Empire and Expansion

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Coming off what could arguably be the best, most storyline-laden regular season the league has ever seen, followed up by an absolute barn burner of a playoff run, and in the early stages of a hugely business-friendly ten year CBA, there has never never never been a better time for the NBA to expand.

 
The only question is where? 

We’ve put together a list of our five most NBA-ready cities, it’s not without some controversial picks, but we’re ready to back them up, and we think the time has come for the NBA to make some bold steps forward. The world is ours.

 

Mexico City

Mexico City is the most populous place on the continent, and with a burgeoning middle class and all kinds of nouveau riche and a begrudging love affair with American culture, the NBA would be a perfect fit for Mexico. Clearly the league is already testing the waters, having scheduled 10 regular season games there next season alone. It looks like it’s only a question of “when”.
 
The unfortunate fact (and likely the reason it hasn’t happened already) is, the country’s long-standing drug war is both a logistical problem and a political nightmare. The NBA owner’s are not going to do business with the cartels (on the books anyhow) and that’s really the end of the discussion for the time being. Still, even one of the ugliest conflicts of our generation will one day pass, and the Basketball business will be only too happy to jump in when it does.

Pros: Massive population, loads of money and a thirst for the game that rivals any city in the States.

Cons: Gang problems that make the worst parts of LA look like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

 

Seattle
We know, we know, we’ve all heard this song before, but the economics of the game are a lot different now then they were even five years ago, and everybody was surprised at how hard Seattle was pushing for the Kings before Sacramento locked them back up. Adam Silver has even gone on record saying he thinks they’ll get a team eventually. Now that Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer is gunning for a team, and they’ve got a comprehensive plan for an arena, you can bet it’ll be sooner rather than later.

Pros: The Supersonics are back!

Cons: Players bring their rain-drenched shoes all over the floor and soak everything.  Starbucks in KeyArena.  Very awkward games against OKC.

 

Austin
Professional athletes love Texas. It’s got fans as ravenous as anywhere else in the entire world, they’ve got an income tax rate that amounts to a wink and a nod, and no real winter. Put that together and it makes Mavericks and Spurs and Rockets players feel like Gods among men, so there’s always room for one more right? Now, if you ask most of the Lone Star state, Austin is a cultural and economic “anomaly” (they wouldn’t use that word) but it’s still Texas, and they’d be some of the most appreciative (and stylistically diverse) fans the league has ever seen. 

Pros:  Vegan concession stands would be the envy of the entire league and the sheer creativity of the artisanal cardboard fan signs would go viral for weeks on end.  Players like Chris Andersen and J.R. Smith drawn to lure of being able to get new tattoos at half time.

Cons: Fans might walk out in solidarity if the officials ever went on strike.  James Harden’s beard causes him to be mistaken for Austinite every time the Rockets comes to town.

 
 

Montreal
It’s a hockey town, there’s no doubt, but it’s also one of the continent’s most metropolitan, most diverse, and most fun cities. The parity of the Canadian dollar and an affluent city full of keen corporate sponsors makes sense from a nickel and dime perspective and should lay to waste any lingering bad memories from the Grizzlies experiment (and the Expos for that matter).

 
What the “City of Festivals” has most to offer is a culture apart from anywhere else in North America. The players will love living there, and the fans are already embracing the league from afar. A franchise in Montreal would immediately give Celtics fans somebody to hate and would take the horrible burden of being “Canada’s Team” off the shoulders of the lowly Raptors. Forget that the Montreal area has a pool of approximately 2 million people to pull from, forget that it has a world-class arena in the Bell Centre just waiting to be used, forget all that.  Just imagine visiting teams tearing up Rue St. Catherines.

PROS: Imagine NBA stars answering press galley questions in French.

CONS: Imagine NBA stars answering press galley questions in French! And the rioting if they ever lose.  Unending “Le Bron” jokes.
  
 

Madrid
All of North America’s leagues have been making serious overtures to the other side of the Atlantic for a decade. Great Britian hosts American Football games, Sweden has NHL matches, and the Netherlands has hosted the MLB. The NBA is arguably the most global of all those brands, and they’ve been sending games across the pond as long as anybody else. Everybody is flirting with the idea, but it should be the NBA that moves on it. Will it wreck havoc on scheduling and TV rights, yes, but it’ll also be a loud and clear statement that basketball is a global sport and the NBA is the uncontested big game. Spain in general, and Madrid especially, already have a manic basketball culture (and their own professional team) but they’ll come to see the game at it’s apex, and it’ll give the league a toehold in an entire continent.

PROS: The NBA gets to be the first league to invade Europe, cementing their place in history and giving Spain bragging rights for at least a season.

CONS: Time zones, ridiculous schedules, the Spanish Basketball fans will resenting the American monolith setting up shop in their backyard, competing with 31-time champions Real Madrid Baloncesto and the Eurobasket competition.

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