How can Vancouver have an NBA team again?

In a brief press release earlier this week, NPA mayoral candidate Fred Harding made a promise to Vancouver sports fans.

“Bringing the NBA back to Vancouver will be the cornerstone of an NPA-led majority with me as mayor,” Harding said in the statement.

But how is that possible? Can the mayor of Vancouver “bring” an NBA franchise to town?

Aside from a fan base, or at least the potential for one, there are two main factors in landing an NBA team in a city. There must be an owner willing to finance them and a place for them to play. Only one of these can be affected by the mayor (unless the mayor is extraordinarily wealthy and willing to buy equipment).

Where an NBA team could play in Vancouver

The biggest barrier for many cities looking to land a high-end sports franchise is a place to play, and a mayor promising to build a great new sports venue can go a long way toward moving the wheels.

But in Vancouver, that’s not really a problem, since Rogers Arena was built for exactly that 25 years ago when the Grizzlies played here and not in Memphis. Compared to other NBA teams, its estimated basketball playing capacity of 19,700 would make it the seventh largest arena in the league.

Age-wise, Rogers would be among the oldest ballparks in the NBA, but not by much. Many teams play in stadiums from the mid-’90s (like the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics), and Rogers has stayed current as an NHL track and major music venue.

So it’s hard to imagine using the allure of a new stadium to bring the NBA back to Vancouver, which is where the mayors have the most influence. Especially when it would cost the city tens of millions.

Who to play for: Vancouver Grizzlies again?

The other important piece in creating a new franchise or relocating an existing team is the owner, and NBA teams don’t come cheap. That’s also not something a mayor can really control.

Ironically, the cheapest franchise is the Memphis Grizzlies, the same franchise that spun out of Vancouver in 2001. It’s estimated to be worth around $1.4 billion. That doesn’t mean they’d be the team most likely to move if bought by a Vancouver fan. It would depend on the NBA, which could stop any movement.

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The Grizzlies are also abnormally cheap, with the average NBA team valued at roughly $2.5 billion. In other words, Harding and the NPA would have to have a sponsor willing to invest a significant fortune to bring a team to Vancouver, with no certainty that the governing forces would allow it.

While Vancouver is awesome, it’s not always easy for owners (or potential owners) to move teams, just ask Jim Balsillie (who tried multiple times to convince the NHL that he should allow you to move a team to Hamilton) or Las Vegas (who fought for years to get a sports franchise).

It’s not a simple plan

Speaking of Las Vegas, if the NBA is interested in creating a new franchise or moving an existing one, Vancouver may not be top of mind. For one thing, the Grizzlies already failed (even if it wasn’t Vancouver’s fault).

At the same time, there are other places looking to land a basketball team; none other than LeBron James has said that Las Vegas should be the next home of an NBA team.

Then there’s Seattle, which is making a big push to bring basketball back to the Pacific Northwest and has already been running an intense campaign for a while, with a renovated stadium and a former star player at the helm of the campaign. To be fair, there has always been a campaign for the NBA to return to Vancouver, but its base doesn’t seem as open as Seattle’s. Seattle is also the largest US metropolitan area without an NBA team and already has teams from the NFL, MLB, NHL and MLS, meaning the NBA is the only major league not represented.

While the NBA hasn’t expanded in 20 years, the commissioner has said it will, and when it does, Seattle will top the list. The likelihood of the NBA doubling down on the region in a couple of years seems low.

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There’s also San Diego, which is building a big new sports complex, and while it’s not explicitly for the NBA, it’s not No for the NBA.

Also, campaigning for a team doesn’t mean it will arrive; Decades after the Nordiques went to Denver, there are still people in Quebec City working to bring the NHL back, but despite the incredibly poor state of the Phoenix Coyotes, there are still no plans to move a team to the capital. from Québec.

Other basketball leagues

While an NBA team is unlikely to move to Vancouver unless Harding and the NPA have already hired an owner and had serious meetings with the NBA, there are other basketball leagues.

The NBA G League functions as a minor league farm system for the NBA. Its president is none other than Shareef Abdur-Rahim, the former Grizzlies star. It has 30 teams and they move much more frequently than NBA teams. The size of the arenas ranges from 2,500 to 18,200, which means more locations in Metro Vancouver could be considered. There is already international play, too, with teams in Toronto and Mexico City.

There is also the WNBA, which is looking to expand. While there are no international teams yet, that doesn’t mean it’s not on the table. With just 12 teams so far, and stadiums peaking at Rogers and the Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver could be a contender.

It should also be noted that the Vancouver region already has a professional basketball team with the Bandits, who play in Langley as part of the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The league is expanding to 10 teams and has been operating since 2019, though play was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Harding was scheduled to announce more details about his NBA plan on October 6 during a news conference, but the event was postponed on the night of October 5.

Vancouver Is Awesome has reached out to Fred Harding and the NPA for comment.

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