Generic Blog Post: On The NBA In Cincinnati. Again.

I'm on vacation, but the blog never rests.  So to fill the space while I'm off, I've written a bunch of posts in advance of my time off, each of which will be published while I'm away. They're not timely, they aren't reflective of whatever is happening at the moment, instead, they are generic posts about evergreen topics that can be read at anytime.  

And they're each a result of what you've suggested I blog about.

 

So, the last time I did this, in March of 2016, others asked me a similar question...about whether the NBA  could work in Cincinnati, and I wrote about it.  What's changed since then is the US Bank Arena situation. And I think it goes without saying that if US Bank Arena had a chance to host an NBA team, its long-term outlook would be a lot different.

Anyway, here's a copied-and-pasted version of the post I wrote about the NBA in Cincinnati almost 15 months ago...

 
 

Jarrod and Craig (and others), thank you for the suggestion.

I'm a big NBA fan, because I'm a big basketball fan and because I believe you can love both college and pro hoops equally.  Truth be told, I tilt a little more toward college because I'm more emotionally invested in my college teams, because of where I live, and because the NCAA Tournament is my favorite sporting event. 

But I do love The League.  I love studying and talking about the history of professional basketball more than any other sport, I love watching the best basketball players in the world play at the game's highest level, and I love - try as they might to make me hate them - the New York Knicks.

But I'd abandon them in a microsecond if Cincinnati scored an NBA franchise. 

I'll try to answer the two Tweets separately, because both Craig and Jarrod pose different questions.

First Craig's...

I don't think we necessarily "need" an NBA team, as much as I'd love one.  The city and the region are both doing quite well, there's no shortage of sports entertainment options, and given that most sports arenas are located in urban areas, I don't think our downtown area has any major holes that would be plugged by either an NBA or, for that matter, an NHL team.

That said, wouldn't it be badass to have pro hoops here? 

Critics will say that the NBA doesn't resonate with Cincinnatians, and I do know plenty of people here who don't give the league a passing thought.  But the league is growing with young people, and while my circle of friends and acquaintances is limited, most everyone I know under 30 pays pretty close attention to NBA hoops.

I also know that even in non-NBA cities like ours, some of the most recognizable stars in sports - and the world, for that matter - are NBA players.  LeBron. Steph. KD. Kobe. It's the most star-driven league in the world, and you can't convince me that there wouldn't be something magical when the biggest stars of the NBA came to town.

And you're always a star away from being competitive, even elite, no matter the market size or the geography.  Look at the marquee NBA cities right now. Oakland. San Antonio. Cleveland. Oklahoma City. Even in places where the local team might not be that good right now, the league has been a success.  Look at cities like Memphis, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, and Portland.  Not that the next LeBron James or Steph Curry awaits in every draft, but every team in the league is on franchise guy away from being transformed, and the league has rules built in to help keep stars from leaving.

For all of the league's cache in bigger cities, it gives no guarantees to larger markets.  Both New York franchises are a joke.  Only Allen Iverson kept Philly from being a basketball Siberia for the past three decades.  One LA team spent years as a doormat before giving the other a chance.  Boston spent 20 years watching an irrelevant team.  

It's a salary cap sport and one shaped by a handful of elite players.  Cincinnati's NBA entry would always be one guy away from mattering, and they'd have more than a puncher's chance at keeping him.

The right owner could make any pro sports franchise work.  I don't know who that person or people are, and whoever it is better build their own arena because I'm finished supporting the silliness of taxpayer-funded sports facilities, but with the right marketing, management, front office organization, and community outreach, any pro sports team could be a success.

It would just be so cool to fill the dead periods with something that'd unite the city.  I love UC basketball, and Xavier's relationship with its fans might be the best of any entity in the city, but let's face it, college basketball divides  - especially when you throw in loyalties to regional schools like Kentucky and Ohio State - and many fans don't pay much attention to the sport until March.

That gap between the end of the Bengals season and Opening Day is so wide, leaves such a void, and would be ripe for a couple of NBA games per week.

And be honest, what would you pay closer attention to and be more excited about this spring, early season Reds games during a year that's going to go nowhere or some NBA playoff tilts?

CINCINNATI, OH - CIRCA 1960's: Oscar Robertson #14 of the Cincinnati Royals handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers defense during a early circa 1960's NBA basketball game at the Cincinnati Garden In Cincinnati, Ohio. Robertson played for the Roya

Now, to Jarrod's Tweet...

On the sustainability and chances of us getting a team, I'm going to be honest. There's no major push by anyone in the business community for a team right now, no prospective owner banging on the NBA's door for an expansion team or a relocating franchise to look our way, and again, no major void either on the city's calendar or in its infrastructure that demands we will it with a pro basketball team.  

Plus, as great as this city is, we seem to have a built-in "no we can't" stubbornness about us that we refuse to shake. 

And there's legit concerns about sustainability. Is our metro capable of handling three major pro sports teams, along with dozens of regional minor league sports teams and major college programs?  St. Louis - which has a larger metro area - just lost the Rams at least in part because studies indicate that supporting Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NHL wasn't feasible.  

OK, they really lost their team because the owner has been hellbent on screwing those people since he bought it, and because Roger Goodell is a spineless boob, but still, studies connected to the Rams' relocation brought up good questions about how large an area has to be to sustain three major pro sports teams. 

Of the 30 metropolitan areas ranked 20 through 50 in population, only three - Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland - have three or more teams.  Denver's a hub for a gigantic mountain region, and it's been rare that all three teams in both northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania have been successful at the same time.

That said, our area continues to grow.  There's increasing speculation that the Cincinnati and Dayton metro areas will eventually merge. The proximity of large population centers in Lexington, Louisville, Columbus - and the few major pro sports options in those areas - continue to make Cincinnati a destination for fans. Cincinnati.

According to The Urban Institute, Cincinnati's population is expected to grow by 11 percent between 2010 and 2030, and that growing population is expected to become more diverse.  With growing population that's more diverse come segmented interests, and perhaps more open-mindedness about what could work here if done right.

The bottom line is that with the right people in charge, there's lots of reasons to think an NBA team could work, but plenty of reasons to think that it might not.

But as a basketball fan who loves watching the game played at its highest level, as a sports fan who loves big events, as a Cincinnatian who wishes to see our city thrive, and as a sports-talk show host who could always use more sports and more games to talk about and more people paying attention, I'd love it if NBA landed in Cincinnati. 

I'd be first in line for season tickets, and I'd absolutely enjoy abandoning a Knicks franchise that's given me far more heartache than I deserve.

I just won't be counting on any of those things to happen, but a guy can dream, can't he?

Basketball: NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics Bill Russell (6) in action, shot vs Cincinnati Royals Wayne Embry (15) at Cincinnati Gardens. Game 4. Cincinnati, OH 3/30/1966 CREDIT: Walter Iooss Jr. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr. /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) ((Photos: Getty Images)

Mo Egger

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