Here’s how frantic the NBA is to regain all that money they didn’t get this year: Adam Silver used the phrase “manifest destiny” to describe what is surely a simmering plan to expand to two, four, maybe even six cities.
It all depends on how badly they need to prop up the Houston Rockets.
Spurred by Silver’s desire to have the story written, the expansion topic’s time has come, and on the assumption that Ryan Smith’s purchase of the Utah Jazz for $1.66 billion is about half of what the owners think expansion franchises would fetch, we could see some serious haste to nail down some billionaires tout suite.
Put it this way: If Silver feels the need to reference Andrew Jackson (who didn’t use the phrase but damned sure meant it), the kids are in a hurry to cash in. The only question is how much cash they need to reach “in.” If it’s two teams, Seattle and Las Vegas have billionaires galore, you can move Memphis to the Eastern Conference for standings-balance nerds, and all the fun is sucked out of the topic immediately. The 30 owners can all claim their shares of about $200 million each (based on a $3 billion expansion fee), and it will feel a bit like the Christmas that was the last TV contract.
But if we know greed, and we’ve seen college football so we have a pretty advanced concept of it, we think they might want to take Silver’s concept, expand it to its logical extreme in current American capitalist philosophy, and see how much of a psychotic buying frenzy the market will bear.
So let’s theorize, and no, this will not be a trip through the ancient past. We won’t be citing Fort Wayne or Syracuse or Rochester or Cincinnati or Pittsburgh or Providence or the mythical land of Tri-Cities—although if enough people want a piece of the action, professional basketball could return to Moline, Ill., after 70 hard and desolate years.
Also, we will side-eye the easy snark calling for professional basketball teams to finally be brought to places like Manhattan, Sacramento, Detroit, Charlotte, or Minneapolis. You have the comments below to offer your own snideries.
But let’s think about the 33rd and 34th teams, and let’s think Oakland for a second, just to watch the top of Joe Lacob’s skull to blow off and embed itself in the cathedral ceiling of his rec room. I mean, Oakland is a proven market, history of sellouts, money in the area—all the things you want to encourage as a profit-taking current owner. It even has a ready-to-go, not-quite-state-of-the-art building that can be remodeled all the way down to the not-very-faint waft of weed in the air. It’s perfect. In fact, maybe it could lure Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green as potential investors, if you want to see Lacob’s skull break through the roof and head into the SFO flight path.
Hey, you have your dreams, we have ours.
But let’s consider instead either Kansas City, St. Louis, or Louisville, a slice of the country that is largely untouched by the NBA footprint. It will irk college basketball junkies who believe in the sanctity of college hotbeds like Kansas or Missouri or Kentucky, so that’ll work, no matter where you put it. Maybe we can redress the Tri-Cities dream. Kansas City as New Bettendorf—think of it!
Let’s think about Vancouver again, only this time with an owner who wasn’t as goofy as Michael Heisley. Let’s talk Buffalo, because Terry and Kim Pegula have only been condemned by Bills and Sabres fans and are completely missing the city’s basketball fans. Let’s talk Montreal because Montreal would be cool, and yeah, let’s cut Quebec City in for a piece of the action.
Or maybe we’re missing the point with this geography/history fetish. The league needs money, which is why Jonathan Isaac’s new deal with Orlando is only worth $80 million. They’re all nearly broke, it is clear, and fast action is needed to save them. So expand the search! Don’t make the billionaires come to Silver, make Silver come to the billionaires. Let’s talk Beverly Hills, so that Jeff Bezos can put his own franchise on the Warner estate he bought last year for $165 million. Let’s put a team in Winnipeg because David Thomson, who owns the Jets and probably wouldn’t mind a second tenant in the arena, is worth about $39.2 billion by Forbes’s InstaWealth measuring tool. Let’s go to Omaha and suck up to Warren Buffett; maybe he watched that last moving win over Cleveland in 1975 and has been longing for a new team ever since. Larry Ellison is worth $88 billion, he tried to buy the Warriors and the Pelicans while they were still the Hornets, and he lives in Hawaii. Do the math.
Maybe we’re still thinking too small. Lots of people have money, not just Americans. The new manifest destiny must not exclude the rest of the world, but envelop it. We haven’t even gotten into the non–North American markets. Lots of people cashed in on the exciting investment possibilities of COVID-19. It’s time to get all the money before the global economy collapses under the weight of its own filth. Paris! Mumbai! Beijing! Madrid! Riyadh! Cairo! Accra! Antananarivo! Melbourne! Baltimore! A team for every billionaire, and a billionaire for every team! Do this! do this now! Do it all! Adam wants manifest destiny, and by damn he must be given all the destinies his manifest requires! No basketball player with two sneakers and a dream must be left behind! Grow grow grow! Eat eat eat!
There. The NBA is saved, and we’re exhausted. Merry Christmas.