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The Potential NBA Expansion

As the NBA All-Star break comes to a close in Salt Lake City, rumors in the league continue to circulate of a possible expansion of the NBA. Currently, the NBA is composed of 30 teams spanning 28 cities and hasn’t seen an expansion in over two decades since the addition of the New Orleans Pelicans in 2002. Despite the 2023 All-Star Game’s record low ratings, many still believe that the market and the talent exist for an expansion to be lucrative and popular.

When probed by reporters about possible cities for an expansion team, All-Star Kevin Durant, gave a decisive, one-word reply: “Seattle.” This wouldn’t be the first time an NBA star has advocated for a team to be brought back to Seattle. In fact, this weekend alone, many NBA stars supported the idea of the Sonics making their long-awaited return. 

The Seattle Supersonics joined the league in 1967 when the NBA consisted of only 12 teams. The Sonics’ tenure in the Emerald City ended when team owner and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, sold the team in 2009, becoming the Oklahoma City Thunder. The migration to Oklahoma City was due in part to the team’s failure to convince the local government to fund a new area complex in Renton. Luckily for those eager to see an NBA franchise return to Seattle, the NHL’s own expansion in the city with the Seattle Kraken has brought the Sonics’ former stomping ground, the Key Arena (now the Climate Pledge Arena), back up to current NBA standards and ripe for a reunion. Durant’s excitement for a Seattle franchise is not an outlier.

A possible return to Seattle continues to prove itself as the people’s choice for a new NBA franchise. From a business perspective, Seattle is the perfect environment for an NBA team. The market, infrastructure, and demand are all there. It is the country’s largest city and media market without a team, the infrastructure already exists and can be shared with another blossoming franchise, and demand from the stars to the streets is unwavering. 

Seattle is not the only city on players’ minds. LeBron James and Demar Derozan recently floated the idea of Las Vegas getting their own NBA team. Not unlike Seattle, Sin City has also recently become home to an NHL team, the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Las Vegas is positioning itself to become one of the fastest-growing sports markets in the country. Rumors in the MLB are circulating of the city poaching yet another Oakland based franchise, the Athletics, and has also recently signed a 10-year contract to host an annual Formula 1 Grand Prix. 

Personally, I think bringing another sports team to Las Vegas would be a smart move by the NBA. Financially speaking, it makes the most sense. With the T-Mobile Arena already NBA compliant and a large and growing market, Vegas is perfect for an NBA team. The excitement is such that, in the true spirit of Vegas, sportsbooks have emerged, offering bettors a chance to hit on prospective team names, with Outlaws, Sinners, Vipers, and Jokers as possible bets. 

It’s clear that the economics and the demand for franchises in Seattle and Vegas are the most compelling options for a prospective NBA expansion, but the discourse around possible expansion cities doesn’t stop there. Many fans are advocating for franchises in cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, and (wildly) Providence. There is even buzz around possibly expanding to cities outside the country again, with Montreal and Mexico City being brought up as potentially viable. As fun as it is to speculate and dream, if the NBA is to expand at all, it is clear that Seattle and Las Vegas are next up. If not now, when?

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