Could Louisville basketball be getting a roommate?
Louisville basketball has reigned supreme over the city of Louisville since its rise to prominence in the late 70s and early 80s and haven’t truly shared the city since the days of the Kentucky Colonels. In a basketball crazed town, the Cardinals have been the primary attraction for fans and businesses across the Louisville DMA, creating a profitable partnership between the city and university.
Recognizing the demand and opportunity, some fans, businesses executives and owners have clamored for a chance to become the home of an NBA franchise, with that cry becoming a little bit louder following the opening of the KFC Yum! Center.
The league itself has seen the value and clearly liked what the city could bring as a market, as on two separate occasions during the late 1990s and early 2000s there were “agreements” in place to bring the NBA to Louisville.
Louisville basketball’s history with the NBA
Here’s a snippet of what I wrote about those opportunities back in August:
"“The city was close to landing the Vancouver Grizzlies during their relocation in 2000 only to have things fall out from under them to which NBA2Lou Chairman Steve Higdon said “We fumbled on the one-yard line.” That Grizzlies team ended up in Memphis.Just one year later, Louisville was once again in talks to bring a relocated franchise to town only to see the Charlotte Hornets end up in New Orleans. But wait, there’s more! Just a few years later following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans Hornets would be forced to look for a new home for the 2005 season.As you might guess, Louisville was once again viewed as a top destination and talks got far enough to even consider renovations being made to the arena the Hornets could call home; Freedom Hall.That obviously never happened as the Hornets would play in Oklahoma City for the 2005 season, which would lead to the city eventually landing the Seattle Supersonics back in 2008.”"
For years the University of Louisville’s top officials did everything in their power to keep the NBA from dipping into the well that they had cornered, successfully keeping the league away all the way up until the very end of their respective tenures.
Now with a changing of the guard and the power of the NBA2Lou organization, spearheaded by Naismith HOF, Dan Issel, the NBA could once again look to Louisville as a potential expansion market.
While those efforts haven’t yielded a team just yet, a new report from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo! Sports could mean something is in the works.
That something is bringing the NBA to Louisville. Here’s how.
Who could be joining Louisville basketball at the KFC Yum! Center
Basically, due to COVID-19 and the ongoing issues the United States is facing as a country, the Canadian government has put a hold on incoming travel. That means if the 2020-21 NBA season were to be played in home cities rather than in the bubble, the Toronto Raptors wouldn’t be able to play in Canada under any terms.
That means the franchise could be looking for a temporary home, one that Louisville appears to be interested in giving them. Goodwill wrote:
"“The Raptors face a similar dilemma, and league sources tell Yahoo Sports one alternate location that has been broached is Louisville, Kentucky. Former NBA player and successful businessman Junior Bridgeman has been in contact with the NBA, considering Louisville has the KFC Yum! Center that is NBA-ready.”"
That report was met with a ton of optimism from Louisville basketball fans and fans of basketball in the city of Louisville, especially considering the Raptors have had the last few seasons.
While fans celebrated and talked about the potential to host a team, the Courier Journal dug deeper into the story only to find that Junior Bridgeman, who was mentioned in the report, the KFC Yum! Center, and NBA2Lou organization were all “blindsided,” calling the reports untrue.
Regardless of who is truthing and who is fibbing, the thought of an NBA team in my city makes me very happy. I’ve longed for the day where I not only can go and root on Louisville in the KFC Yum! Center, a clear cut NBA arena, but also do the same for the NBA.
The league has been my second love behind Louisville athletics for nearly my entire life as I grew up fascinated by the Lakers and their championship prowess in the early 2000s. While naysayers believe the NBA and UofL can’t coexist, I say poo poo. Sure there would be logistics nightmares and scheduling conflicts that would have to be worked through, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As Issel told me last month on the Life In Basketball Podcast, the two parties are more than capable of operating together; in fact even benefiting from one another. Watching Samuell Williamson and Malik Williams do their thing for Louisville basketball on a Thursday then catching the likes of Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam take on Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz on a Sunday does nothing more than excite me.
Whether the report is true or not remains to be seen, but even the near mention of Louisville being a destination capable of quickly putting together the means to host a professional team for a season likely spells well for their long term chances.
Chalk this one up as a win for the 502.