Monday, February 14, 2011

Could NBA Work In Louisville?

The city of Louisville is stumping hard for an NBA franchise. A local lawyer has got enough investors (though he wouldn't give their names or the countries they come from) to lure a team to Kentucky. He met with NBA commish David Stern and said the talks were very positive.

So the question is ... would the NBA in Louisville work?

There are a couple of things working in their favor. One, Kentucky is a basketball hotbed as it is the epicenter for Kentucky, Louisville and Indiana fans. Two, the old ABA Kentucky Colonels called Louisville home.

Also, smaller cities do work pretty well in the NBA. The NBA has teams in Salt Lake City, Portland, Orlando, Oklahoma City, Sacramento and Memphis. In all of those cities, the NBA is the lone pro dog in the town and, aside from Memphis, doesn't have a powerful collegiate presence. The NBA also put pro teams in cities that either didn't have previous pro teams or just one. Charlotte and Phoenix used to be NBA-only towns. Now Charlotte has an NFL franchise and Phoenix has a team in all four major sports. When the NBA brought the Heat to Miami, all that was there was the Dolphins. Louisville would just add to that.

There are things working against it. One, those ol' Colonels used to play in Freedom Hall ... and that's the place Louisville is pimping to house an NBA team. The building first opened in 1956 and it would be the oldest NBA arena by a decade (right now, the re-re-re-renovated Oracle Arena in Oakland is the oldest). To be NBA-ready, the city would have to do a lot of work to Freedom Hall.

The city did just build the Yum! Center where the University of Louisville plays (they called Freedom Hall from 1956 to 2010). While an NBA team could play there, the university has first dibs on everything. While the school said they'd be cool with sharing the arena with an NBA team, they reminded everyone that they get first call on scheduling dates of both its men's and women's hoops teams.

There is also a certain team in Indianapolis that would be a bit bent that a team would be moving in on its territory.

Also, would the NBA get the support that the college teams in the state get? Maybe, maybe not. Look at the other big college hoops states. The aforementioned Pacers do just fine in Hoosier-crazed Indiana. In North Carolina, the Charlotte Hornets did catch the city by storm. The newer Charlotte Bobcats aren't as beloved, but that has less to do with the college scene as much as what happened in the Hornets situation.

The differences here, though, are that college basketball really isn't a big influence in the actual cities mentioned. Yes, people in Indianapolis love the Hoosiers, it is a bit of a drive to actually go to the games. The Pacers are the city's team. Same thing in Charlotte. While the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpack rule the college fans' hearts, those schools are a 2-hour drive away. The Hornets and Bobcats are the city's team.

Louisville is a bit different. The city has a basketball team already -- the Cardinals. This is a very successful program with a championship pedigree playing in what may be the most elite conference ... the Big East ... in the nation. They also have a transcendent coach and they will be playing in the newer, better arena.

Finally, what team would be enticed to move to Louisville? The Kings will most likely move from Sacramento. But do you think the Maloofs would move to Kentucky instead of Las Vegas? Nope. The Hornets may not be long for New Orleans, but would they think about moving up to a smaller town ... again? Same goes for the Grizzlies. Aside from that, I don't see another NBA team moving.

Even if one did, isn't Seattle or Kansas City a bit higher on the list?

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