The NBA has not expanded since 2004 when the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets) entered the league. There was minimal talk of NBA expansion until December 2020, when commissioner Adam Silver stated, “I think I’ve always said that it’s sort of the manifest destiny of the league that you expand at some point”. The association’s fifth commissioner followed with, “We’ve been putting a little bit more time into it than we were pre-pandemic. But certainly not to the point that expansion is on the front burner”. Despite the non-committal statements from Silver, it is apparent the NBA is considering expansion. With the league taking a financial hit due to the pandemic, adding one or two teams could be a savior to some existing organizations. In order for a new franchise to enter the NBA, the incoming owners would have to pay the league between $1 -$1.5 billion, which would be evenly split amongst the current NBA teams. Finances aside, basketball’s popularity across the globe has continued to increase in recent years with more and more young people picking up the game. One or two new NBA franchises could create roster spots for roughly 30 deserving players, who otherwise would be playing in the G-League or overseas.
Sin City is no stranger to basketball, as they play host to the NBA’s annual summer league and the G League’s winter showcase. Las Vegas is already home to the Raiders in the NFL, Golden Knights in the NHL, and Aces in the WNBA. With professional-level venues already available, Vegas is certainly an appealing option for potential expansion. Partnering with prominent casinos and resorts would guarantee high ticket sales, but the reputation of Las Vegas as a tourist city raises questions regarding how dedicated the fanbase would truly be.
Potential team names: Nevada Night Owls, Las Vegas Venom, Las Vegas Blackjacks
Kansas City has been without an NBA team since the Kings left for Sacramento in 1985, but league expansion could bring a team back to the most populated city in Missouri. Home of the Chiefs in the NFL and Royals in the MLB, Kansas City could absolutely benefit from gaining another major sports team. Located a decent distance away from any current NBA franchise, the fan base is Kansas City is ready to cling to a new team.
Potential team names: Kansas City Comets, Kansas City Knights, Missouri Monarchs
After losing the Grizzlies to Memphis in 2001, Vancouver is hungry for another NBA franchise. Home to only the Canucks in the NHL, residents of the city are ready to embrace a new team. While there is definitely some trepidation, as the Grizzlies only lasted six years, basketball has become more globalized with every passing season. Vancouver can look to Toronto as a model for how to successfully sustain an NBA team and keep local fans involved.
Potential team names: Vancouver Kodiaks, British-Columbia Barons, Vancouver Northern Stars
Despite having no professional sports teams, Louisville and the surrounding area of Kentucky is home to the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats, two of the most popular college basketball programs in the country. There is definitely an abundance of basketball fans, but Louisville is one of the smaller cities on this list and may have a hard time attracting free agents if an NBA team were to be located here. The city already has an established sports venue, the KFC Yum! Center, ready to host professional basketball.
Potential team names: Kentucky Colonels, Lousiville Landmarks, Kentucky Cavalry
Seattle lost the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008 (now the Thunder) and has been without an NBA franchise ever since. In 2013 an ownership group proposed the idea of purchasing the Sacramento Kings and moving the team to Seattle and reviving the SuperSonics moniker, but the effort was denied by the NBA. The Emerald City is home to the Seahawks in the NFL, Mariners in the MLB, and the Kraken in the NHL. The main reason for the SuperSonics departure was the lack of a professional-level arena to host the games. If an ownership group can solve this issue, Seattle would become the most likely place for an NBA expansion team. Sports fans in Seattle would be ecstatic to see basketball return to their city.
Potential team names: SuperSonics. Already a classic and recognizable team name, no reason to change.
Currently, the Toronto Raptors are the only NBA team to reside out of the United States. Placing an expansion team in Mexico City would be a groundbreaking move, but one that I believe would ultimately pay off. The NBA has played numerous regular-season games in Mexico City over the last few years, and the addition of a G League team has shown clear basketball interest in the country’s capital. Back in 2017 commissioner Silver was asked about Mexico and he replied by calling it “a gateway to the rest of Latin America [which] could be potentially very important to the league”. The only negatives to Mexico City’s potential NBA future could be the distance from the rest of the NBA cities and Mexico City’s extremely high altitude.
Potential team names: Mexico City Aztecs, Mexico City Diablos, Mexico City Pumas