Originally posted on StraitPinkie.com  |  Last updated 8/1/13
With the announcement that the Maloof Family would sell their majority stake in the Sacramento Kings to an ownership group committed to keeping the team in northern California, NBA expansion talk immediately picked up steam on the Internet and among some sports writers. During the Kings’ relocation saga, it was no secret that an ownership group in Seattle made a hard push to lure the Kings to the Emerald City to replace the Sonics. Now that the Kings are remaining in Sacramento, the door effectively closed on Seattle’s best chance at replacing the Sonics with an existing franchise. This is why speculation of expansion has begun to heat up despite repeated comments from NBA Commissioner David Stern that there are no plans to add additional franchises beyond the NBA’s 30 existing teams. Despite Stern’s statements, the league is determined to get another franchise back in Seattle, and expansion appears to be the only viable means to make that a reality sooner rather than later. It is assumed by most that if the league does expand and Seattle is awarded an expansion franchise, a second expansion team will also be included in order to maintain balance between the two conferences and among the divisions. This is where those in Louisville with NBA ambitions must take notice. NBA expansion could be Louisville’s best opportunity to bring professional basketball back to its rightful place among one of the world’s foremost basketball hotbeds since the Charlotte Hornets considered making the city its new home in late 2001 and early 2002. It may come as a surprise to most, but the owners of the Hornets had an informal agreement with the city’s NBA pursuit team to relocate the franchise to the Commonwealth under the name of the Kentucky Colonels. Of course that all changed when the city’s bumbling political leadership failed to come together to approve a plan to construct a downtown arena and when influential local obstructionists sabotaged the effort. It is so frustrating to look back at how close the city was to bringing back the Colonels only to utterly blow it the way it did. For insight into what went on behind the scenes during attempts to lure the Hornets, the book Airball by J. Bruce Miller should be required reading for anyone who is curious to know what happened in more specificity. What makes it even more frustrating is that it’s very likely that the current financial problems faced by the KFC Yum! Center today could have been avoided. Had a plan been approved to build a downtown arena with an NBA tenant already in place back in 2002, it was likely that it could have been built at a much cheaper cost than what is now being paid toward the Yum! Center. On top of that, it is also unlikely that the arena would be sitting vacant for as much as the Yum! Center currently does during the college basketball offseason. Unfortunately, the past is the past, and hopefully those in the positions that can make Louisville’s NBA dreams a reality will learn from them and move forward in the right direction. Expansion could occur in as little as 3 years when the NBA’s current television contract expires. The city’s political and business leaders must take advantage of this time to get its house in order to make a legitimate bid for a team if expansion does occur. The city cannot sit around and wait until expansion is officially announced before working to address the major hurdles that stand in the way of bringing professional hoops to town. If it does, be prepared to watch from afar as a city like Virginia Beach or Kansas City grabs up that second coveted franchise.
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