It has been a little over 15 years since the last NBA expansion by adding the Bobcats, and since then, the NBA has exploded in popularity. With the game continuing to grow, more fans in cities without teams are clamoring to get their own club. While there has always been a lot of buzz about possible expansions, there is rarely anything behind that buzz. However, this time could be different.
Much like everyone else, the NBA has been very affected by COVID-19, especially on the financial side. A potential expansion would lead to a large influx of much-needed capital. With any expansion in the NBA, the new owners must pay an expansion fee to the league. This fee is then divided evenly among the owners. It has been floated that any expansion fees right now would run at least 2.5 billion. This could change for a number of reasons including the size of a new city’s market. This would essentially be a short term loan for the owners since they would be sharing the profits 31 or 32 ways rather than 30 going forward. With all that being said, I do think a NBA expansion is in the near future and we’re most likely getting two teams rather than just one.
It’s impossible to mention NBA expansion and not have Seattle at the top of the list for potential cities. The Supersonics played there for 41 years before moving to OKC. Frankly, it’s felt like something has been missing ever since the Sonics left. Seattle has always had a great basketball culture and the city needs a team to help channel that. Great players like Jamal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas and Zach Lavine have come out of Washington and they are huge vocal proponents of bringing basketball back to Seattle. With the NHL recently expanding to Seattle and renovating the Climate Pledge Center, it gives a potential team a place to play. I’d be shocked if the next NBA expansion doesn’t feature the return of the Supersonics.
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With sports gambling becoming progressively more and more legal throughout the country, Las Vegas has become a much more viable option than in the past. Associating any sports team with Las Vegas was long stigmatized because of the gambling the city is known for. With this stigma slowly going away, it looks almost guaranteed a franchise will come. The NHL helped get things going for the NBA by founding the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Since entering the league, the Knights have been a wild success for the NHL and the NBA would LOVE to get in on the fun. Plus, the WNBA has had the Aces in Vegas for a few years now so the ground work for basketball is already there.
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Kansas City might not be the first city you think of when you think basketball, but one thing for sure is that it’s a great sports town. The people of KC love their sports and the easiest way to tell this is by looking at the rest of their teams. Despite largely not having a ton of success, the Royals and Chiefs have always had great fans. It’s crazy to think that they wouldn’t have the same passion for a basketball team. In fact, it wouldn’t be the first time Missouri has had a basketball club. Way back when, in the 70’s, they had the Spirits of Saint Louis form the ABA. They had some moderate success before folding as a result of the NBA-ABA merger. At the end of the day, KC is a great town that loves sports and a team could do great there.
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This is probably the least likely of all the cities I’ve listed so far, but that doesn’t mean there’s a zero percent chance of this happening. The NBA has long had a presence established in our Northern neighbor, Canada. Why not look to expand south? Mexico City has slightly more people than New York City, so it’s a huge untapped market for the league. The NBA has also started to increase the number of exhibition games played in Mexico City over the last decade.
While there are a lot a reasons to put a team there, there’s also a lot reasons not to, most importantly being the language/culture barrier. While the league is becoming more and more of a global game, it is still largely dominated by Americans. The NBA just announced that it intends to start a G-League franchise in Mexico City. This marks a clear intention to test the waters for a potential franchise down the road. It’s clear the NBA is interested in going to Mexico at some point, but that is way down the road.
The NBA G League is launching its team in Mexico City for 2021-22 season, and the franchise Capitanes‘ general manager is Nick Lagios, who has worked for the Lakers‘ affiliate (South Bay) since 2016.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 6, 2021
With the NBA’s continued gain in popularity, expansion is more of an inevitability than a possibility at this point. It seems more likely than not we’ll be getting two new franchises in the next few years. I’d be shocked at this point if these two franchises aren’t based in Seattle or Las Vegas. If the NBA continues to get more global and more popular we’ll start to see more and more franchises added.