With Steve Ballmer agreeing to pay $US2 billion for the Los Angeles Clippers, other cities hoping to land an NBA franchise now have new hope for a team of their own.
In February, Mark Cuban suggested expansion beyond the NBA’s current 30 teams will eventually happen saying there is a “good chance” the NBA will expand.
However, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league has no plans to expand “right now,” and in March, Silver expanded those thoughts by saying the league has no plans to expand in the next few years.
SI’s Michael McCann said in March: “I was given a chance to ask Adam Silver a question. I made it about Seattle. He said NBA expansion is not a short term (3 year) priority.”
But those comments were made prior to Donald Sterling’s racist remarks and the forced sale of the Clippers.
That $US2 billion price tag has probably changed the view of more than a few owners and made expansion more of a priority.
While the acquisition of the Clippers removes Ballmer as a potential expansion owner, the sale of the Clippers showed there are plenty of people with deep pockets who want to own an NBA franchise and the record price suggests this is the best time to maximise the potential expansion revenue for the other owners.
While potential expansion owners are unlikely to pay $US2 billion for a team not located in Los Angeles, it is not unreasonable to think the current NBA owners see that price and now think they can charge $US1.0-1.5 billion for an expansion franchise.
If the NBA sells two expansion franchises, bringing the total number of teams to 32 (same as the NFL), that would be $US70-100 million for each of the league’s 30 NBA owners.
That’s a big payday in a league where the average team had an operating income of $US23.7 million in 2013.
One expansion city would almost certainly be Seattle as the NBA has made it clear they would like to eventually return to the former home of the Thunder.
The recent success of the league’s move to Oklahoma City also shows the NBA has no shortage of potential cities for a second expansion team.
Rather than be the third or fourth major pro sports team in cities like Indianapolis or Charlotte, the NBA has shown it can do very well in smaller cities with no other pro sports teams (e.g. Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Memphis).
A city like Louisville, in a basketball-crazed area with no other major pro sports teams, would seem to fit that mould.
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