A recent article in Forbes confirmed everything I had already known for years: Some US cities are struggling, and the NBA is being affected. The prestigious publication said that the 20 most 'miserable' cities in the USA include a number of NBA cities: (1) Cleveland; (3) Memphis; (4) Detroit; (6) Miami; (10) Chicago; (16) New York City; (17) Sacramento; (20) Philadelphia. Understand, NYC and Chicago were listed due to high taxes. Also, almost of the other cities sit near one of the major NBA markets. Finally, all this applies to the NFL, the NHL and MLB. The Midwest took a fearsome hit in this article. A depressed area, for miles and miles.
The NBA, in all of this, is in a unique position. It's the only one of the four major leagues that has 'competition' for its players from overseas. Meaning Europe. And, it's the only league that recruits and scouts extensively in Europe. And, the Europeans are not used to living in cities with decaying infra-structures and the related problems that go with that. In a heartbeat, even for less money, they'll come back to play in Europe or just not go to the NBA at all. Juan Carlos Navarro lasted one year in Memphis. Pau Gasol could not get out of Memphis fast enough. His brother, Marc Gasol, will leave town one second after his contract there expires.
I'll throw in another factor: Weather. I still cannot believe that the Minnesota T-Wolves drafted Ricky Rubio. Fifth pick, no less. He may eventually play there but I'm not betting on it. He is playing for a team that was something like 65-7 this year, in his sunny and beautiful home town of Barcelona and making a lot of money. I will write this in my own blood: He will never play for Minnesota, on a weak team in the bitter cold winters on the frozen plains of the US Midwest. I've been wrong before. And Andrei Kirilenko staying with the Utah Jazz is an example. He'd leave for his home town of Moscow, Russia, in a second, if the money weren't so big.
By the way, this does not apply only to European players. I remember when Bill Walton was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers and, coming from sunny San Diego, asked when the rain would stop. When he was told it was like that for nine straight months, they say he cried. Years ago, this was not a problem. You were in the Big Leagues or the NFL or the NBA and that was the top. No more. The players today want a nice place to live, good climate and all that.
You can find the article in the most recent issue of Forbes.