Should the NBA choose to expand in the coming years, where will the new team/teams be located? There is a lot of uncharted territory in the NBA. Smaller markets have found themselves home to G-League teams, but which city or cities could handle an NBA franchise?
Players and fans from the one market have been extremely vocal about their need for an NBA franchise. Seattle is still bitter about the time the Sonics ran out to grab a pack of cigarettes and never came back. Seattle has to be the obvious choice for a franchise, right? Wrong. Bet you didn’t see that one coming. They had their chance and they made it clear that they couldn’t support an NBA team.
(Notice all of the empty seats in the picture above)
Seattle is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States and they still couldn’t get enough people to show up to support the Sonics. (For comparison, Salt Lake City is the 48th largest metro area and finished 15th in attendance last year at just under 18,000 fans per game.) Of course, now that they’re gone, Seattle misses their beloved Sonics soooo much. The last eight years they were in Seattle, the Sonics averaged 15,483 fans per game. That landed them right around 22nd in the league in attendance over that span. Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Jerry, the Sonics were bad their last 8 years (excluding the 04-05 season when they won 52 games and finished 3rd in the West)”. Ok, fine. In 1995-96, the Sonics won 64 games, had the best record in the Western Conference, and STILL finished 18th in attendance. Team success had nothing to do with it. Seattle just didn’t turn out for the Sonics. This is your fault Seattle.
I had really high hopes for this next city in Southern California, but San Diego has blown three professional sports opportunities. The San Diego Rockets moved to Houston in 1971 because of poor performance and attendance, and the San Diego Clippers left because they would rather share a city with another franchise than stay in San Diego. This goes to show, once again, that the size of the city doesn’t mean success. San Diego is the 17th largest metropolitan area in the United States. The only remaining team in San Diego, the Padres, dance anywhere from 15-20th in the MLB in attendance. Dammit, San Diego…you let me and Ron Burgundy down. (I opted not to make a whale’s vagina joke here, but just so you know, I definitely could have.)
The real choice here is Las Vegas. They seem to be expanding endlessly, and may one day just merge with LA and Phoenix to make a super city. They’re building the Raiders stadium right off the strip. I was just there for NBA Summer League and the stadium is going to be massive, even for Vegas. The city can handle tourists from around the world year round, so they can handle having an NBA team. I honestly think the NBA will have a team in Las Vegas in the next 5-10 years. The success of the NBA Summer League is a little misleading because there isn’t any other basketball being played at the time, but it’s a good sign that the product on the court is terrible and people are still showing up. It could be fun! The NBA should really lean into the Sin City aspect of Vegas and have strippers instead of cheerleaders. Ok, that probably wouldn’t fly, but imagine betting on the game you’re watching from your seat or playing a slot machine while you wait in line for a beer.
“Seattle will no doubt be on the short list of cities.” -Adam Silver
A team in Las Vegas is inevitable, but there is still hope for a team in Seattle.If the fans continue to be vocal about their want for a team there, they could definitely fool someone into bringing back the Sonics. Citizens of Seattle and surrounding areas, you will have to show up to games and buy merchandise to keep your team. I know traffic is bad downtown but if you want your team to make it, they need your money. Godspeed.