As someone who has been following the NBA closely, the idea of a new team or two has its appeals. Novelty is the first aspect that excites people about a new team coming, but there are also a few downsides. As of right now, the league sits at 30 teams.
The primary argument against an NBA expansion makes sense. In a digital age, the majority of the money coming in isn’t from local ticket sales. It comes from viewership from TV or online. The NBA’s focus should be on creating more NBA fans through global promotion instead of recreating a local focus in, let’s say, St. Louis, Missouri.
— how bout them cards (@reecehoeflich) November 28, 2016
NBA commissioner Adam Silver shot down the idea of NBA expansion by saying it would also dilute the worth of every team in the league.
“The issue with the NBA right now, is every team in essence, can have a global following,” Silver explained.
“The need to expand the footprint by physically putting another team in a market becomes less important from a league standpoint. And therefore, the way the owners see expansion at the moment is really the equivalent of selling equity.”
“We are 30 partners right now. Thirty teams. Each of those teams own one-thirtieth of all the global opportunities of the NBA. So the issue becomes, if you expand, do you want to sell one of those interests off to a new group of partners?
“One reason to do it of course, is that if its additive. And no doubt, Seattle is a great market. At the moment, like for me as successful as the league is right now, we (are) not in the position, putting even aside profitability, where all 30 teams are must-see experiences. That’s not a secret.”
Putting a team virtually anywhere in the United States will infringe on another team’s territory, but maybe the NBA could use some more rivalries. There are a handful of local possibilities, each with their own implications.
Seattle: The Seattle Supersonics started in 1967 and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, becoming the Thunder. After a decade of on- and off-court struggles, Supersonics owner and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sold the team for $350 million. If there’s any city that wants its team back, it’s Seattle. Their direct competition would be be the Portland Trailblazers.
— Seattle SuperSonics (@BringBackSonics) November 27, 2016
Pittsburgh: Home of the NFL’s Steelers, Pittsburgh has the potential to cultivate an NBA team. The city is ranked 23rd in the television market, and has the Consol Energy Arena. This would create an intra-state rivalry with the 76ers.
Don’t tell me Pittsburgh can’t support an NBA team. If cities like Dallas Phoenix and LA can support a hockey team then we can an NBA team
— Mark Kaczanowicz (@mark5kaz) December 2, 2016
Las Vegas: This would be a bookie’s paradise. Las Vegas could use a sports team, but moving a team here would involve moving a Western Conference team to the Eastern Conference. A proposed Las Vegas team would be competing with the Kings.
#SBRadioStern if the NHL expansion in Las Vegas is a success early on, how quickly do you think the NBA will try and get a team there?
— Mike McGonigle (@mikejmcgon) December 6, 2016
The most likely from this list is Seattle, but I see potential for expansion beyond the scope of what most rumors are focusing on. Creating two new teams would balance out the league at an even 32. Toronto has fought long and hard to be looked at as a respectable team in the NBA, and with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry they might actually be a threat in the playoffs.
Imagine the potential of opening up an NFL team in China, Australia or Taiwan? Sure, the sheer geographic distance teams would have to travel to play each other would be a logistical nightmare, but it could work. A series of 10 away games matched for every 10 home games for the new team could be a road worth exploring.
Expansion isn’t a very real possibility right now, but in the near future it would start to look more appealing.