In the middle of last July, StraitPinkie.com columnist Guy Ramsey wrote an article called, “Is Kentucky Finally Waking Up To The NBA?“ Guy opens the article by saying,
Since the ABA-NBA merger and subsequent folding of the Kentucky Colonels 1976, the state of Kentucky has had no professional basketball team. The absence of a professional team in basketball or really any sport has certainly played a role in the way that UK sports, basketball in particular, have become so intertwined with the state’s culture.
Kentucky fans across the state fancy themselves (and rightfully so) to be among the most educated basketball fans in the nation, but if basketball at its highest level was brought up, you were just as likely to be met by derision as an intelligent conversation about the game. Complaints like “they don’t play any defense” or “they just don’t care as much” were prevalent, but, for my money, were merely statements indicating an underlying sentiment: “I don’t have any reason to care about the NBA.”
Recently, there have been small changes on that front. The successes of players like Tayshaun Prince and Rajon Rondo, and to a lesser extent, Chuck Hayes and Kelenna Azubuike, have pushed UK fans toward the NBA, if only to follow box scores.
Then, draft night came.
Leading up the draft, everybody knew that the success of so many former players would be a boon for the program. However, draft night was a confluence of a group of beloved players, a two hour long UK infomercial, and realization that something amazing was happening.
Five guys went in the first round, including three guys in Wall, Cousins, and Patterson who will forever be etched in UK lore, and the hearts of Big Blue Nation. All of sudden, Kentucky had at least three teams in the NBA, the Wizards, the Kings, and the Rockets, plus Rondo’s Celtics and Prince’s Pistons.
Now, you hear about ‘Cats fans buying the NBA Summer League pack online because stupid Insight doesn’t carry NBATV. You see UK fans all over Wizards and Kings blogs to see what people are saying about Wall and Cousins.
I would dare to say that Kentucky’s interest in professional basketball is as high as it’s been since the Colonels departed after the ABA/NBA merger in 1976.
Could the timing finally be right for the city to make it’s move into the NBA?
The city of Louisville has flirted with the NBA before. The Grizzlies looked at Louisville prior to moving to Memphis from Vancouver. The Rockets feigned interest in the Derby City prior to staying in Houston. Then in 2002, Louisville was one of the finalists to get the Hornets prior to them moving to New Orleans.
With arena issues plaguing the Sacramento Kings’ franchise and with David Stern pretty much saying he’s done all he could, “We tried to help them, but they aren’t helping themselves”, it appears the Kings could be on the move. With the Kings considering moving, many are asking, why not Louisville? There is even a Facebook page that has been started that reads, “Bring the Sacramento Kings to Louisville“. If you’re even halfway interested in bringing the NBA to the Derby City, click the link above and ‘like it’.
Quickly, you will hear people say, “We are a college town” or “We can’t support them”. I’m sick of the pessimism. This is a city that loves basketball. This is a city that has a slogan that reads, “Louisville – It’s possible here.”
Set aside the corniness of the slogan for a moment. If we’re going to paste those words all over our city, let’s believe what we say, for once. Let’s make it possible. Let’s try to bring the Kings to the Derby City. Let’s try to bring a top level professional sports team to our city. Indianapolis did it. Nashville did it. Why can’t we?
You bring the team to Louisville, but you don’t call them the Louisville Kings. You instead call them the Kentucky Kings and allow the entire basketball-crazed state to embrace them. Finally, with a top-of-the-line professional sports team, citizens of Nashville and Cincinnati will travel to Louisville to spend money, instead of Louisvillians doing the exact opposite.
The brand new KFC YUM! Center is one of the nicest arenas in the country and is perfectly suitable for an NBA team. But, in order for an NBA team to move into the KFC Bucket, the University of Louisville would have to give a little bit. As the primary tenant, they have the rights to the majority of the sponsorship revenue. In order for an NBA team to occupy the same arena, U of L would be forced to compromise on some things. It remains to be seen how willing Tom Jurich, and the rest of the U of L administration, would be to give up some things for the betterment of their community.
Look what Louisville Slugger Field did for downtown Louisville. Look what the new arena is going to do. Then imagine an NBA team playing downtown 41 times a year. Imagine what that does for the downtown nightlife.
Imagine former U of L guard Francisco Garcia and UK center DeMarcus Cousins suiting up for the Kings each night. Are you telling me UK and U of L fans wouldn’t buy tickets to see that? You would have Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, John Wall, and other NBA Superstars coming to your city every night to put on a show. Fans wouldn’t pay to see that?
In 2010, NBA’s average attendances ranged from 13,103 (New Jersey) to 20,725 (Chicago). During that same year, Kentucky led the nation in attendance with an average of 24,111 and Louisville finished third at 19,397.
Kentuckians love their basketball. Sure, right now they love college basketball. But, whose to say they can’t love both.