Expansion of the National Basketball Association
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The expansion of the National Basketball Association has happened several times in the league's history since it began play in 1946. The most recent instances of league expansion are the additions of the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat in 1988, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic in 1989, the two Canadian expansion teams (the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies, who relocated to Memphis in 2001) in 1995, and the New Orleans Pelicans in 2002.
|Progression of NBA Expansion|
|Years||No. of teams|
Early years: 1946–1966
There was a lot of expansion and moving of organizations in the early years of the NBA. During this twenty year time period, several notable franchises entered the NBA, including the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers), the Philadelphia Warriors (now the Golden State Warriors), Minneapolis Lakers (now the Los Angeles Lakers), and Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings).
During this time period the league experienced its first substantial growth, although it was short-lived, as the league was back down to nine teams by 1966.
Later years: 1967–1980
During this time period, 14 of the current 30 teams were brought into the league, beginning with the Chicago Bulls in 1966. The San Diego Rockets (now Houston Rockets) and Seattle SuperSonics (now Oklahoma City Thunder) joined the next season, with the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks following them in 1968. Two seasons later, in 1970, the Buffalo Braves (became San Diego Clippers, now Los Angeles Clippers), Cleveland Cavaliers, and Portland Trail Blazers all began play. The New Orleans Jazz (now Utah Jazz) became the league's 18th franchise in 1974. The ABA–NBA merger in 1976 brought four original ABA teams to the NBA: the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets (became New Jersey Nets, now Brooklyn Nets) and the San Antonio Spurs. In 1980, the expansion Dallas Mavericks were introduced, becoming the league's 23rd team.
Modern expansion: 1981–present
In this period, seven additional new NBA franchises have been formed, beginning the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat in 1988, and the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic the following year. The NBA expanded into Canada in 1995, bringing the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies (now Memphis Grizzlies) into the league.
The Charlotte Bobcats (now the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets) were established in 2004 as the league's 30th franchise, following the relocation of the original Hornets to New Orleans in 2002. In 2013, the then-New Orleans Hornets rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans and returned the Hornets name, history, and records to Charlotte, where the Bobcats in-turn became the second and current iteration of the Charlotte Hornets. Due to the swap, the Pelicans are now regarded as being the newest team in the league, essentially a 2002 expansion team.
See Timeline for the history of teams who participated in the NBA.
Possible expansion cities
Seattle previously hosted the Seattle SuperSonics from the 1967–68 season until the 2007–08 season, prior to the SuperSonics' relocation to Oklahoma City, and is a leading candidate to host a potential expansion NBA team.
It was reported in 2013 that the Sacramento Kings were close to moving their franchise to Seattle, but the NBA Board of Owners voted against relocation, thus ensuring that the Kings would remain in Sacramento, California.
As of 2018[update], the only statements that have been made about the NBA returning to Seattle would be through expansion. On December 3, 2018, the renovation of what was once the KeyArena began, bringing the arena to current NBA standards and in preparation for the upcoming Seattle NHL team.
Las Vegas is a potential city to host a future NBA team. There is the T-Mobile Arena that opened in 2017, which hosts ice hockey games for the National Hockey League (NHL)'s Vegas Golden Knights. A decade earlier, Las Vegas hosted the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas's Thomas and Mack Center, despite not having an NBA team.
Louisville, Kentucky has two basketball arenas suitable for major league play: the downtown KFC Yum! Center, which holds 22,090 and currently hosts the Louisville Cardinals, and Freedom Hall, which holds 18,865. Both arenas have hosted well-attended NBA exhibition games. Louisville has one prior major league basketball team in the Kentucky Colonels, which was a successful franchise during their nine seasons in the American Basketball Association, winning the ABA Finals in 1975 along with winning the most games and having the highest winning percentage of any franchise in the league's history. Since the Colonels were not included among the four ABA teams that were admitted into the NBA, Louisville has attempted to attract an NBA team, including the Buffalo Braves in 1978, the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1983, as well as the Houston Rockets, the Charlotte Hornets, and the Memphis Grizzlies in the early 2000s.
Pittsburgh has a new arena, the PPG Paints Arena (which opened in 2010) that holds over 19,000 for basketball. It was rumored for a short time that the Detroit Pistons were moving to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh was one of the cities mentioned by David Stern as a possible relocation site. Pittsburgh has a long basketball tradition with Pitt and Duquesne as well as more recently with Robert Morris Colonials, the 1968 ABA champion Pittsburgh Condors, the 1995 CBA finalist Pittsburgh Piranhas, the Pittsburgh Rens of the ABL and the Pittsburgh Ironmen of the BAA.
Kansas City, Missouri is one of the largest media markets without an NBA franchise, and a larger TV market than current NBA cities Oklahoma City and New Orleans. It previously hosted the Kansas City Kings from 1972 to 1985 (including three years where the team was shared with Omaha, Nebraska) until they moved to Sacramento. Like Pittsburgh, it has a recently built arena, the Sprint Center, that has hosted Big 12 and both the men's and women's NCAA tournaments. The city is also home to the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Hampton Roads metropolitan area in Virginia has no major league sports team, but in August 2017, there was a proposal to bring an NBA team to the area's largest city, Virginia Beach whenever a sports arena is approved and built to host the team in the future.
In 1987, Anaheim, California attempted to get an NBA team. They also attempted to draw in the Sacramento Kings, which was the subject of relocation in 2012, but failed. The city's arena, the Honda Center, served as a secondary home for the Los Angeles Clippers from 1994 to 1999.
The city of Vancouver previously hosted an NBA team (the Vancouver Grizzlies) from 1995 to its relocation to Memphis, Tennessee in 2001 and became the Memphis Grizzlies. The city has a solid fan base and the city already has a major league team, the Vancouver Canucks. It has Rogers Arena as well as a large population of 2.8 million in the metro area and a large TV market, province-wide.
Since 1992, the NBA Global Games have had NBA games hosted in different places around the world, with Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City (the capital and most populous city of the country) being one of the venues for hosting preseason games and regular season games, with the arena having a capacity of over 20,000. On December 7, 2017, reports stated that the NBA would put a NBA G League team in the city for next season. This was furthered fueled by Commissioner Adam Silver's statement that the NBA has been in discussions to place a G League team in Mexico City as well opening of NBA Academy in that city for Latin American and Caribbean players.
Montreal is one of the largest markets in North America without an NBA franchise. It has a metropolitan population of four million and has an arena suitable for basketball, the Bell Centre, which can hold up to 22,000 attendees. In addition, the city has regularly hosted the Toronto Raptors' preseason games. In 2018, a group of local businesspeople led by Michael Fortier have announced their intention of seeking investors for an expansion team.
The NBA originated in 1946 with 11 teams, and through a sequence of team expansions, reductions, and relocations currently consists of 30 teams. The United States is home to 29 teams and one is located in Canada.
In the following table it shows current NBA teams that are participating in the 2019–20 NBA season, in which city they are located, when the club was founded, joined the NBA, number of times relocated and times the franchise name has changed.
- The Charlotte Hornets are regarded as a continuation of the original Charlotte franchise. Because of this, the New Orleans Pelicans are no longer the same franchise as the original Charlotte Hornets. The New Orleans Pelicans were established in 2002. The Charlotte Hornets rejoined the league in 2004, and were known as the Bobcats from 2004 to 2014.
- Spent two seasons as Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets due to Hurricane Katrina
|Team||City||Founded||Entered NBA||Years Active||Left NBA||Reason|
|Anderson Packers||Anderson, IN||1946||1949||1||1950||Small market|
|Baltimore Bullets||Baltimore, MD||1944||1947||8||1954||—|
|Chicago Stags||Chicago, IL||1946||1946||4||1950||—|
|Cleveland Rebels||Cleveland, OH||1946||1946||1||1947||—|
|Denver Nuggets||Denver, CO||1932||1949||1||1950||—|
- List of defunct National Basketball Association teams
- List of relocated National Basketball Association teams
- Timeline of the National Basketball Association
- Fischer-Baum, Reuben; Silver, Nate (May 21, 2015). "The Complete History Of The NBA". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- Prada, Mike (October 25, 2016). "Expansion team to Seattle looking more and more likely". SB Nation. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- "Kings to stay in Sacramento as owners reject Seattle move". NBA.com. NBA Media Ventures, LLC. Associated Press. May 15, 2013. Retrieved November 6, 2015.
- Moore, Matt (October 13, 2016). "With NBA expansion rumored, a look at the pros, cons and prospective cities". CBS Sports. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- "$700M: City council approves KeyArena renovations". seattlepi.com. Sep 24, 2018. Retrieved Dec 15, 2019.
- Kantowski, Ron (July 31, 2018). "Las Vegas moves giant step closer to landing NBA team". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- "Remembering Freedom Hall". ESPN.com. 5 March 2010. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- Miller, J. Bruce, "Airball", JBM Partners, LLC, 2004, pg. 131.
- Ibid., pgs. 142-145.
- Ibid., pgs. 167-220.
- Ibid., pgs. 231-272.
- Ibid., pgs. 273-313.
- Belko, Mark (February 4, 2010). "Pittsburgh mentioned in Pistons' relocation speculation". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
- Feigen, Jonathan (February 15, 2013). "Stern sees continued prosperity for NBA". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved July 10, 2017.
- Minium, Harry. "Will an NBA team come to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront? SB Nation says it could happen". Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- Sanchez, Leonel (April 2, 1987). "Anaheim Not in Race for Expansion Team, NBA Spokesman Says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
- Eric Carpenter (7 March 2011). "'Anaheim' comes first in name if NBA Kings move here". Orange County Register.
- Stein, Marc (7 December 2017). "N.B.A. Plans to Put a Minor League Team in Mexico City". Retrieved 31 May 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
- Cato, Tim (7 December 2017). "NBA will establish G-League team in Mexico City as soon as next season, per report". SBNation.com. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
- "Group seeks investors for Montreal NBA team". Sportsnet.ca. October 10, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2018.